Sunday, July 15, 2007

Hitchens letter to the Washington Post

Christopher Hitchens wrote a letter that appeared in today's Washington Post.
In the letter, he hands someone their ass for making condescending remarks.

"It's uncommonly generous of Michael Gerson[" What Atheists Can't Answer," op-ed, July 13] to refer to me as "intellectually courageous and unfailingly kind," since (a) this might be taken as proof that he hardly knows me and (b) it was he who was so kind when I once rang him to check a scurrilous peacenik rumor that he was a secret convert from Judaism to Christian fundamentalism."

"However, it is his own supposedly kindly religion that prevents him from seeing how insulting is the latent suggestion of his position: the appalling insinuation that I would not know right from wrong if I was not supernaturally guided by a celestial dictatorship, which could read and condemn my thoughts and which could also consign me to eternal worshipful bliss (a somewhat hellish idea) or to an actual hell.

"Implicit in this ancient chestnut of an argument is the further -- and equally disagreeable -- self-satisfaction that simply assumes, whether or not religion is metaphysically "true," that at least it stands for morality. Those of us who disbelieve in the heavenly dictatorship also reject many of its immoral teachings, which have at different times included the slaughter of other "tribes," the enslavement of the survivors, the mutilation of the genitalia of children, the burning of witches, the condemnation of sexual "deviants" and the eating of certain foods, the opposition to innovations in science and medicine, the mad doctrine of predestination, the deranged accusation against all Jews of the crime of "deicide," the absurdity of "Limbo," the horror of suicide-bombing and jihad, and the ethically dubious notion of vicarious redemption by human sacrifice.

At this point, as I was reading, I thought, "wow... bravo, Mr. Hitchens." But, like a late-night infomercial, "But wait! There's more!"
Of course Gerson will -- and must -- cherry-pick this list (which is by no means exhaustive) and patter on about how one mustn't be too literal. But in doing this, he makes a huge concession to the ethical humanism to which he so loftily condescends. The game is given away by his own use of G.K. Chesterton's invocation of Thor. We laugh at this dead god, but were not Norse children told that without Valhalla there would be no courage and no moral example? Isn't it true that Louis Farrakhan's crackpot racist group gets young people off drugs? Doesn't Hamas claim to provide social services to the downtrodden? If you credit any one religion with motivating good deeds, how (without declaring yourself to be sectarian) can you avoid crediting them all? And is not endless warfare between the faiths to be added to the list of horrors I just mentioned? Just look at how the "faith-based" are behaving in today's Iraq.

Nicely played.
He continues to serve up reality with another few paragraphs... but, I particularly liked this closing gem:
. "By what right, then, do the faithful assume this irritating mantle of righteousness? They have as much to apologize for as to explain.

I hate to quote Kip in Napoleon Dynomite, but... "now that's what I'm talkin' about."


Kazim said...

In case you didn't notice, I beat Hitchens to debunking that article by a day. See here.

godma said...

Wow. That was truly excellent. Thanks for linking to it!

Anonymous said...

In case you didn't notice, I beat Hitchens to debunking that article by a day.
...and, you did a good job. :) You should've sent it to the Post.

Kazim said...

I did post it there. It showed up somewhere around page 47 of the comments section. :)