May 22, 2007

CliffsNotes: the Post-Show Hitchens Comment Thread

CliffsNotes: the Post-Show Hitchens Comment Thread

Last night’s conversation continues on, even without the voice of Christopher Hitchens. Here are some highlights:

I tell students in my high school philosophy club that only when you understand someone, do you THEN earn the right to disagree with them. I don’t get any sense that Hitchens understands any of the myths he claims to disagree with.

bousquet, in a comment to Open Source, May 21, 2007

I wish to thank Mr. Hitchens for standing his ground. Like knocking on the door of a vacant home, more knocking is superfluous; the result is the same. Arguing faith with a person who believes is superfluous; reason isn’t home. Only faith. And faith is not a debatable concept. His counterpart’s pressing against reason with the concept of “plurality of dogma to excercise the human experience” was simply void of meaning, and Mr. Hitchens was correct to ask what he was supposed to respond to. His response, “punching at air” seemed to work just fine.

rtrco, in a comment to Open Source, May 21, 2007

Mr. Hitchens is clearly very articulate and intelligent. It is unfortunate that his understanding of “rational” excludes the evidence of anyone who doesn’t agree with him. So, he has all the rational evidence, and the rest of us are simply talking nonsense. I’m sure his book will be a big sensation, and that is clearly what is foremost in his mind. I congratulate him in his notoriety.

The complexities and the ambiguities of what human beings have come to call “moral” behavior – ambiguities that much (certainly not all) religious thinking has grappled with over the years – have, quite evidently, escaped as formidable a rational thinker as Mr. Hitchings. If only the great artists over the course of history had tamed their imaginations and followed a more rational path, how much better a world we would be living in today.

housecalls50, in a comment to Open Source, May 21, 2007

I’m frustrated, too, by the continuing failure to differentiate religion from spirituality. Every defense of “religion” I’ve seen here is really a defense of what I called “weak faith,” or spirituality. Is there anyone here who will defend from Hitchens the capital-T Truth of either the empirical claims or the specific ethical claims (thou shalt not X or Y or Z) made by a particular religion, qua religious claims? (I agree it’s bad to kill and steal, but what I want to hear is a defense of the distinctively religious origin of those moral precepts.) If there’s no defense of those, then I need to know why people — smart people like Christopher Lydon and many here — are willing to adhere to religions that ask for (or demand) their acquiescence in these factual or ethical claims.

Sutter, in a comment to Open Source, May 21, 2007

I’ve often wondered what people mean by ’spirituality’. How does it differ from religion? Would you define 1) religion, and then 2) spirituality for me, please?

(To me, one is organized and the other nebulous — but I’d like to read someone else’s definitions, since mine are more intuitive ’senses’ and not really definitions at all.)

Nick, in a comment to Open Source, May 21, 2007

It seems to me that Hitchens is arguing against the primitive neolithic view of God, the “Big Daddy in the Sky” which we in the West have inherited from the Judeo-Christian tradition. This has nothing to do with who or what God is per se. Many other traditions have a different view of God. Many of us also experience “God” as the Great Mystery which is the very Ground of Being. One does not necessarily have to believe in the Big Father in the Sky god in order to have an experience of the deep mysterious God of our Being.

fenwizard, in a comment to Open Source, May 22, 2007

If “the human condition” is a generalization so broad it’s as effectively meaningless as “the Blue-winged warbler condition”, “the plankton condition”, or “the iguana condition”, maybe “God” is a generalization we all similarly accept without really knowing why. Maybe “God” is the generalization for all the universe’s mysteries science has been demystifying for the past two and more centuries – and as the mysteries steadily recede, the generalized concept “God” becomes more and more meaningless to many of us following the trend.

Nick, in a comment to Open Source, May 22, 2007

Only certain cosmological religious postures stand beyond proof. A transcendent god who starts it all off then sits back and doesn’t touch creation: very difficult to disprove. The popular conception is that it is beyond provability, but physicists are beginning to pose questions and even conceptualize experiments to probe beyond the big bang. As a final refuge for the ‘god of the gaps’ even a transcendent god might not be safe. The conception of an immanent god, who makes statues cry blood, or talks to you before bedtime is well within the realm of disproof.

Orlox, in a comment to Open Source, May 22, 2007

Oh, for crying out loud, can we please stop the “neo-atheism” and “new atheists” schtick now. There’s nothing new about the atheism of Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris. It’s the same atheism that almost all atheists have. It’s the atheism which caused me – at age 11 – to simply say ‘there is no God, just as there is no Santa or tooth fairy’. The only thing new about new atheism is that has come at a time when so many people are unable to come to the same, sensible conclusion.

Tom Morris, in a comment to Open Source, May 22, 2007

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