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April 27, 2007 5:52 PM   Subscribe

AtheistFilter: Excerpts from Christopher Hitchens' God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Excerpt two: "Was Muhammad Epileptic?" Three: "Mormonism: A Racket Becomes a Religion" (via)
posted by bardic (75 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
I predict a riot.
posted by Methylviolet at 6:09 PM on April 27, 2007


Heh, and meh.
posted by scheptech at 6:14 PM on April 27, 2007


Hanuman: Threat or Menace?
posted by SPrintF at 6:15 PM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Quick! Someone talk about Tom Cruise's condition! That'll prevent this thread from happening.
posted by roll truck roll at 6:15 PM on April 27, 2007


And yet... he stubbornly supports a war started by a president who claims to have direct conversations with god. So while he contends that "religion poisons everything," under select circumstances he's evidently willing to take the word of those who've been drinking copious amounts of the kool-aid.
posted by scody at 6:15 PM on April 27, 2007 [10 favorites]


Isn't this the guy that was (and is?) all gungho for the faith-based war in Iraq?
posted by DU at 6:16 PM on April 27, 2007


Even when I'm predisposed to agree with his argument, he still pisses me off.
posted by empath at 6:20 PM on April 27, 2007


Isn't this the guy that was (and is?) all gungho for the faith-based war in Iraq?

Kinda sorta. (Fwiw, I don't work for Slate. But I think the Hitchens pieces in the FPP are worth a glance, even if you're pretty set on how you feel about Hitchens.)
posted by bardic at 6:21 PM on April 27, 2007


(I do, however, work for the Redundancy Department of Redundancy.)
posted by bardic at 6:25 PM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


"How Religion poisons everything." Bwahaha, you hateful scumbag
posted by fire&wings at 6:33 PM on April 27, 2007


You know I hate to ask
But are Muhammads epileptic?
Only mine's broke down
And now I've no-one to love

posted by fleetmouse at 6:35 PM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Religion doesn't poison everything. It provides a strong, soothing and beneficial social network for rural communities where isolation is the norm and there are few other reaons to gather regularily in groups.

Like any hierarchy, it can attract sociopaths whose drive and duplicity sends them up the ladder of responsibility to a place where they do harm.

Some devout believers decry the abuse of power churches wield today, so too should athiests resist black and white labelling. This guys is not one of them.
posted by CynicalKnight at 6:35 PM on April 27, 2007 [5 favorites]


There days it is pretty easy to launch attacks on the validity of Islam (and Mormonism) without much fear of being attacked yourself from the mainstream. Hitchens would have more credibility with me if he was attacking his own religion, Christianity, more specifically Roman Catholicism.
posted by bhouston at 6:36 PM on April 27, 2007


Hitchens always come off as a hack, maybe that is his shtick. Is Hitchens the intellectual equivalent of Rosie?
posted by bhouston at 6:38 PM on April 27, 2007


I thought Hitchens was a faithful pew warmer at The Church Of Ethanol.
posted by jonmc at 6:40 PM on April 27, 2007 [3 favorites]


Hitchens would have more credibility with me if he was attacking his own religion, Christianity, more specifically Roman Catholicism.

He has, in the figure of Mother Theresa ("a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud.")

But I agree that he's not in top form here. He goes after Dawkins early for being too inconsiderate to theists (by wanting atheists to call themselves "brights"), but then he pretty much goes on to make many of Dawkins' own critiques.

Which is fine with me, because I think Dawkins is right on. I'm not convinced Hitchens is really carving space for himself, although he seems to think he is. Or wants to appear that way.
posted by bardic at 6:42 PM on April 27, 2007


Christopher Hitchens Removed From Trailer Park After Drunken Confrontation With Common-Law Wife
posted by jason's_planet at 6:43 PM on April 27, 2007


I think atheists calling themselves 'brights' is cringe-worthy regardless of the feelings of theists about it. It's just irredeemably nerdy.
posted by empath at 6:46 PM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


I want footnotes.

I do like the part with the guy transcribing the Book of Mormon in the kitchen, separated from Smith by a blanket and Smith's wife going ballistic. I like knowing even prophets have a battleaxe.
posted by ao4047 at 6:59 PM on April 27, 2007


"Brights" is awful, but it only brings Dawkins down to a 99.999 on a scale of 100.
posted by DU at 7:02 PM on April 27, 2007 [3 favorites]


George Galloway is right about Christopher Hitchens.

