Pearly Gates, etc.

The rule of three suggests that there ought to be a joke. It all but requires that there be a joke.

“So Christopher Hitchens, Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong Il are standing at the Pearly Gates. And St. Peter says …”

I’m afraid I can’t figure out how the rest of it goes. Part of my problem is that I don’t much care for the set-up. It’s a standard trope, and we should honor the classics, but the whole Pearly Gates thing still bugs me.

It’s not that I don’t find some jokes with this set-up funny. I do — “… Fanny, I think we’re in trouble,” “… but while he drove, people prayed,” “I just have to gargle with it,” etc. All well and good.

But when I try to imagine creating such a joke myself, some literal-minded, evangelical chapter-and-verse part of my brain kicks in. I start thinking about how the biblical idea of “pearly gates” isn’t about Heaven. That bit is from the end of Revelation, from John’s description of the New Jerusalem — which comes down from Heaven to here on Earth. And in that city “each of the gates is a single pearl” and those gates “will never be shut.”

And then that gets me thinking about how the otherworldliness of American soterians (thank you, Scot McKnight, for that word) distorts the essential substance of our faith, which in turn gets me thinking about how that otherworldliness became ascendant in the context of slavery and a deliberate blindness — a choice to neglect the this-worldly fate of so many of our neighbors. Then that, of course, gets me thinking about how our focus on the powerful and famous keeps us from seeing the very “powerless” about whom Havel wrote so beautifully and whom Jesus loved (and St. Peter, too, eventually). And then I start to think that maybe this set-up isn’t actually all that funny, since it requires us to pretend that these three would be all alone there at the Pearly Gates instead of being surrounded by the thousands of others who also died this past week, unmentioned and mostly — but not entirely — unmourned, most of them dying due to easily preventable causes arising from unjust patterns of distribution that persist not because we are unable to correct them but only because we are unwilling to do so.

And then, again, I’m back to chapter-and-verse, back to the eschatological hope of John’s revealing, and to those scenes he describes of “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” and of the promise that:

They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat;
for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

And clearly by that point I’m just not in the proper frame of mind for figuring out how our narcissist/hero/madman Pearly Gates joke is supposed to go.

I’m still pretty sure there’s a joke there somewhere, but somebody else is going to have to write it.

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  • Anonymous

    The funnier version probably uses Kim claiming to be God as the punchline. The more insightful version probably contrasts Havel saying something wise/modest against the arrogance of the other 2.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I’m suddenly reminded of the Asimov story about how jokes evolve among humans. Nobody ever seems to know who originated a joke, but boy, do they sure propagate.

  • Scifantasy

    The one I heard was “I’m pretty sure God let Hitchens and Havel decide the third one.”

  • http://nagamakironin.blogspot.com/ Michael Mock

    Heh.

    “So Christopher Hitchens, Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong Il are standing at the Pearly Gates. And St. Peter says …”

    …”Why are you talking to me, boys? The gates are always open. I’m just here to greet you.”

  • Anonymous

    The part that annoys me is that the joke is just another front in the ghoulish picking over of the recently dead Christians are so fond of doing whenever a famous non-Christian dies. 

  • Tonio

    the joke is just another front in the ghoulish picking over of the
    recently dead Christians are so fond of doing whenever a famous
    non-Christian dies.

    It should be possible to craft such a joke without descending into that level of Nelsonian immaturity. (I mean Nelson from The Simpsons.) But I remember when Strom Thurmond died, one cartoonist had the old race-baiter arriving at the Pearly and the angel at the gate was black, with a sign reading “We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone.”

    But when I try to imagine creating such a joke myself, some
    literal-minded, evangelical chapter-and-verse part of my brain kicks in.

    That possibility hadn’t occurred to me. Fred’s point is largely parochial in that most people outside of evangelical Christianity probably visualize heaven and hell from cartoons and from jokes like the one he describes. Similar to how a Far Side entry had a male mosquito remaking about spreading malaria, when it’s actually the female that does the biting.

    Here’s an actual contest about crafting such a joke. Scroll down to “Cochran, Schiavo, Perdue and Wojtyla”:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A30581-2005Apr6

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    So Christopher Hitchens, Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong Il are standing at the Pearly Gates. And St. Peter says “Please wait here; there’s one hundred and fifty thousand people in line ahead of you.”

  • Anonymous

    Not on the joke but on the ‘new’ Jerusalem having gates. 

