On the Death of Christopher Hitchens: Obituary for an Atheist Propagandist

December 19, 2011 8:26 am 49 comments

The saintly Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, a story about him forced me to reconsider.

There is a story told about the saintly Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, also known as the Alter (The Old One) of Slobodka (1849-1927), whose students at the famed Slobodka Yeshiva in Lithuania eventually became some of the most important leaders of Torah Judaism in the United States and throughout the world. There was a certain priest in the town that – although he had never actively harmed any Jews – was notoriously anti-Semitic and one day word spread that he had died. The students of the Yeshiva excitedly rushed in to tell the news to R. Nosson Tzvi. Much to their surprise, he sadly shook his head and said in Yiddish, Oy, Nebach (Oy, what a shame). The students, to say the least, were quite surprised by his reaction. “Rebbe,” they said, “This man hated Jews, why would you say Nebach?” The Alter, who almost never raised his voice but with a sharp look could make one’s blood run cold, stared intensely at his students, “You start off by celebrating the death of an anti-Semitic priest, in the end you’ll celebrate when your next door neighbor dies, because he offended you in some petty way.”

Although I certainly had no intention of celebrating the recent death of Christopher Hitchens, I was inclined to write a rather nasty, biting obituary with a nasty, biting title, but I remembered this story and decided against it. I can’t say with absolute certainty that Hitchens deserves such consideration, though. He did not exhibit much consideration when ripping into those whom he chose to excoriate. Even one of his admirers admitted that he had a tendency to “bully” and “shout down” his opponents, rather than stick to the high road and win on pure reason and logic. His book about Mother Teresa was obscenely entitled The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice. When asked about the title, Hitchens replied, “It was either that or Sacred Cow, and I thought that Sacred Cow was in bad taste.” How clever, Mr. Hitchens, how clever…and how gratuitously coarse and foul.

Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011

His antipathy towards religion in general and Judaism in particular bordered on the pathological. How else does one explain his comparison of Jewish ritual circumcision to the abhorrent practice of female genital mutilation that is practiced in Africa and parts of the Arab and Muslim world? How else does one explain his implicit accusation that there is a component of sexual molestation in the bris ceremony? How else does one explain his glib declaration that “Orthodox Jews conduct congress by means of a hole in the sheet?” Ten minutes of research would have revealed that this is an utter lie; ten minutes of research he obviously never bothered doing. On the other hand, perhaps we should be thankful he did not accuse us of murdering Christian children to use their blood in baking matzos for Passover. Enough! I’m starting to work myself up into that nasty article I promised I would not write. For a more comprehensive treatment of the egregious errors in his writings please see the first chapter of my book which can be viewed on my website, and my article entitled “Christopher Hitchens: The Elmer Gantry of Modern Atheism.”

Despite all of the above, I can’t help but admit that he had a charm, charisma, and an eminent likeability about him. After imbibing a forcefully administered dose of self-reflection, what finally came to mind was a passage from Ulysses S. Grant’s account of Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox:

“I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.”

Christopher Hitchens – 1949-2011, journalist, author, and Jewish atheist: While an undeniably gifted, passionate, and extraordinarily talented individual, he devoted that talent and passion to a cause that I believe was “one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.”

If you wish to be notified when Rabbi Averick’s new columns appear, send an email to moe.david@hotmail.com and simply write the word Subscribe in the subject bar.  Rabbi Moshe Averick is an orthodox rabbi and author of Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist. It is available on Amazon.com and Kindle. Rabbi Averick can be reached via his website. .


49 Comments

  • You ask “How else does one explain his comparison of Jewish ritual circumcision to the abhorrent practice of female genital mutilation that is practiced in Africa and parts of the Arab and Muslim world?”.

    I hope I’m not being offensive, but I’d be grateful if you could outline in what way you believe that the two practices are not comparable (other than perhaps the lack or otherwise of basic hygiene)?

    • Phil P,

      Fair enough. I do not consider any question to be offensive when it is asked honestly. I have reprinted below a section of an earlier article I wrote on this site about Christopher Hitchens. Remember the entire point to female genital mutilation is to severely curtail if not eliminate a woman’s capacity to have physical pleasure from sex.

      “In chapter four, Hitchens also presents the reader with an obscene depiction of a Jewish circumcision ceremony. Although, ironically enough, Hitchens is Jewish, the disgusting passages under discussion could have been plagiarized from the pages of Der Sturmer, the rabidly anti-Jewish, quasi-pornographic tabloid published by Julius Streicher, a Nazi war criminal executed by the Allies in 1946. The way in which Hitchens portrays the ceremony is so vulgar and divorced from reality, at the very least it indicates some sort of pathology, be it emotional, spiritual, or intellectual.

