Sunday, March 18, 2012

Hitchens Takes on Fox News on Jerry Falwell

I've transcribed this segment from Fox News after the death of Jerry Falwell for your reading enjoyment. It has become a Hitchens youtube classic, with over a million views; it is obvious why this is the case. Hitchens is at his best here, and his concluding jab at Falwell is perhaps the greatest thing that has ever been said on the mainstream media. Without further ado:

Dramatis Personae:
Alan Colmes, former host of Fox News show Hannity & Colmes.
Sean Hannity, former host of Fox News show Hannity & Colmes, now host of his own Fox News show, and generally a Falstaffian fathead.
Christopher Hitchens, no introduction needed.
Ralph Reed, religious entrepreneur friend and colleague of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, leader of the Christian Coalition, demagogue and sycophant.

Colmes: “The controversial televangelist was a polarizing figure, emboldening conservative Christians while alienating many liberals, but there is no question about the impacting legacy Falwell leaves behind. Joining us now is Republican strategist Ralph Reed and author of God is Not Great, columnist Christopher Hitchens who made news last night with his harsh critique of the Reverend. Christopher let me start with you here and talk about the things you've said, which, obviously, we know where you stand on religion, we know where you stand on Reverend Falwell. By being so angry about what his legacy was and is are you not hurting his family and others who may have no dog in that hunt but who would just like a few moments to celebrate his life and have some peace?”

Hitchens: “Well, I don't care whether his family's feelings are hurt or not, but if they are, they can take comfort from the extraordinary piety and stupidity, and generally speaking, uniformity of the coverage of the man's death. It is after all said, was said by Jesus of Nazareth to his followers, that they must expect to be mocked for their beliefs, because their beliefs will appear to many people to be ridiculous, if not worse than that, and that they are to take it for granted that they will be ridiculed. That's true, I think, of the most devout and serious and thoughtful Christian, but for a vulgar fraud and crook like Reverend Falwell it's an obligation to say what one thinks about him, or be left off the air and have people like yourselves broadcasting only piety, and that won't do.”

Colmes: “Well, whatever, I'm not broadcasting only piety, I had you on my radio show and now we're having you on here to talk about your view...(inaudible).”

Hitchens: “Yes, you're having me on and then arguing that maybe it's bad taste to have me on, I don't think that's very hospitable.”

Colmes: “Well I thought it was a legitimate question because I think people are wondering...”

Hitchens: “Yeah, well I've answered it, I've answered the question...(inaudible).”

Colmes: “You have, and I will now move on to Ralph Reed since you've answered that question (chuckles).”

Hitchens: “Good.”

Colmes: “Ralph, does Christopher Hitchens have a point? It is a free speech issue, he was a polarizing figure, Reverend Falwell was, and there are many people, maybe not all of them feeling as strong [sic] as Christopher Hitchens, but who feel that Reverend Falwell was indeed a polarizing figure who said things that offended many Americans.”

Reed: “Well, you know look, any time Allen, that you are an agent of change, the way Doctor Falwell was, who had the kind of impact that he had upon American religion, upon our culture and on our politics—he was one of the most important historical figures of the last fifty years in each of those areas: ending the self-imposed exile of evangelicals from civic and cultural engagement and, I think, transforming them into one of the most important and vibrant and energetic constituencies in the entire electorate—no one does that, liberal or conservative, Republican, Democrat, of any faith, and not stir controversy. But I, it's just my belief—as an American, not as a conservative, not as somebody of any particular denominational background or faith, but just as an American—in terms of elevating the civility of our discourse, that when somebody dies, that we ought to show a measure of respect and appreciation for their family and for their loved ones and for those who are grieving right now, and our thoughts and prayers ought to be with them, regardless of whether we agree with Doctor Falwell or not.”

Hannity: “Hey, uh, Christopher Hitchens, hey Christopher...”