    Sometime ago a youngster asked me why would the ‘new’ Jerusalem have gates?  I told her it was so people could pass thru the city walls that surround it.  ‘Why would it be surrounded by a wall?’ she asked.  It was then I realized that she had never seen a city protected by walls. All the cities she knew were modern and had no walls to keep invaders out.  I had no answer for her.  Why would the ‘new’ Jerusalem have, or need, walls?  In the world that ‘new’ Jerusalem comes to walls to keep things out is a sign of paranoia, not of prudent caution it was 2000 years ago.  

    From the mouths of children……

  • Anonymous

    Walls weren’t just for security in pre-modern cities. They were the boundary between the cultured world and the wild world. So they weren’t just a fence, they were a big sign saying, “You have arrived.”

  • Anonymous

    I always chalked it up to This Is The Way Things Are.  John of Patmos had never seen a large city without walls, so a New Jerusalem would need walls around it because That’s What Cities Are Like.

  • Fade M

    DiscreteComponent, I always thought of the walls of New Jerusalem as being…well, an architectural feature. Like the roofs of houses (with no rain or scorching sun to be kept away), the doors and windows (with no thieves or mosquitoes to keep out), and so forth. Partly a way of defining the space, and partly an object of art.

    But then, I grew up in a house with walls all around the property, and I thought they were beautiful. I’ve missed them ever since; flat green lawns that run right up to the sidewalk just can’t compare to the look of a good wall, or the beauty of really good iron gates.

  • John

    There’s an older version with Brezhnev, Mao and Alexander Dubcek. Brezhnev and Mao both petition St. Peter to destroy each other’s countries. Then Dubcek says, “If you’ve taken care of their requests, I’ll just have a cup of tea.”

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    To play off of JRoth’s observations:

    The Funny Version:

    The three arrive at the Gates. First, St. Peter says to Havel:
    “Step forward, enter, and finally see at the beauty you have had faith in your whole life.”
    Then St. Peter says to Hitchens:
    “You may enter, but you must walk backwards, with your eyes to the ground, as you have spent your whole life denying the beauty of this other world.”
    Then Kim Jong speaks up:
    “I have already entered this glorious paradise, and am currently enjoying the many-but-inferior-to-North-Korean glories!”

    The Insightful version:

    St. Peter says to Kim Jong: “You have spent your life trying to create glories through the sweat of your people. Now enter, and see the glories of Heaven.”
    Then he turns to Hitch: “You have spent your life seeing only the wonders of nature. Now enter, and behold the wonders of Heaven.”
    Then he turns to Havel, and Havel says: “You have spent an eternity telling others of glory and wonder. Why don’t I watch the gate for a little while, so you can see those things for yourself?”

  • Anonymous

    I’m just going to stick with the good, the bad, and the ugly. I do like MM’s version though.

  • ASoSounds

    The New Jerusalem would have walls because it represents the Holiness of the city. To be Holy means to be separate or “set apart from” something else. The walls clearly divide the city from its surroundings and represent the division between all that is Holy and all that is not. 

    There is also the understand that walls fortify and represent strength and security. 

  • 2-D Man

    So Christopher Hitchens, Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong Il are standing at the Pearly Gates. Vaclav Havel says that they’ll spend an eternity in paradise together. Kim Jong Il says North Korea is better. Christopher Hitchens points out that the Pearly Gates is a pub and he’s going to get a scotch.

  • Helena

    Fred’s never made me mad before, but who the hell is he to call Hitchens a narcissist because he doesn’t believe in Fred’s fairy tales? Its time for Fred to grow up and admit that there is no magic, nothing supernatural, and no god, no life after death, no fall, no salvation. Reason tells me that, the same as it tells Fred that. I don’t disbeleive because of self-love. Why does Fred want to believe what is obviously false so desperately? Because he’d have to admit his grandmother was dead wrong and is now just dead, or something like that? It some kind of personal psychological reason, and he needs to get over it.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic


    Fred’s never made me mad before, but who the hell is he to call Hitchens a narcissist because he doesn’t believe in Fred’s fairy tales?

    What makes you think that?  What on earth could possibly make you think that?  Of all of the possible reasons for someone to call Hitchens a narcissist, why would you assume that that was the one Fred was going with?

    Personally, I’d assume that it was tied up with Hitchens assumption of his own rightness.  If he knew your gender or appearance (or, worse, both) he thought he knew you.  He thought he knew you right down to such basic elements of what made your sense of humor tick because he was Christopher fucking Hitchens and that meant he knew you better than you know yourself based on your gender and his abundant and obvious rightness alone.

    There are all kinds of reasons to call the man a narcissist, I don’t think many of them have much to do with religion.