      As if that wasn’t enough of a display of his neurotic obsession with religion, he then outrageously equates Jewish circumcision (which takes literally about 15 seconds and, if judging by the amount of crying, hurts about as much as a vaccination) with the revolting practice of genital mutilation which young girls are subjected to “across a wide swath of animist and Muslim Africa.” A mutilation which includes the “slicing off of the labia and clitoris, often with a sharp stone, and then stitching up of the vaginal opening with strong twine, not to be removed until it is broken by male force on the bridal night.”

      When it comes to these fabrications, Hitchens’ motto seems to be “in for a penny, in for a pound.” Not only does he obliquely inform us that Jewish circumcision has sexual overtones and is comparable to female genital mutilation, (if you have ever attended a Jewish circumcision and are shaking your head in disbelief, it is for the simple reason that what Hitchens writes on this subject has very little connection to reality), but he accuses Jews of having heartlessly and ruthlessly killed and disfigured many a young boy because of this barbaric practice. From chapter sixteen:

      ■“And who can bear to read the medical textbooks and histories which calmly record the number of boy babies who died from infection after their eighth day, or who suffered gross and unbearable dysfunction and disfigurement? The record of syphilitic and other infection, from rotting rabbinical teeth or other rabbinical indiscretions…is simply dreadful.”
      After reading this shocking claim, I looked in vain for the footnote or reference to see where he found this frightening piece of information. There is no footnote or reference because it is an outright lie. My grandfather was, and my son is, a highly trained mohel, (a person trained to perform Jewish ritual circumcision), and my sons are circumcised as are all the males in my immediate family. I am familiar with the precautions that a mohel takes to ensure the health of the baby. It is not unusual for a mohel to postpone a circumcision because of a condition that wouldn’t otherwise cause alarm, such as a slightly elevated bilirubin count. If, after consulting with medical professionals, it is determined that there is a possibility of a health hazard, the circumcision is put off indefinitely. Hitchens cites an incident which either involved clear negligence on the part of the particular mohel, or was simply a tragic mishap. While negligence unfortunately occurs at all levels of human endeavor (among physicians, accountants, atheist authors) it is not a regular component of circumcision. Risk attends even the simplest of surgical procedures – even blood transfusions – frequently at levels higher than we may think. None of this justifies Hitchens’ wild, hysterical, and slanderous rantings about Jewish circumcision.

      In all fairness, there are some serious side effects to the performance of the brit milah (covenant of circumcision). For instance, scientific studies have shown that in the United States, a circumcised Jewish male runs a much higher risk of becoming the CEO of a major Hollywood studio than an uncircumcised gentile. (O.K., I’m fudging a bit, even a higher risk than circumcised gentiles) A circumcised Jewish male also runs a much higher risk of winning a Nobel Prize in medicine (although Jews are roughly 0.2% of the world’s population, nearly 50% of all Nobel Prize winners in medicine have been Jewish). In fact, there is a barbaric side to a Jewish circumcision. However, as I have explained, it has nothing to do with the ceremony itself. It’s after the ceremony, when the room full of Jews head towards the trays of bagels and lox, now that is positively brutal….”

      • What an evasive and sarcastic answer.

        Jewish male circumcision and Muslim female genital mutilation are both examples of religious/cultural rituals involving surgery. I’m not really sure why the Bible insists on circumcision, though there are modern studies that indicate that transmission rates of various STDs are reduced after circumcision.

        Muslim genital mutilation is meant to remove a woman’s ability to experience sexual pleasure. As far as I know it is not mandated in the Qur’an, but is a cultural practice that developed since the days of Mohammed.

        Hitchens was completely correct – it was common practice, and is still the occasional practice in ultra-orthodox Jewish sects, for the mohel to suck the severed foreskin off the infant penis. And it is also true that this has led to some disgusting cases of oral herpes and other diseases being transmitted to infants. And there was at least one death of an infant from a herpes infection in NY. There are also historical accounts of transmission of syphilis and tuberculosis via this ritual.

        I don’t believe Hitchens is right – that male circumcision is ultimately about reducing the prevalence and/or enjoyment of sex. But I do absolutely believe that circumcision, like female genital mutilation, stems from the sick and twisted obsession with sex that is found throughout the Abrahamic faiths. And the oral sucking of the freshly-circumcized penis is truly repulsive and should long ago have been eliminated by Jewish authorities globally.

