Saturday, April 23, 2011

Christopher Hitchens Letter to the AAI

Dear fellow-unbelievers,

Nothing would have kept me from joining you except the loss of my voice (at least my speaking voice) which in turn is due to a long argument I am currently having with the specter of death. Nobody ever wins this argument, though there are some solid points to be made while the discussion goes on. I have found, as the enemy becomes more familiar, that all the special pleading for salvation, redemption and supernatural deliverance appears even more hollow and artificial to me than it did before. I hope to help defend and pass on the lessons of this for many years to come, but for now I have found my trust better placed in two things: the skill and principle of advanced medical science, and the comradeship of innumerable friends and family, all of them immune to the false consolations of religion. It is these forces among others which will speed the day when humanity emancipates itself from the mind-forged manacles of servility and superstition. It is our innate solidarity, and not some despotism of the sky, which is the source of our morality and our sense of decency.

That essential sense of decency is outraged every day. Our theocratic enemy is in plain view. Protean in form, it extends from the overt menace of nuclear-armed mullahs to the insidious campaigns to have stultifying pseudo-science taught in American schools. But in the past few years, there have been heartening signs of a genuine and spontaneous resistance to this sinister nonsense: a resistance which repudiates the right of bullies and tyrants to make the absurd claim that they have god on their side. To have had a small part in this resistance has been the greatest honor of my lifetime: the pattern and original of all dictatorship is the surrender of reason to absolutism and the abandonment of critical, objective inquiry. The cheap name for this lethal delusion is religion, and we must learn new ways of combating it in the public sphere, just as we have learned to free ourselves of it in private.

Our weapons are the ironic mind against the literal: the open mind against the credulous; the courageous pursuit of truth against the fearful and abject forces who would set limits to investigation (and who stupidly claim that we already have all the truth we need). Perhaps above all, we affirm life over the cults of death and human sacrifice and are afraid, not of inevitable death, but rather of a human life that is cramped and distorted by the pathetic need to offer mindless adulation, or the dismal belief that the laws of nature respond to wailings and incantations.

As the heirs of a secular revolution, American atheists have a special responsibility to defend and uphold the Constitution that patrols the boundary between Church and State. This, too, is an honor and a privilege. Believe me when I say that I am present with you, even if not corporeally (and only metaphorically in spirit...) Resolve to build up Mr Jefferson's wall of separation. And don't keep the faith.


Christopher Hitchens


  1. I didn't feel right adding a single word to this post. I wanted to let his beautiful words stand on their own. A simultaneously uplifting and disheartening letter.

    And what a great closing line.

    Cancer, in your blindness and non-sentience, you have 'picked' a really unfortunate victim, and for that I hate you.

  2. Hitchens has a very narrow-minded view of the world. Its atheists vs theists? Does he really blame Tyranny and authoritarianism on religion? Because in fact those would exist regardless. Especially in the same regions due to many factors that are attributed to them. Many of the countries seeing civilian uprisings are considered to be quite secular. It just show how little some of these activists know about the world they live in. What about regimes loosely based on the ideology he advocates? They are far too oppressive to see possible uprisings. He is really beating the drums on this one and despite reality, is just using it to push an agenda.

  3. "Does he really blame Tyranny and authoritarianism on religion? Because in fact those would exist regardless. Especially in the same regions due to many factors that are attributed to them. Many of the countries seeing civilian uprisings are considered to be quite secular."

    I agree with you. If religion were to disappear tomorrow, we'd still see vast amounts of conflict and oppression. If you actually think Hitchens hasn't figured this out when you and I have, well, I think you may want to rethink that one :)

    He's speaking specifically of the cases in which religion is a significant factor (and in some cases, the only one), not in generalities.

  4. Addendum: But yes, at times he, and others, like myself, can get a bit overly polemic. It's an emotional issue and at times that seeps in despite our best efforts (and no, I am in NO way comparing myself to C.H.)

  5. "Our weapons are the ironic mind against the literal: the open mind against the credulous; ..." Perhaps you could explain this for those of us who see Christopher as a very sad man, and not one with a mind open to truth....but rather a man of a closed mind. As to being "credulous", what he has faith in, and yes, we all do have faith, my friend....and what is the decisive consequence is what, or WHO is , in truth, the object of that faith. One can not have faith...only in faith. Neither is one wise to have faith in self, or in man. That is exactly who I see Hitch's faith having as its object, himself and mankind, in general. His soul is eternal....and what can anyone do for it, except Christopher himself, admitting the same needful-ness, or neediness which his brother recently came to realize. Life is difficult. We do not have the most important answers in ourselves. Shalom!

  6. This didn't seem to post when I posted it.

    But what he does preach generally supports that notion. I know there are rationalizations and degrees behind it, but this mentality is often present. I do know he doesn’t think all problems will disappear, but he attributes this sole factor far more heavily than it is to blame, and often is only one factor in many, which he might blame for the entirety. I know he is an idealist, but some things are incredibly selective, reversionary, or flat out wrong. I don’t understand why he picks and chooses with his rhetoric. He is basically revising out real world occurrences that might contradict his world view that he preaches, while the select few he focuses on support it when claimed to be the whole, or even the cause.

    Religion is almost never the only factor, and hardly ever is the cause. There are many instances of shared circumstance, but to only address one or two because they more support a false world view is just dishonest and wrong. I want all of these places living under tyranny and power hungry autocrats to change into something more free and democratic. Not just one or two because they represent something I arbitrarily and selectively hate and am apposed to. I would think he would address them all since they are all in the same boat, and is something that we all want to see changed. Apposing religion isn’t going to fix any of this.

    I understand that it is an emotional issue that some feel strongly about, but that doesn’t make it acceptable to twist the facts to push an agenda. I’ve seen you address pundits/ idealist activists on one of the sides in this country, and Hitchens isn’t really much different. Revising out facts to push a world view and or agenda is that any way that you slice it. People do feel emotionally about these things which is why punditry right or left is so popular in this country. The difference is that Hitchens’s more rallies more against groups of people along with ideal sets. The majorities of these groups of people are in no way representative of the bad guys we often point to trying to prove this sort of bias.

    I say this out of all do respect; and you may respectively disagree with my view on this, But as a globally and historically aware person this type of rhetoric and advocacy is emotional to me as well. Not only is it reversionary, and selective, but it represents destructive mentalities present throughout human history. I want to see an end to all autocratic regimes, and dictatorships. Not appose people’s right to assemble. The things Mr. Hitchens rallies against are present with or without the centralized boogyman that is religion, and trying to spin that is just dishonest, gets us no ware, and spreads angst for people under false pretences.

    I respect the man and seen some of his past punditry when it comes to politics. I think he brings a great perspective and is interesting to hear speak, and articulates quite well. But this focus of his is far too selective and idealistic for me to get behind, seeing the misnomers present.


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