  • Tonio

    Uh, when did Fred call Hitchens a narcissist? I checked this post and the previous one that mentioned him. While I disapprove of calling any religion “fairly tales,” too many responses to such name-calling sound to me like expressions of privilege.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Christopher Hitchens, Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong Il
    our narcissist/hero/madman

    I agree with Dea Syria/Helena Constantine that the terms in the second quote from Fred are meant to apply to the people in the first, in that order.  Thus I agree that Hitchens is being called a narcissist.  I disagree with the assumption that the reason is because Hitchens disagrees with Fred’s religion.

    I also disagree that describing religion as, “fairy tales” “obviously false” “dead wrong” and a result of some psychological reason that one one needs to get over is acceptable.

    I don’t think it’s acceptable for Helena to say that reason tells Fred his religion is false any more than I think that it is acceptable for certain Christians to say that atheists know Christianity is true and they’re just in denial.

  • Tonio

    I reread the penultimate paragraph of Fred’s post and found the narcissist reference. I’ve read only a few of Hitchens’ essays, and have not read God is Not Great, so I don’t know how Fred concluded that the man was a narcissist. Would it be obvious from his writings that, say, he had an elevated self-worth coupled with fragile self-esteem and an inability to tolerate criticism?

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    I have not read God is Not Great so you’re not on any better footing than I am there.  I’ve just read stuff by him scattered around the internet.  The thing I most recently read from him (which is not to say that it the most recently written thing of his that I have read, it probably isn’t) isn’t about religion.  It’s about how women aren’t funny and it was exactly as much fun as it sounds.  I had several other things to do at the time, and didn’t actually read the whole thing.  I have other stuff to do now (my dog is barking as I type) and this will not read the whole thing now either.

    Others might have a different experience, but for me it was a painful slog.

    I should point out, and this has nothing to do with Hitchens, that to be a narcissist (a many meaninged word if ever there was one) does not necessarily mean that one cannot tolerate criticism nor does it always imply a fragile self-esteem.  Some narcissists tolerate criticism well and have a difficult to damage self-esteem because they think so highly of themselves that the criticism must be wrong in their eyes and thus does not bother them or harm their self worth.

  • Tonio

    to be a narcissist (a many meaninged word if ever there was one) does
    not necessarily mean that one cannot tolerate criticism nor does it
    always imply a fragile self-esteem.

    Oh. I was using the DSM criteria. I wasn’t even sure if the word had any meaning outside of the realm of mental health.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    When the term was first introduced 124 years ago it was by a psychologist, but my personal experience is that most of the times I hear it used it has a colloquial meaning.

    I always feel strangely about quoting wikipedia because I don’t consider it to be an authoritative source, but here I think it does a good job when opens with, “Narcissism is a term with a wide range of meanings, depending on whether it is used to describe a central concept of psychoanalytic theory, a mental illness, a social or cultural problem, or simply a personality trait.”

  • Helena

    Some people think the earth is flat. it is perfectly acceptable to point that they are wrong, even though they do so on the basis of the bible saying it is.

    It is just as acceptable to say that there is no life-after-death, no god, etc. Because they are simple statements of the truth.

  • Anonymous

    Helena, people are still perplexed by your immediate jump to the conclusion that Fred was labeling Hitchens a narcissist solely (or even at all) because of his atheism. It might possibly be a reasonable leap (or even a short step) to take in the case of a number of other writers, but Fred? Fred Clark, who has consistently, over the many years of this blog’s existence here and at the original slacktivist site, demonstrated a complete willingness to engage with atheists, take their criticisms seriously, and acknowledge and try to push back against the failings, intolerance and sloppy reasoning of many of his co-religionists? That Fred? That’s a startlingly unfair reading of his intent behind that one single word.

    (Not to mention that there’s no shortage of agnostics and atheists who also think Hitchens was a narcissist, though most of the ones I know find Fred’s wording inadequate, and over the past week I’ve heard and read them loading on adjectives like “raging,” “smug” and “bilious.”)

    Other commenters have asked you how you can square your rage with (a) Fred’s past writings, (b) the fact that people all across the —theist spectrum have thought he was a narcissist, and (c) your own past comments on this blog, which are hard to reconcile with “Fred has never made me angry before.” But you haven’t responded, or acknowledged their questions at all. What gives, please?

  • Anonymous

    (And by “he was a narcissist” I obviously mean Hitchens, not Fred–I could probably chase around the Internet and find twenty tributes, from writers who genuinely admire Hitchens and feel indebted to his writing in shaping their own voices, that bluntly admit the man could be arrogant, self-important, smug and in love with his own voice as all hell. For Fred, I could probably find… well, you, I guess.)