      • Thank you for taking the trouble to respond to me.
        You accuse Hitchens of writing things which could have been taken from Die Sturmer with, what you describe, as the “obscene depiction of a Jewish circumcision ceremony” by Hitchens in Chapter 4 about the circumcision ritual in New York. Yet the actual story can in fact be read about in the New York Times (Aug 26 2005) http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/26/nyregion/26circumcise.html and although Hitchens description is perhaps more colourful, I can find no fundamental falsehood in what he says.

        You point out in your preamble that we are to remember that “the entire point to female genital mutilation is to severely curtail if not eliminate a woman’s capacity to have physical pleasure from sex,” while, one supposes, seeking to claim that Jewish circumcision has no similar effect on the males who undergo it. Yet the Jewish philosopher Maimonedes affirms that the purpose of circumcision is to reduce physical pleasure saying “The fact that circumcision weakens the faculty of sexual excitement and sometimes perhaps diminishes the pleasure is indubitable. For if at birth this member has been made to bleed and has had its covering taken away from it, it must indubitably be weakened.”

        You say that it is outrageous for Hitchens to equate “Jewish circumcision with the revolting practice of female genital mutilation”, saying that the former “ judging by the amount of crying, hurts about as much as a vaccination” yet your Jewish philosopher Maimonedes says that “The bodily pain caused to that member is the real purpose of circumcision”.

        And so I’m left wondering exactly why what Hitchens says outrages you so?

        I’m assuming that your last point about the association of circumcision with the stewardship of Hollywood studios is a joke.

        • Phil,

          I am very aware of the incident that the NY Times article talked about. Frankly, I don’t know the details myself and based on my past experience with articles about things of which I had personal knowledge, I am highly suspicious of anything that most newspapers write about the Orthodox Jewish community.

          Having said that, I want to point out that the article is about something that happened six years ago. It was tragic and infrequent tragedies like this are unavoidable. My son is a mohel and my grandfather was a Mohel for some 50 years and never in his entire career did anything like this ever happen. Every precaution is taken by the mohel to ensure that the health of the baby is not at risk.
          If there is any sign of a medical risk, the circumcision is put off indefinitely until, with consultation of expert doctors, it is decided that the risk has passed. Any mohel that would do anything that would endanger the child is criminally negligent under Jewish law and as far as I’m concerned should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Unfortunately all types of professionals are capable of negligence, including doctors, surgeons, lawyers, accountants, and atheist authors.

          Over a thousand people die every year in the United States from blood transfusions, despite the best intentions. Even the simplest surgery carries with it some type of risk.

          Re: Maimonidies. First of all, Maimonidies wrote that in Guide for the Perplexed, itself a rather controversial and very difficult book to understand. In other places where Maimonidies discusses the subject he expresses himself differently. Anyone trying to formulate a normative Jewish position by quoting an isolated passage from Guide for the Perplexed is already on very shaky ground. Anyone who is knowledgable of Jewish Philosophy and Thought will tell you the same thing.

          Nachmanidies, one of the greatest of Jewish medieval thinkers and Talmudists wrote an entire book “Igeres Hakodesh” (The Holy Letter) as a response to some of the things Maimonidies wrote about sexuality and along with others vehemently disagreed with some of the things that he wrote. However, in one sense, all of this is beside the point. As they say, the proof is in the pudding. Forgive me for being indelicate, but as a father of eight children (no virgin births, I promise) it never bothered me a bit. As a rabbi I have talked to hundreds, if not thousands, of people about the subject of sexuality and I have NEVER heard any Jewish man complain about his circumcision interferring with sexual pleasure. For that matter I have never heard such complaints from gentiles either. The whole thing is utter nonsense and Hitchens knew it. He simply did not care, he had a pathological hatred for religion and used any excuse possible to attack.

          AS one who has attended the circumcisions of my own 5 sons, grandsons and dozens of other circumcisions, the idea that there is terrible pain inflicted on the baby is absurd. The custom is to immediately place some gauze or cotton with wine on it in the babies mouth immediately after the circumcision (which takes literally about 15 seconds) and the baby stops crying immediately.

  • The appropriate saying would be:

    Here Lies a Theist
    All Dressed Up With Nowhere to Go!

    Of course, the same could be said of an atheist, but the big difference is that the atheist knew it before he died. The theist was living in a confused and illusory world.

  • Kevin Bjornson

    Christopher Hitchens was a great man, out of this time, and heroic.
    Unfortunately he was not always right. Though he was right to a certain extent, in areas we disagree on. Thank you for the story about the Lithuanian rabbi and the grace with which you wrote the article.

    Humanism can’t be blamed for how everybody responds to their own Jewish background. Why not blame religious leaders, instead? The facts are,

    *all religious documents are of human origin. There is no indication of religious documents that are of supernatural origin. They are written by human made instruments on human made paper equivalents.

