An Interview with Peter Hitchens

Trevor Treharne has written a new book called How to Prove God Does Not Exist. In addition to his rebuttals of the standard canon of Christian arguments for god’s existence, Trevor has a few interviews with notable atheists (including Victor Stenger and Michael Shermer). He also includes, for good measure, interviews with a few Christians, including Intelligent Design proponents Michael Behe and William Dembski.

One of the Christian interviews is with Peter Hitchens, the religious brother of the late Christopher Hitchens. It was fascinating to read (and a bit frustrating since he dodged several questions) and Trevor gave me permission to reprint it here:

Peter Hitchens is a journalist, a columnist for British newspaper Mail on Sunday, brother of famous atheist Christopher and author of The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith.

As a former atheist turned believer, what are the principle reasons for how, to borrow your book’s subtitle in the US, atheism led you to faith?

The emptiness and futility of a world without a purpose, and the desolation brought about by human quests for utopia.

Do atheists too quickly align themselves with a pro-choice stance as that seems to be part of being an atheist? What are your main objections to abortions?

Not all atheists are in favor of abortion. I have a single objection to abortion, which is that it is an act of callous killing, performed for selfish reasons. I can think of no circumstance in which it would not be better for the baby to be born and adopted. I am repelled by the rhetoric of the ‘right to choose’, which treats the baby as an unperson, and by the dehumanizing designation of unborn babies as ‘foetuses’. Abortion also, alas, engenders more abortion — as once this procedure is approved of, it becomes one of many encouragements to casual, loveless sexual relations.

Atheists often attempt to distance themselves from communism regimes by claiming they are both nothing to do with atheism and are indeed too much like religions, rather than too secular. What would you say to these two defenses?

It is certain that the Russian revolutionaries were atheists and regarded their rejection of the eternal as crucial to their beliefs. There are many other coincidences between the beliefs of the two, explored in my book. Are these coincidences just that, or do they result from an organic connection between the two ideas. Actually the communism of the Russian revolution, a vague economic theory, crudely applied, is a small part of the event. Probably more important were the culturally revolutionary aspects of it, the rejection of lifelong marriage, the liberation of abortion, the absence of private life, the worship of power.

How would you summarize your views on the separation of church and state?

Not very interested, unless someone tries to disestablish the Church of England, because if they do, they will be seeking to make Britain formally and finally non-Christian.

How do you chart the effects of the fall of Christianity in Britain? Is that trend reversible?

Chart them? I don’t know. They seem to me to be observable everywhere in the behavior of individuals and the decline of the idea of absolute good in all aspects of life. I see no reason to believe that it will be reversed, though of course it would be reversible by determined action by enough influential people. It’s just that those people don’t want to reverse it.

Statistically, the world’s most religious countries are often the most rife with crime (chiefly across Africa and South America) — why is this? Where does that leave claims of religion offering a moral utopia?

Statistically the world’s hottest countries are rife with crime. Correlation, as I am often told, is not causation, and unless someone can come up with a closer and more informative correlation than that, it doesn’t strike me as very informative arrangement of facts. If it could be shown that the crime in those countries originated principally among the most religious people in them, that would, for example, be of more interest.

What did you make of your brother Christopher’s arguments against the existence of God?

I thought them unoriginal, trivial and often ill-informed, though sometimes entertainingly expressed. He tried too hard to please the gallery, when he found he had a gallery that was pleased by jeering at religion. His literary criticism, and his book Blood Class and Nostalgia plus some of his final articles on his illness, were of far higher quality and are much better things by which to remember him.

How much do you think your sometimes distant relationship with your brother would have differed if you shared the same view on religion/atheism?

Not at all. We were perhaps at our most distant when we were both atheists. My own view will always be that in his final years he was much more kindly disposed towards religion, and towards believers, than his fans wanted to think he was (note his obvious embarrassment at Richard Dawkins’s sycophantic fanaticism in the New Statesman interview).

How to Prove God Does Not Exist is now available online.

If you’d like to win a free copy, all you have to do is share a story about a family member whose religious views are different from yours. Put the word “Hitchslap” at the end of your comment if you’d like to win the prize and I’ll contact a random winner next week. (Anyone can enter regardless of where you live.)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=750428174 Paddy Reddin

    If I remember rightly Hitch donated his body to science.

    If there’s a rumbling from the lab it’s probably his corpse spinning. 

    Hitchslap 

    • randall.morrison90

      Why not?  Hitch got all the latest Medical Treatments, not available to us poor schmucks.

      A real “man of the people”, old Hitch.