  • vsm

    Helena is what we in the business call an obvious troll. There’s very little point in feeding her.

  • Joshua

    But you haven’t responded, or acknowledged their questions at all. What gives, please?

    Helena is a troll. Trolls do not post in good faith, and typically do not respond to questions unless they see a way to provoke people by doing so.

    Best practice on the internet is to ignore them, as the only other way to deal with them is to ban them, which is not fully effective and which Fred doesn’t choose to do often.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    It can be inferred from the last second-to-last paragraph. N

  • Helena

    its in the second to last line of the post.

    Defending the truth is not an appeal to privilege. And the truth is, the supernatural doesn’t exist.

  • http://brandiweed.livejournal.com/ Brandi

    Dear Helena: quit making my side look like stupid, petulant children. Thank you.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    who the hell is he to call Hitchens a narcissist because he doesn’t believe in Fred’s fairy tales?

    Actually, Hitchens gets described as a narcissist because of the consistently arrogant, self-aggrandizing tone of his writings and his public appearances, regardless of the subject he’s discussing. (religion, the Iraq war, women and comedy, etc. etc. etc.) His atheism doesn’t make him a narcissist, his behavior does. Even folks who liked his work and respected him saw him as a self-important provocatuer.

    Its time for Fred to grow up and admit that there is no magic, nothing supernatural, and no god, no life after death, no fall, no salvation. Reason tells me that, the same as it tells Fred that. I don’t disbeleive because of self-love.

    As an atheist, I’d like to apologize to the other folks on this board. We’re not all like this. True, most atheists do go through a “jerk” phase, but then, so do a lot of born-again Christians.

    Reason tells you that there’s probably no magic, probably nothing supernatural, and probably no God and no life after death. Reason also tells us that concepts like a ‘fall from grace and ‘spirtual salvation’ can function as metaphors for human development and behavior, a means of teaching quickly and efficently, often to people who may not immediately understand the underlying behavior and psychology.

    Reason also tells me that there is no such thing as a grape-eating, talking fox; that doesn’t mean that Aesop’s Fable of The Fox and the Grapes has no value or merit.

    Based on the hostile, angry tone, I wouldn’t accuse you of an abundance of self-love.

    . Why does Fred want to believe what is obviously false so desperately?

    It’s really nice to have a textbook example of question-begging. “obviously false” presumes an argument not made.

    It’s also fun to see such transparent derailing, taking the subject away from it’s original matter to an attack on the author’s beliefs.

    Because he’d have to admit his grandmother was dead wrong and is now just dead, or something like that? It some kind of personal psychological reason, and he needs to get over it.

    Most pyschological reasons are personal. Why, exactly, does he need to “get over it”? What harm is being done, and to whom? Fred shows great insight, compassion, ethics, and morality in his blog, and the source of those things are his faith and his readings of religious scripture. Do you reall think it’s important that he throw all of that over the side and start over to meet your lofty standards?

    Maybe you’ve forgotten what your own deconversion was like. Or maybe your experience was different from most. But for most people, the loss of faith, the destruction of an entire system that underlies many deeply held beliefs and motivates ethics and morality is a terribly traumatic event that I would not force on anyone. I would no sooner demand that Fred or any other believer “get over it” than I would wish their homes and possessions be consumed in a fire.

  • Anonymous

    I’m pretty sure that Fred didn’t label Hitchens a narcissist because the man was an atheist but because the man had an over inflated view of himself and his opinions.  I mean, I’m an agnostic and I can think of plenty of less than flattering things to call Hitchens, none of which have anything to do with his atheism.

  • Lori

    Fred’s never made me mad before, but who the hell is he to call Hitchens a narcissist because he doesn’t believe in Fred’s fairy tales? Its time for Fred to grow up and admit that there is no magic, nothing supernatural, and no god, no life after death, no fall, no salvation. Reason tells me that, the same as it tells Fred that. I don’t disbeleive because of self-love. Why does Fred want to believe what is obviously false so desperately? Because he’d have to admit his grandmother was dead wrong and is now just dead, or something like that? It some kind of personal psychological reason, and he needs to get over it.

    Speaking as one atheist to another, the fact that you believe that Fred called Hitchens a narcissist because of his atheism says a great deal about you and your personal psychological reasons and nothing at all about Fred and his.

    Hitchens was a narcissistic ass. The fact that we had a shared lack of belief in God didn’t keep me from seeing that. I didn’t trade my belief in God for some sort of atheist personality cult. If you did, that’s on you.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Dea?

