Monday, April 25, 2011

In which Christopher Hitchens fights the good fight

I read an interview not long ago with Christopher Hitchens in which the only point at which he became emotional and fragile about the fact that he has stage 4 cancer of the oesophagus was his description of how utterly shattered he would be if, as he had been warned he might, he lost his voice.

So I was sad to see at Pharyngula that he was forced last week to cancel an appearance at this year's American Atheists' Convention for that very reason. He did, however, write them an open letter to be read out.

Perhaps because I'd just been reading about the ignorant, bigoted and profoundly unChristian performance on Twitter today of Jim Wallace, the conservative head of the Australian Christian Lobby, I was feeling more than usually depressed and fearful about the way that organised religion of the most tub-thumping, flag-waving, anti-intellectual kind is taking more and more power over the lives of people like me who want no part of it, so I was particularly struck and heartened by this part of Hitchens' letter:
Our weapons are the ironic mind against the literal; the open mind against the credulous; the courageous pursuit of truth against the fearful and abject forces who would set limits to investigation.


Marshall Stacks said...

the supreme intelligence of St. Christopher of Hitchens is too good for this planet.
Over at Baroque In Hackney
(discussing the Amis 'letter/catharsis' published by The Telegraph) an insignificant 'poet' is telling my comment that CH 'was wrong on every major issue'.
I will swot-up on 'the disease of The Learned' by philosopher David Hume before I return ire.
Mr Hitchens fear of not being able to communicate vocally, touches my heart also.

The Elephant's Child said...

I find it more than a little scary how often the heads of Christian organisations are, as you say, 'profoundly unChristian'. Thank goodness for voices/pens/minds like Chritopher Hitchens.

Jane said...

Look I'm all for ironic open minds and courageous truth-searching; I am just as alarmed as you are by dimwitted rightwing God botherers. But I'm also concerned that the baby is going out with the bathwater.
I think our culture is in desperate need of reconnection with what is truly sacred..( not anything to do with organised religion) Yet so many of us bright independant-thinking folk, in the name of being 'rational' and intellectual and smart etc, feel the need to declare themselves 'aetheists'. Is it just to distance ourselves from the deluded ones?

In the face of the great mystery of existance, the miracles of Nature & Science etc, how can a truly 'open' mind say that 'god' 'does not exist' ? What the hell does any one mean by 'g/God' anyway? Or by 'existence' for that matter?

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Jane, as I've said somewhere else recently, I was permanently over discussions about the existence of God (which in these discussions always seems to mean the Christian conception of God (or Jewish or Islamic and all monotheistic religions are pretty much the same: an all-powerful male figure in charge of everything. Pah) by the end of Philosophy 1, where the whole thing drove me insane and seemed to me the ultimate in fruitless tail-chasing. Atheist means 'non-theist', someone without a god or gods, and signifies an active belief in the absence of any gods, a condition of being without theism, as in apolitical and amoral, and I wouldn't go that far either; my position is actually quite different from Hitchens' and I have no trouble at all with the concept of spirituality, and I think there probably are gods, if only in existence as metaphors, but then what is more powerful than a metaphor?

But this is a separate issue in my view from the religious fundies. And unless they are stopped, religious fundies of different stripes, almost certainly in violent conflict with each other, are going to destroy the world. Either that or take it over, which would be worse.

TimT said...


It's a fine Hitchens quote - but what struck me initially is that it is a perfect description of the finest Christian writers/thinkers, people like C S Lewis and Chesterton. (Come to think of it the tradition of the ironic Christian in pursuit of truth goes right back to well before the time of Christ. JC himself certainly was a master of the sardonic and insightful comment.)

Maybe it serves as a reminder that people of widely differing traditions and philosophies are neverthless united, not so much by their beliefs, but by the spirit in which they approach life.