And vice-versa.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:03 PM on April 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


Hitchens lost me a few years ago when his politics started coming out his liver and through his ass. But it's always cool to have a public person declare for atheism firmly. We're legion, but most atheists in the public eye are scared shitless of persecution for their (lack of) beliefs.

We're right. There is no fucking "god" up there in "heaven." Y'all will see when the time comes.
posted by spitbull at 7:05 PM on April 27, 2007


Hitchens would have more credibility with me if he was attacking his own religion, Christianity, more specifically Roman Catholicism.

Are you at all familiar with him? He's been accused of being anti-Catholic many, many times.
posted by gsteff at 7:14 PM on April 27, 2007


Yeah, religion sure poisoned the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
posted by the_bone at 7:14 PM on April 27, 2007


Thanks, jason's...I was laughing before I clicked and it got better.
posted by wrapper at 7:18 PM on April 27, 2007


We're right. There is no fucking "god" up there in "heaven." Y'all will see when the time comes.
Well.. if we're right they won't be around to discern their wrongness and we won't be there to yell "Told you so".
posted by substrate at 7:18 PM on April 27, 2007


Hitchens would have more credibility with me if he was attacking his own religion, Christianity, more specifically Roman Catholicism.



Hitchens is not a Roman Catholic, or even a Christian. He is Jewish (wikipedia link: look under ethnic identity) and you're right, he would have more credibility if he was attacking his own religion.
posted by lowgfr at 7:21 PM on April 27, 2007


There is no fucking "god" up there in "heaven." Y'all will see when the time comes.

If they see when the time comes, then atheism is wrong.

I would expect an atheist would predict a lot of inapprehensible nothingness happening after death.
posted by argybarg at 7:25 PM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


This thread is useless without pictures
of epileptic Muhammad
posted by dreamsign at 7:27 PM on April 27, 2007


He is Jewish (wikipedia link: look under ethnic identity) and you're right, he would have more credibility if he was attacking his own religion.

Being of Jewish descent ("ethnic identity") =/= Practicing Judaism.
posted by CKmtl at 7:33 PM on April 27, 2007


epilectic Muhummad....hmmmm.


Is that defaming the Prophet?


Fatwa in 3...2...1....
posted by pax digita at 7:33 PM on April 27, 2007


You'll all be eating roach crap by the end of the quarter-century.
posted by oats at 7:40 PM on April 27, 2007


Thanks, jason's...I was laughing before I clicked and it got better.

You're welcome! Anytime!
posted by jason's_planet at 7:48 PM on April 27, 2007


Is that defaming the Prophet?

For some reason, I am now picturing the opening sequence of Fame!, starring epileptic Muhammad, his eager students “in-step”.

It could be the four hours’ sleep.
posted by dreamsign at 7:59 PM on April 27, 2007


I'm fairly sure he lumps judaism in with everything else, if his first essay and his essay on Islam are anything to go buy.
posted by empath at 8:00 PM on April 27, 2007


No house for you, Hitchens!
posted by maryh at 8:01 PM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


I was watching a very pro-islam documentary from the BBC not very long ago and thought that Mohammed's 'symptoms' sounded very much like Phillip K Dick's revelations, and immediately thought of temporal lobe epilepsy.
posted by empath at 8:01 PM on April 27, 2007


AskMeta?
posted by TrashyRambo at 8:03 PM on April 27, 2007


"Was Muhammad Epileptic?"

Did Jesus have a messiah complex? Did Freud like to wear slips?
posted by jonmc at 8:21 PM on April 27, 2007


if his first essay and his essay on Islam are anything to go buy.

I very much doubt if anything the Hitch writes ever again will be something to go buy.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:21 PM on April 27, 2007


Generally I'm with empath-- Hitchens is just such a prickish schticky dick, even when you agree with him.

This is relatively more entertaining, though it is, like everything he writes, a calculated pose, heavier in rhetoric than argument.

"As I write these words, and as you read them, people of faith are in their different ways planning your and my destruction, and the destruction of all the hard-won human attainments that I have touched upon." Vivid, entertaining, establishing nothing.

I really enjoy his earlier article for Slate on why the Ten Commandments aren't any good.
posted by ibmcginty at 8:26 PM on April 27, 2007


These Mormans they vibrate?
posted by HyperBlue at 8:26 PM on April 27, 2007


what would he need a house for anyway?
posted by pyramid termite at 8:30 PM on April 27, 2007


I very much doubt if anything the Hitch writes ever again will be something to go buy.

