Today, Dec 15, is Hitch Day

Discuss philosophical questions regarding theism (and atheism), and discuss religion as it relates to philosophy. This includes any philosophical discussions that happen to be about god, gods, or a 'higher power' or the belief of them. This also generally includes philosophical topics about organized or ritualistic mysticism or about organized, common or ritualistic beliefs in the existence of supernatural phenomenon.
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Scribbler60
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Today, Dec 15, is Hitch Day

Post by Scribbler60 » December 15th, 2017, 2:29 pm

On this day in 2011, antitheist and British-American intellectual Christopher Hitchens lost his battle with cancer.

He is sorely missed in this time of religious nuttery.

A short clip of Hitch at his best, nearing the end of his life, in a discussion in Toronto with Tony Blair. Just under 7 minutes long:

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Count Lucanor
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Re: Today, Dec 15, is Hitch Day

Post by Count Lucanor » December 15th, 2017, 8:38 pm

Scribbler60 wrote:
December 15th, 2017, 2:29 pm
On this day in 2011, antitheist and British-American intellectual Christopher Hitchens lost his battle with cancer.

He is sorely missed in this time of religious nuttery.

A short clip of Hitch at his best, nearing the end of his life, in a discussion in Toronto with Tony Blair. Just under 7 minutes long:
A brilliant, inspiring man. And a fascinating speaker who taught us not to be afraid of showing irreverence to religious nuttery and phariseeism.

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Greta
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Re: Today, Dec 15, is Hitch Day

Post by Greta » December 15th, 2017, 9:08 pm

I was a great fan of Hitch (and still enjoy Dawkins and Harris's ideas and expression). His impolite approach played out brilliantly with other atheists but I doubt it was an effective way to convince prevaricating theists pondering the illogic of their faith. These people need logic provided respectfully. Hitch, brilliant, entertaining and charming as he was, did give the lunatic fringe an easy excuse to complain about rudeness and thus distract from the message.

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Re: Today, Dec 15, is Hitch Day

Post by Steve3007 » December 16th, 2017, 7:37 am

I also enjoyed his style and his words and also didn't think it would win anyone over.

One of the fascinating aspects to the Hitch story was of course the contrast with his brother, Peter - the one who dramatically rejected religion and then dramatically returned to it. It kind of reminded me of that episode of Star Trek where there was some kind of parallel universe malarkey and Captain Kirk's evil twin accidentally got beamed aboard the enterprise (don't you just hate it when that happens?). I'm not sure which one was the evil twin between Christopher and Peter. Maybe neither. But it still kind of reminded of that.

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Re: Today, Dec 15, is Hitch Day

Post by Londoner » December 16th, 2017, 7:38 am

Count Lucanor wrote:
December 15th, 2017, 8:38 pm
A brilliant, inspiring man. And a fascinating speaker who taught us not to be afraid of showing irreverence to religious nuttery and phariseeism.
'Irreverence' is right. If you wish to mock religion, then he is good at it so you will like him.

But I do not think he taught anybody anything. Anyone seriously interested in the subject, including atheists, found his arguments embarrassingly superficial.

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Re: Today, Dec 15, is Hitch Day

Post by Count Lucanor » December 16th, 2017, 12:19 pm

Hitchens was the kind of man that theists loved to hate. He got invited everywhere, given the chance to challenge their stupid ideas extensively and they even mourned him when he passed away, as much as atheists did. I don't think he ever got in the business of trying to convince anyone, nor any of the religious-minded folks thought he would want to do so. That was not his style. Without remorse he went even further than the typical advocacy of atheism and declared himself to be an anti-theist. His challenge was aimed at exposing the lack of luster under the patina of moral boastfulness of the pharisees; he did a great job at that and the benefit of his services for secularism are incalculable.

I could not think of a better term to express the implacable sharpness of his intellectual challenges than the "hitchslap".

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Scribbler60
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Re: Today, Dec 15, is Hitch Day

Post by Scribbler60 » December 16th, 2017, 1:45 pm

Londoner wrote:
December 16th, 2017, 7:38 am
Anyone seriously interested in the subject, including atheists, found his arguments embarrassingly superficial.
I'm curious, Londoner, which arguments of his you found to be superficial. Can you be more specific?

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Greta
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Re: Today, Dec 15, is Hitch Day

Post by Greta » December 16th, 2017, 6:44 pm

Londoner wrote:
December 16th, 2017, 7:38 am
Count Lucanor wrote:
December 15th, 2017, 8:38 pm
A brilliant, inspiring man. And a fascinating speaker who taught us not to be afraid of showing irreverence to religious nuttery and phariseeism.
'Irreverence' is right. If you wish to mock religion, then he is good at it so you will like him.

