Fresh Hitchens

For fellow junkies like myself, here is Christopher Hitchens appearing this past Thursday on a panel in Australia taking on 4 fellow religious panelists at once and just making mince meat of them.  He’s filled with razor sharp quips and eloquently put arguments as always.  It’s a great watch:

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Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Mogg

    I never get a chance to watch qanda, and that was a particularly interesting episode. I went to the ABC website and watched the whole thing, which I think was flawed by the lack of time – some of those questions really could have generated some more discussion. I feel obliged to point out that two of the panellists were in fact secular commentators, not religious. Although Anne Henderson identifies as Catholic, that is not her public role and she is obviously not a strict Catholic, like many or most Catholics in Australia who go to church only for Christmas, Easter, weddings and christenings and otherwise live secular lives. Sally Warhaft is not religious at all, AFAIK. She is an anthropologist and former editor of a political and current affairs magazine, which presumably is why she was asked to be on the panel.

    I find Hitchens comes across as rather arrogant, however he does have a way of homing in on some very important points regarding the acceptance of the evil outcomes of religion as well as the good, and he did that several times here. Very thought-provoking. If only all of us believer types could think some more about those sort of questions! I think the Muslim commentator, Waleed Ali, actually did a good job in answering Hitchens, the Jesuit guy perhaps not so much.

    I must get around to reading God Is Not Great. I have my doubts about the conclusion that religion poisons everything, but as I haven’t read the book it would be completely unreasonable of me to say that I disagree with Hitchens’ reasoning.

  • Daniel Fincke

    The two other “secular” commentators still were bending over backwards saying banal “accommodationist” things about the need for and worth of religion. Sorry but everything they said was pretty much worthless sophistry and special pleading for religion. It was so empty and unworthy of Hitchens’s vigorous, clear argumentation.

    I know why people think Hitchens comes off arrogant but as far as I go, there’s that old expression—it ain’t braggin’ if it’s true. I think he just doesn’t pussyfoot around the fact that the other side has incredibly empty arguments. USUALLY debates on serious topics involve two sides with serious reasons behind them. But with religion, you have people clinging to beliefs that lost their rational plausibility a couple hundred years ago (at least) and people are tirelessly trying to hang on to them in spite of this and so it’s not reasons against reasons, it’s reasons against stubborn insistence on outmoded paradigms having validity. Look at the ways that every one tried to wiggle around around except Hitchens. That disingenuous priest whining on and on about the tone of atheists and then slipping and sliding on the issue of gays. It’s bullshit. He’s got nothing substantive to say. He cannot say what his church really teaches about gays, he has to haggle with bullshit distinctions between homosexuality being a disposition and itself not sinful and then pray he doesn’t get cornered into admitting that his church offers gays only celibacy or condemnation for sinning if they behave homosexually.

    He can’t come out and confidently spell all this out because it undermines his nonsense about how wonderful and necessary religion is. His religion is backing him into an intolerant corner and it’s the only thing stopping him from doing the humane thing and the thing he knows the audience wants—just admitting that there’s nothing wrong with being gay and it’s time to give them full rights.

    Instead he’s trying desperately to preserve the right to “privately pastor” people to stay in the closet. That’s DESPICABLE. You want to talk about ARROGANT?? Try the guy “politely” wanting to assert the legitimacy of his religious tradition which would with not the slightest humility condemn homosexual deeds as sinful, which would unhumbly judge that God actually made people with that disposition AND that they know it’s immoral for those people to act on those desires. That’s insane for the reasons I spelled out here http://

    The Muslim was fascinating to watch, the only one worthy of being on a panel with Hitch. I’d never thought I’d see Hitchens two or three times applauding statements by a Muslim! But he too had to slip and slide and Hitchens was completely right to call both him and the priest and the woman in the audience that they talked a good game that their religions just couldn’t back up.

    God Is Not Great is a pretty good book but if you spend enough time with Hitch on youtube you get almost everything that’s in the book. It all comes out in his innumerable interviews. Except for a few key ideas he has (which I find really persuasive and influential upon my thinking, but which you can hear him say all the time) most of the book is less an argument than sort of a journalist’s documentation of all the ways he’s seen religion poison things over time. It’s less substantive in terms of a systematic philosophical case and rather a book of vignettes meant to drive home a few key themes.