Christopher Hitchens: Banned by the Air Force Academy

On Monday evening, Christopher Hitchens spoke about atheism to a group of Air Force Academy cadets.

Twelve of them.

This is a guy who could sell out lecture halls. How is it possible that only twelve people showed up to hear him?

Simple. He wasn’t allowed on campus.

The Colorado Springs Independent‘s Anthony Lane writes this:

… The cadets, warned by Academy officials that Hitchens would not be allowed to lecture on campus, quietly arranged a more intimate gathering publicized only by e-mails and word of mouth.

Hitchens was invited to Colorado Springs by Kyle Southard, a second-year cadet active with a student-run Jewish congregation and the Cadet Interfaith Council. Despite feeling that the Academy tolerates many religions, Southard felt a “vast lack of understanding” about those without faith.

Hitchens was willing to visit on his own dime, but officials “recommended” that the students not ask for him to be invited to speak on campus, says Academy spokesman Lt. Col. Brett Ashworth.

That recommendation was made because of comments by Hitchens judged to be “degrading to others,” Ashworth says, and would have applied equally if he espoused evangelical Christianity. (Self-described former-terrorists-turned-evangelicals, who spoke on campus last year, were allowed as part of a terror briefing, Ashworth says.)

Apparently, saying religion has its faults is degrading, but it’s perfectly ok to push Bibles onto citizens of countries we invade and hear Evangelicals speak about their faith when they believe non-religious people are going to Hell for eternity.

Kudos to Southard for reaching out to Hitchens and putting together the event. I wonder if anyone there notices the irony of not allowing Hitchens to speak on campus while fighting to protect rights like free speech.

(Thanks to Margaret for the link!)

  • http://www.sheeptoshawl.com writerdd

    c’mon Hemant, I doubt it is the real reason that Hitchens was not invited, but he is rude and obnoxious.

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    He might be rude and often drunk, but he’s always entertaining and mostly “right-on”. And demands to be heard even if you don’t agree with every point he makes.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    So invitations are not to be extended to those who say things that are “degrading to others.” What could be more degrading than saying that someone will be spending eternity in eternal damnation and hellfire? That will rule out a large fraction of Christian and Muslim preachers.

  • Ben

    Hitchens was in Colorado Springs?! NOOOOOOOOO! I’m in Philadelphia only four more days before I go back!

  • benjdm

    So, those who call Psalm 14:1 Holy Scripture aren’t saying things that are “degrading to others”?

  • Larry Huffman

    Writerdd…and no evangelicals are rude and obnoxious? Please…think what you will, but this is about his message, not his delivery.

    BTW…it is hard to find a more religious town than Co Springs…outside of the Salt Lake and Utah Valley areas in this country.

  • Brian C Posey

    Does anyone really find it degrading when you are told that you’re going to burn in hellfire?

    I don’t ever think of it as insulting, just wrong. Although some preachers do say it with a little glee. That might be insulting.

  • Mike

    There should never be a reason to offend, degrade or insult someone just because the topic is religion, though it seems to cause so many people to lose their ability to think and act rationally (presuming they ever possessed this ability).

    All I’ll say is, don’t leave to chance what you think is “wrong” in the Bible; we live in an incredibly self-centered and materialistic world that supports the idea that everything goes and asks “how could God send someone to hell if they’re a “good” person? That can’t be true” and therefore the Bible isn’t true, or any religion is just as valid as any other. Research the facts, read the many studies that are out there, and research it some more before you decide what the “truth” is.

    Eternity is longer than any of us can even fathom, especially if, just maybe, hell is a real place worse than our wildest imaginations, and we could be there if we mistakenly, tragically and lazily adopt the worldview that bombards us every day. Life is short, and could end literally at any moment — should you spend more time researching the next car you’re going to buy than where your soul may end up for eternity?

  • Ron in Houston

    Well, Jesus started with 12, I guess we can see what Hitchens can do.

  • http://cycleninja.blogspot.com Paul Lundgren

    Writerdd:

    Mr. Huffman beat me to the punch with the obvious counter. Hitchens hasn’t accused gays of being responsible for Hurricane Katrina. Religious people have. Hitchens never said baldly and blatantly that 9/11 was God’s punishment for America’s sins. Religious people did. And religious leaders within the Air Force Academy are trying to have their cake and eat it, too. They need to be reminded that it is illegal to proselytize in the military, and frankly, I’m glad these people are being exposed in such a fashion.

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  • http://www.CoreyMondello.com Corey Mondello

    Fundamentalist Christianity is ruining America!

  • Mike

    You have to separate rediculous people from the underlying truth of who Jesus was, and is. “Religion” is always going to be flawed, because it involves people, and people can often be idiots.

    I am quite confident that Jesus sheds tears when he sees what some “preach” in His name. Hateful people, like the morons who demonstrate at the funerals of our men and women who are killed in Iraq and Afghanistan saying that “God loves IEDs,” will have to answer for their actions on Judgment Day.

    But their ignorance is not an excuse for others to remain equally ignorant. We have such a tendency to simply accept what we are fed — whether it’s religious doctrine or it’s secular worldly values or atheism — and never take on the responsibility to research and search for the truth ourselves. And when you consider what’s at stake, that’s simply crazy!

    As just one example, if you really study the so-called science of evolution, you will find that it takes more blind faith to believe that we evolved from one-celled organisms than that we were designed and created in God’s image with a divine purpose in life. There are so many holes and flaws in the theory of evolution, yet we are taught it as if it is uncontroverted scientific fact. You’d be amazed at how much evidence there is in all the sciences to support the Biblical record.

