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Christopher Hitchens' Letter to American Atheists 4/23/11

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ezgoingrl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-23-11 01:58 AM
Original message
Christopher Hitchens' Letter to American Atheists 4/23/11
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 superstitition. 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.

Sincerely

Christopher Hitchens

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MrMickeysMom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-23-11 02:12 AM
Response to Original message
1. I hope I don't have to suffer church and state, which I do...
... every time local government starts a public meeting.

I has no place here. Be with your God, whomever or whatever it is, but do not pretend it has anything to do with conducting the business of the people.

Hitchens, you have voice and I hear it.
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ezgoingrl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-23-11 02:17 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. The separation between church and state
is becoming thinner as we speak. I hope it is because religion is in it's death throes.
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MrMickeysMom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-23-11 01:23 PM
Response to Reply #2
8. You know, it may very well be...
... but, time on OUR scale is so slow with these things.

If you have interest in our going into the next "age of Aquarius" which is a metaphor for going away from belief systems and starting to think as one's own self should, then this has been coming for a long time.

However, we sure do seem to be moved RIGHT to the edge with witnessing from those who do everything in their power to fervently hold on to THEIR belief systems... don't we?
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Prof Lester Donating Member (158 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-23-11 03:01 AM
Response to Original message
3. What's this? All of a sudden that guy wants respect for the Constitution??
He's been one of the worst howling for blood in the Bush years. Bush--you remember him.. he said the Constitution was "just a piece of paper".. and wanted to be an effing dictator! A regular damn Mussolini! Remember when that a-hole Hitchens had himself waterboarded and discovered whaddya know it is torture after all! A warmongering clown act. But now, since he apparently hates God (wrote a book to that effect too), he wants everyone to support the Constitution. One man's "piece of paper" is another man's "honor and a privilege".

But in this case he's right of course. But even a stopped clock is right couple times a day.
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-24-11 12:49 AM
Response to Reply #3
11. Like a generation of leaves, so are our lives: the wind scatters old leaves on the ground,
but in the spring the timber bursts alive with new buds - The Iliad

There's little point to attacking Mr Hitchens in his decline. I've often disagreed with him, but we all share a common fate, some sooner, some later

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Deep13 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-25-11 03:29 PM
Response to Reply #3
14. So, when did he advocate torture?
Edited on Mon Apr-25-11 03:35 PM by Deep13
If he did, I haven't heard about it. And don't confuse Bush's disregard for the Constitution with Hitchen's animosity for Saddam. Whatever we might think of the Iraq war, Saddam was a fascist and there was plenty of reason for wanting him gone. I don't agree with him on the war, his coziness with the Bush people or his loathing of Bill Clinton. Still, I think your characterization is unrealistic.

You might remember that Hitchens wrote a scathing piece on McCain and Palin before the election. He also wrote a biography of Jefferson and one of Thomas Paine some time ago, so this is hardly new ground for him.
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napoleon_in_rags Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-23-11 03:35 AM
Response to Original message
4. Wow, he holds to his non-belief even in the face of death.
He is a mujahideen of atheism, I will give him that.
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LeftishBrit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-23-11 03:42 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. Contrary to some of the stereotypes...
most atheists do not suddenly 'find' or 'choose' God when in danger of death. People who are simply indifferent to religion may become more interested in it when in danger (though not necessarily) but people who firmly believe that there is no God, don't usually decide that there is, when they are dying or have a dangerous illness.

This would apply to quite a few of my friends and relatives, and I do not consider them to be 'mujahedeen' because they didn't convert, or pretend to convert, on their deathbeds.
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napoleon_in_rags Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-23-11 04:28 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. Its good to have that courage of conviction...
I mention mujahedeen as a historical reference, people who will fight their cause to the death without wavering. Sort of the ideal religious warrior, but here that courage is expressed by an atheist. To me it reminds me in the end we are all left with the truest of our own convictions, we are all asked to distill down a lifetime of experiences into what we most truly believe. What will it be for you? For me? These seem to me very good questions to think about.
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PassingFair Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-23-11 09:45 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. There are more atheists in foxholes than you will ever know.
Edited on Sat Apr-23-11 10:17 AM by PassingFair
I come from an atheist family, and all of my loved
ones have died without a deathbed "conversion".

Atheists are probably as likely to turn to "god"
as a catholic is to become jewish at the time of
their death.

It has nothing to do with "ideals".

Atheism is more about acceptance than ideals.

Your comments are kind of insulting, by the way.
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napoleon_in_rags Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-23-11 07:19 PM
Response to Reply #7
9. My comments aren't intended to insult humanists.
By humanist, I mean a person who believes that noble and virtuous traits aren't instilled by religion but rather are inherit in the human character. That's what my comments were intended to point out.

However if you are insulted at the comparison between atheists and religious warriors because you believe one is just a better class of human, well you are just going to have be insulted then.

Peace.
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PassingFair Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-24-11 12:12 AM
Response to Reply #9
10. Hitchens is not dying FOR atheism, he is an atheist, dying.
Pretty simple.
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-24-11 02:03 AM
Response to Reply #6
12. I object to the idea that conviction, in and of itself, is a virtue...
...without regard to what one has conviction about. One could say it took a lot of "conviction" for Scott Roeder to kill abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, but I see nothing admirable in that kind of conviction, even when one is willing to die or be imprisoned for acting on one's convictions.
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Adsos Letter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-24-11 02:44 AM
Response to Reply #12
13. "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction.
Pascal.
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Deep13 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-25-11 03:30 PM
Response to Reply #12
15. agreed. nt
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Deep13 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-25-11 03:34 PM
Response to Original message
16. I lament that this reads like a final address to the troops.
It is as if he is saying, "It's been great, now continue the fight without me." I hope I am wrong, but the fact that he cannot speak means he is getting worse.

I appreciate all of the recent, well-known critics of religion and proponents of atheism. Yet Hitchens isn't a scientist-turned-advocate. He is a highly educated and skilled writer by profession and as such brings a degree of eloquence and probity to the subject the scientist-writers tend to lack.
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