Christopher Hitchens and his brother Peter, the atheist-turned-Christian, knocked
heads ideologies Tuesday at a luncheon put on by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life in Washington.
younger brother Peter, who is a practicing, conservative Anglican, pointed to a decaying society in the post-Christian world. In particular, he noted that the neighborhood in England he grew up in is now overrun by gangs. The younger Hitchens contended that the deterioration of British society is partly due to the decline of Christianity in the country.
“The extraordinary combination … of liberty and order, seem to me to only occur where people take into their hearts the very, very, powerful messages of self-restraint without mutual advantage, which is central to the Christian religion,” said Peter, who is a respected British journalist and author of the book The Rage Against God.
There’s another book that came out recently. The premise of it has to do with England’s history of the heavy and largely silent reliance on child labour which helped enabled that country to become one of the most powerful nations in the world. The book is called Childhood And Child Labour In The British Industrial Revolution, by Professor Jane Humphries
Wouldn’t that be an answer to child gang problems? The Church of England was pretty damn powerful back then, by the way. Not that I’m making the argument that less church equals fewer child fatalities in factories or anything but it’s a knice knugget of knowledge to pull out anytime people think life under more Church rule would be better.
I’m just saying it’s been tried, and it’s been terrible.
If that’s a poor example, look at how young girls in this century fared at Catholic church-run institutions in Ireland (the Magdalene asylums) meant to keep them away from trouble (read: boys). Whether every accusation of abuse was verifiable or not, enough was happening to make it a very big problem. Whether every accusation leveled toward Catholic priests now is verifiable or not, enough is happening and enough hidden indecencies have been uncovered to illustrate that the Church and all its power amounts to human harm – mentally and physically.
And it doesn’t matter if you want to pooh-pooh that and try and make excuses for it, that it’s all the trouble of weak men with poor morals and improper guidance from God or whatever the hell might be the reason of the week. It’s proof enough to state with great assurance that the whole religious institution is corrupt and has been for a very, very long time.
I also doubt there’s a church in the world free of scandal in one form or another. Priests are people with a job to do but what is that job? They get paid to do it, but what do they really do to earn their money? In any other workforce, if that much abuse was getting reported, those people wouldn’t have jobs in that field anymore. So why do priests manage to hang onto theirs and avoid recrimination? Why doesn’t that get more people irate and up in arms? It can’t just be atheists and humanists who care about that.
During the discussion, Peter said he found it objectionable that people who attack Christianity in Britain and in the United States dismiss the good that has been done in the name of religion. He said in a serious argument, atheists would have to answer how “the turning of the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just” could be obtained through anything other than religion.
Because it’s good with strings attached. They tend to do good, not for the sake of doing good to do the right thing, but to show off and display their faith and push people into joining up in order to get their dinner and force them to listen to bible stories while they eat it. What really kills me is the continued “religions do good!” argument anyway. Atheist and humanist groups can demonstrate pretty easily that religion isn’t required to do good things and accomplish tasks that will better people’s lives. My Freethinker group, as an example, gives to Kiva, a group that loans the money to people in other countries who need a few bucks to start their own businesses. And once their businesses are up and running and making a profit, they pay the money back so other people can borrow it. If you click the link, you’ll see that atheists (and the rest under the great red A) are leading the pack in donations, a million dollars more than what the Christians have given so far.
And how’s this for a pointless “turning of the hearts” attempt? The ACLU is suing a South Carolina jail for banning all books from its premises save soft-covered bibles. That’s all their inmates have been allowed to read for as long as they are in there. Years even. That’d be a thousand tortures for me, given how much I love reading. I doubt there are any studies people could reliably point to and state for fact that bible reading cuts crime. Is bible reading somehow supposed to make these offenders better people? How would that happen exactly?
Peter Hitchens commented on how civilization can survive without God but how people must be careful of what kind of society they would be living in. He pointed to the “shameless” police-state in China and the “tremendously conformist” society in Japan as example of how a religion-less civilization would look like.
Peter Hitchens doesn’t know a lick about Japan, I’d say. It’s not that they’re without religion (85% of them will say they’re Buddhist), they just don’t give it as big a role in their lives as people in other countries will with theirs. Their conformist society might have less to do with lack of religion and more to do with their culture and history in general and how they’ve always approached people in positions of authority. You can’t just point to one thing and say that’s the reason they’re so bizarre.
And China is a whole other kettle of fish. I don’t know what would fix China. Giving the poor and downtrodden more access to religion won’t improve their living conditions or workplaces in any way, shape or form, though. It might make them feel better about their shitty situation in this life if some religious group hammers it into their heads often enough that a better life awaits them when they’re dead, but what good does that do? It’s bad enough that so many people are willing to believe that already, without any proof at all that it’s true, save silly stories by those “I saw the light!” folks and their near-death experiences. As Terry Pratchett once wrote, we all have near-death experiences. It’s called living. That’s a paraphrase from Hogfather, if you’re curious.
“I think both the atheist and the Christian fear there is a God, but the Christian also hopes there is one,” said Peter.
Despite their opposing views, the Hitchens brothers debated rather amicably Tuesday, each respecting the view of the other. After “the longest quarrel of [Peter’s] life” in 2008, the younger Hitchens said he no longer held hope to convert his brother, who he described as as having “bricked himself up high in his atheist tower, with slits instead of windows from which to shoot arrows at the faithful.”
At least he fights with words and not real arrows. And he’s arguing from a position of strength, by the way. I think the many of the faithful get their freak on because their foundations just aren’t strong enough to withstand the blows and deep down they know it. That’s why they cling tighter and tighter to every silly notion, every strange tradition, every claim that can’t be substantiated with scientific evidence. The country-sized foundations that once fortified their positions have eroded to near-uselessness and can’t be trusted to hold them up anymore. All they have left is what they can do by themselves and it ain’t much. Which is why they continue to cry out for more god in the world – it’s the only way they know how to be civilized. They never learned how be civilized without a religion to lean on.
Atheists had to figure that out for themselves and are stronger for it.