“I’m a member of no party. I have no ideology. I’m a rationalist,” he told USA Today in 2010. “I do what I can in the international struggle between science and reason, and the barbarism, superstition and stupidity that’s all around us.”
Crestfallen, but not surprised. Those who have looked online for images of Christopher Hitchens over the past year have seen this coming. I often took comfort in believing that every few months there would be another fresh crop of Hitchens debates on YouTube to inspire abd encourage. Alas, that is no longer true, but he has left behind an impressive catalog to visit and revist.
Much will always be made of his Trotskyite past, but I had often wondered whether to count Hitchens as among the libertarians, given his occaisonal appearances at reason.com-sponsored events and the libertarian-sounding rhetoric he used against the notion of a celestial dictator. His support for the Iraq war seemed to weigh against the proposition. He has been quoted as saying of himself that he had a “libertarian gene“. I don’t know if that’s quite enough, but either way, I’m grateful for the what he has given us. Devotion to rationalism is the highest ideal—higher even than the devotion to liberty. It isn’t good enough to do what only seems virtuous. One must also be right.
Yes, it would be nice if you could throw your sins and your responsibilities on someone else, and have them dissolve, but it’s NOT TRUE!
I cherish all of the long nights during my law school days that I spent on YouTube with Christopher Hitchens, who had the courage to say, loudly and clearly, what ought to be plain. Of all that time, this is probably the video I remember best as having the earliest and greatest effect. What a lousy ethical doctrine it is to believe that one can be absolved and forgiven by throwing one’s sins on another’s back and then murdering him, ruthlessly. If that’s the way to salvation, then count me out.
People always demand respect for their faith. You’ve noticed this happening. Why should I respect someone who makes enormous claims on no evidence, and when confronted with that fact says, “Well, I don’t need any evidence. I’ve got faith.”? I think extraordinary claims—such as that they know not just that there is a God, but that they know his mind, they know his instructions, they’ve had revealed truth from him—a claim like that demands extrordinary evidence. Instead of which they say, “No. How about no evidence at all, and just take me on faith.” Why am I supposed to respect that? I don’t respect it. I suspect it.
Many theists consider Atheism to be just another religion. Fair enough. I consider to religion to be just another philosophy, and an unsound one at that. Religion is to be evaluated and criticized as harshly any other philosophy. If it is to stand, then it must stand on its merits. It must receive no deference on account of its adherents’ sensitivies and cultural attachments to it.
“Do you think that onto such as you, a maggot-minded, starved, fanatic crew, God gave a secret and denied it me? Well, well! What matters it? Believe that, too.” This magnificent astronomer, and scientist and physician and humanist of Persia [Omar Khayyám], who opposed the cruel, sadistic, verminous, ignorant, mullahs of his day, I borrow the question: What is your authority for saying that you know something I don’t?
The difference between the Theist and the deist is as follows: The Deist says, “It may not make sense without some kind of designer.” The Theist says, “When I tell you what to do, Christopher, I have God on my side.” The [theist] says that he can tell what God wants of me, what length I should shave off the end of my penis, if I’m a boy of have a male child, or off the clitoris if it is a female child. He knows to the exactitude what the proportions of that should be, what the diet should be—what the dietary laws ought to be—who I should sleep with and in what position. And various other—and since God doesn’t ever directly appear and say, “Do it this way”, it’s done for him—and this is really convenient—by human representatives who claim to act in his name. So that’s why I think your standard of proof should be a great deal higher, because if you—the reason this point is important to you is that it would mean real power in the only world that actually exists, which is the material world, of you, over me. And you wonder why I’m not keen.
If religion were merely a philosophy, it might be harmless. If it were merely a philosophy, one could be excused for letting it pass without the normal scrutiny. Instead, religion is often the basis of enforcing demands on other people. When used in that way, the stakes are much higher, and the theists must bear the burden of proving their claims. That burden must be at least as heavy as the demands they wish to place on others.
Only once, to my recollection, had Christopher Hitchens met his rhetorical match on stage. I found this exchange to be as informative as it was entertaining. The issue is the Iraq war. Watch the irresistable force and the immovable object collide!
Of course! Taking command and control of the economy is what “great presidents” do! I think that by “he was the greatest practitioner of self-government”, Newt means that FDR was great at governing by himself.
Did high tax rates in the 1950s create prosperity? Did rising wealth inequality lead to an unstable economy? Lesson: correlation is not causation.
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