The world according to Hitch

"The world according to Hitch" Continued...

Issue: "Houses divided," June 3, 2006

Following his own standard on the civic minimum, however, aligns Mr. Hitchens with a president he says he doesn't particularly like. "He's not my type" says Mr. Hitchens, but he says that he "adores" first lady Laura Bush and does agree with Mr. Bush on key issues: He does not like abortion. "I'm a materialist and I'm a parent. I've looked at sonograms, and I don't know a lot of embryology but I know enough. The concept 'unborn child' seems to me to be a factual statement. . . . On that he [Bush] is not a fanatic, either." And while he describes himself as a Darwinist and an "orthodox Freudian," Mr. Hitchens thinks the president is right that "we should teach the argument" when it comes to intelligent design (a term he describes as "creationism, pure and simple").

Mr. Hitchens says he can overlook the president's religious views-"I don't mistake him for a fundamentalist, the Robertson kind, there's none of that stuff"-because he is "right on the main point. It is a war and we are in our life radically incompatible with totalitarianism, including the theocratic version. He understands that. And I can trust him while I sleep that he's not going to change his mind. This is not true of people who are supposedly more intelligent and better educated, like, for example, the senator from Massachusetts-either senator from Massachusetts-or many others."

And lest anyone doubt where he stands on religion: "I think religion is a deadly threat to the survival of the species and to the continued evolution of the brain." In debates he is quick to call himself an "anti-theist." Why not simply an atheist?

"An atheist can still say he wishes it was true. It would be nice if it was true. I can't see why it would be nice if it was true. I simply can't see that. To have pre-cradle to post-grave round-the-clock supervision and surveillance by someone with a very devious form of morality," he says, "who wants this to be true? I'm delighted that there's no reason to think that it's true. It's humanity's most obvious falsification."

In what for Mr. Hitchens is a rare moment of less-than-astute analysis, he says Jesus on the cross "is scapegoating that absolves one of all responsibility in return for the acceptance of the incredible and the undesirable. And then with the other shoe, the other hand, says if you don't believe it, then we have a real program of torture that will go on forever. It's disgusting. It was completely invented by very underdeveloped human beings," he says, astoundingly citing Augustine and Aquinas. "These are peasants; the sort of people we are up against now, with wild looks in their eyes and living in caves."

So where's the continued evolution of the brain in that?

"There is no evolution in that. My agreement with you, with them, is that they leave you alone. But they won't, they can't leave you alone. The other thing is that they want and need the world to come to an end. Eschatology is indivisible from this. They have to look forward to the destruction of the world. We're just marking time until the real stuff. There's a suicidal and destructive element in it, a wish for death.

"You can't wait for this life to be over. But I think it's all we've got."

In his own words

Challenged On professing Bible knowledge while eschewing biblical faith, Mr. Hitchens said, "I don't have the nostalgia for the lost period of faith. I'm glad it's over and my children won't have to know about it. Except from me."

WORLD: From you?

HITCHENS: I teach them this stuff and they don't know what I think.

WORLD: How do you teach them without them knowing what you think?

HITCHENS: You are not educated if you don't know the Bible. You can't read Shakespeare or Milton without it, even if there was nothing else of it. And with the schools now, that's what I hate about secular relativism. They're afraid of insurance liability. They don't even teach it as a document. They stay out of the whole thing to avoid controversy. So kids can't quote the King James Bible. That's terrible. And I quite understand Christian parents who want to protect their children from a nihilistic solution where there's no way of knowing what's been discussed.

WORLD: And I guess that's what I'm trying to understand about you, you say you have no nostalgia-

HITCHENS: I have none for myself. I doubt it but I'm very glad I was taught it. I was taught it as revealed truth.

WORLD: But doubting hasn't left you a relativist?

HITCHENS: I'm not a relativist. Most of the little boys and girls with whom I was taught in school aren't even agnostic or atheist; they're just totally indifferent toward religion. That's why I almost wish they would restore compulsory prayer in schools. It's the only thing-as in Europe-that leads to the mass production of atheism.

I think philosophy begins where religion ends. As with the discussion about Darwin, how are you going to teach it if you don't know what the other side is? I know the King James Bible pretty well. It's a fantastic document. I could not imagine my life without it. You couldn't read Paradise Lost. You couldn't read William Blake. Knowing about it is absolutely vital to me.

There was a very interesting dispute between [George] Orwell and [W.H.] Auden. Orwell when he saw the Spanish workers burning the churches because they were so fed up with the priests, he was fairly breezy about it. Auden, who was more pro-communist than Orwell, said he couldn't possibly bear to live in a country where there were no churches.

WORLD: Could you?

HITCHENS: No. There's very slight danger of it, anyway.


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