Hitch: Being dead does not make him any more noble

It’s bad taste to say unpleasant things about people when they’re dead. Well, no it’s not actually. Kim Jon Il just died and just today they were mocking him on the radio. Wartime songs were sung about Hitler after his demise, and so on. But in polite society, it’s not done. Christopher Hitchens lost his battle with Cancer recently, and Christians are coming out of the woodwork to say nice things about him.

He may have been a good journalist and writer, but in the arena he became notorious in – attacking religion, he was a prat, and deliberately so. And not just a prat, a pretending, smug, arrogant (certainly more arrogant than was warranted by his ignorance), belligerent prat. He – along with his equally vapid adoring fan base – was quite taken by the idea that you’ve offered a sensible critique of Christianity if you just describe it in scornful terms with a serious look on your face, or that a deep Oxford educated voice and some dirty innuendos made a point all that more logically compelling.

Christopher Hitchens, aside from having a presenter’s (and a writer’s) flair, contributed nothing of value to public discussions around religion. His circus antics only served to egg on the very worst intellectual element of atheism (frankly giving more respectable non-believers a bad name), and to undermine the academic virtues of his Alma Mater (the University of Oxford). In spite of – as far as actual arguments go – hands down losing his debate with Alister McGrath on the value of religion, the fact that he made his comments in a sassy tone and threw in a questionable joke or two warmed people to him, turning them away from analysing the intellectual merits of what was said and towards an analysis of “who gave the best burn.” In this he certainly resembles his company among the so-called “four horsemen” of the new atheism, especially Richard Dawkins, whose ostensible tribute to Hitchens is essentially a slightly less well written version of a Hitchens tirade against theism. Dawkins would have us think that Hitchens’ death shows us the dignity of atheism. No it doesn’t. It shows us what’s wrong with smoking and drinking to excess. Hitchens took the advice of Job’s wife, “curse your God and die.”

Hitchens left a lasting message for his adorers: Screw reason, just go for the shock value of a thumped podium, fake outrage, showmanship and some naughty words. It’s not much of a legacy. That said, he was a man who certainly spoke what he believed and had integrity that would allow him to do nothing else. This being the case, the last thing he would want, I am sure, is a pretentious tribute about what a sad loss of a great fellow this is. It’s sad for him, his friends and family of course, and they have my condolences for the personal loss. But as for this “here lies a worthy opponent” nonsense, forget it. He lived as a fool, played to the lowest common denominator, encouraged a generation of sloppy, angry argument makers and committed his career and a good chunk of his life to hostility towards his maker. His life was one of genuine tragedy.

Glenn Peoples

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71 thoughts on “Hitch: Being dead does not make him any more noble

  1. Glenn,

    You believe in the existence of objective moral values. Is “Bad mouthing” objectively wrong? If yes, what makes bad-mouthing objectivly wrong? Could you please put your argument in a deductive form like WLC does?
    Shame on you!!

  2. Well said Glenn!

    I loved Hitchens to pieces, but you’re completely right about the sheer emptiness and anti-intellectualism of his atheism. It’s well worth mentioning the beating he took from William Lane Craig. Even atheists observed that he had been “spanked like a foolish child”, let alone the fact that he gave up his closing speech in defeat!

    JoJo Jacob, I presume you’re willing to chastise Hitchens (post-mortem) just as strongly for “badmouthing” the late Jerry Falwell?

  3. Hitch said and did alot of things, not all of them right, but he is not worthy of the bile you just spewed forth Glenn.

    When your time is up, will you be as well remembered ?

  4. Paul, I’m playing the world’s smallest violin right now. This was not bile. Glenn is correct in his criticisms and, just as Hitchens said many times over Falwell, “it was the same while he was alive”!

  5. Hitchens had the nobility that comes from being created in the image of God. We need always to honor that.

    Still we have to keep our categories straight. Someone misread me when I tried to do that, and commented “Tom, thanks for … celebrating the life of a great man.” My answer was that Hitchens was great in his own way: greatly tragic, greatly contributing to others’ tragedies—and greatness is not always goodness.

