Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart
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Monday, 22 March 2010

Boring and Repetitive

Christopher Hitchens gets a lot of play these days.  His columns are carried in multiple syndicated newspapers and his videos are all over Youtube.  But am I the only one who thinks the message he is shilling is a little repetitive?  Everything of his that I have ever read can seemingly be summarized as follows:
1) I think that all religion is evil
2) It's only my opinion and I have no hard evidence to back up my beliefs
3) Nevertheless I'm right and anyone who disagrees with me is an idiot
4) Because religion is so evil, I have a right to insult anyone who disagrees with me
5) But I'm allowed to show umbrage when religious people insult back
Fortunately, it looks like I'm not the only person who's picked up the repetitve and boring message that Hitchens and his friends are selling folks.  As the far more articulate Rex Murphy notes:
The author of God is Not Great is one of the most militant, abrasive secularists of our time, perhaps only second in renown to the increasingly tedious and tendentious Richard Dawkins. Militant secularism is a peculiar phenomenon. It prides itself above all on reason, but reason in a very shrunken capacity — a kind of blustering, blistering, angry half-logic that perpetually targets the anachronistic straw-man conception of God as a big, bearded White Guy in the sky.
This is the kind of stuff that gives caricature a bad name. It may be that the very simply devout, in the very simplest of times, held such an obviously incomplete understanding of the concept of the Christian God. But to ascribe so fatuous and infantile an understanding of the Deity to the majority of adult believers is not so much a misrepresentation as a kind of wish fulfillment. It is the kind of puppet-image God that Richard Dawkins imagines crowds the cramped minds of those dolts (as he sees them) who don’t agree with Richard Dawkins.
The mischaracterization is adolescent in tone and substance, something of a Dawkins’ speciality. There is something fatally supercilious and egotistic in the scorn of the professional atheist/agnostic, as in Dawkins’ sneering description of those who order their lives in conformity with belief, faith — Christian or otherwise. “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.” Well, that’s, by Dawkins’ standard, a fair reading of say, Pascal, or Chesterton, Bernard Lonergan, or John Paul II. By his self-satisfied reading they were all cowards, not brave enough for “real” thought, intellectual and moral shirkers. He, of course, is a moral tower, a veritable G.I. Joe of fearless inquiry.
The same dismissive scorn showed up in Hitchens’ piece, particularly in the coda to his loose pseudo-arguments about Pope Benedict’s “responsibility” over the alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in Germany: “Ratzinger himself may be banal, but his whole career has the stench of evil ­— a clinging and systematic evil that is beyond the power of exorcism to dispel.”
Murphy goes on to note some obvious things.  Despite whatever disagreements I might have with the former Cardinal Ratzinger, I cannot deny that he is an intelligent man who is possessed of tremendous scholarship.  Atheists and skeptics like to say that, having tested the evidence, they cannot believe in the Divine.  Ratzinger has also tested the evidence, as uncomfortable as it might be for some to admit, and decided that there is a God.  This is something Hitchens, with his self-righteous assuredness reaching almost.... religious levels, cannot understand.  As Murphy concludes:
There’s a touch of uncouth high-schoolism in all this, that callow bravery of the 15-year-old knocking daddy and mommy’s most sensitive beliefs. But while a little coarseness and some impudence is, in a sense, almost proper and certainly unsurprising in 15-year-olds. It’s a little more than tiresome, and certainly a hell of a lot (if that conception may be allowed here) less than brave coming out of the mouths or flowing from the digital pens of the pack of adult reason-worshipping evangelists who make such a good business out of harsh and mean assessments of their differently-believing, more pacific brothers on this good earth.

Perhaps this is how the new atheist movement will finally end, when people get tired of the same banal lines, the same straw man accusations.  It will disappear from history not with a bang but a yawn.

18 comments:

David said...

I don't agree with Hitchens on everything he says, but, when you say that he has no evidence and merely relies on opinions, you are simply sounding foolish.

Your problem (yet again) Garnel, is that you are so bound up in your own views, to which you admit no challenge at all, that you tend to engage in a great deal of the sort of activity that you ascribe to all of your philiosophical opponents (frequently at the same time you're accusing them).

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

Famous case: Hitchens writes in "God is not Great" that the reason religions like Judaism forbid pigs is because pigs have so many similarities to humans. He writes about how their cry sounds like a human cry. All opinion, conjecture, random thoughts. His evidence? Well he doesn't need any.
I have never denied being bound up in my own views. That's what a religious person generally does. But Hitchens and his ilk claim to be liberated from all that and I'm just pointing out they're just as religious as the people they attack, only they refuse to admit it.

Chaim B. said...

Interesting article by Peter Hitchens, Christopher's brother, who became a believing Christian. He discusses his relationship with his brother and his ideas.

http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2010/03/how-i-found-god-and-peace-with-my-atheist-brother.html

Garnel Ironheart said...

Thanks for the link Chaim.