Hitchens: “Oh come on, play the world's smallest violin. Listen, he established a business, a racket in my opinion, he was a religious businessman, in the same way as Mr. Ralph Reed is a religious entrepreneur, he's left the business to his children—it's an hereditary job. Let that console them. You can't have me on and say that I have to say I'm terribly sorry he's dead.”

Hannity: “Hey, hey, Christopher...”

Hitchens: “One reason you can't ask me to do it, is because I am not. I think we have been rid of an extremely dangerous demagogue who lived by hatred of others, and prejudice, and who committed treason by saying that the United States deserved the attack upon it and its civil society on September 2001 by other religious nutcases like himself.”

Hannity: “Hey, Christopher, let me jump in, he profoundly and repeatedly apologized and I, I'm sure you're perfect...”

Hitchens: “Not enough. No. Not enough.”

Hannity: “I'm sure you're perfect in your life, and that you've never made any mistakes, but let's...”

Hitchens: “I've never committed treason like that; I don't believe in the sincerity of his apology...”

Hannity: “Let's look at the thoughlessness and the meanspiritedness of your very remarks that you've made about Reverend Falwell.”

Hitchens: “By all means.”

Hannity: “You think 'it's a pity that there isn't a hell for him to go to', you said.”

Hitchens: “Yes, I do.”

Hannity: “On his death you write: 'The discovery of the carcass of Reverend Falwell on the floor of his obscure office is in [sic] almost zero significance except for perhaps two categories of people'...etc.”

Hitchens: Nods. “(inaudible)”

Hannity: “You also say, 'the evil he did will live after him.'”

Hitchens: “Yes.”

Hannity: “I knew Reverend Falwell, Christopher. I know the good work that this man has done.”

Hitchens (with heavy sarcasm): “Tell me about it.”

Hannity: “Well, he, he, for unwed...”

Hitchens: “Takes a lot to make me cry.”

Hannity: “Would you like...I know you think you're the smartest guy in the room, but you sound like a jackass when you attack his family like this. But I know, I know what he did for unwed mothers...”

Hitchens: “I didn't attack his family, I said I don't...”

Hannity: “...I know what he did for alcoholics...”

Hitchens: “I did not, excuse me, I did not attack his family.”

Hannity: “...I know what he did for drug addicts...”

Hitchens: “I did not, excuse me, I did not attack...excuse me, sir.”

Hannity: “Yeah?”

Hitchens: “I did not attack his family, and no fair-minded viewer of yours would say that. I'm not going to be conscripted into saying that it's my job when you invite me on to discuss this man, first to say how sorry I am for him and his family. That isn't what I feel. You, no doubt, as a Christian or whatever you are, require hypocrisy of people—I'm sorry, you've asked the wrong person.”

Hannity: “I'm not asking I am asking for human decency, and if you don't think it has an impact upon his family to use even the four phrases tonight that he's vulgar, fraud, and a crook, and then to say that the discovery of his carcass...”

Hitchens: “Am I supposed to I supposed to conceal asked me on...”

Hannity (talking over Hitchens): “I think you are incredibly mean...”

Hitchens: “ invited me to give...”

Hannity: “...incredibly selfish, and incredibly thoughtless...”

Hitchens: “You invited me, sir...”

Hannity (pertly, looking down bovinely at his notes): “I invited you, sir.”

Hitchens: “ give my opinion of the departed. I give it to you, and you say, 'Well, might that not upset his family.' I said it while he was alive—...”

Hannity (interrupting): “Well, you give his [sic] opinion about...”

Hitchens: “...might that not have upset his family too. This is a (inaudible) on your part.”

Hannity: “You know, you give the opinion about him, and I'm giving the opinion about you and the thoughtlessness of your remarks here, and I'm really calling for any human decency that you may have in your...”

Hitchens (shaking his head negatively): “You're going south all the time.”

Hannity: “...pseudo-intellectually superior mind of yours.”

Colmes: “Uh, we, uh (inaudible)...we will uh (inaudible)...more of the debate on this coming up in a moment.”

Hannity: “Sorry.”