    I never cease to be in awe of what God has done in creating each one of us, even those who oppose him. I tremble at how far such greatness can fall.

  6. Popularizing atheism, or rather denigrating theism, is a noble legacy. Hitchens may have been “a prat, a pretending, smug, arrogant, belligerent prat” but by “turning them away from analysing the intellectual merits of what was said” he demonstrated the emptiness of theism. I would guess that he encouraged a choice toward atheism and away from theism in the fence-sitter. It will take sarcasm, derision, and some naughty words to loosen theism’s grip. So thank you Mr. Hitchens.

    “He lived as a fool, played to the lowest common denominator, encouraged a generation of sloppy, angry argument makers and committed his career and a good chunk of his life to hostility towards his maker theism.” Fixed.

  7. I generally agree about the quality of Hitchens’ arguments, which were routinely more pigilistically clever than sound. But when it comes to the motivations at the root of those arguments, and their ultimate effect, I think there is much more room for debate.

    As far as motivations go, the more I studied Hitchens the more I came away with the sense that underneath the bluster and sneering bravado was outrage at what he saw to be the range of foolishness and inhumanity in the world–and hence, at an even deeper level, a devotion to the true and the good. This is not to say that his response was the best one, or even an especially good one. It is to say that a decotion to the good and the true was the deep source of the passion with which he delivered even his most hostile verbal diatribes.

    Of course I could be wrong about this–we cannot readily plumb the hearts of human beings. I certainly did not have this sense when I first started reading Hitchens on religion. In my book, Is God a Delusion?, I rarely had anything positive to say about him–and the general weakness of his arguments on a philosophical level meant I actually gave him less attention in that book than the other so-called new atheists. But as I continued following his career I just had this growing sense about his driving motivations–a sense that I still don’t have with respect to, say, Dawkins or Sam Harris. This sense led me respond to him with almost a sort of affection (an affection that would, I’m sure, crumble if he ever turned his vitreol directly on me; so not an especially durable affection, but an odd kind of affection nonetheless).

    But even if my intuitions here are wrong, there is something I am prepared to say with considerable confidence. Hitchens was a human being, and human beings have an inherent worth and dignity that warrants our respect–even in the cases of those who were not themselves prone to displaying such respect in their own rhetoric. It is quite possible that a roasting of Hitchens at his death–of the sort that Hitchens himself was wont to offer towards those he took to be particularly egregious fonts of foolishness and inhumanity–is a kind of sideways show of respect for him (Kant’s arguments about retributivism point in that direction). But my own inclination is to show my respect by reaching beyond the layers of crud towards what I take to be the mark of his creator at his core–and to live in the hope that this will be preserved long after his pugilistic screeds are forgotten.

  8. …was quite taken by the idea that you’ve offered a sensible critique of Christianity if you just describe it in scornful terms with a serious look on your face, or that a deep Oxford educated voice and some dirty innuendos made a point all that more logically compelling.

    I’m glad for guys like Hitchen’s – because – not because he was very logically rigorous – but because he was compelling and quite entertaining. There’s a place for that.

    Despite all the chatter on high-minded philosophy blogs, the average Christian is probably “quite taken by the idea that you’ve offered a sensible case for Christianity if you just describe it in poetic terms with a friendly look on your face, or that a grandfatherly voice and inviting demeanor made a point all that more logically compelling.”

    In other words, they’re not following Craig or Plantinga – they’re following Rick Warren, Pat Robertson, or any number of other popular characters.

    The podium-pounders move the world, as frightening as that is. I was happy to have a compelling one on the right side of the debate, for once – there are too many to count on the other.

  9. Interesting typo–meant to write “pugilistically clever” in the opening sentence of my previous comment. But if “pigilistically” is a word, it might well fit as well.

  10. The one good thing I could say about him is that he was willing to debate William Lane Craig, and that means he was not a coward. Unlike certain other people, like Richard Dawkins and Polly Toynbee.

  11. JoJo Jacob, I presume you’re willing to chastise Hitchens (post-mortem) just as strongly for “badmouthing” the late Jerry Falwell?