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Yes.  If you check her account you’ll find that, between when she called herself Helena Constantine and when she decided to go with just plain Helena, she went through a period of calling herself Dea Syria.  I have no objections to people changing names, but I do find it confusing to keep track of.

    Especially since it’s not even indicated in one’s profile.  It doesn’t say a given thing is “posted as [whatever]” it just says where it was posted.  You have to actually go to the thread she posted in, and see what the name on the post is to find out what name she was using.  If you don’t do that then you’d probably think the only name she ever used was the one she’s using now.

    If I hadn’t tried to figure out the context of one of her previous posts (one where she makes a Godzilla reference) I wouldn’t have known she had used more than one name.

  • Anonymous

    I believe he was calling Hitchens a narcissist because he was as much of a dick about the whole religion thing as you’re acting like in your post.

    You’re an atheist.  Fine, more power to you!  However, it’s none of my business what religious beliefs and practices other people do or do not engage in, so please do not make it my business by going on and on about how irrational it is to believe in anything supernatural.  It honestly starts sounding like the lady doth protest too much after a while.

  • Anonymous

    Christopher Hitchens, Kim Jong-Il, and Vaclav Havel walk up to the Pearly Gates. Saint Peter says to Christopher Hitchens, “Come on in, and be healed of your arrogance.”  But Christopher Hitchens said “Join the mentally castrated slaves of the tyrant God? There’s nothing for me here!” So Christopher Hitchens turned away from the Pearly Gates and walked into Hell.

    Then Saint Peter said to Kim Jong-Il, “Come on in, and be healed of your madness.” But Kim Jong-Il said “The Sun of the Nation, the World Leader of the 21st Century, the Glorious General Who Descended From Heaven submit to the correction of Western imperialists? Never! There’s nothing for me here!” So Kim Jong-Il turned away from the Pearly Gates and walked into Hell.

    Then Saint Peter said to Vaclav Havel, “Come on in, and be healed of your pain.” But Vaclav Havel said “Be healed of the pain of sympathy for others? Be liberated from the struggle for freedom? There’s nothing for me here.” So Vaclav Havel turned away from the Pearly Gates and walked into Hell.

  • Anonymous

    This is fantastic. Here’s my optional final line:

    So Vaclav Havel turned away from the Pearly Gates and followed the other two into the worst production of No Exit ever.

  • Anonymous

    Eh.  Problem here is I don’t know anything about Vaclav Havel, so I probably made him way too self-righteous in that last one.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The Insightful version:

    I like that version. :)

  • Anonymous

    I kind of sympathize with Helena, actually, because where is the critic of religion who won’t get called “arrogant,” “narcissistic,” etc. by half the planet when she dies, whatsoever else she says or does in her life? Those words are the silencing insults any atheist expects to hear for rejecting religious claims, even if said atheist personally feeds disabled war orphans.

    In her anger she goes way too far in trying to erase and silence Fred’s perspective.  But that first clause – “Fred’s never made me angry before” – is kind of revealing, I think.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    In her anger she goes way too far in trying to erase and silence Fred’s perspective.  But that first clause – “Fred’s never made me angry before” – is kind of revealing, I think.

    Yeah, it means when she called Fred a Nazi* a month ago it wasn’t anger talking.

    I didn’t look at what Helena had said in the past when I originally responded to her, but now that I have I’m not sure why being told she’s never been angry at Fred before would make one sympathize with her more.  Click on her profile, browse what she’s said.  Apparently, according to her, it wasn’t said in anger.  Not when she said Fred was a Nazi, not when she said he wasn’t sane, not when she said he wasn’t sensible, not when she accused him of censorship, and so on.

    I have less sympathy being told those outbursts weren’t the result of anger than I would if I were told that they were.

    *Technically she called evangelicals Nazis and then said that what Fred was doing by not stopping being an evangelical was like saying he was a Nazi but he was a good Nazi as opposed to the bad Nazis and defending his decision to keep on being a Nazi in that way.

  • Anonymous

    Hmm. That’s revealing, though it doesn’t change my main thrust, which is that “arrogant” and “narcissistic” is an atheist stereotype and when Christopher Hitchens gets called those by religious people it burns, even if it’s true.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    I think that if you don’t know anything about Hitchens other than the fact that he was an atheist, you should ask for clarification before launching a venomous accusation that involves deeply personal speculations as to someone’s family and psychological state. You know, as a matter of courtesy and respect.

  • Anonymous

    Uh, me too. Duh.

  • Lori

    Did you just “duh”, Charity? If so this might be a good time for you to consider quitting while you’re (not) ahead.

  • Anonymous

    Huh? What I do?