      Between his war mongering and  bigotry he almost had people fooled.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        I’m sure Hitch was the only American to ever gain ‘unequal’ medial care.

  • http://twitter.com/butterflyfish_ Heidi McClure

    Well, Peter, I can think of quite a few circumstances “in which it would not be better for the baby to be born and adopted.”  How about when a woman’s life is in danger? Or her sanity? Or when she’s a crack addict? Or an ectopic pregnancy? I could go on…

    Hitch, dude, I’m sorry your life included having a twit for a brother.

    • BB

      I’m not saying I agree with the response, because I don’t, but in response to the “What if the woman is unsuitable for motherhood?” many in the pro-choice crowd tend to argue that there are programs, especially intended for pregnant woman, offered by both the church and in state-supported secular organizations where women are psychologically and monetarily supported, and that, if a woman has knowledge of this programs and yet proceeds with the abortion, her addiction/issues are not an excuse.  While she may have issues, it is an even greater moral failing to terminate an innocent life who must suffer for the choices of the mother on top of that.

      • BB

        Meant to say “many in the pro-life crowd”.  My mistake.

        • Nathaniel

          No. Most of these “Pro Life” shmucks don’t like those sort of programs. Bootstraps! and all.

        • http://twitter.com/butterflyfish_ Heidi McClure

          Yeah, they do say that. But they don’t consider the possibility that by the time the woman decides to make use of one of these services (assuming one is available in her geographical area), the damage has already been done.

          Then again they also don’t consider the possibility that some of these babies are brown, and the rich conservatives might not want to adopt a brown crack baby. Or any brown baby at all, really, unless they got to take a vacation to a tropical orphanage and pick one out.

      • EllieMurasaki

        I know someone who tells me, and I have absolutely no reason to disbelieve her, that if she gets pregnant and attempts to carry to term without going off her meds, she will fail because the meds are incompatible with pregnancy, and if she gets pregnant and goes off her meds in order to attempt to carry to term, she will fail because her history shows that going off her meds causes suicide attempts and there’s no way she’d survive several medless months. Whenever I present that scenario to a pro-life person, they say the only answer is for her to refrain from sex (nobody’s even offered the possibility of her using contraception or sticking to lesbian sex), and when I point out that that is them controlling her sex life which is unacceptable, they get confused or offended.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/5AU7DJ4GGBKTNOMWD3HBZVBGZ4 Randall

      Its ironic that the atheists are aborting their babies all over the place, and Christians, expecially Catholics, are getting back to having large familes.

      Darwin awards to all of you!  With Oak Leaves and Clusters!

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        I suspect most atheists plan their pregnancies so don’t need to have abortions.  It’s the Christians who rely on “abstinence”.

        Oh, I know, they’re not real Christians.  Which would actually make Christians close to a minority in this nation if it were true.

  • Tim

    Sounds like an interesting book, I would look forward to
    reading this and all the interviews included. 

     

    The interview with Peter Hitchens, however, does reflect one
    of the problems of religious belief… 
    that in policy issues which affect the lives of
    people, the premises are too often pre-established by the tenants of the religion. 

    In this case, the abortion example.  Calling them ‘foetuses’ is entirely accurate
    and certainly more accurate that his designation of them with the loaded term
    ‘babies’.  The debate can be about what the
    developmental state of a foetus may mean for its/his/her rights relative to the
    rights of fully intentioned humans or even other sentient animals.  But his interpretation of religion precludes such a
    discussion.

    For him not to say he “can think of no circumstance in
    which it would not be better for the baby to be born and adopted” either
    shows a lack of imagination, lack of logic or religious blinding.  (And I do very much believe it to be the last
    of these.)

     

    However, I must thank Peter for his recommendation of his
    brother’s book which I have not yet read (Blood, Class and Nostalgia).

     

    In the meantime, I would like to read Trevor Treharne’s
    “How to Prove God Does Not Exist”…

     

    Hitchslap
     

  • KAS

    My adult sister is Catholic. When I asked her what makes her god so different and so true amongst all of the other gods humanity has ever worshipped, she replied, “Well, my god is real because nobody believes in those other gods any longer.”

    Hitchslap

    • EllieMurasaki

      Somebody’s never been to India. Or a great many other places, but Hinduism is the biggest polytheistic religion and it’s kind of popular in India.

  • Vukota

    My uncle was a Catholic priest that passed away when I was 8. He had it written into his will that I would read a passage from the bible at his funeral. It was held inside a large church packed with hundreds of people. I am not a fan of public speaking or churches to this day.