    I am not here to pay that game!!!

  12. As an atheist, I never saw the appeal. He broad-brushed the social effects of religion so much that I felt he did more to assure believers of the unreasonableness of atheists than he provoked useful introspection.

  13. Eric wrote: “human beings have an inherent worth and dignity that warrants our respect”.

    What about non-human beings? Would you trade a 1,000,000 chimpanzee lives to save the life of one human being? How about a brain damaged human being? How about a brain dead human being?

    i’m just wondering what you rely on to arrive at your assertion of inherrancy ( I know it’s not a real word but perhaps it should be).

  14. Atheist Missionary: Not sure what the point of your questions are, other than to invite me to offer, in a blog comment, a fully developed account of my theory of ethics–both a foundational theory (an account of the grounding of morality) and operational theory (an account of how it works in practice, especially in situations of conflicts of competing moral interests). This is something that I cannot do, even though I am a moral philosopher by profession. I might be able to do it in a book. And being a moral philosopher by trade, I might write that book. But I haven’t done so yet.

    What I will say here are three things. First, I think we can have good reasons to trust strong, persistent, undefeated, widely corroborated moral intuitions in the absence of a moral theory that explains why those intuitions are true. But to defend that claim fully would require a book in epistemology which I haven’t written yet, so don’t bother asking.

    Second, my judgment that humans have an inherent dignity that demands respect is hardly unique to theists. It seems to be a foundational idea in secular humanism–and it seems to be a notion that Hitchens at least implicitly endorsed on a number of occasions.

    Third, saying that humans have an inherent dignity that demands respect does not entail denying this status to non-human animals (e.g. chimpanzees) or to human beings who are brain damaged–although a roughly Kantian foundation for the claim that humans have inherent dignity that demands respect WOULD, arguably, require denying the same status to organisms that lack rationality. This is one reason why I am a bit suspect of Kantian and neo-Kantian foundations for ethical judgments. As far as brain dead humans go, it seems to me that if a human organism is genuinely brain dead, then what one has isn’t a human being anymore. But if you want me to defend this by offering an unassailable definition of “human being” in this discussion thread, I’d again say your asking for a book–and in that case a book that’s rather off topic.

  15. I don’t know who this guy was, but man did he get a rise out of Christians. My friend Chris is very devout in the Christian faith and sometimes links to this blog via facebook. It’s interesting that Christians are so fascinated and consumed with atheism. It seems Christians spend more time talking about atheism than any other topic. Maybe being threatened by atheism is some sort of acknowledgment of its merit to the mind of the Christian. I find atheism no different than Christianity myself, it’s just another self righteous belief system created by mankind. Whether you curse your god or not, we all die. Merry Christmas.

  16. Matt – since this guy (Christopher Hitchens) along with the likes of Richard Dawkins spend (spent) so much time attacking religion, I suppose you think they’re threatened by it, and are acknowledging its merit.

    Didn’t think so.

  17. Wow, what a writing about recently deceased person. When you have an intelligent nice person and add religion and audience, people turn in to nasty insulting zealots. And even Christian commenters think this is appropriate. Why is it?

  18. If I were confronted with a choice which in other respects were morally equal, and the first option saved a million chimps from certain death while the second option saved a single human, I’m pretty confident that the first option would be the right one–but the qualifier here (each choice is in other respects morally equal) is crucial. But I don’t see how this has anything to do with this discussion thread.

  19. God point Glenn. Although I actually found Hitchens quite a likable personality as separate from the Atheist and bad arguments side of him. But, I think you’re right, in the end I agree with your article.

  20. At last!
    Speaking as one of those respectable non-believers he gave a bad name, I agree with virtually every word of this. And this is the first honest obituary of the man I’ve read, in a blizzard of bending-over-backwards fawning.
    Very, very well done.

    Incidentally, I’ve never seen this thing you’ve got going here before where comments can be hidden if enough Nero thumbs are pointing downwards.
    It’s terrible, encourages mob-rule and is anathema to honest debate.
    If it’s a feature you have any control over please turn it off immediately!

