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.