    Hitchslap 

    • Renshia

       What a prick.

    • LesterBallard

      Was it a particular passage? You should have chosen one of those slaughter everyone, including the women (some of whom would have been pregnant) and children passages.

  • http://nwrickert.wordpress.com/ Neil Rickert

    The emptiness and futility of a world without a purpose, and the desolation brought about by human quests for utopia.

    I have never understood this argument.  My life is filled with meaning and purpose.  If anything, it has been more filled with meaning an purpose since I dumped religion.

    I keep wondering whether some folk are using religion as a palliative for clinical depression.

    • Gordon Duffy

       I find a world where we are toys of an eternal god to be more empty and futile.

    • MargueriteF

      This argument seems to make little sense in the context of “what led him to faith” anyway. If the world IS filled with “emptiness and futility,” believing in God won’t change that. It’s not as if God didn’t exist until Peter Hitchens believed– either he already existed, in which case the world had a “purpose” Hitchens just hadn’t perceived yet, or he doesn’t exist, in which case Hitchens’ “purpose” is just self-delusion. 

      But I agree that to me, the world seems to have MORE purpose when I don’t expect to live for an eternity afterward. In the Christian view, this life is so pitifully brief compared to the presumed vast sweep of eternity that it’s hard to see why it should matter. But if one life is all we have, then clearly it is to be cherished and embraced, because when it’s over, it’s OVER.

      • Pete084

         “If the world IS filled with “emptiness and futility,” believing in God won’t change that”

        Placebo effect.

    • advancedatheist

      And christians refuse to consider the logically possible idea that a god created human life without any meaning or purpose. Peter Hitchens wants god to exist for his personal comfort and convenience, when a god doesn’t have to oblige men like Peter in the least. 

      • MargueriteF

        Also a good point. What if the creator of the universe is Loki? Or Q? He might have just created everything on a drunken lark one night, after he tossed back one too many beers, and then forgotten all about us. The existence of a god would not necessarily prove there’s a purpose to life.

        • MKW

          Q Who?  

          • http://twitter.com/butterflyfish_ Heidi McClure

            I see what you did there. LOL.

      • Wallace Barbosa de Souza

        Without purpose? This idea has no logical sense! This current meaningless philosophy is so dangerous, it’s almost like a self-murdering!

    • Andrew B.

       Yes, it’s just an argument from consequences, which shows you “sophistication” of his belief. 

    • allein

      “I keep wondering whether some folk are using religion as a palliative for clinical depression.”

      Possibly. Though I can honestly say that in the 13+ years now that I’ve been dealing with anxiety and depression issues, I have never once thought, “Maybe I should look for a god to help me out here.”

  • Marcus

    I had to attend my first funeral a few days ago. My grandmother, of whom I never really liked much.
    She was a big reason why I am an Atheist. She insisted when I was about 8 or so that I had to attend her Anglican Church every Sunday.
    The Priest creeped me out, the sermons bored me and I couldn’t find a single reason to believe any of it.

    The service was held in a Anglican church half filled with elderly frail followers. the signing of hymns was downright creepy. The speech from the Priestess was droning and dull, and it was delivered in weird disjointed tones of voice.
    It was a deeply disturbing experience.

    All these experiences just reinforce my deeply seated discomfort around the trappings of religion.

    Hitchslap

  • jdm8

    A $30 paperback? Ouch. I don’t see an evook option either.

    Hitchslap

  • 667

    I am sure the book will make him a lot of money especially from the atheist crowd.

    • Ida Know

       I certainly hope so!

    • LesterBallard

      No, if he really wanted to make money he’d be a preacher. Money for nothing, and your chicks for free. Unless you become a Catholic priest, then it’s your boys for free.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Damn that evil Capitalist system!

  • Vicki Williams

    Wow, so many stories to choose from.  From the article: “Not all atheists are in favor of abortion.”  I “loved” the implication that we want there to be abortions as opposed to thinking that a woman should have the right to make that difficult choice if she feels it is needed.  It reminded me of my father who used to talk about how those feminists think it is every woman’s responsibility to have at least one abortion in order to support the clinics.  He was a pastor and I was homeschooled and so very isolated from normal society.  That made it hard to even know how to rebel or question.  But, since I was taught that your husband is your boss, I remember deciding that I must never, ever fall in love lest I be tempted to get married.  I’m so glad I was able to get out.

    Hitchslap

    • Renshia

       Way to go Vicki!!!!!

  • MargueriteF

    Oh, darn, when you said it was available “online” I thought you meant it was available as an ebook. I raced right off to buy it, only to find there’s no Kindle edition. Curses… foiled again!

