Sunday, March 7, 2010

Andrei Well guess who has written a kiss and tell

Christopher Hitchens has, that's who.

In it he says that when he was a trotskyite student at Oxford he had affairs with two men who would later become Cabinet Ministers in Margaret Thatchers government.

That little revelation should help boost his sales.

17 comment(s):

Unknown said...

An excellent and thought-provoking writer. I can recommend God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.

I.M Fletcher said...

..except it's God that created him and is keeping him alive.
He may as well have written a book called "Oxygen Is Not Great - How Oxygen Poisons Everything"

Anonymous said...

And if he had, he would have been expressing the truth. Sure, we need oxygen to sustain life, yet it is that same oxygen that leads to cell break down and death.

Pretty Intelligent design, aye?

I.M Fletcher said...

Actually it is! God did not originally design these bodies to decay and die. It is only our sin (Adam's sin) that brought death into the world.

I remember seeing a programme years ago with a scientist saying that, really, if you study human cells, our bodies are designed to last forever and there isn't any reason why our cells should be decaying and dying other than that man now has a fallen nature.

Whatever the reason, God has decreed that we only spend a limited number of years upon this Earth in these bodies, although the Soul itself is immortal and lasts forever - in either one place or the other. It's up to man to choose.

That is what I believe anyway. You can believe if you want that your existence is a cosmic accident and that you as a person have no inherent value or purpose for existing and that you will cease to exist when you die.

What a bummer that must be to believe!

I saw a documentary on Johnny Cash yesterday and he says "What is man if he doesn't have a spirit? And what is man's spirit if it cannot connect with the Master of Life? I won't back down from my faith, and not from that Power that keeps me alive"

Amen, Johnny.

LRO, I know you won't agree with me at all, so it's kind of pointless t o reply.

I.M Fletcher said...

ps, I meant it was kind of pointless for me to reply...

Unknown said...

..except it's God that created him and is keeping him alive.
He may as well have written a book called "Oxygen Is Not Great - How Oxygen Poisons Everything"

Even if that was true, it wouldn't necessarily follow that God was good. But of course the title is a play on "Allahu Akbar" and Hitchens doesn't believe in God and is making the case the religion is, on balance, a bad thing for humanity. I'm sure you would agree that this is true for all the other religions which you don't believe in.

I.M Fletcher said...

Yes I believe in one religion and not in some others. Just because there are many religions doesn't mean they are all wrong or that one of them isn't true.

I also believe in one form of government (democracy) and think that others are wrong (Socialism, Communism, etc). Can I then say that 'government is bad for humanity' because I disagree with some other forms of government (Communism, for example)?

If I were to follow on with this analogy, I would say that Hitchens doesn't believe in ANY form of 'government' and is in fact anti-'government' so he will look at Marxists perhaps and point out the bad things in that ideology, using it as a base from which to condemn all forms of 'government'.

As you can see, the argument is specious.

ZenTiger said...

Yes, when Hitchens decides religion poisons everything, he neatly sidesteps the deeper issue that man is capable of both great good and great evil.

A man who uses water to torture a person hasn't corrupted the nature of water, he has corrupted himself in turning water to an evil purpose.

Removing religion will not make man inherently more rational and more good. Indeed, in a rational and good person religion becomes a powerful force.

Hitchens thinks religion teaches bad things, and yet he, without region comes across as a bitter person. What's his excuse that atheism hasn't made him a moral paragon of virtue?

Until you take free will out of the picture, man will continue to turn devices to his own ends, and some of those ends are evil. If religion is gone, he will simply find another reason, just as the leading mass murderers on the 20th Century did.

Unknown said...

IMF, I wasn't arguing that because some religions are bad it follows that all religions are bad. I was just noting that most religious people have more in common with atheists than they might think.

If you want to read some good arguments for why *all* religions are on balance a bad thing, then I can sincerely recommend the book in question.

What's his excuse that atheism hasn't made him a moral paragon of virtue?

I don't think he's ever claimed that or that he would disagree with you that people can be bad. His argument is that on balance, religion creates more problems than it solves. He may well be a bitter person, who knows, but it doesn't have any bearing on his arguments. If we only considered the arguments of people whose character fits our ideas of what their argument means then we'd have a very narrow field of reference indeed.

I.M Fletcher said...

Religion, and Christianity in particular I believe, is a great mitigator of evil in the world and contributes a great deal. Go and read this article by an atheist from 2008 - As An Atheist, I Truly Believe Africa Needs God

The first snippet is below -

But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I've been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I've been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.

But this doesn't fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.

First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world - a directness in their dealings with others - that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.

Even an avowed Atheist can tell the difference between secular aid and the difference that religion brings.

Anonymous said...

Even an avowed Atheist can tell the difference between secular aid and the difference that religion brings.

Yes, the secualr generally don't bring a whole lot of odd little rules and homophobia with them, unlike the religious.

Both Christian and Muslim clerics have publicly condemned homosexuality for many years - describing it as a sin, abnormal or immoral.

One of the most extreme examples of religious leaders advocating repression of gay people is Ugandan Pastor Martin Ssempa.

He openly endorses Uganda's anti-gay bill, and last week screened gay pornography at a church in Kampala to drum up support for the proposed legislation.