  • Lori

    At least when I was in elementary school, replying to someone with any
    version of “duh” implied that what s/he had said was stupid by virtue
    of being too obvious to need saying.  That was many, many years ago so
    perhaps the usage has changed.

  • Anonymous

    In my experience “duh” may be used this way, or it may also be used as a casual indicator of agreement without insult being intended. Nevertheless I was being rude and I apologize to Charity.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    While “duh” can be used as a sarcastic quip about another person’s failure to grasp the obvious, I have most commonly seen it used as a self-deprecating kind of apology one makes when one has missed the obvious.  For example, saying “Oh, duh, I knew that,” after someone has pointed out an omitted detail.  Kind of an expression of a “I should have realized that,” moment.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    I’m not sure what you mean. Helena took the fact that Fred implied that Hitchens was a narcissist and jumped to the conclusion that Fred was saying that because Hitchens was an atheist. In order to reach this conclusion, you would have to know almost nothing about either Fred or Hitchens, but it might have been comprehensible if she had stopped there instead of launching into a bizarre diatribe in which she speculated about his psychological state and insulted his religious beliefs. You don’t find that startling.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure what to say.  Helena’s post was unacceptable (and probably mere trolling based on what chris the cynic said), but her supposed motivation was an emotion I understood.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    Sorry, I was just confused by your post! (You would think that a three-word long post would be hard to misinterpret, but I can work wonders!)

  • Lori

    Hmm. That’s revealing, though it doesn’t change my main thrust, which is
    that “arrogant” and “narcissistic” is an atheist stereotype and when
    Christopher Hitchens gets called those by religious people it burns,
    even if it’s true.

    So we’re supposed to pretend that Hitchens wasn’t an asshat so as not to “burn” any aethists? Kind of like we’re supposed to pretend, for example, that Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul were saints in order not to upset some Catholics?

    I’m going on record as saying that I have no interest in the atheist community taking on the worst bullshit from some religious folks.

  • Anonymous

    No.  I’m just making a comment about those particular words, and how they relate to what I thought was a common stereotype.  I’m not saying anyone should pretend he was an excellent person.

  • Lori

    *Technically she called evangelicals Nazis and then said that what Fred
    was doing by not stopping being an evangelical was like saying he was a
    Nazi but he was a good Nazi as opposed to the bad Nazis and defending
    his decision to keep on being a Nazi in that way.

    Oh for Pete’s sake. Someone seriously needs to stop airing her psychological issues all over the place and calling it atheism.

  • Lori

    I kind of sympathize with Helena, actually, because where is the critic of religion who won’t
    get called “arrogant,” “narcissistic,” etc. by half the planet when she
    dies, whatsoever else she says or does in her life? Those words are the
    silencing insults any atheist expects to hear for rejecting religious
    claims, even if said atheist personally feeds disabled war orphans.

    IME “narcissist” isn’t high on the list of things asshats call atheists, living or dead.

    In any case, feeling aggrieved by Them doesn’t in any way, shape or form justify lashing out at Fred for something he didn’t say.

    In her anger she goes way too far in trying to erase and silence
    Fred’s perspective.  But that first clause – “Fred’s never made me angry
    before” – is kind of revealing, I think.

    Her anger was self-inflicted. Nothing that Fred wrote indicated that he was calling Hitchens a narcissist because he was an aethisist. Nothing that Fred has ever written about atheism backs up the idea that Fred would call Hitchens or anyone else a narcissist because s/he didn’t believe in God.

    I’m less than impressed with the declaration that Fred has never made her angry before because her unwarranted assumption makes me question how much of Fred’s writing she’s actually read.

  • Anonymous

    My version doesn’t involve the Pearly Gates, and isn’t really a joke (making it a “version” only in the loosest way, I suppose):

    Christopher Hitchens, Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong Il:  one of these is not like the others.  Which one, and how?

    My answer is that Vaclav Havel used his influence and power for peace.  Others undoubtedly would have other answers.

  • vsm

    My answer is that Vaclav Havel used his influence and power for peace.

    As I pointed out in the other thread, Havel threw his considerable prestige behind the exact same illegal war as Hitchens. This doesn’t erase his previous achievements and bravery, but it should not be forgotten.

  • Anonymous

    Did he?  I didn’t know that.  This is disheartening.

  • vsm

    It wasn’t an uncommon position among the Eastern European intellectuals and former leaders who’d played their parts in the fall of the Eastern Block. Poland’s Lech Wałęsa was also a supporter.

  • konrad_arflane

    Yeah, I can play that game: Hitchens was never Head of State anywhere.