    Also, btw, the Amazon link you provided only seems to sell the book used or through other sellers, which I imagine means the author won’t get a royalty. Is there anywhere one can buy it that will benefit the author?

  • John

    My grandmother is a very devout southern Baptist. We both love books, crossword puzzles, and politics (she’s also a very devout neo-con), but what we have in common most is discussing our different views on the Bible and Christianity. She’s one of the few people who’s had me scrambling for a passage that I couldn’t remember!

    Hitchslap

  • advancedatheist

    It is certain that the Russian revolutionaries were atheists and regarded their rejection of the eternal as crucial to their beliefs. 

    Ironically Western christians didn’t denounce the Tsars as atheists and rejectors of “the eternal” when these Russian rulers sanctioned the persecution, rapine and murder of Jews in their territory, with the complicity of the Russian Orthodox Church. When a new regime took over Russia and made christians the targets of abuse, suddenly Western christians found that objectionable. 

    • Madge

      Many revolutionaries have regarded the rejection of the eternal as crucial to their beliefs.  Stalin, for instance, promoted atheism in public schools and encouraged the production of anti-theistic propaganda which resulted in countless deaths; by the 1930s, it was dangerous to be openly religious.  Let’s not also forget the League of Militant Atheists.

      • Grizzz

        Sorta, kinda Madge.

        But, let’s also look at those that are claimed to be religious and were responsible for some of the worst atrocities in the history of the world…..Hitler comes to mind. And Slobodan Mlosevic, Cucescu (spl?), Pinochet, George W. Bush, Pope ______ (fill in the blank here, they are all pretty much vile evil fuckers), name your leader from the Crusades, Jim Jones…..do you really want to play tit for tat here? Because any way you slice it, atheists come out on top.

        • Grizzz

          hhehhehhheh…I got to say “tit”…..

      • Stev84

        To a large degree, Stalin simply saw organized religion as competition. He replaced the established churches with a kind of ersatz religion that worshiped him and the state instead. It was the same with Mao in China. North Korea takes that to its extreme: the leaders are literally gods there with shrines all over. Or the Japanese Empire, which became dangerous when that ideology was combined with militarism.

        The Nazis were Christians, but like other authoritarians they saw organized religion as a danger to their power. Their end goal was to replace the traditional churches with a party controlled fusion of traditional Christianity and Nazi ideology. But given how religious the population was, the knew they couldn’t do that during the war, so they arranged themselves with the churches as best as they could.

        • Mike

          Exactly.

        • Madge

          Yet the Nazis were responsible for the deaths of countless religious individuals, including Catholics.  People who claim Hitler was religious often forget that the victims of the Nazis were often religious leaders who openly objected to the party or were in the way. 

          • Greisha

             Madge:

            You are making the point you are trying to dispute. 

            Stalin killed many Orthodox Christians and Hitler killed Catholics because they could not tolerate competitors to their ideology/quasi religion.  It is very similar to inter-religion wars. Just think pogroms in Russia, Catholics killing Jews, Muslims, and Protestants, Protestants hating and prosecuting Catholics, Muslims killing all infidels, etc.

            • randall.morrison90

              In other words, Stalins atheism was a quasi religion to him.

              • Stev84

                No. His cult of personality was a quasi religion to him. People worshiped him.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  People worshiped Lenin.  Stalin was just the pope.

          • Stev84

            Oh boy. You are really completely clueless and ignorant. The Nazis didn’t persecute any Christians strictly for being Christians. The only non-Jewish religious groups they systematically sent to concentration camps were Jehovah’s Witnesses. And that was because they refused to swear allegiance to the regime and were pacifists who refused to serve in the army (which was punished with the death penalty).

            Priests were only persecuted if they made trouble in public – not for their religious beliefs in of themselves. And even that wasn’t universal. In some ways, they were afraid of the power the church had over the people. They would have liked to dismantle it, but knew they needed the support to the population during the war (especially after the invasion of Russia). As late as 1941 public opposition led by some Catholic bishops led them to officially end the T4 euthanasia program. Some Nazis wanted to imprison or assassinate the bishops in question, but knew that they couldn’t risk a public confrontation over it. So nothing was done. Hitler himself issued explicit instructions to not provoke the Church further.

          • http://profiles.google.com/conticreative Marco Conti

            There are people that write books about history. Amazon.com is just a click away.

        • randall.morrison90

          Excuses for Murder don’t change the facts.

          Atheists are always ready to excuse atheists who kill. 