  • Richard Wade

    Hi Mike, you said:

    We have such a tendency to simply accept what we are fed — whether it’s religious doctrine or it’s secular worldly values or atheism — and never take on the responsibility to research and search for the truth ourselves.

    It seems as though you are doing the very thing of which you disapprove. You are parroting talking points that were fed to you. Your statements about needing more faith to accept evolution, holes and flaws in the theory making the whole thing invalid, lots of evidence to support the Bible, these are cut-and-paste canards from Answers in Genesis that I have read word for word (and have watched being utterly demolished) hundreds of times.

    Evolution is not taught as “uncontroverted fact” in the way you portray. When presented properly, science does not say “This is the truth.” It says “This is the best explanation we have so far for what we see in the world around us, and when we see more, better and in greater detail, we are going to change our explanation a little or a lot.” The great strength of science is that it is self-correcting, always looking for where it is wrong. Claims of “uncontroverted fact” are the domain of religion. Immature people want things settled, fully known, cut and dry. Mature people are able to live with the humility of only having the best explanation so far, and are ready for better ones when we see more evidence.

    I agree with you that it is wise to separate the absurdities of religion from the essential teaching. Consider that the essential teaching about Jesus does not have to depend on the absurd Biblical descriptions of how life developed on Earth. The Bible may be very useful for describing the world within you, but it is not very reliable for describing the physical world around you.

  • medussa

    It seems to be that telling people they’re going to hell because they are gay is indeed offensive and rude, not just wrong. And to have the military be concerned about degrading statements is simply hilarious: Abu Ghraib anybody?

    And to Mike the Apologist: I highly recommend Dan Barker’s “godless”, it will answer all your concerns you’ve brought up so far.

  • zoo

    Mike:

    Research the facts, read the many studies that are out there, and research it some more before you decide what the “truth” is.

    If you read through more of this site, and read other sites like it, you’ll find that’s exactly what we do. We don’t just go “I don’t want to believe in God, I’ll take any excuse not to!” In fact, many of us would be content to believe if you gave us real evidence. It would often even be easier on us to believe, but we just can’t because we know too much (from our research) to do so.

    if you really study the so-called science of evolution, you will find that it takes more blind faith to believe that we evolved from one-celled organisms than that we were designed and created in God’s image with a divine purpose in life.

    Actually, if you really study evolutionary theory you’ll find out exactly how much truth there is to it, as well as what is left to find out. You’d also find out exactly what it actually is instead of spouting off what your pastor or the latest creationist book told you it is.

    The basics are definitely not out of the grasp of an intelligent person, especially given the large numbers of books and websites that put them in layman’s terms.

    And, *seconds Richard Wade’s response*.

  • Vincent

    As just one example, if you really study the so-called science of evolution, you will find that it takes more blind faith to believe that we evolved from one-celled organisms than that we were designed and created in God’s image with a divine purpose in life. There are so many holes and flaws in the theory of evolution,

    Please please please tell me you are not really believing this and are just baiting and that I have fallen for the bait.
    First “so-called”? It is a theory that is the product of the scientific method. It has been tested time and again for 150 years and never failed. It is “so-called” science in the same way heliocentrism is, and the germ theory of disease is.

    Flaws? Well, there were flaws in the original version, and there probably are flaws (though certainly fewer) in the version as now refined through 150 years of study. Science means studying the facts and refining the theory. At this point, any remaining flaws are negligible.
    Holes? I suppose in the sense that we don’t know everything exactly how evolution happened, but “god did it” is just one big hole. Or to use a varied metaphor. The theory of evolution by natural selection is a big fishing net. Lots of holes but it holds together. The theory of “god did it” (creationism) is like a rope. It has no holes. It goes straight from a to b.

    Now, which would you rather jump to from a burning building, a group of firemen holding a net? or 2 guys holding a rope?

  • Deborah

    I do believe that too many people try to push their religious/spiritual beliefs on others. These things are personal and can be shared, but that is all. It’s like trying to describe salt to someone who has never tasted anything salty. The only way they can understand is if they taste salt. Then they will know. Hence, it is a personal experience. Science, on the other hand is something that can be tested for everyone to see. I don’t see why religious people are afraid of science. If their religion is true, then it will eventually merge with science as true. If not, it won’t. Truth is truth. True religion can pass the test of science. Maybe some people who claim to be religious are really just afraid. I can say right now that I know that God lives and that Jesus Christ is more than just a man; he is the Son of God. That information means nothing to someone who has not paid the price to know, someone who has not searched and prayed and communed with God and come to that conclusion personally. Maybe they do not want to go that route. It’s their choice, and from a Christian perspective, that choice is sacred and is theirs to make. On the other hand, I feel there is much that science cannot yet explain, but that does not mean that is is not true just because science cannot explain it yet. If I say I spoke with God. That may or may not be true, but only the person making the statement can know for sure. There can be no debate because science does not have a way to prove or disprove it for everyone to see. It remains a personal experience. Likewise, a person may believe there is no God, but without the test of science the belief remains personal and should not be pushed on others, only shared.

  • Nate

    The reason is that the AFA is a closely scrutinized and highly sensitive environment. An inflamatory character like Hitchens was wisely not allowed to speak ON academy grounds because of the possibility of his making a scene, which would have reflected poorly on the Academy, which already suffers from excessive, unwarranted critisim and scrutiny.


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