Colmes: “Later, an unbelievable video of a toddler...”

Hitchens: “We haven't had a debate yet.”

(Commercial Break)

Hannity: “(inaudible, garbled nonsense) continue now with Republican strategist Ralph Reed and author and columnist Christopher Hitchens. You know, Christopher, I interviewed you a little bit about your book a short time ago; it made me think a lot; Jerry Falwell, because I do know him, he does a lot for people that are in trouble, gave a lot of scholarships to his school, he helped women that were pregnant and needed help, he'd give them food and a place to live and an education, uh, he did a lot to people that are alcoholics and, etc., etc. You have your hostility towards religion, and that's without saying, you know, I just wonder, when you compare his life, you know, there are a lot of good atheists out there like Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot and, you know, they slaughtered millions, Jerry sl- Jerry Falwell slaughtered nobody in his life, he may have misspoke [sic] once or twice, but he devoted his life to his religion, do you have nothing good to say about him at all?”

Hitchens: “No, I repeat, Jerry Falwell lived on hatred and superstition and bigotry, he preached dislike of people whose lives he knew nothing about, he raised money from credulous fools...”

Hannity (interrupting): “You knew nothing about his life.”

Hitchens: “Now excuse me sir, you can either ask me on and ask my opinion or you may not, but I don't have to be here if you're going to take that attitude.”

Hannity: “You could leave.”

Hitchens: “You spent the first half by saying that I don't have the right to the opinion you'd asked me on to express, now you're tiring me out. I repeat though...”

Hannity: “No, what I said is that your opinion was thoughtless. What you wrote was crude and mean and hateful, that's what I said.”

Hitchens: “You took up all the time for my answer with your long, rather unlettered question. Jerry Falwell made a career out of sponsoring dislike and superstition, said that people he didn't like were going to hell, said the United States deserved to be attacked by Islamic fascists, said he believed that people would be raptured into heaven leaving all the rest of us to wallow behind. I think his death is a deliverance.”

Reed: “Sean...”

Hitchens: “And if you say that someone who occasionally makes a charitable donation is a good person, then you have to say that Hamas and Hezbollah, who do all this charitable giving and charitable organizing are the same.”

Hannity: “How dare he practice religion in a country that celebrates it Ralph Reed?”

Reed: “ know, look, I just...”

Hitchens: “And why not a word now from the friend of Jack Abramoff, to give a kosher stamp to religious fraud...”

Colmes: “Wait, we only have a moment here, Ralph, let me get Ralph in here, here's an important question about Jerry Falwell, Ralph...”

Hitchens: “That's all it needs now, let's hear from the Abramoff faction and all the other religious rip-off artists. You should be ashamed of yourselves...”

Colmes (interuppting Hitchens): “Ralph...hold on Christopher...Ralph, the big controversy about Falwell is that he fused religion and politics, and that's what people will be debating I guess going forward. And after he said he would not do such a thing. Would Jesus have advocated the GOP...”

Hitchens (laughing): “What a question.”

Colmes: “...and was he right to bring and marry those two and give that impression? We only have a very short time left Ralph.”

Reed: “Well, I don't think that's ever what Doctor Falwell said...”

Hitchens (laden with sarcasm): “Doctor Falwell.”

Reed: “...what he said was that there were certain transcendent values, such as the protection of innocent human life, the sanctity of marriage, the need to defend the state of Israel, his opposition to Communism, his opposition to radical Jihadism...”

Hitchens: “No, the need to defend the Israeli occupation.”

Reed: “...and what he believed is that those values should be reflected in public policy. And I think that, you know, when you have a community of Liberty University, with its ten thousand students in residence, you have twenty two thousand members of his church, you have millions of others of people who looked up to him and admired him, I would really hope that people like Christopher would show the decency and respect to let those people mourn...”

Hitchens: “Tell it to Jack Abramoff.”

Reed: “...and remember his memory without it being torn down and attacked.”