          Anyone else notice that?

          • Stev84

             Obvious troll is obvious

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

            There’s a difference between excusing murder and blaming the correct source.  That’s why we also don’t blame Jesus for all the murders committed by Christians in US prisons.

          • http://profiles.google.com/conticreative Marco Conti

            Nobody is excusing Stalin and Lenin purges. Troll. But to say “Atheism made them do it” is as wrong as if we justified those monsters the way you claim. 

            It would be good if christians do not try to engage in a body count. At least the communists did not claim divine morals. What does it say that those who did and do have just as much or more blood on their hands?

      • Glasofruix

        I had family in russia who lived during those times, they were VERY religious people never heard them complaining about religious persecution…

        • Greisha

           Glasofruix:

          They learn to keep their tongues behind their thees (keep their mouth shut).

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          The rather frank version I heard from a Russian with a Christian grandmother was that it was kind of like smoking pot at home.  You learned at a very early age to not talk about it outside the home.  Unlike pot, it wasn’t strictly illegal, but it could be detrimental to your career path.

          And in another case (Muslim) the grandmother was very discrete about her prayers, but kept to them.

      • oli kenton

        Of course, Stalin was rapidly anti-theist. The church offered a power structure not under his control, therefore it had to be destroyed. Good communists would go after the church anyway (Religion is the opium of the people, etc) but in Stalins case he was such a control freak he simply would not stand for a rival, any rival, whether it be a person or an organisation.
        Although Stalin was clearly a monster, the opium of the masses arguement holds water. The Russian revolution happened because the Russian peasants were so horribly and utterly oppressed, an oppression that the orthodox church helped them bear, rather than helped them change. The orthodox church before the revolution was a tool of oppression, keeping the peasants in their place.

  • Grizzz

    My father was a tried and true, dyed in the wool Catholic for most of my youth and young adult years. He and I would clash horribly over the dogma and nonsense. I was forced to go to Church School and Sunday School but the thing is, I have a distinct recollection at around age 7 of how much BULLSHIT the entire Catholic rhetoric was. I rebelled and got booted out of Church School like clockwork. 

    Yes, my father and I would simply clash over this, until the final straw came when the priest leading the class started to ask about the creation of the earth etc….(this was circa 1976 – the Vatican had not yet come out and said Evolution is A OK….) and I raised my hand and asked “What about evolution?” The priest let into me something fierce and I thought – at age 7 mind you – what BS.

    I think it was at that point I became an atheist – no joke, no BS. 

    The turn comes that about ten years ago my father began realizing the folly and poison of religion and faith. He is now a very vocal atheist, so much so he has a weekly column in his local newspaper. The column is dedicated to freethinking, atheism and skepticism.

    Hitchslap

    • randall.morrison90

      Citation please.

      Thanks in advance.

      • Guest.

        Do you not believe he’s telling the truth about his life or do you want to read the column for guidance?  FWIW, the world will be a better place when “citation please” drops out of the rhetorical toolbox.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          I think there are very valid times to use “citation please”.  For example “kids are not allowed to pray in schools” is often repeated because someone hears it on Beck or Limbaugh.  When you push them on it and dig deeper you find they’re talking about one or two cases where a school was seriously incorrect, and the decision didn’t stand.

          Or people know there’s some supreme court case that banned Christmas trees but not Menorahs.  Again, you have to find out what case they’re talking about and read the decision to find out what it really means.

          And not that it’s just “one side”.  Everyone pulls this and we end up with too much bullshit and misinformation flying around.

  • Guest

    So, who would have ever heard of Peter Hitchens if not for his brother?

    • randall.morrison90

      Everybody in London and other major English cities.

      • WoodyTanaka

        So, I guess the question should read: aside from people in some backwater in the English-speaking world, who would have ever heard of Peter Hitchens if not for his brother.

  • Drakk

    Abortion also, alas, engenders more abortion — as once this procedure is
    approved of, it becomes one of many encouragements to casual, loveless
    sexual relations.

    Someone else is having sex and I’m not!

  • Samoore0

    How emberassing for Hitch to have a brother like this.  Of course now that his Christopher is dead he is free to cast dispersions on him that he cannot defend for himself.  Such as, “I thought them (his arguments) unoriginal, trivial and often ill-informed, though sometimes entertainingly expressed. ”  The last thing Christopher ever was was “unoriginal, trivial and often ill-informed”!  Here we have another case of a religious idiot turning reality right on it’s ear and stating it as fact.  He should be embarrased to be making money of his brother’s sur name and change his name to prevent any confusion between the two. 