  21. I followed Hitchen’s debates and actually wrote to him one time, answering his two ‘unanswerable’ challenges to religion (the ones that he continually taunted people with in debates). He never gave me an answer. If you’re interested, you can see my letter to him at http://www.everycity.org.uk/donalds-blog.html . I got a positive response from Rabbi David Wolpe, whom Hitchens debated with a number of times.

    I largely agree with Glenn’s take on him. He was fun to watch for a while, until you saw through his empty repetitive diatribes. He also dodged issues in debates regularly, which left me bored. He did better work in politics and was courageous, working hard for justice in some arenas. I will actually miss him, which I would not say for Richard Dawkins!

  22. I did not know Christopher, and nor did Glenn. But I would assume there was a lot more to him than his public appearances and his public debates. To talk about this complicated, loving, etc. person as though he is summed up by a few debates does not respect his dignity as a human created in God’s image.

    To sum up his life as “one of genuine tragedy” shows an arrogance I can not begin to understand.

    I would leave the eulogy writing to those who actually knew him. His friends, family, and so on. Did they think his liefe was a genuine tragedy? Who knows…

    More important though (as least for Glenn) did God think his life was a genuine tragedy? Who knows. I would not be so arrogant to make that call. Why not just pray for the departed instead and leave the judging to God… I am sure there is a saying about that somewhere…

  23. M, I have no intention of writing Christopher Hitchens a eulogy. This was no such thing. This was my response to the tendency of some Christians to speak about the man as a fallen legend, some sort of great and worthy opponent. I say that this is done out of propriety.

    How do you suppose Hitch would have reflected on the life of some people after their passing, say, Mother Teresa, Pope Benedict, or Jerry Falwell? Would he feign admiration? Or would he say something else?

    PS: Protestants do not pray for the dead.

  24. I say that this is done out of propriety.

    It is done out of the false elevation of “propriety” or “niceness” over truth.

    PS: Protestants do not pray for the dead.

    Sure we do — we just don’t believe that the prayers can change the fate they have already chosen for themselves. So, what we are praying is something like this: “May it be, contrary to my own expectations about the life and choices of So-and-So, that he or she is among the Redeemed.

    Regarding Hitchens, the only prayer I can offer is: “May his Ultimate Fate be the one he willingly and purposely sought … which is to exist/live apart from God”

  25. Yup, no point praying for someone once they’re dead. No point. Id say Hitch got precisely what he so wanted, to be away from God forever.

  26. “M, I have no intention of writing Christopher Hitchens a eulogy. This was no such thing. This was my response to the tendency of some Christians to speak about the man as a fallen legend, some sort of great and worthy opponent. I say that this is done out of propriety.”

    It certainly was not a eu-logy in any sense. I guess what these Christians may be doing is showing the man a little dignity, and demonstrating their own, by appreciating him as a fully human with a rounded life, and as I said as the image of God. But then I don’t know what examples you refer to…

    “How do you suppose Hitch would have reflected on the life of some people after their passing, say, Mother Teresa, Pope Benedict, or Jerry Falwell? Would he feign admiration? Or would he say something else?”

    I am not sure why this is relevant. It seems a little as though you are saying that Christopher would be horribly disrespectful (not that I know he would) and therefore you are justified in being disrespectful as well. An odd logic. Why should your ethics mirror those of Christopher when dealing with Christopher. This is illogical and irrelevant.

    “PS: Protestants do not pray for the dead.”

    PPS. Yes we do. On a daily basis. I think you meant to use the word “some” or the phrase “my branch of” 😉

  27. M, no… you (intentionally?) misread me. I did not say that I am being “horribly” disrespectful because I know Hitch would do the same. In fact my comments here compare favorably to the kinds of things Hitch has said (and hence probably would say). It is quite proper, when the man is right now being praised worldwide for his reason and clear-headedness when it comes to religion, to point out that he embodied the very worst of what passes for comment and critique. He hurt the state of current discussion on religion. he hurt people’s ability to reason. What he did was really bad for people. These are fair assessments, and they just don’t compare to the kind of comments Hitch would make. Why you would try to get inside my mind and re-interpret me for myself is beyond me.