Hitchens: “Tell it to Jack Abramoff. Tell it to your business partner. Tell it to your religious racketeer friends.”

Reed: “Good try Christopher.”

Hannity: “Reverend Falwell was a personal friend of mine, and I'll miss him.”

Hitchens: “If you gave Falwell an enema he could be buried in a matchbox.”

Thursday, March 15, 2012

In Memoriam: Christopher Hitchens

The name of this blog is owed to the late Christopher Hitchens; indeed, the very existence of this blog. For, although I was an atheist for some time before I became acquainted with Hitchens, it was the discovery of him - first via debates on youtube - that inspired me to "come out" as an atheist. I was at first exactly the kind of atheist that Hitchens defines himself against via the term anti-theist. After I realized that I could simply no longer believe in God, I nonetheless continued to say that I found Christ to be a great moral teacher and that I wished I could believe that religion was true and other such fluffy, saccharine nonsense. Hitchens was fond of quoting his fellow Brit C.S. Lewis, beloved today by evangelicals, who pointed out that appeasement is not possible between full belief in Christianity and a full rejection of Christ as an unethical lunatic. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity that a "man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to" (54-56). Hitchens agrees (gasp) with Lewis on this. He boldly claimed that Christ's teachings were unethical, flying in the face of the moderate religious and moderate secular complacency. It was certainly a spur to me to reconsider some of my uncritical assumptions. Hitchens made a career of challenging orthodoxy and being a gadfly to the complacent and intellectually drowsy. I owe to him realizations of the fraudulent myth of Mother Theresa - whom Hitchens called, with characteristically deadly adjectives, a "thieving, fanatical Albanian dwarf" - and the horrors committed by Henry Kissinger, who, according to the generally accepted narrative, is supposed to be one of the great and brilliant political theorists and statesmen of our time. Appropriately accompanying this intellectual intrepidity was an adamant defense of the values that Hitchens knew very well allowed him to exist as the kind of writer he was: that is to say, the values of the Western Enlightenment. Hitchens, for example, vigorously defended attacks upon freedom of speech, the most prominent case being that of his friend, the novelist Salman Rushdie, whose novel "The Satanic Verses" caused a fatwah to fall from the foetid maw of the Iranian Ayatollah; but he also defended the freedom of speech of less honorable types, such as the revisionist WWII historian David Irving.
In other words, Hitch was remarkably consistent in his defense of Enlightenment values. It was precisely this consistency that was responsible for his break with the left. Now, I want to take this opportunity, taking up the spirit of Hitchens, to challenge the orthodoxy surrounding his narrative—the story that was repeated on all the major news media when Hitchens died. The story goes something like this: Hitchens, the once stalwart Trotskyist socialist, defected to support George W. Bush's horrible war on terror, joining the ranks, it was often said, of the neo-cons. This heresy, for so many, is simple unforgivable—despite the fact that Hitchens was, for years while writing for The Nation, one of the strongest and most outspoken critics of Western capitalist imperialism (you will look in vain, for example, for anyone other than Hitchens in the major news media that challenged the justification of President Clinton's bombing of a pharmaceutical facility in Khartoum). Much of the coverage of his death by the left-wing magazine, The Nation included, focused, rather than upon his remarkable career as a leftist journalist, upon this heresy (or his legendary drinking feats—it is said that Hitchens, like Socrates, could drink all night and not get drunk). Hitchens has also come under fire from the Academic left, along with his fellow New Atheists: the charge here is generally that the New Atheists match the fundamentalism of the religious. These claims, as I hope to show, inaccurately represent Hitchens's positions.
First, the political fall from grace. Now, as Hitchens often pointed out, atheism, being merely the lack of belief, doesn't tell you anything about the other values and positions of the non-believer, political or otherwise. One need only consider the fact that Bertrand Russell and Ayn Rand were equally staunch defenders of atheism. The narrative of Hitchens's political conversion, however, has been used to challenge his humanism and his progressivism. Is support of the war on terror, then, incompatible with humanism and with progressive politics?