  • Annie Oakley

    I detected no softening of Christophers stance on atheism in his last years. He wrote, debated and did interviews.

    I used to work for a Xtian gift company. Seeing the sad platitudes (Have a blessed day) juxtaposed with the cut throat business tactics used by the large retailers against this small vendor was one of the things that started to turn me off of religion.

    Hitchslap. 

  • Octoberfurst

     I had no idea that Chris had a Bible-believing brother. I am sure it made family get-togethers “interesting.”

  • Bryan

    Pretty much everybody in my family (extended or otherwise) is a Christian. Luckily, my mom and step-dad are at least willing to talk about our differing beliefs without blowing a gasket; we can discuss religion/atheism rationally up to a certain point, usually the “I just feel it!” moment, but I’m never made to feel less-than for my atheistic beliefs. Of course, pretty much every birthday/get well/whatever card we get from relatives has a Christian theme, but I’d rather have that than ostracism.

    Hitchslap

  • EllieMurasaki

    Every so often my mother, observing me struggling with some part of life, says words to the effect of, “I know you’re an atheist, but try praying.”

    I can think of no circumstance in which it would not be better for the baby to be born and adopted.

    This is how we know he has never been raped, never been wondering about his chances of surviving pregnancy and childbirth, never had to contemplate the certainty of his baby dying before or shortly after birth, never had to wonder whether it’s better to abort one fetus and thus guarantee the survival of the other or to risk their both dying, never been staring at paystubs barely adequate to get him by and trying to figure out how to make the income numbers enough bigger to pay for everything a baby needs, never been at risk of social ostracism because his pregnancy makes it clear that he’s violated the local sexual rules of conduct…I mean, he has a penis so we knew most of that already, but that line really gets the point across.

    Hitchslap

    • allein

      After every sentence of his response to that question I found myself yelling in my head, “But never mind the MOTHER!” Notice she is nowhere in his answer.

  • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

    It really is all about controlling access to sex with women for them. I can’t believe it’s taken me so many years to see through all of their bullshit.

    Must control women! Women must serve men!

    My ex’s brother and sister-in-law are born again nutjobs. When they found out I was pro-choice, an atheist and a feminist they nearly had aneurisms on the spot. I received the cold shoulder from that point on at family gatherings. While I bear no ill will toward my ex, her brother and SIL can go piss up a rope.

    Hitchslap.

  • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

     “Actually the communism of the Russian revolution, a vague economic
    theory, crudely applied, is a small part of the event. Probably more
    important were the culturally revolutionary aspects of it, the rejection
    of lifelong marriage, the liberation of abortion, the absence of
    private life, the worship of power.”

    I thought Communist Russia was very pronatalist and anti-abortion.

  • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

    My mom is a devout Southern Baptist.  When I was a teenager she forced me to go to church even when I explained to her that I didn’t like her church and had different religious opinions.  She’s always looking anticipating the moment when she will be swept away with the other faithful believers in the Christian rapture, and she refuses to accept my unbelief because I “asked Jesus into my heart” when I was 7. 

    Hitchslap

  • Betsy

    Ugh.  My brother is an avid follower of Limbaugh and many other of the white, straight, males who feel slighted in society.  I am his atheist, lesbian, feminist, vegetarian sister who happens to be a medical provider.  He loves my partner of 20 years.  He calls me all the time for medical advice and when he needs something, and to let me know when he’s eaten a juicy steak just for fun.  

    He has made it known that he will vote to amend our states constitution this year so that it bans same sex marriage in the constitution.  Somehow his 25 year marriage is better?

    HITCHSLAP

  • http://twitter.com/Dofang Dofang

    I once said to my father, who sees compassion and charity as a form of weakness, “I’m more of a Christian than you are!”  He is in desperate need of a …

    hitchslap

  • Rapunzel

    A few years ago, after half a lifetime of pretending and hiding, I came out as a lesbian to my traditionalist-Catholic mother and told her about my girlfriend.  She tried for days to tell me that I wasn’t actually gay, that this was just a phase, that it was wrong and sinful and I had to fight against it.

    “But it’s LOVE,” I insisted.  “And if God is love, then how could it be sinful?  God loves us all unconditionally, right?”

    “That’s not true!” Mom shot back.  “God’s love is VERY conditional!  You can’t just live your life any way you want and expect God to still love you!”

    “Whoa, Mom, wait, hang on.  You always told me that a mother’s love was unconditional.  What, are you trying to tell me that you love more than God does?”

