christopher hitchens

above all, we are in need of a renewed Enlightenment, which will base itself on the proposition that the proper study of mankind is man, and woman. This Enlightenment will not need to depend, like its predecessors, on the heroic breakthroughs of a few gifted and exceptionally courageous people. It is within the compass of the average person. The study of literature and poetry, both for its own sake and for the eternal ethical questions with which it deals, can now easily depose the scrutiny of sacred texts that have been found to be corrupt and confected. The pursuit of unfettered scientific inquiry, and the availability of new findings to masses of people by electronic means, will revolutionize our concepts of research and development. Very importantly, the divorce between the sexual life and fear, and the sexual life and disease, and the sexual life and tyranny, can now at last be attempted, on the sole condition that we banish all religions from the discourse. And all this and more is, for the first time in our history, within the reach if not the grasp of everyone.

so writes christopher hitchens, in his book, god is not great: how religion poisons everything.

i saw hitchens the other night, on the hour. he made some shocking, but very valid points. such as: how we think, not what we think that matters more … religion will destroy the world through the marriage of messianic ideology and apocolyptic technology. hitchens sees religion as a toxic-to-the-core celestial dictatorship. try as we may, we can never make it go away. but theoretically speaking we could domesticate the beast known as religion.

while i find hitchen’s angry, almost vitriolic persona somewhat unbecoming, i do think he makes some excellent points. and … i must admit, i laughed @ his cynical quip about the catholic church: “no child’s behind left.” and i laughed even harder when he quoted an american politician as follows: “if english was good enough for jesus its good enough for me.” i mean … if one wants to worship, s/he could at least inform oneself on the true details of one’s belief … read: jesus did not speak english, you fucking lug-nut!

so … on a good day the whole concept of religion … the supernatural … the spiritual confuses me. and then people like hitchens, his buddy dawkins weigh in on the ‘con’ side and that other dude alastair mcgrath weighs in on the ‘pro’ side. and then dubya starts telling us about evil and how he must champion humanity by ‘smokin out’ the evil. and then there’s islam ~ no need to comment on all the conflict and confusion raging in that religion. and then there’s christianity ~ accusing islam of wantin’ to take over the world, when it [i.e. christianity] already has!

i mean, what else do you call it when the religious holidays of ONE PARTICULAR RELIGION become embedded into the cultural fabric of at least an entire hemisphere of the world? do i need to remind anyone that judaism, islam, nor hinduism honour either christmas and easter? that despite friday and saturday being the ‘day of rest’ for judaism and islam, christianity’s ‘day of rest’ finds itself enshrined into our law as a definitive, nationwide weekly holiday?

don’t get me wrong, here. i’m not really knocking the notion that anyone believes … or the specific doctrine of any particular belief. that’s pointless. i mean to express here my doubt that any human-formed – and therefore political – establishment could ever represent the supernal being. i see religion as serving different purposes for different types of believers. religion provides the guts of that intimate connection between one’s philosophical view of truth and one’s spiritual self. whatever religious perspective one chooses to weave into his/her cultural matrix speaks to his/her larger view of truth, the universe, humanity, and how life got here. essentially, religion must serve a purpose if we cling to it so fearfully. what purpose? you decide.

1. religion as a social construct

  • a manifestation of some psychological or moral pathology?
  • a pernicious and deliberate falsehood, spread and encouraged by rulers and clerics in their own interests, in an effort exercise control over others?
  • seeing religions as marginally useful constructs which encode instructions or habits useful for survival in a society
  • seeing religion as ‘the opium of the masses’

2. religion as progressing toward a higher truth

  • reflections of an essential truth?
  • seeing religious truth as relative, due to its varied cultural application and/or expression
  • seeing prophets as messengers of god — individuals given to extraordinary spiritual insight during periods of social decay and acting as purveyors of balance and social survival.
  • seeing religion as evolving over time in a thesis-antithesis-synthesis-great awakening paradigm

3. religion as absolute truth

  • the exclusivist view
  • one belief system … one holy book … one supreme being
  • seeing all things and individuals incongruent with the one belief system as ignorant, devious, false, misguided
  • a sort of arrogant view of truth (”our view is the RIGHT view, all others are wrong”)
  • providing an unwavering perspective that requires individuals to conform to its truth

i do not have the answers … i don’t have the questions, either. but i think that whatever a person believes, its never so cut and dry and absolute and neat and tidy and the same everyday. i think the mistake devout people make lies in denying any opposition to their perspective. to deny opposition makes one sort of a totalitarian. it closes the mind. it closes the spirit. it closes off the entire grand possibility of intellectual expansion.

so … i guess i just think, for those who believe in heaven and hell, ‘ stop telling me i’m going to hell for blaspheming. concentrate on how you plan to get into heaven. concentrate on the fact that, some days, keeping one’s faith seems as easy as squeezing a fat man through the eye of a needle. and the more any of us berate another for a different belief, the more distant our own faith becomes, if we had one to begin with. even atheism requires belief and faith, in case anyone’s wondering.

lately, i find i’ve spent much of my time squeezing that fat man into the eye of my own faith’s embroidery needle. i know … intrinisically i know … of a supernal existence. i’ve felt it. and … that’s an intimate matter ~ each individual has their own concept and experience with the supernal force(s). still, i wonder, each day ~ will this path take me where i want to go? ah ~ but, my dear Self … you must wait until you get there to find out. and so it goes.

in other news ~ note the change. i felt the need for minimalism for a while. so … no sidebar, no links, no bling. just a blog. and a tiny bit of eye candy. so, call this the naked blog, if you want … for a while anyway.