I liked this part best:

Why is there such a fury against religion now? Because religion is the one reliable force that stands in the way of the power of the strong over the weak. The one reliable force that forms the foundation of the concept of the rule of law.
The one reliable force that restrains the hand of the man of power. In an age of power-worship, the Christian religion has become the principal obstacle to the desire of earthly utopians for absolute power.
While I was making my gradual, hesitant way back to the altar-rail, my brother Christopher's passion against God grew more virulent and confident.
As he has become more certain about the non-existence of God, I have become more convinced we cannot know such a thing in the way we know anything else, and so must choose whether to believe or not. I think it better by far to believe.

And this part too:

One of the problems atheists have is the unbelievers' assertion that it is possible to determine what is right and what is wrong without God. They have a fundamental inability to concede that to be effectively absolute a moral code needs to be beyond human power to alter.

Both parts mirror what I've been saying all along.

Off the Derech said...

It's pathetic how you accuse them of straw men at the same time you're setting up numerous straw men of your own. All you got is ad hominem attacks. And if anyone is behaving immature, or boring here, it's not them.

The good news is their intended audience is not ignorant assholish morons like yourself and the author of this article. Rather, it's normal, sensible people WHO TRY NOT TO BE BIASED that they're discussing. They have no interest in dealingbwith sick, old, angry perverts like yourself.

SJ said...

>> Why is there such a fury against religion now? Because religion is the one reliable force that stands in the way of the power of the strong over the weak.

To anyone with a sense of history, this is a big strawman. Religion can be a good thing, but too often in history it's been abused and perverted for political purposes, geopolitical purposes, and power hungry purposes.



>> The one reliable force that restrains the hand of the man of power. In an age of power-worship, the Christian religion has become the principal obstacle to the desire of earthly utopians for absolute power.


There's also the 10th ammendment and the Supremacy Clause in the United States Constitution. That's secular.


>> One of the problems atheists have is the unbelievers' assertion that it is possible to determine what is right and what is wrong without God. They have a fundamental inability to concede that to be effectively absolute a moral code needs to be beyond human power to alter.


It is not fair to atheists to say that you can't be moral without religion.

ksil lo yavin said...

ad hominem.

David said...

Garnel,

Selective quotations from Hitchen's digression on the subject of pigs do very little for your argument here. I watched Hitchens' debate with Rabbi Boteach, and Hitchens won it through better command of the facts.

Dovy said...

Isn't Hitchens (and I assume his bro as well, halachically Jewish?)

Devorah said...

"I watched Hitchens' debate with Rabbi Boteach, and Hitchens won it through better command of the facts."

A five year old could win an argument with Shmuely Boteach. I'm not impressed.

The Way said...

' It will disappear from history not with a bang but a yawn."

I think that despite Hitchens abrasiveness, atheism is growing. Imagine how abrasive some members of a religious group might be if 85% of people were atheist and 15% were split among the religious. Some people would feel like they are surrounded by an insane world and spout reasonable ideas in an unreasonable manner.

Profiling Hitchens notwithstanding, with the rate of growth in atheism and the decline in religious believers, eventually the world will yawn that atheism is so widespread.

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

Nu, Devorah, so what would impress you? The point here is that Hitchens does repeatedly cite facts, and makes reasonable points about religion. While I don't always agree with him, I find Garnel's contention that he offers nothing but unsupported opinion to be, well, unsupported. More importantly, I find it typical of the kind of argument that one sees from religious corners (e.g., Shafran's accusation that people who find evolutionary theory persuasive are 'fundamentalists')-- pre-emptively (and inaccurately) accusing the atheists of doing precisely what the religious people do.

SJ said...

OMG Garnel, Shalmo has such a knack for making up stuff it's incredible. XD

I'm not saying I agree with everything you say though. ;D

Shalmo said...

Now now SJ, going to Garnel won't do you much good.

Everything I have said about Paul founding Christianity, or the non-existence of the virgin birth in Isaiah 7:14 and the passage being about Ahad instead.... all of these things Garnel will agree with me on.

If he did not agree with me on these points, his Judaism would be called into question

SJ said...

Shalmo you are misinterpreting. I'm not going to Garnel for common ground on Christianity, I'm going for common ground on you. XD


And it's Ahaz. So far you got Zelophehad's name wrong and Ahaz's name wrong.

Shalmo said...

My bad, you'll forgive me if I am not concerned about spell checking blog comments

The funny thing is everything I disagree with Garnel on, you yourself have raved about on your own blog against OJ. Hypocrite!

And everything I have tried educating you on, such the messianic prophecies you THINK refer to Jesus, Garnel will agree with me on.

So ha!

SJ said...

* Yawn * More misinterpreting Shalmo. I never said I agree with Garnel on OJ. I still don't.

As far as "educating" me, your whole debate strategy is repeating the same point over and over again instead of responding to the point of the person you are debating with. It's rather incoherent.