Showing posts with label Christopher Hitchens. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christopher Hitchens. Show all posts

Friday, December 16, 2011

A horseman has ridden away

"And I saw, and behold, a white horse, and its rider had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer. When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, 'Come!' And out came another horse, bright red; its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that men should slay one another; and he was given a great sword. When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, 'Come!' And I saw, and behold, a black horse, and its rider had a balance in his hand; … When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, 'Come!' And I saw, and behold, a pale horse, and its rider's name was Death, and Hades followed him; and they were given great power over a fourth of the earth; to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth."         — Book of Revelation [6:1–8]

A week or so ago, I was moved by a brilliant article in Vanity Fair [display] in which Christopher Hitchens, ravaged by cancer and radiation treatment, analyzed cynically a proverbial declaration by Friedrich Nietzsche: "Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger."


Here, we see Richard Dawkins on the left and pale shaven-headed Hitchens on the right. I'm awaiting the arrival of a paper copy of the special Christmas issue of New Statesman that I mentioned in my recent blog post entitled Dawkins to edit New Statesman [display]. Meanwhile, a few extracts have appeared online [display].

While Hitchens attained fame as a writer in professional US circles, I persist in imagining him as the epitome of a highly-cultivated and brilliant English wordsmith.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Freedom of speech

To encounter a dramatic new sense of these three simple words, "freedom of speech", click this photo of Christopher Hitchens (suffering from cancer) and read his splendid article entitled Unspoken Truths.

Here's the awesome song by Leonard Cohen that Hitchens mentions:



Just for the record (well, rather, for old-timers such as me), here's the original version sung by Cohen himself, accompanied by the haunting voices of Perla Batalla and Julie Christensen.



I can understand why many Hitchens well-wishers find inspiration in this beautiful song (prayer) by Cohen.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Belief in an afterlife is a substitute for wisdom

I've just been watching an interesting video of a debate on a Jewish TV network on the subject of an alleged afterlife. The celebrated atheists Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris converse with two US rabbis, David Wolpe and Bradley Artson Shavit.

[Click the portraits to access the video.]

Not surprisingly, within the group of four, the star was Hitchens. He really is a brilliant thinker and speaker. As for the rabbis, they come across as friendly guys, and far removed from familiar caricatures of crazed and biased religious fanatics. But their superficial friendliness doesn't make them one iota more credible at the level of their beliefs.

I've always felt that the historical and cultural foundations of Judaism (which have always interested me enormously, and still do) are so rich and dense that it must be difficult—well nigh impossible—to ditch them overboard, even in the name of common sense and/or science. For a goy (such as me), on the other hand, brought up in a typical Christian environment, it's much easier to rid oneself of all religious beliefs, mainly because many of the fairy-tale tenets of Christian theology (virgin birth, miracles, resurrection, Heaven and Hell, etc) are frankly ridiculous, and much of Christian ecclesiastic history (handling heretics, conflicts with non-Christians, crusades against infidels, immorality of the clergy, pomp and vanity of the Catholic church, conflicts between different branches of Christianity, sects, etc) is quite nasty, and best forgotten. A Jew who turns to atheism might say to himself: "Am I committing an irreparable error is abandoning my great family?" A Christian, devoid of nostalgia, is likely to exclaim: "Thank God I've been able to move away, at last, from that ugly mindless herd!"

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Is religion a force for good in the world?

The Toronto organizers of this debate between Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens had no trouble selling their 2,700 tickets, which seems to prove that questions of faith versus godliness are a popular topic today. Indeed, the Guardian article reveals that tickets were grabbed up weeks ago, and were recently being sold for several times their cost price on eBay.

[Click the photo to access the Guardian article.]

A poll conducted upon people emerging from the hall where the debate had taken place suggested that the cancer-stricken author of the atheist best-seller God is Not Great was more convincing than the former UK prime minister, who argued in a wishy-washy style.

While I quite like the general idea of public debates of this kind, I prefer personally to snuggle down in front of my fireplace and simply read the relevant books by Dawkins, Hitchens and others. The truth of the matter is that the absurdity of religious beliefs is an outcome of objective thinking based upon science, logic and reason in general. So, to my mind, there can no longer be any debate… because science, logic and reason have ceased to be debatable questions. So, the only imaginable pleasure I can derive from a debate of this kind consists of watching the religious guy get tangled up in his words, and make a fool of himself. But, in that case, I prefer to watch an outright comic sketch. I soon get bored and annoyed by the spectacle of self-righteous and pompous brain-damaged believers sermonizing fuzzily about their immaculate faith. Worse, if the organizers of such a debate can usually succeed in roping in a lukewarm charismatic Christian to represent the believers, it remains practically unthinkable that a genuine debate of this kind could involve a Jewish or a Muslim representative.

Today, we can still witness all kinds of old-fashioned half-baked antics designed to give the impression that hordes of intelligent youth are enthusiastic advocates of Judaism, Christianity or Islam. But it's highly unlikely, if not unthinkable, that an articulate writer and speaker such as Dawkins or Hitchens could emerge in modern society as a popular spokesman for religious thinking. That would be like imagining that jet aircraft could be confronted by a spectacular new kind of hot-air balloon. It just ain't thinkable. So, why bother wasting time debating with lesser individuals about whether or not miraculous things could come to pass today? If my attitude sounds elitist, well, yes, it is. I belong to the vast elite of humans whose thinking is based exclusively upon science, logic and reason... and I no longer suffer fools gladly.