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~ by frizzyscissorhands on June 14, 2007.

8 Responses to “christopher hitchens”

  1. oh…you’ve changed everything- and yet- nothing.
    Hugs-
    You have always been who you are- and I appreciate you.

    I value your view of the of the world- even as it differs from mine.

    This is the gift of women…
    we need not go to war over our differences-
    but our men will fight to the death.

    They don’t give birth- not really-
    do they?
    -Mayden/Cora

  2. no. they don’t give birth … i saw a plaque somewhere that read it takes many men to make an army and one woman to make a home. and so it is.

    i find i want to explore opinions that differ from my own these days. i liked some of of what this man hitchens says, but not all of it. still, i want to know the opposing view, too. i cements my understanding of my own.

    love ya!:)

  3. (1) I’ll have to check that link you provided. I’m wondering if Hitchens was drunk during the interview. That might account for his anger (his drinking, and the personality changes that accompany it, are kinda legendary).

    I’ve read a number of his works, and they’re so hot and cold. Either he hits the mark completely, or he misses the target altogether. While I agree with the points here, we still might both be wrong. Problem is, we have limited ways of knowing.

    But as an institution, I cannot agree more that this is what religion has become to some degree.

    (3) Bravo! I couldn’t have articulated my feelings any better than you have done here.

  4. x-dell~ thanx for your kind words, both here and @ the other place. 🙂

    i think where hitchens goes wrong is assuming that religion = g-d. it does not. not for all who believe. i can have faith in a supernal being – g-d – without having any faith whatsoever in the institution called church/religion. just the same as i can play a role as a proactive, political being without joining a political party.

    so … yes, in some ways hitches seems hot and in others, cold. he’s quite articulate. and i like that a great deal.

    the interviewer in that clip, george stromboulopolos, interviewed richard dawkins and also alastair mcgrath, who have also written books on science, creationism, darwinism and g-d. i will post on the other two interviews – they held my interest equally as well as this one did. however, i am torn as a post is brewing in my head on harm reduction, intravenous drug use/drug policy and safe injection sites. alas … i need just a few more hours in each day! ha.

  5. This is fantastic. I must return. I am sleepy now, and this is a worthy post.

  6. The new blog is beautiful

    Okay: let’s tackle this. I agree that we are in need of a new enlightenment; however, Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins will not lead us to it. I’ve had these kinds of discussions before with atheists; when I used to be one, I subscribed to the Nietzchien ideal of social construct and need for meaning when I tried to figure the need for a God belief. Nietzche debated atheism way better than any of these guys, like Hitchens, he is angry, but it is not based on ridicule but sheer frustration and dare I say, a concern for the direction of humankind. I see none of that in these three–even though I am less competent with Hitchens as I haven’t read his book, just reviews. Harris is the best of the three, as he is controlled and deliberate in his arguments. Dawkins is good in the sense that he defends evolution, but like the creationists, it all boils down to an either/or debate for him.

    Hitchens is more angry about religion today, and he is right to feel that way. There is blatent hypocrisy, money grubbing, political decisions based on a God belief, narcissism in the depiction of God….obviously this will affect social relationships and virtually anything that Marx would call the superstructure. And those that insist they know the absolute truth can be downright annoying. But what are these men offering instead? Darwin was an atheist who gave us the theory of evolution, one I accept. Marx presented a scathing critique of capitalism which is possible the most realistic ever conceived. Freud taught us of the unconscious, the role of dreams, the topography of the mind. That is enlightenment, even if all 3 were a century or so later than the actual period. If one is critical of what one sees as the cancer within the social animal, removing it isn’t enough because people abhor a vacuum. If religion is untrue, and it very well may be an illusion–we will all know sooner or later, what will exist in its stead. Science? Sensible people who subscribe to religious dogma do not deny science–one cannot deny what can be both proven and declared through the 5 senses. They are not mutually exclusive. So what is there? Intellectualism? What happens after a brain injury or early onset of Alzimers (sp)? Do I make sense?

    Sorry so long, but this is a fine post.

  7. i agree … hitchens seems justified in his anger @ religion, as i’ve said. and i contend too, that what man has demonstrated exists through use of the 5 sense’s and what can be re-proved/reproduced on more with same cannot be denied. though, that which science and the 5 senses cannot explain, we should not jump so quickly to discredit. and this, perhaps, points to where the mutual exclusivity-proponents falter.

    alister mcgrath started out as an atheist, and then grew into religion. he is current a priest and also a science/scholar. he believes creationism and evolution can exist in the same belief system. mcgrath’s book is called “The Dawkins Delusion: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine.” read about his perspective here.

    and the link to the interview is here.

    anyway … science and religion are not mutually exclusive. evolutionism does not necessitate atheism. and we can g-d’s existence just as much as we can provde g-d’s non-existence …. not really at all.

  8. about the new blog style – thanx … i like this minimal look, with a tiny hint of colour. i also like that the graphic has a vintage feel to it.

    its all soothing. i think.

    🙂

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