    She was silent, and a sick, heavy weight filled my gut.  My mother wasn’t saying that her love was greater than God’s.  She was saying that her love was just like God’s: conditional on my performance.  If I failed to conform to the preset standards of her and her God (who, amazingly, agreed on everything), then there would be no love for me.

    A few months after that conversation, I was disowned, extorted for over fifteen thousand dollars, had most of my furniture repossessed, and was halfway down the road to becoming an atheist.  It only took a few more months of research to allow me to fully cast off my faith.  Now, however, I have a great job with a recent promotion, new furniture, wonderful friends, and my girlfriend is now my fiancee!

    Hitchslap

    • LesterBallard

      All of that sucks, and is bullshit, but how, if I may ask, were you extorted out of fifteen thousand dollars?

  • allein

    Religion’s not a huge topic of conversation in my family, but most of them are at least nominally religious, as far as I can tell. A couple of years ago I was at my uncle’s Superbowl party reading Dawkins’s Greatest Show on Earth (hey, I need something to do between commercials!). My uncle asked what I was reading and I showed him the cover. He sort of sighed and said “Evolution is impossible.” I wasn’t quite sure how to respond…that’s the first time I’ve ever had that particular subject come up in real life, and I’m not big on debating these things to begin with. Then he pulled out some fundy magazine with a cover story of 6 reasons evolution is wrong or some such BS and said I should read it. I told I’d already read it (which was true, I’d come across it online some time earlier) and wasn’t convinced. Subject sort dropped after that.

    I also have another uncle who is very Catholic. A couple years ago at Thanksgiving I was looking at the bookcase in his office and noticed it is almost entirely filled with Bible commentaries, Bible encyclopedias, right-wing religious propaganda books, and apparently every religious pamphlet ever put out by his church. When he said grace at dinner he actually got choked up; I tend to look around the room during grace and caught my brother’s eye; he looked as uncomfortable as I felt. (Last year my uncle skipped grace altogether, which I found interesting…I’m curious to see what he’ll do this year).

    Hitchslap

  • Reginald Selkirk

    and by the dehumanizing designation of unborn babies as ‘foetuses’

    Dude, learn some effing biology.

    There is nothing intelligent, nor interesting about Peter Hitchens’ views on religion and atheism. The only reason anyone would bother interviewing him, or ask him to write a book on the topic, is the identity of his brother. And that’s not a very good reason.

  • hotshoe

    I’m a “gnu atheist”, and am sad because my sister – whom I love more than anyone else in my family  - converted to Catholicism, of all the stupid things!  I find it hard to accept the truth of Peter’s claim that he was more distant from his brother when they were both atheists.  That is so far from my own experience … there is no barrier at all to closeness between me and my sister except her brainwashed religiosity.  I can barely stop myself from swearing at her foolishness when I see her cross herself, or when she says she is praying for somebody.  It is really a huge wedge between us.  So sad.  Religion poisons everything. 
    Thanks to Trevor for sharing this interview.Hitchslap

  • kate

    I have differing religious views with nearly everyone in my family, especially my mom.  We have a rather ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ thing going on these days though, which is ok. If she ever asked, I’d definitely tell her I’m an athiest, but until she asks or it comes up, we’re just ignoring the topic, mostly.

    As for abortion, it was funny that I became 100% pro-choice once I was pregnant for the first time.  And yes, I had her, and my other two wonderful kids. But I think until you’re actually lived through that whole-body takeover yourself, perhaps you shouldn’t have an opinion on it.

    Hitchslap

  • ImRike

    In Germany, church tax (tithes) is automatically deducted from your paycheck unless you officially resign from church. When I decided to do that, my mom, who was marginally catholic, tried to talk me out of it “just in case”!

    Hitchslap

  • DougI

    I wonder if Hitchens is consistent in his opposition to women’s personal autonomy.  If he hates their right to choose regarding reproduction is he also opposed to it when it comes to sex?  If he’s consistent he would advocate rape as well since he thinks he has authority over a woman’s body.

  • Chris

    I am an atheist (more appropriatley an anti-theist), and my father is a minister. I’ve never brought up my atheism with my family because I have no idea how they will react. My father and I already have a strained relationship, and I think that for me to tell him that I reject generations of family tradition would be too much. I think he would see it as me rejecting him (which it most certainly isn’t). Since I don’t have the courage to tell my family how I feel, I just suck it up every holiday and listen to prayers and get sucked into attending church at holidays for family support. This leaves me feeling quite isolated in my beliefs, which is why I spend so much time lurking on blogs such as this one; it’s nice to know I’m not alone.