    “illogical and irrelevant” perhaps, but I didn’t say what you’re attributing to me.

    As for a rounded life, you should have actually read this blog entry: “He may have been a good journalist and writer, but in the arena he became notorious in – attacking religion, he was a prat, and deliberately so.”

    This was not about his life as a whole in all its many varied details, but about the fact that I am not going to be a pretentious fawner. I will leave that for others. Whatever his virtues in other, different areas, in the arena for which he became notorious, Christopher Hitchers was a prat, although he was also an honest enough person that he wouldn’t have me lie and say otherwise.

  28. Well if it was not about his life as you now say perhaps the expression “His life was one of genuine tragedy” was not well chosen hmmmm?

    That expression sounds like you were talking about his life…

  29. M, so on the basis of that statement you take everything prior to it to be faulty because it neglects a discussion of his fully rounded life? No, that statement was quite well chosen, and yet, the post was not about every aspect of his life. Even a fully “rounded” life can be a tragic one. But I did not discuss the content of his life beyond the fact that it was tragic.

    Shall I interpret you as now seeing that I was not trying to justify horrible disresprect by appealing to Hitchen’s ethics? In your zeal to salvage some point to grasp, you didn’t say.

  30. I appreciated the man’s skill as a writer and actually felt a great deal of pity for him as his anger was quite palpable. His cancer, I may note, was clearly a direct result of being an unrepentant and rather severe alcoholic. Being myself in recovery, I found myself sympathetic towards Mr. Hitchen’s, seeing the grip that alcohol had on his life.

    Your thoughts on his argumentation, and that of most Neo-Atheists, is spot on. Thanks.

  31. Glenn:PS: Protestants do not pray for the dead.

    Ilíon:Sure we do — we just don’t believe that the prayers can change the fate they have already chosen for themselves. …

    Glenn:Whaddya mean “we,” paleface?

    One might, standing on firmer ground, ask you the same — about both the “we” and the “paleface”.

  32. Yes Glenn was the first to make a very broad claim about all Protestants.

    And no I am not confused.

    I read: he “He LIVED as a fool”.. he “committed … a good chunk of his LIFE to hostility towards his maker. His LIFE was one of genuine tragedy.”

    And concluded that you were making a judgement about his LIFE. Not exactly a stretch. If you are not revising your original stance and saying that in actua fact you are talking only about his debating skills or writing skills – and your vitriol is only applied to these areas then I am relieved at this (belated) small display or a little respect.

  33. M… why? Just why? How about you snivel somewhere else. Hitchens was a prat when it comes to his boorish attacks on religion, the thing for which I will primarily remember him, hence this post. You are welcome to think what you like of him. Go and write a blog post about it. And yes his LIFE was a tragedy because of the outcome. This does not mean, as you should easily see if you weren’t being so silly and determined, that I am commenting on his “well rounded” life. As you can plainly see, I discussed very few aspects of his life. You eagerness to find some pointless quibble is striking.

    As for praying for the dead, I am aware that although fairly taboo among Anglicans, some shades of the practice crept back in, mostly in the 20th century (much to the disgust of some e.g. http://www.churchsociety.org/crossway/documents/Cway_106_WhatShouldWePray.pdf). Go and argue about that somewhere else if you really feel you must.

  34. Why would I “snivel” somewhere else? My comments are on your blog post and hence I left my comments under your blog post, This seems the appropriate place to “snivel” to me.

    You gave your opinion – and left the space for other people to leave their comments on your opinion. If you don’t want people to comment then just don’t allow comments on your blog!

    Well if I came away with the wrong impression it MAY be to do with your writing skills? But glad you have clarrified what you actually meant now.