Hitchens certainly was a staunch defender, in my opinion by far the most compelling defender, of the war. What were Hitchens's arguments? At the root of his support was his opposition to totalitarianism—which was also the root of his opposition to monotheism, which he saw as the origin of totalitarianism. It was no mistake on his part that he constantly, and humorously, made the analogy between monotheism and North Korea, or monotheism and George Orwell's 1984—“a celestial North Korea” he would say to conclude a long description of the monotheistic worldview, making sure to reference the fact that for monotheists God can convict us of thoughtcrime. Hitchens, as a journalist covering geo-politics, had followed Hussein's regime in Iraq for several decades—and not disinterestedly. He had been actively involved in the struggle of the oppressed Kurdish minority in his years as an internationally oriented socialist. The primary argument, then, was a humanitarian one: the regime of Saddam Hussein had to go and it was first and foremost, for historical as well as political reasons, the responsibility of the United States to do the job.
Hitchens was, it should be said, not uncritical of George W. Bush (consider, for example, this analysis of him during the campaign in 2000, from Hardball with Chris Matthews: “...he's a man that's lucky to be the governor of Texas...he's unusually incurious, abnormally unintelligent, amazingly inarticulate, fantastically uncultured, extraordinarily uneducated, and apparently quite proud of all these things”); nor of his excruciatingly inept management of the war. This, however, did not shake his belief in the moral and political necessity of it. His adamant stand on this and other issues was connected with the fact that ultimately Hitchens was a moralist and repudiated the relativism that has come to dominate much of the discourse on the left. Indeed, Hitchens's break with the left establishment, which culminated in his leaving The Nation in the aftermath of 9/11 after two decades with the magazine, tells us more about a transformation of the left than about Hitchens (the exchange with Noam Chomsky in the pages of The Nation just before Hitchens resigned is rather informative in this regard). In other words, if inconsistency is to be charged anywhere it is to the account of the left. There isn't space to get to the roots of this transformation, but ultimately, I think the case can be made, it derives from a strain in continental philosophy that begins with Martin Heidegger and filters through the French post-structuralists like Michel Foucault. Let me highlight the difference this way: it is an exercise in futility to attempt to find within the oeuvre of either of these influential philosophers a claim even approaching the one that Hitchens would make so often in the last decade of his life: that is, that human morality and solidarity are innate in us as socially-oriented evolved mammals. The moral framework that is a pre-condition for human civilization is universal: hence, we can unequivocally, for Hitchens, condemn regimes and ideologies that transgress or erode it. In the many debates following upon the publication of god is not Great, Hitchens was at his vitriolic best when taking on the claim, so often made by believers, that we would have no morality without God. The genital mutilation community, he would say, is entirely religious; the suicide-bombing community is entirely religious...and so on. An honest reader of Hitchens's journalism through the years, in my submission, must admit that he was remarkably and admirably consistent in his moralism, which was, in the last analysis, grounded in his naturalism and humanism.
Hitchens was, moreover, never a non-interventionist. His friend, the novelist Ian McEwan, pointed out after his death that he was the only one of the remarkable group that was brought together by the British paper The New Statesman, including poet James Fenton and novelist Martin Amis, that supported intervention during the Falklands Crisis in 1982. Hitchens was certainly far from indiscriminate in his support for Western intervention in international affairs—indeed, he began his career as an orator, and as a leftist, speaking out against the Vietnam War while a student at Oxford University, and would continue to be one of the strongest voices against Western imperialism in the world. The other point of disagreement between Hitchens and the current left ties together the two themes under consideration: Hitchens's stance on what he unforgettably called “fascism with an Islamic face.” The general position of the left on this point is that the capitalist imperialism