It is Christmas time. People are celebrating the birth of a leader. The same kind of personality cult known of Stalinism and presently still practiced in North Korea. What is bewildering to me, is the fact that even if the Bible weren’t fiction and even if Jesus lived, the accounts of his life in no way make him special. Accounts of miracles and such can be discarded as primitive attempts to make sense of what science could, then, not yet explain or are simply literary embellishments of the Bible’s many authors in order to get their point across. As if the belief in the literal truth of the stories told in the Bible weren’t frustrating enough to a free-thinking person, there are religions which make even more horrendous claims. Islam views the Qur’an as the literal word of God, dictated by him/her/it to an illiterate merchant and then finally written down by his cousin. Every child that has played the game “telephone” knows that such a shaky chain of custody can only result in, at best, approximations and, at worst, complete misunderstandings. On top of that, Islam claims to be the last religion and thus the religion of all religions. If one knows how many gods humans have believed in over all the time our species exists, the sheer utterance of such a claim must draw ridicule from anyone who has thought about this for more than a second. Jews think that they are the chosen people. Per definition, this makes everybody that is not jewish a second-class citizen. As far as guidance to morals are concerned, it is completely ludicrous to think that no such morals existed before religion and, at any rate, more than one moral teaching of all of these religions is misguided, unethical or simply meant to control people and ensure a society divided in classes. No religion does this more blatantly than Hinduism. All the arguments for religion: the feeling of belonging, spirituality, charity, have in fact nothing to do with religion and all of these goals are achievable without religion. All the bad done by religion: submission, class division, antagonizing those who are different, crusades, terrorists who are convinced that God approves their atrocious acts, is, at least in the form that it takes on in the realm of religion, not conceivable without it. Yes, the Soviet Union, Communist China, North Korea, these were all regimes that have done terrible things. These things didn’t happen because these regimes got rid of religion, they simply replaced religion by another personality cult. And as Christopher Hitchens used to say: Religion is like a celestial North Korea. At least you can escape North Korea by dying.