    As for the praying issue. Again you brought it up and I commented on it. Sorry that disagreeing with you on a comments page was so taboo!
    (you are wrong but I know you don;t like people to actually express their opinions on your blog so remain ignorant…)

  35. M: Opinions are fine (another fine attempt to insert your own meaning to invent a dispute). What look like almost deliberate distortions for the sake of sounding self righteous… Not so much. It just turns out that every time you show up it happens, to the point where I get annoyed at your persistence and you react as though I’m suddenly being unreasonable. You came here to pick a fight, and any straw was enough to grasp at

    The fact is, I don’t even believe that you actually thought I made the attempt to cover more aspects of his life, but did a bad job. This was only ever about his antics against religion and the fact that he committed himself to opposing God (ergo, his life was tragic). It was silly to complain that other people did a better job of covering this man’s well rounded life. My reference to his “life” was clearly never intended to suggest that this was meant as anything like a mini-biography. It was clear both in the original post and in all of my follow up comments that I never intended to do this. You had made a criticism, and you had to stick to it no matter what (blaming me for the fact that you misunderstood me). That’s why this pointless, intellectually vacant dispute broke out. What a waste of time. You need to take a deep breath before posting and ask “should I really?” I notice that you and a certain other person whose comments also recently started going into moderation started this campaign against this blog post over at his blog before coming here to vent.

  36. Wow, so many posts…Really? What Glenn wrote was such a ‘no brainier’. Hitch presented a sloppy, poor intellectual case against God, and despite how likable he may have been, his life WAS ultimately in vain because he did not fulfill the purpose of his existence — to know God. Lets only hope that at least his poor example can be used for a ‘good end’ in the lives of others. RIP??? How do you rest in peace apart from being with God??? Sounds lame and sentimental to me.

  37. Made me smile.
    Hitchens was indeed an intelligent individual if you bother to get past his YouTube debates. However the fact that he didn’t bother with religion shows, I think, that he didn’t think.k it was really worth it. If one can’t see an intelligent line of reasonable evidence why take the time? If he was right then his ridicule was entirely fitting. If he was wrong he’s some place not even the commentators on this blog could probably agree on. Either way, Glenn me thinks you’ve lost any moral high ground you had before posting. The “he hit me first” excuse is not one at all no matter how hitch lived. But, of course, youre entitled to an opinion and obviously he did get under your skin. As for me, I think I’ve about lost patience with this blog and the intelligence contained herein has done more to confirm my deconversion from Christianity than hitchens ever could.
    So Glenn I bid you and your tirade all the best and good day. Oh and a merry Christmas of course

  38. As for Hitchens, ‘prat’ is the least of terms that could honestly be used to appraise his life and his person. Myself, I’d use, at a minimum, ‘asshole’ … For, even if he had been right about the nature of reality (and he was not), his rightness on that score wouldn’t have mattered in the least (*); and so his life’s work of “curing” other human beings of their “religious delusions” — i.e. the psycho-social behaviors and beliefs that enable most human beings to cope with life — was simply the behavior of an asshole who thinks it’s all a big joke to piss in the punch.

    (*) If he were right that God is not (and he was not right), then he now no longer exists — he gets no browniepoints for having been right, his rightness gains him nothing. Likewise, if he were right that God is not (and he was not right), then Mother Teresa, for example, now no longer exists — she gets no demerits for having been wrong, her wrongness costs her nothing.

    NOTHING MATTER unless God is.

  39. “However the fact that he didn’t bother with religion shows, I think, that he didn’t think.k it was really worth it.”

    John – the thing is, I think Hitchens did see himself as “bothering.” He wrote a book about it, saw himself as able to debate it with knowledgeable believers etc. He thought his attacks were great, it seems.

  40. Ilion – interesting point about the fact that if things were very different, and Hitchens had been right about the nature of reality, there would still be no overriding reason for him to go around (de)converting people as he tried to. Even if atheism had been true, there would be no compelling reason to embrace it. I did a podcast on that very issue, called “Why Become an Atheist?

  41. Glenn, I didn’t fully draw out the point I was getting at, which actually goes far beyond the point you make that “Even if atheism had been true, there would be no compelling reason to embrace it.”