But I do not think he taught anybody anything. Anyone seriously interested in the subject, including atheists, found his arguments embarrassingly superficial.
That is because the arguments of the fundamentalists and literalists, who are usually the target of his criticism, are embarrassingly superficial in themselves. This level of "dumb religion" is still rife in world, and still causing problems due to its closed tribal nature and old world naked aggression.

His complaint about sophisticated theists is their enabling and indulging of fundamentalists to swell their ranks. I think his criticism is a bit harsh, just as people's criticism of moderate Muslims for not challenging their extremists. The point is that most people - including sophisticated theists - largely seek a peaceful life with tender relations.

Challenging rabid lunatics tends not to promote peace in one's life and any person who does so will risk the safety of their families. So the members of the quiet majority remain unable to deal with or control the more feral and primitive-minded elements of societies. We moderates will only rise up when we have nothing to lose, by which time not too many will be enjoying peaceful lives. It's a wicked problem whose roots lie in high density population.

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Scribbler60
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Re: Today, Dec 15, is Hitch Day

Post by Scribbler60 » December 16th, 2017, 7:08 pm

Greta wrote:
December 16th, 2017, 6:44 pm
That is because the arguments of the fundamentalists and literalists, who are usually the target of his criticism, are embarrassingly superficial in themselves. This level of "dumb religion" is still rife in world, and still causing problems due to its closed tribal nature and old world naked aggression.
That's correct, of course, and is exactly why Hitch went after the fundamentalists.

The religious ones who have no problem with science aren't the ones causing the problems.

It's the fundamentalists - the Roy Moore types and his ilk - that have an inordinate amount of political and social power. That's the biggest threat, even if it isn't filled with the most number of people, because it's well funded and is creeping into the judiciary (at least in the US).

You don't see theists like Dr Francis Collins working to undermine the US constitution. But you do see fundamentalists tending towards theocracy.

The latest: Roy Moore suggested that scrapping amendments after 10th would 'eliminate many problems'.

Just for clarification, that would mean:
  • Women and people of colour would lose the right to vote
  • People born in the US would not automatically be citizens
  • The repeal of slavery would be abolished
These are the type of people that are a clear and present danger to democracy, which is why Hitch went after them.

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Re: Today, Dec 15, is Hitch Day

Post by Londoner » December 17th, 2017, 7:02 am

Scribbler60 wrote:
December 16th, 2017, 1:45 pm
I'm curious, Londoner, which arguments of his you found to be superficial. Can you be more specific?
As an example, in the OP we are linked to a clip in which he extracts a couple of sentences from a long piece of writing by Cardinal Newman. He doesn't attempt to give a fair explanation of what Newman might have been writing about.

If you start off with the assumption that Newman was a Catholic and therefore a religious fanatic and therefore should be lumped together with ISIS and anyone else one dislikes, then he deserves what he gets, so this will not bother you.

But if you have an interest in religion, whether you are a believer or not, it just seems so crass.

I dislike it because it is the technique of the demagogue. Sometimes that same technique is used against gays, or Jews, or black people. If we approve of it because the target this time happens to be something we dislike, then we are tacitly giving our approval to that entire style of discourse.

To put it crudely, you cannot applaud Hitchens but then denounce Trump and his supporters when they use similar tactics

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Scribbler60
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Re: Today, Dec 15, is Hitch Day

Post by Scribbler60 » December 17th, 2017, 12:15 pm

Londoner wrote:
December 17th, 2017, 7:02 am
If you start off with the assumption that Newman was a Catholic and therefore a religious fanatic and therefore should be lumped together with ISIS and anyone else one dislikes, then he deserves what he gets, so this will not bother you.
Perhaps you misunderstood Hitchens' point.

He makes it plainly clear: "I won't take a text from a known extremist or fanatic, it's from Cardinal Newman... he is considered, rightly, a great Christian thinker."

Newman does not represent the religious fanatic; he does not represent the ISIS-type fundamentalist. He (Newman) is considered a moderate, a thoughtful man, a respected thinker.

Now, if Hitch had used texts from, say, an ISIS supporter or a Southern Baptist fundamentalist, to make his point, you would be absolutely correct, and I would support you in that assertion: that would be trumpian demagoguery.

But he didn't. He used the words of a moderate, respected man.

I would urge you to take the time to watch the entire discussion between Hitch and Blair. Regardless of which side you support, it is heartening to watch two intellectuals spar, and do so with respect, admiration and even great warmth towards one another.

You can find the entire debate here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNMKVkPwDCw

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Scribbler60
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Re: Today, Dec 15, is Hitch Day

Post by Scribbler60 » December 17th, 2017, 2:20 pm

Greta wrote:
December 15th, 2017, 9:08 pm
... I doubt it was an effective way to convince prevaricating theists pondering the illogic of their faith. These people need logic provided respectfully.
Sadly, even in the fact of logic and incontrovertible evidence, the "true believers" only double-down and become more entrenched.