I dunno, I'd probably buy Hitch's Guide to Whiskey Bars of Manhattan.
posted by jonmc at 8:45 PM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm going to have to be contrary here and say I generally enjoy reading Hitchens. While I quite often find his actions and opinions detestable, and generally agree with Galloway's appraisal of him as "a drink-soaked former Trotskyist popinjay." That said, he is an amusing one. When he's on a drunken tear, he can pen some of surprisingly eloquent polemic. I liked the following bit. It's not that it's a novel argument, because it most certainly isn't. What I like is how he says it.
The mildest criticism of religion is also the most radical and the most devastating one. Religion is man-made. Even the men who made it cannot agree on what their prophets or redeemers or gurus actually said or did. Still less can they hope to tell us the "meaning" of later discoveries and developments which were, when they began, either obstructed by their religions or denounced by them. And yet—the believers still claim to know! Not just to know, but to know everything. Not just to know that god exists, and that he created and supervised the whole enterprise, but also to know what "he" demands of us—from our diet to our observances to our sexual morality. In other words, in a vast and complicated discussion where we know more and more about less and less, yet can still hope for some enlightenment as we proceed, one faction—itself composed of mutually warring factions—has the sheer arrogance to tell us that we already have all the essential information we need. Such stupidity, combined with such pride, should be enough on its own to exclude "belief" from the debate. The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.
Godspeed you vituperating soak, rage on.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 8:53 PM on April 27, 2007 [4 favorites]


People tend to view the whole "New Atheist" movement as being a left-wing progressive thing, but Christopher Hitchens and Sam "In Defense of Torture" Harris are good illustrations of the ways in which it could just as easily become, in essence, neoconservative or worse. I've gotten the impression that Hitchens has been such an enthusiastic supporter of the "War on Terror" largely because of his hatred of religion, and apparently justifies supporting Bush on the grounds that Bush is less religious than the Islamic fundamentalists. He is, as I recall, also on record as supporting the Chinese invasion and occupation of Tibet, for similar reasons.

The thing that really annoys me is that he views himself as being some sort of successor to Orwell, when he is, in my opinion, more like one of those hack British intellectuals who mindlessly supported everything the Soviet Union did that Orwell so often railed against. It's Bush rather than Stalin for Hitchens, but it strikes me as the same sort of power worship at the root of it.
posted by a louis wain cat at 9:35 PM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


There is no fucking "god" up there in "heaven." Y'all will see when the time comes.

Irony, dear friends. Or absurdity. I didn't really mean it. I think every believer knows on some level that a great big nothingness is what awaits us all.
posted by spitbull at 9:37 PM on April 27, 2007


That's twice in as many days I;ve kind of agreed with something Hitchins has said... IT'S THE END TIMES!
posted by Artw at 9:40 PM on April 27, 2007


When the book was announced, part of me was hoping it'd get an FPP, if only to see the reactions now that Hitch's back to taking potshots at acceptable targets. Even though he really hasn't been interesting since the Kissinger book (For the same reasons a louis wain cat mentioned), he still manages to get a chuckle out of me once in a while.

I think every believer knows on some level that a great big nothingness is what awaits us all.

You'd be wrong... or do you think they mean "believer" in the ironic sense?
Meh, que sera, sera.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:07 PM on April 27, 2007


I'm in the process of writing a book entitled, "Pushing your agenda is not great: How proselytizing ruins everything."

Obviously, its slow going and filled full of self loathing as I battle my own hypocrisy along the way, but someone has to say it.

/ tired of all the yelling, the name calling, the chest beating, and the posturing from all sides of the religion "debate".

// just venting, pardon me.
posted by C.Batt at 10:17 PM on April 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


I think every believer knows on some level that a great big nothingness is what awaits us all.

Perhaps, but as Pascal wagered, having a belief it is still the safest bet.

Safe bets are no fun; I prefer going the hardways.
posted by three blind mice at 10:36 PM on April 27, 2007


a great big nothingness is what awaits us all

That way of stating it is deeply problematic and just adds fuel to the fire of those who claim "you atheists believe in NOTHING." There's crucial difference between "believing in nothing" and "not believing." Wittgenstein:
Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death.
posted by treepour at 10:40 PM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Perhaps, but as Pascal wagered, having a belief it is still the safest bet.
Even speaking as a Christian, Pascal's wager only makes sense in the hyper-polarized "Atheists Or Believers" world of evangelical apologetics. Remember that there are jillions of potential gods and goddesses to piss off once you start down the 'If he/she/it is out there...' road.
posted by verb at 11:12 PM on April 27, 2007


CKmtl

you're right, of course, although ethnic identity counts for something.
posted by lowgfr at 11:13 PM on April 27, 2007


I think every believer knows on some level that a great big nothingness is what awaits us all.