    Hitchslap

    - Chris

  • smrnda

    He leaps on the ‘correlation does not imply causation’ like stock phrase, in the same way many people use it without thought.  When nations with high standards of living and low levels of social problems are nearly all areligious, we really ought to be investigating whether it has an effect because we can kind of control for other factors – comparing the US to Western Europe is comparing nations with a similar level of modernity and some similarities in culture and government structure. I mean, the US looks much worse than Canada in terms of these factors, much worse than Western Europe. The main problem is ideas that would dismissed as utter stupidity in the other countries one is obliged to treat seriously in the US not because the ideas have any merit, but because they represent someone’s ‘emotionally and personally significant deep-seated personal belief,’ whether it’s the idea that people coexisted with dinosaurs and rode them with saddles, that trickle down economics works, or that global warming is a hoax. A large reason why bullshit is taken seriously in the US is religion.

    The way he uses the phrase he’s clearly not a person who does any sort of statistical research.

  • Ouigui

    My partner and I had a commitment ceremony / totally non-legal wedding 13 years ago in a gorgeous neo-Gothic UU church in Chicago. (It was one of the only places we could tolerate the theology.) Many of our friends and family attended, but the more fundamentalist family members pointedly stayed away.

    Several years later, one of my husband’s fundie aunts was telling his mom about some friends of hers who had gotten married. One of them had previously been widowed and was receiving survivor benefits. To avoid losing those benefits, the couple decided not to get legally married, but just to have a church wedding. “Although it’s not official, they’re married in the eyes of God, which is all that matters,” said the aunt.

    “Oh,” replied her sister. “You mean, just like my son and his husband.”

    There was no reply to that. Hitchslap!

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    I credit my mother for my being an atheist from a very young age.    When I was growing up, she was quite anti-Christian, and bounced around a bunch of new age and Native American, and even an end-of-times conspiracy involving Lake Titicaca.

    Ironically, some time after I left home, she had a total conversion and was born again.

    Hitchslap.

  • Peter Hitchens

    So, which questions did I dodge, precisley? And how did I dodge them?

  • snoozn

    Luckily, while my extended family is mostly religious, they are pretty progressive, so we don’t have too many problems with each other. I do remember when my oldest daughter was little and I’d been taking her to church even though I wasn’t really a believer (long story!) and being the passionate kind of kid she was, she was really into talking about God and religion. She started her first day of first grade at a new school and she brought home some of the stuff she’d made and it was all about God and Jesus. I was sure the teacher was going to think we were fundamentalist nutcases. (She’s a pretty outspoken atheist these days!)

    Hitchslap

  • http://profiles.google.com/conticreative Marco Conti

    I grew up in a lapsed catholic family. No one is religious. My grandmother was the last to go to church regularly (often dragging me and my brother).
    Religion is in fact openly ridiculed in family conversations and the only time they go to church is the usual christmas, easter, funerals, wedding and baptisms.

    When my daughter was born over 20 years ago, it didn’t even cross my mind to have her baptized. I lived an ocean away from the rest of my family and even if I wanted to, I would have had to find a church in the yellow pages.

    That’s why I was absolutely floored when my own brother, whom I thought at least an “Apatheist” if not an atheist like me, severely reprimanded me for not baptizing my daughter.

    That to me was confirmation that religion makes people crazy. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and I figured he was trying to keep up the family traditions. But he eventually came at me with a “what if she dies without the sacrament” argument that left me speechless.

    Since then, I have had much less respect for my brother. Less than if he actually was fervently religious. At least I can appreciate consistency, but this vague pseudo-religiosity made me realize that were we not brothers, we probably would not have been friends.

    I still care and love him. He is my brother, but I do not respect him as much anymore.

    Hitchslap

  • Jim Pierce

    Two years ears ago I had a strange conversation with one of my aunts, who has left the Roman Catholic Church in which she was born and for most of her adult life a communicant and become a member of a Pentecostal congregation . In the course of the sort of conversation which should be familiar to most undergraduates (How are your courses? Are you also working? What do you hope to do when you have earned your degree?), I happened to mention that I was attending Mass again and had been doing so for several months. Normally a very genial person, her tone immediately became hostile. How, she asked, could I continue to be a practicing Roman Catholic in light of the “abuse crisis.” When I pointed out to her that the “crisis” had only a statistical existence (i.e., there are millions of Catholic priests in the world, and in any given human population that large, there are bound to be viciously immoral persons, however few), instead of responding, she said that she wanted to speak to another family member and walked away.

    Hitchslap.


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