    Or how about this: Kim Jong Il was the only one of the bunch who was a murderous tyrant? Seriously, are you saying that Hitchens had more in common with Kim Jong Il than with Havel? In that case, I think you need to read up on North Korea a bit.

    (oh yeah, another one: Unlike the others, Kim Jong Il didn’t support the Iraq war.)

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I don’t think Kim Jong-Il gave much of a damn about anyone or anything except Kim Jong-Il.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    I will note that Hitchens did admit when he was wrong: specifically about waterboarding, which is a huge thing I don’t think any other advocates of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ have done.  

    The issue about women and humor, which is something I believe him to be utterly wrong about, is basically a matter of opinion–no more wrong than I am to prefer heavy metal music over, say, country. His anti-Islamic pieces were at the core racist, IMO. 

  • Anonymous

    I’ve got to agree with elms.  Women aren’t a genre, they’re a varied and diverse group of people.  It isn’t at all the same as preferring a type of music.  You’re willing to admit that he could be racist, why not admit that he could also be sexist.

    Didn’t some newsperson submit to waterboarding and change his mind, too?  I swear there was someone else…

  • elms

    Women aren’t funny isn’t a matter of opinion.  It’s a load of sexist shite.  “This woman isn’t funny” or “I haven’t heard any female comedians who made me laugh” – those might be opinions, though the first is stated as if it were a fact for all people.  “Women aren’t funny” is making a categorically determination that women -can’t- say things that are funny.  Even if we then give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he means ‘that I find funny’, he’s still assuming that all women are alike enough to make all and only the same jokes.

    Which is sexist bull.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  Not opinion.

  • Ian

    Typo in Morilore’s joke: 

    …Then Saint Peter said to Vaclav Havel, “Come on in, and be healed of your pain.” But Vaclav Havel said “Be healed of the pain of sympathy for others? Be liberated from the struggle for freedom? There’s nothing for me here.” So Vaclav Havel turned away from the Pearly Gates and walked into Heaven.As for Kim and Hitchens, St. Peter hands the “World’s Greatest Golfer” a set of clubs and offers Hitchens a chance to do colour commentary.  Hell for one, heaven for the other.If you don’t know anything about Havel, the thing to read is The Power of the Powerless. (1978)  Written under communism, it argues that dictatorships rely heavily on self-enforced rules and semi-conscious blindness.Excerpt: Ideology is a specious way of relating to the world. It offers human beings the illusion of an identity, of dignity, and of morality while making it easier for them to part with them. As the repository of something suprapersonal and objective, it enables people to deceive their conscience and conceal their true position and their inglorious modus vivendi, both from the world and from themselves. It is a very pragmatic but, at the same time, and apparently dignified way of legitimizing what is above, below, and on either side. It is directed toward people and toward God. It is a veil behind which human beings can hide their own fallen existence, their trivialization, and their adaptation to the status quo. It is an excuse that everyone can use, from the greengrocer, who conceals his fear of losing his job behind an alleged interest in the unification of the workers of the world, to the highest functionary, whose interest in staying in power can be cloaked in phrases about service to the working class. The primary excusatory function of ideology, therefore, is to provide people, both as victims and pillars of the post-totalitarian system, with the illusion that the system is in harmony with the human order and the order of the universe.The last few pages are about post-democratic politics, and what he proposes is eerily like Occupy Wall Street.

  • Ian

    Ouch – formatting self-destruct.

  • Tonio

    No question that Hitchens was a bigot where women and Muslims were concerned. I suspect that most Americans know him only from his book slamming religion, and perhaps also from his rantings about the Iraq war. So it’s easy to read Fred’s comment about narcissism as the typical slam of atheists as “rejecting” God out of selfishness.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=581585394 Nicholas Kapur

    For what it’s worth — and I say this as an atheist that has spent the last three days getting pissed off by some of the least pleasant things Texas Christian culture has to offer — I’ve never been aware of “narcissist” as an accusation or dogwhistly against atheists. Selfish, self-centered, arrogant, maybe proud, even, but not really “narcissistic.” I dunno, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s a subtle difference that makes it not really sound right as an atheist slur.

    Obviously, that’s just my experience, though. Has anyone else experienced differently?

    EDIT: A Google search for “atheist narcissist” only got a couple of relevant results, all of which were jackasses who thought they were the cleverest person in the world for thinking up the “someone with different views from me is just like someone who has a personality disorder!” bit.

    I’m looking at you, Dawkins.