If by "I think" you mean "It pleases me to imagine" then sure, can't really argue with that.
posted by scheptech at 12:11 AM on April 28, 2007


I find the spectacle of someone appealing to the ethical discernment of Tolstoy to support the premise that "religion poisons everything" pleasing to my sense of the absurd. Proselytizers, I tell you.
posted by nanojath at 12:27 AM on April 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Too many editorialists have described the recent flap as a silly confrontation with exhibitionist fundamentalism, when the true problem is our failure to recognize that religion is not just incongruent with morality but in essential ways incompatible with it.


He's got a point.
posted by maryh at 1:21 AM on April 28, 2007


Mr. Hitchen's drinks a lot. I believe the tenor of his "style"--in choice of subjects and the way he pursues them--is related to this fact. When you are either a) inebriated or b) hungover all of the time, you do get rather resentful of all those sober religious (and non-religious) people who seem to be doing just fine. Especially when they are telling you just what you don't want to hear: that you might want to give up the bottle and come to Jesus (or perhaps some secular version thereof).

Though I admire Mr. Hitchen's pluck and intelligence (I really do), every one of his screeds sounds like the proverbial cry for help. I think he's waiting for his bottom, and I'm sure he'll find it. Hard to watch all this in public, though.
posted by MarshallPoe at 4:49 AM on April 28, 2007


he's a drunken has-been who bet it all on Iraq and lost, bad, and has no one left to talk to because the GOP has no use for and anti-Kissinger, atheistic, off-the-wagon limey (OK, naturalised just to be able to vote for Bush, whatever) who hates the Jeebus and Mother Teresa.

he was useful (see: "useful idiots") for about four years, now they dumped him, no matter what he comes up with (his recent anti-abortion thing was just lame, he dropped it I noticed).

he's a liberal hawk who's not even liberal to begin with, he's just a neocon who hates anti-smoking laws.


drinking copious amounts of the kool-aid

gin and tonic, more likely. hold the tonic.
posted by matteo at 4:55 AM on April 28, 2007


Christopher Hitchens is an Athiest?

I may find god yet.

(okay, not really. But talk about someone you don't want to be associated with)
posted by delmoi at 7:04 AM on April 28, 2007


[expletive deleted]: ...he can pen some of surprisingly eloquent polemic.

Hmm. I'm thinking just the opposite. The quality of his argument and reasoning aside, his writing just isn't that good. Quasi-random excerpt:
Some of these excursions to the bookshelf or the lunch or the gallery will obviously, if they are serious, bring us into contact with belief and believers, from the great devotional painters and composers to the works of Augustine, Aquinas, Maimonides, and Newman. These mighty scholars may have written many evil things or many foolish things, and been laughably ignorant of the germ theory of disease or the place of the terrestrial globe in the solar system, let alone the universe, and this is the plain reason why there are no more of them today, and why there will be no more of them tomorrow.

Those old scholars may have done some disjunction of all these things, and "this" is the plain reason there will nevermore be great scholars of belief or devotional painters and composers? Eh.

I don't keep up on modern evangelical atheism, so I don't know where Hitch stands in the current crowd. My hope is that there are far better writers around... and it wouldn't hurt if they were better thinkers, too. For my part, I'd rather just read a little Voltaire or Nietzsche. Those guys knew how to write.
posted by dilettanti at 7:18 AM on April 28, 2007


Dilettanti, I'm not saying he's some kind of master prose stylist, just that when he's on a good tear he can spit out some surprising things. I cocked my head sideways when I first read that, then moved on. I don't expect him to be coherent all the time, in fact, he seems to be batting better than .500 lately, which is some kind of improvement. He's certainly not consistent. Hell, I haven't been asleep for the past six years; I know he can do much, much worse.

That aside, I think this passage is more about his inability to create a novel argument more than anything. He has some vague half-formed idea in his head, and he can't think clearly enough to turn it into a coherent argument, so he vomits up something like what you quoted.

As for Nietzsche, personally, I think his writing often suffered from just the same flaw, as evidenced by how little people can agree on about his writing.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 8:22 AM on April 28, 2007


A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men. It needs a fearless outlook and a free intelligence. It needs hope for the future, not looking back all the time toward a past that is dead, which we trust will be far surpassed by the future that our intelligence can create.
Bertrand Russell, "A Free Man's Worship"
posted by anthill at 9:36 AM on April 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


Antill, thank you for that link. The world needs more Bertrand Russell.

