Saturday, May 19, 2007

God Is No Good

Christopher Hitchens has been working hard of late to take on the mantle religion and faith's most vitriolic opponent. This should hopefully give believers a reprieve from bagging on the more mild-mannered and easy-going Richard Dawkins, and even Sam Harris, since I'd say Hitchens is more along the disagreeable lines of a Madalyn Murray O'Hair. He's a well regarded writer/journalist/commentator, and his previous works include The Missionary Position, an exposé on Mother Teresa and why she gets too much credit. His recent book, God is Not Great, takes on the big, imaginary man himself, and blasts the role of religion in... well, everything.

Hitchens is excellent at producing sound bites, and some of them are quite apt. For example, I love his distillation of why personal experience and anecdote are not evidence for truth claims: "What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence." However, Hitchens can also get caught up in ad hominem attacks, hyperbole, misrepresentations, rude interruptions, and other unhelpful debating tactics. The first time I saw him was in an episode of Penn & Teller's Bullshit!, and I must admit that on first site of the surly, smoking man, I thought, "ugh, what an unsavory character."

To see what I'm talking about, watch Christopher Hitchens on the Daily Show.

And, speaking of Jerry Falwell (see previous post), here's Hitchens's not-so-subtle expression of disdain for the departed reverend: Hitchens in conversation with Anderson Cooper.

It's tough when you agree with someone on many points, but dislike their presentation. Must be how most Christians felt about Jerry Falwell. (Thanks to Brandon for the links!)


JD said...

The maxim "what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence" predates Hitchens' use of it in his 2003 book, though he was certainly a popularizer of the statement.

Ross said...

I didn't know that! It's a great maxim, which I use fairly often, and have been attributing to Hitchens. Thanks, JD.