  • Lori

    I say this as an atheist that has spent the last three days getting pissed off by some of the least pleasant things Texas Christian culture has to offer 

    Yeah, as an atheist I’m a touch more bothered by the death threats than I am by “narcissist”.

    http://www.examiner.com/atheism-in-national/christians-issue-death-threats-over-twitter-hash-tag

  • http://aris-tgd.dreamwidth.org/ Aris Merquoni

    …And St. Peter said, “The three of you have each earned the right to enter Heaven. Come and be blessed.”

    And Kim Jong-il said, “Heaven can offer nothing compared the glory of North Korea!” and he turned and walked away.

    And Christopher Hitchens said, “Hey, I spent my whole life saying that I didn’t believe in God or Heaven. I’d look like a real asshole if I took this deal now.” And so he turned around and walked off.

    And Vaclav Havel looked around, narrowed his eyes at St. Peter, and said, “You’re telling me you keep some people out? This place needs new management.” And he rolled up his sleeves and got to work.

  • Lonespark

    Nice.
    Although, for the last one, could be Havel, also sounds like Jesus, as I was raised to know him.

  • Anonymous

    Sometime ago a youngster asked me why would the ‘new’ Jerusalem have gates?  I told her it was so people could pass thru the city walls that surround it.  ‘Why would it be surrounded by a wall?’ she asked.  It was then I realized that she had never seen a city protected by walls. All the cities she knew were modern and had no walls to keep invaders out.  I had no answer for her.  Why would the ‘new’ Jerusalem have, or need, walls?  In the world that ‘new’ Jerusalem comes to walls to keep things out is a sign of paranoia, not of prudent caution it was 2000 years ago.

    Obviously, it’s because New Jerusalem is actually an arcology of sorts – one giant city-structure.

    Fred’s never made me mad before, but who the hell is he to call Hitchens a narcissist because he doesn’t believe in Fred’s fairy tales?needs to get over it.

    The fuck?  He didn’t call Hitchens a narcissist because he was an atheist.  He called him a narcissist because he’s (apparently) a self-obsessed and short-sightied individual.Now go away.

  • Anonymous

    At least it’s not a hive.

  • http://hummingwolf.livejournal.com/ Hummingwolf

    If anyone’s still trying to think of jokes, it might help to know that Vaclav Havel was a huge fan of rock music and “In January 1990, Mr. Havel appointed Mr. Zappa as Special Ambassador to the West on Trade, Culture and Tourism, and cited Mr. Zappa as one of his many sources of inspiration.”  See articles like this one:
    http://blogs.wsj.com/emergingeurope/2011/12/19/music-and-musicians-fueled-havels-drive-for-freedom/

    Havel also wrote absurdist plays, so an absurdist welcome at the Pearly Gates would make as much sense as anything.

  • Nick Franco

    It may be pertinent that Hitchens a) went to N. Korea and b) was once arrested alongside Mr. Havel. Maybe someone could use that to tie together a joke about three dead human beings.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonathan-Pelikan/100000903137143 Jonathan Pelikan

    Hm. Here’s my one penny to add at the tail end of all of this; I found that I had an immediate anger-reaction to seeing a Christian joke about Hitchens, even Fred, one of the most liberal of the liberal. There are a lot of reasons to conclude that Hitchens was a douche, but his behavior lined up enough with old-as-dirt stereotypes about the strident arrogant narcissistic only-in-it-for-me atheists that one could, if one felt like being evil capital E, conflate the two and say ‘Hitchens, being an atheist, was of course a douche.’ If he was a douche, it was because of him as a person, not because he was an atheist (not saying Fred or anybody actually said that, but that was the instant gut reaction.)

    Assuming the person wasn’t just an outright troll, it’s possible a similar line of thought made them lash out. It doesn’t make them right, but maybe this will help spread a little bit of understanding. A lot of people still have unfortunate, and false, impressions of Christianity as a whole built up from personal experiences and observation about people using that religion as a smokescreen for their own sin and evil. Fred is one of the best people that you could point to in order to prove that point of view wrong, though; he proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that they aren’t all bad.

    I hate conservatives because they’re wrong and often quite blatant and unapologetic in their evil, and the ones who try to pretend otherwise are doing so for very specific agendas. If Republicans agreed to stop being evil tomorrow and turned over a new leaf, I don’t know if I could ever forgive them for what’s already happened. I can’t hate Christians the same way, though, because there’s so many different types of them, good and bad and all mixed up with humanity and stuff.

  • https://me.yahoo.com/a/lRqfxupwl_tf6KPcaMzXOu2ugW14AAYX#3094f widemouth

    Do you know if you are being controlled by a Narcissist? http://www.squidoo.com/whos-pulling-your-strings


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