It's been more than 5 years since I first read "In Praise of Idleness", and I was long overdue to read it again.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:25 AM on April 28, 2007


I think most atheists would do well to consider practicing what they preach. Those of a rational mind can draw their own conclusions about the nature of the universe, if they get value from doing so.

Zealotry, whether religious or atheist, creates resentment in those who refuse to partake in extremist, binary views. The best way to illustrate that atheism is ethical is to be an ethical atheist. The same is true of any mode of belief.

When any concept achieves a state where -ism can be suffixed, it is itself a dogma and should be viewed with a skeptical eye. When others deign to do our thinking for us, or when we allow them to do so, we become irrelevant. Atheism and religion both have a tremendous capacity to make a person feel irrelevant while at the same time claiming the opposite.

As for Mr. Hitchens, I agree with much of what he says in the articles provided. Of course, I do not agree with everything he says about every topic at all times -- far from it -- but that does not mean he is always wrong.
posted by tempestuoso at 10:32 AM on April 28, 2007


I enjoyed the linked articles, particularly the first one. While I don't think they contained anything I didn't consider obvious already, it's sometimes nice to see it all in one place.

Certainly the second and third excerpts are true; as critiques, their failure is that they're obvious and old news.

The first one is more philosophical than historical, and makes a pretty good case. Of course many people will say it's dead wrong, and could make eloquent cases to back themselves up if they were so able or inclined, but that's the nature of philosophy, and to a different extent, religion.

It's all about justification. Everything but lying can be justified. "Sins" were made up to make lying okay, since nobody but a liar ever gets ahead.
posted by breezeway at 12:44 PM on April 28, 2007


"Literature, not scripture, sustains the mind and—since there is no other metaphor—also the soul."
vs.
"The mildest criticism of religion is also the most radical and the most devastating one. Religion is man-made."

Dunno about his consistiency there. Although I do like the former sentiment.


Harald: Listen. I've been in this dump for sixteen years and I haven't made a single convert...
Snorri: There was Thorbjorn Vifilsson's wife. You converted HER.
Harald: Thorbjorn Vifilsson's wife became a Buddhist, not a Christian.
Snorri: Same thing, isn't it?
Harald: No, it is NOT.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:01 PM on April 28, 2007


New Layer of Ancient Greek Writings Detected in Medieval Book
posted by homunculus at 8:38 PM on April 28, 2007


“I got a dual problem here,” the comedian said. “First of all, I like people. One by one, I think they’re great — for about a minute ... I don’t like the (expletive) grouping. It’s when they group that bothers me — the clotting. People-clotting is what causes the trouble. As soon as it’s about eight or 12 guys, they start having a fight song or a (expletive) slogan, or they give themselves a name and buy baseball hats, or they get jackets with their name on it and they wear little arm bands, and pretty soon they got a list of people they don’t like, and pretty soon they’re marching over in the park — and it’s a (expletive) danger. Groups are a danger.
“They sacrifice their individual beauty for the sake of the group. And the loss of the individual is tragic,” he said.
-George Carlin

i love that crazy old bastard.
posted by I, Credulous at 11:41 PM on April 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's hard to talk about what an ass Hitchens is without resorting to boozehound insults -- as is clearly shown in this thread -- but I do agree that much organized religion (and in particular the evil that issues from the Big Three Monotheisms) is on balance a very bad thing.

On the other hand, if people would just shut the fuck up about their personal experience and understanding of the divine and the codes of conduct they believe emanate from that understanding, stop joining god-tribes and demonizing others who differ, well, the world'd be a better place.

Like that's gonna happen.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:50 PM on April 29, 2007


Dawkin's TED lecture via smashing telly (+religion)
posted by acro at 7:38 AM on April 30, 2007


via the nyt: The Mormons on PBS April 30, 9 p.m., May 1st '
posted by acro at 9:33 AM on April 30, 2007


great related thing on Rove and Bush and faith and govt and the book: Bush’s Brain, an Unbeliever?
posted by amberglow at 2:32 PM on April 30, 2007


The Persuaders Krishna doc
posted by acro at 8:32 PM on April 30, 2007


May 4 Charlie Rose interviews Christopher Hitchens
posted by acro at 5:44 PM on May 7, 2007


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