In Kenya, too, religious leaders have been at the heart of anti-gay campaigns.

In a statement last week, US-based Human Rights Watch quoted witnesses as saying Christian and Muslim leaders had joined together to call for communities to "flush out gays".

I'll kep my charitable giving secular and free from this sort of monstrosity.

I.M Fletcher said...

Tell me, LRO - what is "homophobia"?

ZenTiger said...

Malcolm, of course he's never claimed that. It would show the flaw in his argument.

Please read my comment again to detect the flaw in his argument. You did not address that point at all.

Unknown said...

Sorry ZT. OK I see your point.

If every Muslim were to become an atheist, do you think there would be more or less bad stuff happening in the world? When I say atheist I mean someone who doesn't believe without evidence and who tries to be sceptical and rational. If you agree that the world would be better off without Islam, then that is flaw in your argument.

Anyway the issue comes down to the balance. We can probably both agree that religions can bring out good and bad in people. On balance Hitchens concludes that we would be better of without religion and I am inclined to agree.

ZenTiger said...

Hi Malcolm

Firstly, not every religion is equal. As Fletch said - you want to end ALL political systems because Marxism didn't work out?

Further to that - do you really think man can operate without political systems, if some people erroneously conclude that on balance, politics has caused the deaths of millions, so we would be better off without it.

Want to live without atoms because a few people make nuclear bombs? Those evil atoms...

Secondly - you lump radical Islam in with regular Islam. No question the radical Islamic sort are nutjobs, and there are millions of them. Thankfully there are many more sane Muslims though. So the radicals do not reflect the majority.

So I don't agree the world would necessarily be better off without Islam. It is in a process of reformation, and that will be a good thing.

I think this attempt to eradicate the "bad things" hides the fact we are dealing with deeper issues, those that I suspect Hitchens hasn't adequately addressed in his book. I only skimmed it, but I may well go back and read it and offer my criticism in better measure.

Thirdly, like trying to eliminate politics, I'm interested to see how you think you can eliminate a belief in the possibility of life after death, of a creator, of a life that isn't purely based on chance.

The more you look into it, the more I suspect you will be struggling to eradicate a valid aspect of man's humanity.

This is because I suspect you are treating religion as something distinct and separate from man's ability to consider the intangible, the impossible, the improbable and to feel a connection with something bigger than themselves.

We may all be a bag of cells in a cosmic game of chance, but given how the universe seems wired for life, once which relies on interconnectedness between every living entity, it might just be that science alone cannot answer every question mankind can pose. So how are you going to eradicate that from people?

Whilst some people are happy to be fundamentalists, and others happy to be atheists, there is room for a variance of opinion, because none of us know for sure if we are right or wrong. It becomes a matter of faith. For Hitchens, faith that chance alone gives him all the answers he needs. For others, their faith is sourced from elsewhere. An atheist has to destroy that faith and replace it with "there is nothing else", and I'm interested as to how you think that possible.

I suspect the ongoing conditioning of people to be predisposed to atheism is just a temporary thing. Another 50 or 100 years might see a swing the other way. I'd like to see a better synthesis of faith and reason - it requires a more philosophical populace, people that crave learning and discourse. The great dumbing down of the masses through TV and a variety of other influences has taken us of course, but things change.

Unknown said...

Thanks ZT, good comments. Maybe I'll also re-read and we can continue this most interesting discussion another time.



ZenTiger said...

No problemo.

One quick observation from a news story today:

I read an interesting article today in the world section, where the story characterized Christians and Muslims who had lived together peacefully for generations at each others throats. This time around, the Muslims slaughtered the Christians shouting "Allah Akbar" according to the news report.

So why peace between religions until this flash point after years of peace? Is it religion again murdering people?

Reading further, it seemed that tensions had mounted when the population more than doubled and jobs became scarce. Suddenly, without work, there was no food on the table. People became desperate.

So the political response to lack of jobs, lack of food and lack of security was to line up on religious sides and fight over scarce resources.

What if there were no religion, how might the atheistic fight over resource occurred?

Skin colour?

Family Clans?

Political Left Wing Versus Right Wing

Military versus mob?


Class and social standing?

The list goes on, and people have lined up along those lines whenever there has been scarcity.

Removing religion would only see people chose another reason to fight for their survival. Move unemployment figures to 50% in New Zealand, with mortgagee sales and job losses, food shortages and starvation and you would probably see some violent response along common divides. With a low religious element, I'd guess Maori versus Pakeha, or picking on immigrant families first.

It's not religion per se that is the problem, it's people and how they react in life and death situations.

If everyone stuck to the basic Christian values such as being concerned with people (love thy neighbour), not material goods, of living frugally and donating excess wealth; of following the 10 commandments; it might actually keep people striving to live up to ideals that say it's more important on how you live your life to sanctify the next one, than to grab all you can get now because death only brings oblivion.

When our collective backs are against the wall, then it is our ability to work together rather than fight to the death that has always driven mankind forward.

If Hitchens is going to remove a moral code based on Christian values because he sees so many instances where people fail to live up to them, he needs to prove to me that what he is going to replace it with is better. Reason, in itself, goes out the window under pressure. Blaming that on religion I think misses the point.

I'll get around to reading Hitchens book again and then do a blog post to restart the discussion.

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