of the United States and Israel in the 20th century is at the root of our troubles with Islamic Jihad: the hens came home to roost (for the most cogent expression of this view, one need only look up the writings of Chomsky on 9/11 which can easily be found on the internet). In opposition to this view, Hitchens argues that the root of Islamic hatred of the West is to be found within Islamic ideology itself. He points out for example that the first attack on the United States as a sovereign country was on the shores of Tripoli, by Muslims who justified their attacks with scripture—Americans are infidels, end of story. This leads us to the second point, which is whether or not Hitchens, in taking such positions, is an 'Enlightenment fundamentalist'.
The New Atheists have come under fire from many in this way, and not just the religious—Terry Eagleton, the Marxist literary critic, and Jackson Lears, a leftist historian, have joined the ranks of Dinesh D'Souza and others. Now, in an immediate semantic sense the notion of an 'Enlightenment fundamentalist' is an oxymoron; the OED defines fundamentalism only in reference to religious belief that is opposed to modern developments. But what is meant by this claim is that the New Atheists are as dogmatic in their defense of science as the religious in their defense of scripture. This, in my view, merely shows a lack of understanding of the positions of Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris and the rest. In untangling this ideological skein, one must distinguish two separate claims made by the New Atheists, an epistemological claim and an empirically based ethical claim: one, that there is no evidence that suggests the truth of any religious dogma—hence suggesting that ontological claims for the existence of God are unfounded; and two, that the world would be a better place without religion if one considers this from an empirical perspective. Only a confusion of these two claims could lead someone to argue that the New Atheists are fundamentalists. Their critics think because they claim that the world would be a better place without religion that they hope to eliminate religion from the world and have everyone accept their scientific worldview. From an ethical standpoint, rooted in empirical observation of the 'works' of the faithful in the world, a humanist might very well hope that religion disappear tomorrow; but from an epistemological and ontological standpoint none of the New Atheists, nor any humanist that I know of, would claim that people don't have every right to believe whatever they want—with one caveat. They must, as Hitchens often said, keep it to themselves. And this is the problem: the religious fundamentalists seem to be unable to keep their illusions to themselves. There is no mystery here; the problem is inherent to religion as well. The holy books command the religious not to keep their ideology to themselves. Tolerance for all but the intolerant is, and must be—for tolerance toward in the intolerant is self-defeating, the stance of those who hope to preserve democracy and pluralism. The New Atheists fight for the condition for the possibility of the success of democracy and pluralism—freedom of thought, inquiry, and debate. This requires, however, that everyone agree to certain rules of discourse—we cannot have a meaningful conversation on anything if everyone doesn't agree to root our debate in reason, logic, and evidence. The only ones that refuse these rules are the true fundamentalists: the religious dogmatists who claim that faith trumps reason.
Hitchens was throughout his long and remarkable career a consistent political progressive and a consistently moral humanist. Whether one agrees, in the final analysis, with Hitchens on the war on Terror or not, it would be wrong to pretend that a good progressive and humanitarian case cannot be made in defense of it—it is, moreover, a good debate to have because it raises important questions about the role of the United States in the world and the continuing conflicts in geopolitics. Hitchens disavowed his socialism, yes; but he did so because of changes on the left, not changes in his own political values. He never disavowed his Marxism: in one of his final interviews, he said, exhibiting his persistent love of irony, that he was a “very conservative Marxist.” By no sense of the word can Hitchens, nor any other of the New Atheists be considered dogmatists. One can disagree with the empirically-based claim that “religion poisons everything,” but it is a distortion to say that Hitchens and the New Atheists are fundamentalists. But let it rest there, before I am accused, to reverse an old phrase, of attempting to prove that a Newton is not an Ape.

