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Switch to Forum Live View Is Christopher Hitchens Religious?
8 years ago  ::  Feb 06, 2010 - 7:56PM #1
Posts: 55

A recent post of mine
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8 years ago  ::  Feb 06, 2010 - 8:07PM #2
Posts: 44,029

Feb 6, 2010 -- 7:56PM, Jonathanelliot wrote:

A recent post of mine....

How about posting something here besides just a link? After all... this is a discussion forum, not a link forum.

Dave - Just a Man in the Mountains.

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.   Isaac Asimov
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8 years ago  ::  Feb 07, 2010 - 12:06PM #3
Grubmeister General
Posts: 17

I agree with MM. If you're going to post a link, at least include some comment to start the ball rolling. Without your perspective, we've nothing to discuss. Not that we can't start it up on our own but it makes for more civilized interaction.

Having said that, we'll play with my ball for a while.

I follow CH's writing through and what I find elsewhere. It seems the writer of your link places tremendous weight on the word "numinous", which I admit I had to look up. The spin, that Hitch is somehow a closeted spiritualist is a real stretch when you consider all his other writings. I was left to wonder if there was some portion of the interview missing which would have provided context for his ill-advised inclusion of the word. He would have done much better fleshing it out a bit, describing the obvious yearning for transcendence in so many. Instead, from what I'm reading, he uses the wrong word (assuming large chunks of the interview were not excised) and winds up looking like a child himself. With the help of the writer of the column, he comes across like a whiner, his bad attitude a result of little more than encounters with religious charlatans in his youth (not us good, god fearing people, chosen to speak the truth. "Those" other people; you know, the impostors).  

At one point, I asked myself if both the writer and Sewell have blinders on. It's much easier to see Hitch as a fool if you filter what he says through a religious interpreter (a christian babel fish perhaps?). As we've seen before, he's easier to disregard as a person who "just doesn't get it". I always wondered where the story would have gone had the crowd insisted the little boy should just try harder to see the fine clothes the emporor wore. Are there any children stories whcih include child floggings or stake burning? But I digress...

 With the exception of the "n" word, I thought Htchens came across as reasonable and surprisingly sensitive. He concedes the yearning for the transcendent but suggests it comes from the emotional side of humanity. I too struggle with ways to describe love as it puts spock logic on shaky ground.

Unless I misunderstand the meaning CH hoped to convey, I hope he banishes the "n" word from furture writings, interviews and such. If his intention was to refer to either a theoretical god or higher power, by its use the ears of the choir believe he confirmed and approved of their belief in a real god. 

I'm not surprised at the tact this author took. I understand there were some good, god fearing people who claimed in the end, Bertrand Russel accepted Jesus as his personal savior.

Still, CH is a big boy so I look forward to the rain of s#^& that is sure to result in his future writings. I suppose there's always the possibility he's figured out how to market himself to the theist crowd. Imagine, at least for a short time, how many more books he could sell if he could appear to waffle.


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8 years ago  ::  Feb 07, 2010 - 3:58PM #4
Posts: 386

These observations led me to offer the following analysis:

Hitchens’ strategy seems to be this: if it is good, noble, or tends to inspire compassion, then it isn’t “religion.” It is “humanism” or something of the sort. With no clear definition to guide him, Hitchens is free to locate only what is cruel, callous, insipid, or banal in the camp of religion, while excluding anything that could reliably motivate the heroic moral action exemplified by Bonhoeffer and King. When “religion” is never defined, but in practice is treated so that only what is poisonous qualifies, it becomes trivially easy to conclude that “religion poisons everything.”

What I failed to ask then, however, was why Hitchens might come to use “religion” in such a peculiar (to me) way.

I don't see anything at all peculiar about it -- it's just more of the "I'm rubber, you're glue" nonsense that goes on between the more combative religious and non-religious types.

I think the way Hitchens was using "numious" was simply another way of saying "experiencing awe", which Hitchens was quick to point out did not require the supernatural, nor could it be defined as a religious feeling unless you really stretch the meaning of the word religious. 

While I usually don't care for how Hitchens says things, I often agree with what he says, including here.  Whatever you call it, I think most people experience awe and a sense of being a small part of something very large and overwhelming, but we don't all go outside of nature to identify it.



I've seen normal, and I'm not impressed.
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8 years ago  ::  Feb 07, 2010 - 10:48PM #5
Posts: 3,242

It isn't just awe.  Hitchens is grappling with the limits of reductionism.  Are you and I just bits of matter in motion?  If so, are you and I really anything?  Is there really no qualitative difference between an individual consciously experiencing the world - or even performing an act of service - and a river emptying into an ocean?

Hitchens, in admirable honesty, uses terms like "transcendence."  He doesn't believe in the immortality of an individual's soul, but the very idea of a "soul" - immortal or not - raises difficult questions.  Atheists need not run from difficult questions, nor is it a weakness to admit that there are questions without satisfactory answers.  It's certainly quite a distance from the pompous certainties of religion, especially when those certainties are in service to a dumpster full of nonsense.

After reading the article, I think the best point it makes is that even Hitchens has trouble walking that last mile.  I don't think it justifies the article's misleading title but when Hitchens speaks of religion - only as a source of silliness - but gives religion no credit, when it inspires admirable behavior, he's cherrypicking.

But at least he's not making up crap and using it to steal nickels and dimes from little old ladies.

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