To many, he might not be missed, but he left few indifferent. A collision of atheism out of the academy and into the real world. He might have done for atheism what Marcel Duchamp did for art, except in reverse: a rupture with mythology and fantasy to be supplanted with the solidity of classicism. Of course, the dynamic tension of too much common sense, logic and reasonableness seemed to run counter to pop culture society and its own sense of corrupted romanticism that is endlessly reproduced and repackaged as the new. Yet, Hitchens came to be almost a pop figure himself,a celebrity; his emotional needs too strong to be a background figure, a need to be loved of a profound nature and his own slow arc back to deconstructing the complexities of his own travails with love and attaining a form of redemption within his writing which was art; for he seemed more taken by the aesthetic of atheism within the context of post-modern culture than a dry study taking aspects of Spinoza into the technological world and with it touching on aspects of empathy and authentic complicity that lurked under the macho, slightly chauvinistic cover he assumed. In his own unique way, Hitchens was striving for a poetics of atheism….
He also professed to have no regrets for a lifetime of heavy smoking and drinking. “Writing is what’s important to me, and anything that helps me do that — or enhances and prolongs and deepens and sometimes intensifies argument and conversation — is worth it to me,” he told Charlie Rose in a television interview in 2010, adding that it was “impossible for me to imagine having my life without going to those parties, without having those late nights, without that second bottle.”… although he did express amused appreciation at the hope, among some concerned Christians, that he might undergo a late-life conversion….Thus began a dual career as political agitator and upper-crust sybarite. He arranged a packed schedule of antiwar demonstrations by day and Champagne-flooded parties with Oxford’s elite at night. Spare time was devoted to the study of philosophy, politics and economics….He also threw himself into the defense of his friend Mr. Rushdie. “It was, if I can phrase it like this, a matter of everything I hated versus everything I loved,” he wrote in his memoir. “In the hate column: dictatorship, religion, stupidity, demagogy, censorship, bullying and intimidation. In the love column: literature, irony, humor, the individual and the defense of free expression.”
To help rally public support, Mr. Hitchens arranged for Mr. Rushdie to be received at the White House by President Bill Clinton, one of Mr. Hitchens’s least favorite politicians and the subject of his book “No One Left to Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton” (1999)….Mr. Hitchens became a campaigner against religious belief, most notably in his screed against Mother Teresa, “The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice” (1995), and “God Is Not Great.” He regarded Mother Teresa as a proselytizer for a retrograde version of Roman Catholicism rather than as a saintly charity worker….Read More:http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/16/arts/christopher-hitchens-is-dead-at-62-obituary.html?pagewanted=all a
Copson:As an Oxford undergraduate in the early 19th century, Percy Bysshe Shelley developed an argument for the non-existence of God. He entitled it The Necessity of Atheism, and 2011 is the bicentenary of his being expelled from the university for printing it.
The argument itself is simple. If you have seen or heard God, then you must believe in God. If you haven’t, then the only possible reasons to believe in God are reasonable argument or the testimony of others. The main argument given for believing in a deity – that the universe must have had a first cause – is not persuasive because there is no reason to believe either that the universe must have had a first cause or that this cause, if it existed, was a deity. The testimony of others – a third-rate source of knowledge in any case – is invariably contrary to reason. This is not least because it reports God as commanding belief, which would be irrational of God, given that belief is involuntary and not an act of will. So there is no reason to believe in God.
It is not a particularly shocking argument these days, but remembering this Shelley anniversary is important for other reasons.
Atheists today are too often castigated as materialistic calculators whose lack of spirituality sucks their universe empty of all beauty. Remembering Shelley’s atheism gives us an opportunity to counter this stereotype and to reflect on the aesthetic of enchantment with which a non-theistic world-view can be associated. The works of Shelley join the novels, poems, songs, sculptures, paintings, architecture and plays of generations of godless artists in exposing the straw man of the desiccated rationalist for what it is, and showcasing a humanist vision of life.Read More:http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2011/apr/02/shelley-the-necessity-of-atheism
An atheist once visited the great rabbi-philosopher Martin Buber and demanded that Buber prove the existence of God to him. Buber refused, and the atheist got up to leave in anger. As he left, Buber called after him, “But can you be sure there is no God?”
That atheist wrote 40 years later, “I am still an atheist. But Buber’s question has haunted me every day of my life.” Read More:http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/apologetics/ap0002.html
…I often grandly say that writing is not just my living and my livelihood but my very life, and it’s true. Almost like the threatened loss of my voice, which is currently being alleviated by some temporary injections into my vocal folds, I feel my personality and identity dissolving as I contemplate dead hands and the loss of the transmission belts that connect me to writing and thinking.
These are progressive weaknesses that in a more “normal” life might have taken decades to catch up with me. But, as with the normal life, one finds that every passing day represents more and more relentlessly subtracted from less and less. In other words, the process both etiolates you and moves you nearer toward death. How could it be otherwise? Just as I was beginning to reflect along these lines, I came across an article on the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. We now know, from dearly bought experience, much more about this malady than we used to. Apparently, one of the symptoms by which it is made known is that a tough veteran will say, seeking to make light of his experience, that “what didn’t kill me made me stronger.” This is one of the manifestations that “denial” takes.
I am attracted to the German etymology of the word “stark,” and its relative used by Nietzsche, stärker, which means “stronger.” In Yiddish, to call someone a shtarker is to credit him with being a militant, a tough guy, a hard worker. So far, I have decided to take whatever my disease can throw at me, and to stay combative even while taking the measure of my inevitable decline. I repeat, this is no more than what a healthy person has to do in slower motion. It is our common fate. In either case, though, one can dispense with facile maxims that don’t live up to their apparent billing. Read More:http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2012/01/hitchens-201201
HITCHENS: I’m an atheist. I’m not neutral about religion, I’m hostile to it. I think it is a positively bad idea, not just a false one. And I mean not just organized religion, but religious belief itself.
Why is the United States so prone to any kind of superstition, not just organized religion, but cultism, astrology, millennial beliefs, UFOs, any form of superstition? I’ve thought a lot about it. I read Harold Bloom’s book The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation (1992) about the evolution of what he thinks of as a specifically American form of religion. There was a book by Will Herberg in the 1950s called Protestant, Catholic, Jew where he speculated that what was really evolving was the American way of life as a religion. And that this was a way of life that wasn’t at all spiritual or intellectual but in a sense believed that all religion was valid as long as it underpinned this way of life. Somehow religion was a necessary ingredient. In other words, religion was functional. I think that’s true but it’s not the whole story.
Maybe – and this is a conclusion that I am reluctant to come to – it is because there is no established church here. A claim that is made for established churches is that in a way they domesticate and canalize and give a form and order to superstitious impulses. That’s why they usually succeed in annexing all local cults and making them their own, etc. Part of their job is to soak up all the savagery around the place. I think from an anthropological point of view, that’s partly true.
In a country that very honorably and uniquely founded itself on repudiating that idea and saying the church and the government would always be separate, and also a country that many people came to in the hope of practicing their own religion, you have both free competition and a sense of manifest destiny. I think it’s out of that sort of stew that you have all these bubbles.
Chesterton used to say that, if people didn’t have a belief in God, they wouldn’t believe in nothing, they would believe in anything. The objection to that of course is that belief in God is believing in anything. But there’s still a ghost of a point in there: if people are licensed to believe anything and call it spirituality, then they will. Read More:http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/hitchens_16_4.html