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Hitch-22

In Uncategorized on June 23, 2010 by thesignalinthenoise Tagged: ,

Christopher Hitchens

Note the following insight from David Runciman’s review of Hitchens’ Hitch-22 in the London Review of Books.

Peter and Christopher were brought together on a platform in 2008 to debate the latter’s book against God (God Is Not Great), and discovered that neither of them had the stomach for the vituperation and mutual hostility their audience had been anticipating. A few days earlier, Christopher had cooked Peter supper in Washington, ‘a domesticated action so unexpected that I still haven’t got over it … If he is going to take up roasting legs of lamb at this stage of his life, then what else might be possible?’ Christopher, it seems, no longer makes Peter angry. He just makes him a little sad. What he is sad about is Christopher’s inability to see that his militant atheism is just an extension of his earlier Trotskyism. Christopher, Peter thinks, is still hankering for a world in which evil is vanquished and all the mistakes of the past can be eradicated. What he can’t see is that this wishful thinking is precisely the kind of self-delusion that he takes to be characteristic of religion. That’s because it is a kind of religion. In his yearning for certainty, Christopher is merely replicating the intolerance and taste for indoctrination that he professes to despise among the priesthood.

Thanks to 3 Quarks Daily for pointing me to it.

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4 Responses to “Hitch-22”

  1. Believers don’t quote atheists. There are many many statements of Hitchens defining his own definition of his disbelief. How about describing him on his own terms, rather than through 2 proxies?

    For example in the question and answer part of the Hitchen-Craig debate he has given a very nice articulation in respect to Craig pushing him for certainty and he articulates the uncertainty.

    Atheism for most atheists is not certainty, it’s rejecting false certainty. But believers cannot accept this.

    We have these arguments constantly. Believers insist that they get to use their definitions (faith!) but they also insist to define things for nonbelievers.

    Christopher Hitchens is an anti-theist. That’s misunderstood by most believers. That’s not a position with respect to the existence of a deity. It’s a position with respect to the social and political consequences of the wide-spread belief in deities. For this, as it is perfectly evidentiary one can indeed form judgments.

    On the question of whether a certain deity (abrahamic, hindu, space alien) exist is beyond it. So much so that many atheists, including Hitchens consider rejecting labels to describe the category. It’s a strong rejection in exactly the same way we strongly reject the tooth fairy even though we cannot disprove it. But it’s not certainty. We have no positive or negative proof for the tooth fairy. And in fact if it does not exist, it will remain unprovable. That’s the plight of any fantasy that humans invented and that have the property to not be tested for.

    Dawkins calls this “tooth fairy agnosticism”, and lots of so call fundamentalist atheists would agree to that definition as being rather sensible.

    It is an agnostic (hence not dogmatically certain) position but with a certainty strength that is comparable to the likelihood that tooth fairies exist.

    This is hardly yearning for certainty, but believers will tell us over and over again that it is! It’s one of many things, projection, ignorance, misunderstanding, or sheer political interest to claim that atheism is just another random belief like the belief in the great god wongawonga.

    • Atheism for most atheists is not certainty, it’s rejecting false certainty.

      That has not been my experience. Far too often I see claims of uncertainty belied by what is said and done.

      This is hardly yearning for certainty, but believers will tell us over and over again that it is! It’s one of many things, projection, ignorance, misunderstanding, or sheer political interest to claim that atheism is just another random belief like the belief in the great god wongawonga.

      I make no such claim.

  2. On the second, Peter Hitchens makes that claim. You cite him. You hardly make any statement but cite people except to kill it “insight”.

    On the first that’s basically hearsay. Quote what people say, especially those you characterize. Don’t come back with some vague diversified uncheckable “experience”. Hitchens spoke extensively on his degrees of certainty. You can quote him extensively.

    And if you do not want him to be a representative for other’s positions, well then don’t make him one. You basically offered up a piece of Peter Hitchens critiquing his brother. I’m critiquing that characterization in light of what Christopher actually said. Your real or supposed experience with others is ccmpletely irrelevant to this.

    Finally in my experience believers who argue with atheists are very happy to claim false certainty on atheists without ever quoting one to explain that claim.

  3. kill -> call, unfortunate typo.

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