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View Diary: Christopher Hitchens is Not Great (82 comments)

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  •  Loved the book (7+ / 0-)

    Learned a great deal.

    I only wish that he had taken on Scientology.

    What is essential is invisible.

    by bebimbob on Mon Jul 02, 2007 at 02:33:05 PM PDT

    •  Scientology! (0+ / 0-)

      What did you like about it? I have to admit I haven't read it all yet, so I am curious.

      I read Dawkins' latest about the religion thing, and I liked it. But Hitchens' rhetorical style gives me hives!

      •  I loved the book, too (6+ / 0-)

        Is he arrogant? Sure. He's an iconoclast. And yes, he drinks... I'm outraged too. I'll concede many of the other ad hominem attacks are valid too. He's mean, he supported the Iraq war, etc.

        I was raised Jewish and struggled with some of the philosophical and metaphysical claims of monotheistic religion, and Hitchens deals with this quite well; it's a subject that Dawkins doesn't touch at all and Sam Harris attacks quite differently, so I welcome his book and happily recommend it.

        Hitchens expends considerable energy talking about the relationship between morality and religion, which is what I consider to be the most important part of the book.... I wish I had more time to write about this but I have a tennis match in 20 mins, so I'd better get going...

        More later.

      •  What I liked (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Feemus

        I learned a few things about current orthodoxy that would turn your stomach.

        I agree with him that much of organized religion, at least the catholicism I experienced, is child abuse. Read the section about Jewish orthodox circumcision in NY, and how Bloomberg handled it: it'll make you puke.

        I wasn't bothered by his writing style, although it may be a little compound-complex for the Hemmingways amongst us.

        I think he covered his tracks well re himself, by letting the reader know of his own background.  IOW, he was self-honest.  He did not strike me as a know-it-all, just someone who has done his research.

        He has clearly traveled the world over, and met many religious leaders in his capacity as a journalist.  He had some quite interesting comments about the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa's miracles, etc.

        He addressed Aquinian arguments about the existence of God, St. Anselms' argument about a priori knowledge of God, etc.

        He discussed the extreme violence that religion often creates, both historically and comtemporaneously.  This part of the book was quite comprehensive.

        Hitchen's is clearly extremely well read, and passionate about his beliefs.  Here on Daily Kos, many readers, secular and religious, are rightly concerned about the infiltration of fundamentalist religious beliefs into the working of our government.

        Hitchens is expressing his opinion that religious beliefs are dying, as the enlightenment of science shows how silly they are.

        The Universe is 14 billion years old, the Earth 4.5 billion years old.  We are mammals, animals, and that's OK with me. I can't comprehend wasting my time with someone who believes the Earth is 6000 years old, but that person can have that belief, as long as it is not foisted on me, which is what Hitchens says repeatedly throughout his book.

        Hitchens is very fair about the abortion question, which surprised me.

        It's certainly true that Hitchens grounds himself both in the golden era of Hellenic discourse (with a long passage about the honesty of Socrates), as well as the Enlightenment period of Paine, Jefferson and Voltaire.

        Overall, the book is depressing, but so, often, is reality, if you let it seep in.

        What is essential is invisible.

        by bebimbob on Mon Jul 02, 2007 at 03:07:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  great (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Karmafish

          thanks for taking the time to recap! He's been sort of writing this book in pieces for years. I should finish before I post on it, perhaps.

          I am certainly concerned about the growth of fundamentalism and the encroachment of any sort of religion into government.

          But what bothers me is his oppositional stance toward all belief. Some of the most vocal opponents of religious craziness are people of faith and I think it's silly to vitiate the potential alliance between the religious and secular left.

          I really appreciate your comments!

          •  If you're opposed to false beliefs... (0+ / 0-)

            then you should be opposed to theistic beliefs of all stripes.  I'm sure that's how Hitchens views it.  Personally, I appreciate the good deeds of the religious left, but that doesn't stop me from thinking that they are completely wrong in thinking there are gods or in thinking that reading a strange compilation of ancient near eastern history, prophecy, and poetry mixed with some letters and life-stories is a great way of deciding how to live your life.

      •  Really? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ortcutt, mr science, Feemus

        You liked Dawkins book?

        From your diary:

        But what I do believe in is not being a smugly dogmatic asshole.

        That's exactly what folks call Dawkins as well.  Harris too.  And any other atheist who is not afraid to stand up for themselves.  So, I don't see why you liked Dawkins book, but disliked Hitchens book.  I'm just happy that these books are finding an audience.  We've been bombarded by religion over these last few years, it's time for non-believers to start making some noise.

        "My chief political consultant will be my conscience." - Theodore C. Sorensen

        by 0wn on Mon Jul 02, 2007 at 03:14:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I don't know why (0+ / 0-)

          There's just something about Dawkins I find appealing (even though I hated The Selfish Gene). Maybe it's just his prose.

          I do have a friend who's an evolutionary biologist and she absolutely loathes Dawkins because she think he gives biologists a bad name!

          I think it's funny, and I'm not really sure what I make of it, but in the academy, the people in the sciences tend to be WAY more religious that people in the humanities.

          •  whoops (0+ / 0-)

            what I meant to include in there is that maybe I take Hitchens personally in the same way that my friend takes Dawkins, as someone who reflects badly on belletristic pursuits.

          •  There is a point (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Karmafish, Feemus, Boisepoet

            made that Dawkins gives ammo to creationists who say evolution leads to atheism. Although I understand the frustration, I disagree with Dawkins critics here. What he and the other "new atheists" are doing is so necessary. We are finally talking about atheism as a legitimate point of view and not as a disease.

            "Enough with the negative waves Moriarty" - Oddball

            by mr science on Mon Jul 02, 2007 at 03:34:49 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Religion has been going after athiests forever (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              0wn

              Which is why it is sad to see people here who fall into that same pattern and blame atheists for expressing their views.  Why shouldn't Dawkins and others express their views?  Why should only religious people be able to pontificate about "THE TRUTH" and if you disagree you can't say anything because it is "insulting" those who believe?  

              Give me a fucking break!  

              Don't like XOM and OPEC? What have YOU done to reduce your oil consumption? Hot air does NOT constitute a renewable resource!

              by Asak on Mon Jul 02, 2007 at 03:42:36 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  well (0+ / 0-)

              I totally disagree with those critics (and, of couse, I have a soft spot for Dawkins). And I think it's important to, as you say, not treat atheism as a disease. It's Hitchens "antitheism" that bugs me. I think that treating religion as though it is poisonous is intolerant and dangerous.

              Most religious people I know are very smart and very decent.

          •  Probably good reason for it (0+ / 0-)

            I suspect that people going into sciences tend to have more of a structured way of thinking, where they learn what the rules are and apply them (ironic as that may seem under the circumstances, they learn religion as being one of the rules), whereas I would guess people going into the humanities would have more of an open minded attitude about things.  

            Humanities by their nature are greatly subjective and open to interpretation and debate.  The sciences on the other hand are supposed to be absolute rules (in general, even though sometimes the rules are wrong and it takes a long time to finally get people to admit it).  

            Honestly your observation does not surprise me.  Even the biologist who does not like Dawkins may dislike him because he breaks the mold.  

            Don't like XOM and OPEC? What have YOU done to reduce your oil consumption? Hot air does NOT constitute a renewable resource!

            by Asak on Mon Jul 02, 2007 at 03:41:05 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Is there evidence that there are more believers.. (0+ / 0-)

            in the sciences than the humanities or is that just from your experience?  I think it would be an interesting thing subject for research.  I've never heard of any such research or even whether it would be possible given what I would imagine would be reluctance to answer the question.

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