Friday, June 18, 2010

David Hume Goes to Church: On Hypocrisy, Religious and Otherwise

There is an anecdote about the great Scottish philosopher and atheist David Hume concerning his regular attendance of church services conducted by a very orthodox minister. A friend suggested that perhaps Hume was being a little bit inconsistent in attending these services given his skepticism and atheism. Hume’s reply: “I don’t believe all he says, but he does, and once a week I like to hear a man who believes what he says.” This response contains all the Humean wit and charm that his admirers, such as (need I say?) myself, seek in his writings; but this response also, as his wit often does, cuts two ways and leaves us thinking long after our laughter has subsided.
The statement is funny because is makes light of the people’s general disingenuity: something we can all identify with. But it is also a rather subtle critique–Hume was a master of subtlety–of religion and the religious. It suggests, on the one hand, that the majority of Christians–which, in Hume’s time as still in ours (although this problem is receiving more amelioration every day now) meant almost everyone–were hypocrites, that they could not or would not bear the full weight of their convictions. But, on the other hand, it suggests that those who are the true believers, who actually bear the weight of their convictions, are fanatics. Hume must have attended these sermons to be reminded weekly of the true threat of religious fundamentalism. While the American population is still overwhelmingly Christian (78% according to a Pew Forum poll in 2007), the number of those that live by the book, so to speak, cannot be anywhere close to this number. As Christopher Hitchens has pointed out, you can go to the grocery store, or a restaurant, or any public place on Sunday morning and recognize immediately that 78% of the population is not at church. It seems to me that, while the majority of Americans seem to be, prima facie, Christians, the majority of this majority do not live that way in their day to day lives. Now, let me qualify this statement and make it very clear how I would define Christian–or a truly religious person.
The source of organized religion, in the case of the three monotheistic religions, is the holy books: the Talmud, the Bible, and the Quran. The majority of people in these religions today, I believe, no longer follow strictly the dictates of these books–and who could? Only a fanatic. Only a fanatic would stone a woman to death on the mere suspicion of premarital sex or infidelity, only a fanatic would seek to kill everyone on the planet that did not have the same belief system, only a fanatic would leave their family and everything they owned to follow a madman who believed the world was coming to an end, only a fanatic would kill his only son because an “angel” commanded him to. Only a fanatic, I say. Insofar as a person does not follow strictly the dictates of these evil books, to that extent are they not religious; to that extent have they become humanized and secularized; to that extent have they moved away from these barbaric Bronze Age religions. The truly religious are the suicide bombers, those killing abortion doctors and blowing up abortion clinics, those seeking to have pseudoscience taught alongside evolution, those giving a baby syphilis because they insist on following the old circumcision ritual of sucking the cut foreskin off of the bleeding, screaming baby, those cutting off the heads of their own female relatives in the name of “honor,” those who believe that the world is coming to an end soon–and in the depths of their being want it to. Organized religion is evil because the very source of its structure and organization is evil: the “holy” books. In every case they contain evil dictates that are supposedly from the mouth of a benevolent and loving God.
To be sure, it is a good thing that the majority of those who claim to be religious are in fact not that religious at all: indeed, if we are something of Jamesian pragmatists, we must in fact, I think, claim that they are de facto, in light of how they live–which is where people’s beliefs really show (a belief we all express frequently in the maxim “Actions speak louder than words,”)–not religious at all, or only slightly so. Now we need only bring their spoken beliefs into focus with their actions–that is to say, what they really believe. It doesn’t bother me that only 1.6% (again, the Pew Forum poll) claim to be atheists and 2.4% agnostics: people can tell the pollsters that they are religious–as long as they don’t act like they are religious. In a word, while many complain of religious hypocrisy, I encourage it. The bigger a religious hypocrite a person is, the less they are acting out the evils of organized religion, and that is a good thing. And for those of us like Hume that want to keep the threat of religious fanaticism–let us just start calling it “true religiosity” and forego the rhetoric suggesting in the word “fanaticism,” as though they are somehow a small faction that is on the fringe–reminded of the threat, then, of true religiosity, thanks to modern technology, we need not take upon ourselves the inconvenience of getting all dressed up to go out on Sunday morning, having to make mind-numbing small talk with sweet old Mrs. Jones or Robinson or Smith, and drink bad coffee for the sake of “fellowship,” no, we need not inconvenience ourselves: we need only watch international news to see the latest horrors of the Taliban in Afghanistan, of Hamas in Gaza, of the Catholic church in the third world fighting contraceptives and abortion; we need only watch for a few moments the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells of the world to renew our anti-religious, anti-theist fervor.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Islamic Anti-Semitism