It happens in politics, it happens in religion, it happens even in science. It's called The Backfire Effect and is a function of our all-too-human tendency towards confirmation bias, and ignore facts that contradict those hypotheses.

Please see The Backfire Effect: Why Facts Don't Win Arguments

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Greta
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Re: Today, Dec 15, is Hitch Day

Post by Greta » December 17th, 2017, 5:09 pm

Scribbler60 wrote:
December 17th, 2017, 2:20 pm
Greta wrote:
December 15th, 2017, 9:08 pm
... I doubt it was an effective way to convince prevaricating theists pondering the illogic of their faith. These people need logic provided respectfully.
Sadly, even in the fact of logic and incontrovertible evidence, the "true believers" only double-down and become more entrenched.

It happens in politics, it happens in religion, it happens even in science. It's called The Backfire Effect and is a function of our all-too-human tendency towards confirmation bias, and ignore facts that contradict those hypotheses.

Please see The Backfire Effect: Why Facts Don't Win Arguments
Religion, politics and sexuality are essentially a battle for the hearts and minds of agnostics, swinging voters and bisexuals. Most people in there areas have fixed positions so the discussions seem entirely focused on capturing prevaricators. So no, we can effectively forget convincing - or indeed even engaging with - fundamentalists. It's usually counter productive to have anything to do with those holding rabidly fixed positions unless they are causing serious bother because their responses will be robotic and predictable, and any interaction only encourages them. As with rabid dogs, unless there's no choice they are best to be simply left to their rabid lives IMO.

Londoner, I appreciate your attempt to be fair minded, but there is no valid equivalence between even as rabid an atheist as Hitch and Trump and his followers; the latter's lies utterly dwarf Hitch's misrepresentations. This reminds me of the battles between two former Aust PMs - Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott. Before an election Julia Gillard promised that there would be no carbon tax in any government she lead, but she added that, "rest assured, there will be a price on carbon". When the Greens scotched the proposed emissions trading scheme she had no choice but to propose a tax. For the next six years she was pilloried by the Murdoch press (heavily invested in fossil fuels) as JuLIAR. By contrast, Tony Abbott promised no cuts to education, health and welfare (which many feared) and then immediately slashed them so harshly in the next budget that the minority-balanced upper house blocked many measures.

The true equivalent in terms of propaganda and lies to Trump and fundies is the feral left of the Socialist Alliance.

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Re: Today, Dec 15, is Hitch Day

Post by Ecurb » December 17th, 2017, 7:28 pm

Hitchens fell in love with his own powers of invective. He took on Mother Theresa (in "The Missionary Position") because (I think) he wanted to inveigh against even a Saint. Perhaps he was competing with his beloved George Orwell, whose "Reflections on Gandhi" remains one of the great examples of that genre. Nonetheless, Hitchens' criticisms of Mother Theresa are often silly. OK, she didn't provide medical care for indigent Indians. So what? Neither have I, or Hitchens. Doctors and nurses provide medical care; missionaries and Saints provide love and spiritual care. Perhaps Hitchens (and I) believe the former more important than the latter, but complaining that Theresa failed to provide medical care is a bit like complaining that JRR Tolkien failed to write philosophy.

In addition, Hitchens' hatred of Islam led him into political positions that seem utterly misguided. He supported U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have turned into boondoggles.

HItchens was a talented writer and (at times) an important "public intellectual". But his anti-religious writings suffered when he inveighed against naive Fundamentalism (low hanging fruit, surely). The Balliol man could, one would think, test the metal of his swordsmanship against more skilled duelists. Challenging the inept makes the expert look like a bully. (I admit I haven't watched the video linked by Scribbler.)

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Greta
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Re: Today, Dec 15, is Hitch Day

Post by Greta » December 17th, 2017, 8:17 pm

Ecurb wrote:
December 17th, 2017, 7:28 pm
HItchens was a talented writer and (at times) an important "public intellectual". But his anti-religious writings suffered when he inveighed against naive Fundamentalism (low hanging fruit, surely). The Balliol man could, one would think, test the metal of his swordsmanship against more skilled duelists. Challenging the inept makes the expert look like a bully. (I admit I haven't watched the video linked by Scribbler.)
I agreed to some extent with your post, although I think the video is worth viewing because you will find that much that he says in it is reasonable, given the targets of his criticism, and as always, highly eloquent. Still, Richard Feynmen provided my favourite challenge to religious thought:
It doesn't seem to me that this fantastically marvellous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil — which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama.
Ecurb wrote:
December 17th, 2017, 7:42 pm
P.s. is it possible to edit posts on this forum? O5f course I meant "led".
No. It's just how the forum is configured. Anyway, the offending "a" has been removed.

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