    What I was getting at is that by his own (admittedly subjective) standard of morality, all his efforts to convert others to atheism were grossly immoral. For, by his espoused world-view, this short life is all anyone has, and what small joy and comfort a person can manage to find in this life is all he will ever experience. So, by his own world-view, to go around intentionally trying to destroy some of the comfort-in-this-life that most human beings derive from “religion” is a reprehensible and inexcusable act, it is, by that world-view, a wicked act.

    Now, of course, in the real world, the one that is the creation of God, knowing the truth about the nature of reality and about one’s own nature is vastly more important than having one’s psyche be comfortable. But Hitchens denied that the world is the creation of God — in the world-view he asserted is the truth about the nature of reality and of humans’ relationship to reality, psycho-somatic comfort is far more importand than knowing truth.

  42. And you think there is something worth defending it seems.

    I think hitch was bothered about the effects of religions (and not just yours) on society, not by the arguments of apologists.

  43. John, granted, but it struck me time and time again that Hitchens really did think that he had offered considerations that should count against religious belief. But clearly to infer that something is false because of its social impact is ludicrous.

    Besides which, when you see him actually seeking to engage religious apologists, he does take swings at the truth of religious claims, not just their social impact. And he did it really, really badly.

  44. I think hitch was bothered about the effects of religions (and not just yours) on society, …

    But clearly to infer that something is false because of its social impact is ludicrous.

    If someone wants to open *that* can of worms, then both atheism and evolutionism would have to be rejected as being “not good for society”. For, as we as seeing in real time, both lead to the deaths of the societies infected by them.

  45. If there actually was a child born 2000 years ago who lived as the modern scriptures say then hitch was out of line.
    His attitude was more like that of telling the kids that actually Santa doesn’t exist. Maybe he was wrong about the existence of god but he wasn’t going to pretend, as you would have liked him to, that religion was anything but the foolish construct of men.

    The question of how good his ‘swings’ against belief were may be up for debate but I enjoyed them as he showed me that one does not need to walk on eggshells around belief. No one should. To be fair, no one does here either (ie calling hitch a prat =) )

    As for the assertion that, if there were no god, this would still not justify his actions. I can’t entirely agree. The very fact that there may be no god has been incredibly freeing for me, who at 6 years old became a christian from fear of hell. The tyranny of a all powerful god as hitch used to discuss was very real for me. Is this one of the arguments you disagreed with?

    Every individual has a right to the truth and this alone is excuse enough for his works. If only to provide the opposite view point. Look at it like parliament. You need the opposition to keep those in power honest. We need to be thankful for the extremes and accept them as a part of a healthy and free society.

  46. “if there were no god, this would still not justify his actions”

    Well, that’s not quite what I said (although others may think this). My point, which i made at further length in the podcast I linked to, is that if atheism is true there’s no overriding reason to accept it. If a person finds it freeing, OK they have a subjective reason to accept it, but if a person doesn’t find it freeing, or if they just don’t feel attracted to it, then (if atheism is true), there’s no reason why they ought to believe atheism, even if it’s true. I personally find that a bizarre state of affairs (but not one that shows anything about the truth or falsehood of atheism).

  47. It would be a bizarre state of affairs and one that I’ve obviously been unable to maintain. But you’re right, there is no reason they shouldn’t have the freedom to accept or live by any form or system of belief.
    As for me, it’s not enough – even if I am less happy without christianity.

  48. Glenn:… I personally find that a bizarre state of affairs (but not one that shows anything about the truth or falsehood of atheism).

    Ah, but that’s because you haven’t yet realized/understood what it means that that the truth of the proposition “atheism is the truth about the nature of reality” matters only if the proposition is itself false.

  49. “But you’re right, there is no reason they shouldn’t have the freedom to accept or live by any form or system of belief.”

    Well, whether I’m right or not, that’s not what I said. The issue isn’t whether or not they should have the *freedom* to accept a belief if there are reasons to think it’s true. The issue – and the thing that makes it strange – is that even if atheism is true they don’t have an overriding reason to believe it.

  50. “Ah, but that’s because you haven’t yet realized/understood”

    Well Ilion, since there’ no accompanying explanation of how I’ve gotten it wrong or what I’m supposed think, I’ll just take your word for it.

  51. Well, whether I’m right or not, that’s not what I said. The issue isn’t whether or not they should have the *freedom* to accept a belief if there are reasons to think it’s true. The issue – and the thing that makes it strange – is that even if atheism is true they don’t have an overriding reason to believe it.

    If atheism is true – and the belief in atheism is justified – what else is needed to provide an “overriding reason” to believe it? If atheism can be a justified, true belief, it certainly seems like there would be “overriding” reasons to believe it.

  52. d: because…. ?

    Have a listen to the podcast episode I linked to earlier and see what you think. You’re assuming that if a belief is justified then that alone counts as an overriding reason to believe it, and not (for example) to engage in wilful self deception about it. But merely calling it an overriding reason doesn’t make it one.

    For example, why should a person not intentionally engage in practices likely to make them think theism is true, on the grounds that theism makes them happier and they consider that a good enough reason to want to be a theist?

  53. Glenn,

    Oh ok gotcha, so you’re appealing to one’s value for happiness (caveat: haven’t had time to listen to podcast)

    But what if this is a world where true beliefs tend to be the most useful for helping us maximize what we value the most (including happiness), wouldn’t we generally always have an overriding reason to seek truth over what is false? (IIRC from earlier posts, you don’t outright reject that idea – I don’t see it as implausible)

    I also suppose we’d have to answer just what it is about theism, that would actually make one so happy, despite knowing that it is false. It could be that some of the things which tend to come with the culture of theism (broadly speaking) that produce this happiness, really have little connection to the actual belief in theism. They may even be attainable without it (and perhaps even more efficiently).

    Furthermore, I’m rather skeptical that one can produce a valuable sort of happiness by knowingly rejecting real, justified, and true belief in something like atheism. That sort of cognitive dissonance isn’t generally happiness producing, from what I can see.

    And, it seems that most of us ARE actually interested in knowing truth, in many cases, despite our personal happiness. Most of us would want to know if our partner was cheating on us, for instance.

  54. d:

    But what if this is a world where true beliefs tend to be the most useful for helping us maximize what we value the most (including happiness), wouldn’t we generally always have an overriding reason to seek truth over what is false? (IIRC from earlier posts, you don’t outright reject that idea – I don’t see it as implausible)

    Whether or not that’s true is something that a person is unlikely to be sure of. We have a pretty good idea about the immediate consequences of the beliefs that we’re aware of holding, and we might be able to extrapolate a fair bit, but knowing that this is a world where all true beliefs, as a rule, promote our happiness more than their false alternatives?

    I strongly doubt that anyone could enjoy justified confidence over a thing like that. As I see it, if a person would – as far as they can easily tell – be happier believing (i.e. thinking that they know) that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for them in eternity, then I see no reason, from an atheist’s point of view, why they ought not to take steps to become convinced of that type of theism rather than atheism.

    Now if they also think that the process of becoming more “theism friendly” would be so painful as to ruin their life, then fair enough, they may choose to make do with miserable atheism. But believe you me (I think we’ve seen it played out), people can indeed convince themselves that things are really true, even though they were once well aware that they aren’t true.

  55. Plenty of other obits of Hitchens were just as scathing of his political inconsistency and support of the War on Terror. I think he enjoyed the showmanship of being a contrarian. I enjoyed the show, even if it had huge plot holes, the special effects were entertaining.

  56. I know I’m replying to a very old post, but some things need to be said:

    (1) You are right about Hitchens lack of logical arguments. Hitchens appealed to emotion and the unquestionable evil in religion, but he didn’t properly tackle the question of “Does god exist?” without resorting to rhetoric. There are far better people to have on your side in an argument against religion, since the most relevant question is not “Is religion evil?” –which Hitch could argue quite well, but that question is not objective, so no answer will be convincing– but rather “Is religion true?”
    (2) Where I differ from you is on the value of Hitch’s commentary on religion. Religion is just as horrible as Hitch argued and sorely in need of the lambasting he gave it. Hitchens’ dialogue had an important place. It just wasn’t in convincing logically of his position. It was, instead, deliving that much deserved diatribe.

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