I just found this article (,1518,553724,00.html) in the German magazine Der Spiegel on growing Anti-Semitism amongst the Muslim population in Germany and elsewhere. Some of the incidents are simply stunning: for example, Kuentzel cites a case where a group of Muslim students, on a trip to Auschwitz, stood in front of one of the gas chambers and applauded; or radio programs broadcast widely that invite Muslim children to kill Jews in the name of Allah.
The argument is often made that we cannot judge a religion, Islam in this case, based upon a radicalized fraction of its constituents. This would be a valid argument if it weren't for the fact that this fraction are not radicalized: they are the ones actually obeying the dictates of the religion, that is to say, they are simply the truly religious ones. The others are tolerant in spite of their religion, not because of it. The same is true of the other monotheistic religions. The true Christians are those blowing up abortion clinics, fighting for superstitious nonsense to be taught in public education facilities as a "competing theory" with evolution, and fighting to have all homosexuals institutionalized.
Religion is, in its very structure, its fiber, and originating source--the so-called holy books--immoral and corrupt. The holy books of the monotheistic religions are the source of their structural organization: these are the very books that contain injunctions to commit some of the most evil acts that have been committed by human animals and continue to be committed, and will continue to be until the religions themselves are destroyed.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


I've been silent for some time now, nothing, however, compared to the silence of God in the history of the human species.
I recently watched a debate, posted in full on youtube, between Christopher Hitchens and four well-known Christian apologists. Here's the link:
Much of the debate centered around the, I think, rather puerile debate of theodicy, or the problem of evil. When entering into debate with believers, granted I don't know them, I use this problem as a sort of litmus test to comprehend the sophistication of the other person. In other words, if they cannot give the time-honored Christian answer to the problem of theodicy, then I know I'm dealing with someone who hasn't thought much about their beliefs: a true specimen of the sickness of faith (for faith, rather than belief in things unseen as many attempt to define it, is rather for most, in praxis, blind belief in their father's religion). The proper Christian answer is very simple: evil exists in the world because God wants us to love him, love is only love if it is given, one cannot give anything without free will, hence God created man with free will knowing that it would result in evil. Sadly, much of this debate, despite the intellectual rigor of its participants, centered around this elementary problem. And in the elementary aspects of this problem. Because I think there is much more to be discussed that is not often discussed about it.
Firstly: is it not possible to imagine humans with free-will that do not commit such egregious acts as child rape (see, for example, the Catholic church), or brutal murder, or genocide, or chemical warfare? If it is possible for us (lowly sinful humans that we are) to imagine it, then it is certainly possible for an omnipotent creator to make this possibility an actuality.
Secondly: the believer must establish not only that evil is the unwelcome result of free-will, as they have easily done for centuries to answer the problem, but that ultimately more good comes of free-will than evil. That is to say, if the good does not outweigh, so to speak, the evil in the world, and in human history, then God has knowingly created an evil world. It seems that one could easily make the case, at our particular juncture in history after Nazism, the Gulag, Darfur, the Khmer Rouge, Apartheid, Rwanda, the world wars, Bolivia, the Armenian genocide, American slavery (and other slaveries), etc., etc., etc., that more evil has come of the human species than good (not to mention the evil we perpetrate upon other species through factory farming, habitat loss, genetic modification, etc., and upon the planet that supports us). If this is the case, then it is simply incompatible with the Christian concept of an all-loving, all-merciful God. It is compatible with a narcissistic sociopath of a God that loves and cares only about himself and his own pleasure and that would watch silently the suffering of millions that a few might choose to love him. But not with the Christian God. Unfortunately, though any Christian that has thought a modicum about their faith can offer the elementary and time-tested response to the problem of theodicy, they are not often challenged further as they should be.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Comic Interlude

Great stand up on religion by Lewis Black: