Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Save a Prayer

From Chrisopher Hitchens's ongoing series of pieces on his battle with cancer, this particular one dealing with much of the -- often unsurprisingly illiterate -- commentary from those among the religious faithful who believe that his disease is some sort of punishment from a vengeful god for his outspoken atheism:

"There are numerous passages in holy scripture and religious tradition that for centuries made this kind of gloating into a mainstream belief. Long before it concerned me particularly I had understood the obvious objections. First, which mere primate is so damn sure that he can know the mind of god? Second, would this anonymous author want his views to be read by my unoffending children, who are also being given a hard time in their way, and by the same god? Third, why not a thunderbolt for yours truly, or something similarly awe-inspiring? The vengeful deity has a sadly depleted arsenal if all he can think of is exactly the cancer that my age and former “lifestyle” would suggest that I got. Fourth, why cancer at all? Almost all men get cancer of the prostate if they live long enough: it’s an undignified thing but quite evenly distributed among saints and sinners, believers and unbelievers. If you maintain that god awards the appropriate cancers, you must also account for the numbers of infants who contract leukemia. Devout persons have died young and in pain. Bertrand Russell and Voltaire, by contrast, remained spry until the end, as many psychopathic criminals and tyrants have also done. These visitations, then, seem awfully random. While my so far uncancerous throat, let me rush to assure my Christian correspondent above, is not at all the only organ with which I have blasphemed …And even if my voice goes before I do, I shall continue to write polemics against religious delusions, at least until it’s hello darkness my old friend."

I hope that when my time comes, I can go down swinging with as much dignity, wit and intellectual honesty as Hitchens is -- although I'm still hoping with everything inside of me that he comes through this thing.


Trixi said...

Sometimes being a Christian is like having a douchebag cloak.

VOTAR said...

Unfortunately by posing his ideas as questions for the religionists all Hitchens does is bait them with more opportunity to solidify their delusional beliefs and construct even more absurd "proofs" of their validity. In one fell swoop, the pre-medieval folktale called the Book of Job pretty much takes care of any need to explain these obvious inconsistencies in the behavior of "god." The all-purpose, pre-packaged excuse.

He works in mysterious ways... we mere mortals can not question the reasons why he drowns 250,000 people in Bangladesh while truly rotten evil-doers are allowed to continue to live.

It's "punishment of sinners" when it fits their infantile construct of the universe; it's "how dare you ask that question?" when it does not.

Perfectly unassailable anti-logic, which offers the comfort of a perpetual illusion that they are always right. It's entertaining, but only while it's just the harmless rantings of otherwise potentially bright people who have abandoned reason in favor of the fairy tale they are compelled to accept as the truth.

Deacon Blue said...

God can take criticism and abuse, even from Hitchens.

However, if God were in a mind to punish the man, I doubt cancer would have been the go-to retribution.

Truly punishing Hitchens would have been to give him a laryngal disease that robbed him of his voice, crippling arthritis so that he couldn't type or write either...and rendering him unable to get buzzed from alcohol.

In any case, I do truly hope that Hitchens lives a lot longer so that people can hear what he has to say...even the ones who don't agree and want to kick the man when he's (sort of) down. Hitchens is smart and witty, and I can appreciate that even on those occasions that I don't agree with him.

J. Dack said...

The worst part about the people he mentions is that they make their own religion look even worse than it does on its own.

While I feel that all Christians are delusional, many of them are at least not vile, hate-filled d-bags like so many internet commenters.

Many people believe I myself am going to burn in the eternal fires of "Hell," but very few are actually pleased with this notion.

Kevin Davis said...

Is his cancer terminal?

Alanna said...

Jews don't believe in Hell. Just in-laws.

BenoƮt from Ottawa said...

From Wiki, about Hitchens and his cancer: "On 30 June 2010, Hitchens postponed his book tour for Hitch-22 to undergo treatment for metastatic esophageal cancer[118] that has spread to his lymph nodes and lungs.[119] He first made the announcement of his diagnosis in Vanity Fair magazine. In August, Hitchens discussed his diagnosis with Anderson Cooper on CNN. He told Cooper that the long term prognosis is far from positive and that when you use cigarettes and alcohol, which he has used heavily, you "make yourself a candidate" for the disease."

Anonymous said...

I thought we left the God-directly-punishes-you thing behind when we entered the Age of Grace. You know: Jesus died for your sins.

Amy said...

Chez- Thank you, and please keep posting the continued parts of this series as they are released. They are so refreshing (in a rather morbid way, I admit) after spending a day in a teacher's education class where the professor insisted that the Bible is a non-fiction work. My response to that was, of course, "That depends on your perspective." I don't think I'm going to be popular in that class. Gotta love living in the Bible Belt.

I'm late to the Hitchens party- I haven't read much by him, but I plan to start ASAP. Thanks for introducing him to me.

cgwalt said...

Letters to a Contrarian was a gift to my son at age17 and Hitchens continues to dazzle me. As an atheist I think the path to immortality (that is the reason for all this god stuff, right?) is through your children and your work.
Christopher Hitchens name and works will be immortal.

I mean at least until the sun goes nova.