Thursday, May 17, 2007

God Bless Christopher Hitchens

I don't always agree with Christopher Hitchens, but his writing is always worth reading, and his opinions are worthy of respect. In this one, he's said nothing with which I disagree.

Here are some excerpts from Hitchens's response to the death of non-Doctor Jerry Falwell (his "doctorate" degrees are honorary and 2 of the alleged 3 are from non-accredited institutions - see for details). You can find the full article at
...there is no vileness that cannot be freely uttered by a man whose name is prefaced with the word Reverend.
Or Imam, or Father, or probably Rabbi, although that seems to be much less prevalent. In the case of Islam, the silence of the "moderate" majority has dire and deadly consequences, allowing the worst forms of extremism to spread unchecked, but our Christian majority remains similarly silent most of the time, so long as the speaker of obscenities is "Christian." That this currently has no inspiring effect on violent Christian extremists is due to other factors (below).
Try this: Call a TV station and tell them that you know the Antichrist is already on earth and is an adult Jewish male. See how far you get. Then try the same thing and add that you are the Rev. Jim-Bob Vermin. "Why, Reverend, come right on the show!" What a fool Don Imus was. If he had paid the paltry few bucks to make himself a certified clergyman, he could be jeering and sneering to the present hour.
In the time immediately following the assault by religious fascism on American civil society in September 2001, he [Falwell] used his regular indulgence on the airwaves to commit treason. Entirely exculpating the suicide-murderers, he asserted that their acts were a divine punishment of the United States.
Falwell's fabricated indictment would certainly validate some of the Bush administration's policies and machinations subsequent to 9/11: since our sin is to blame (and not the terrorists'), clearly domestic changes are required to "restore" us to a Christian nation (despite the Founders' work to keep the Constitution secular).
A detail in this ghastly narrative, as adepts of the "Left Behind" series will know, is that the return of the risen Christ will require the mass slaughter or mass conversion of all Jews.
This depraved children's story certainly casts a new light on our relationship with Israel; perhaps our sponsorship is to enable a more efficient "mass conversion" when the time is right.
Men of this type, if they cannot persuade enough foolish people to part with their savings, usually end up raving on the street and waving placards about the coming day of judgment.
Most men of his type aren't quite as successful at financing lavish celebrity and lifestyle through the donations of the ignorant and desperate.
His place on the cable shows will be amply filled by Al Sharpton: another person who can get away with anything under the rubric of Reverend.
Opponents of Sharpton - a group of which any rational person should be proud to be counted a member - typically object on political or racial grounds, sidestepping this moron's religious title.
It's a shame that there is no hell for Falwell to go to, and it's extraordinary that not even such a scandalous career is enough to shake our dumb addiction to the "faith-based."
I'll follow this with a quite from Sam Harris, placing religious moderation in context:
While moderation in religion may seem a reasonable position to stake out, in light of all that we have (and have not) learned about the universe, it offers no bulwark against religious extremism and religious violence. The problem that religious moderation poses for all of us is that it does not permit anything very critical to be said about religious literalism. We cannot say that fundamentalists are crazy, because they are merely practicing their freedom of belief; we cannot even say that they are mistaken in religious terms, because their knowledge of scripture is generally unrivaled. All we can say, as religious moderates, is that we don't like the personal and social costs that a full embrace of scripture imposes on us. This is not a new form of faith, or even a new species of scriptural exegesis; it is simply a capitulation to a variety of all-too-human interests that have nothing, in principle, to do with God.
Christians are tolerant, nonviolent, and reasonable to the extent that we ignore most of the Bible, and embrace secularism. At least I can't remember the last time I helped execute a witch, homosexual, blasphemer or adulterer - you?

The most pithy and memorable quote from Hitchens's article is this:
All bigots and frauds are brothers under the skin.