    *there is no archeological evidence of religion from pre-human times,
    or, for that matter, much beyond 5000 years ago.

    *all religious documents are written in some human language.
    There is no indication of any supernatural origin of language.

    *all discussion by humans must use some human language.
    All known languages have natural origins, and words that are empirically defined.

    Therefore any discussion either employs natural human language,
    or is nonsense. Consequently, everybody is either a humanist,
    an extra-terrestrial, or a gibbering idiot.

    • Kevin,

      How many religions have you investigated? What is the connection between whether or not a particular document was revealed by God and what type of instrument it is written with or what it is written on?

      • Kevin Bjornson

        I have investigated the god module of the human brain:
        http://www.calvin.edu/~lhaarsma/GodModuleInBrain1999.pdf

        Suppose that a stage magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat.
        Either he is doing a sleight of hand, or the rabbit magically appears. Since the rabbit moves through space-time, it must
        come from somewhere, and cannot come from nowhere.

        In other words, the rabbit is bound by natural law,
        and the magician uses natural means to create the effect.
        What the magician does, is entirely humanistic.
        Because he is using human means, and not supernatural means.

  • “I am certain that God the Creator exists …”

    Why?

    There is no factual, reasonable basis for thinking that “God the Creator” exists, so what is the source of your decision to be “certain”?

    There are only two possibilities: 1) it’s a naturalistic understanding, or 2) it’s blind faith. Since you have defined your “IDOL” as being “outside the physical universe,” then blind faith is the option you’ve chosen. So how do you imagine that gets you anywhere (cognitively or morally)? Any idea?

  • Belief in a God-based morality makes morality an entirely SUBJECTIVE matter of what you imagine God commands. There is no rational (i.e., objective) way to understand or function on a God-based (i.e., not-of-this-world) morality.

  • Moshe Averick poses the question: “How do I know what God wants of me?

    The answer is that you FEEL it, that is, you feel (perhaps very strongly) that God is speaking to you (or at least has had somebody write something down for you). Belief in a God-based morality makes morality an entirely SUBJECTIVE matter of what you image God commands. There is no rational (i.e., objective) way to understand or function on a God-based morality.

  • For the last couple of thousand years, the religionists have been the kings of subjective morality. Just look at the sad history of the theism of the Old Testament and the Koran in holding out for God as the source of moral values.

  • You say you decided not to write anything nasty, but then you went ahead and wrote a nasty obituary anyway. I found your blog through Coyne and I am enjoying your inanities and delusion. Keep up the good work! Having gone through your archives here I can see you consistently produce hilarious pieces (except for this one, which I find sad). You have won over a new reader…give us another piece please!

  • Perhaps it would have been fitting just to ascribe to him the Athiest’s gravestone epitaph:

    Here Lies an Athiest
    All Dressed Up With Nowhere to Go!

    • Actually, it is the theists who have nowhere to go, since their beliefs are based outside the physical universe, i.e., nowhere anybody can ever go. An atheist and a theist have exactly the same chance of every getting outside the physical universe, viz., zero.

    • Actually, it is the theists who have nowhere to go, since their beliefs are based outside the physical universe, i.e., nowhere anybody can possibly go. An atheist and a theist have exactly the same chance of ever getting outside the physical universe, viz., zero.

  • Normann Wheland

    Moshe said:

    “[Hitchen's] antipathy towards religion in general and Judaism in particular bordered on the pathological…”

    Followed a bit later by:

    “…On the other hand, perhaps we should be thankful he did not accuse us of murdering Christian children to use their blood in baking matzos for Passover. Enough! I’m starting to work myself up into that nasty article I promised I would not write.”

    What kind of a sicko would write such tripe? What sort of a pathologically compulsive anti-Hitchens hate monger would lose control of his own (limited though they may be)faculties in this manner?

    • Moshe’s not really the king of self-awareness, Normann.

      His obit here is just “No offence, but you’re a douchebag.” writ large. Regardless of what it says about Hitchens, it says more about Moshe, and our narcissistic friend likes it like that, no matter how unflattering.

  • Was finally able to finish yesterday’s paper and found an unexpected tribute to Hitchens by Kathleen Parker, who was once a favorite “conservative opinion” writer of mine until she seemed to fall under the thrall of Obama.

  • You should have just said what you wanted – Hitchens couldn’t care, he’s dead – instead of trying to respect Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel and failing anyway. And being insincerely polite is certainly no fitting tribute to Hitchens.

    Only problem, I guess, with going for a double-barred obituary is that Hitchens did them so much better than anything you could have come up with, and the comparison would surely have been made.

    Sure, Hitchens was an asshole, but people forgave him for it because he aimed his scorn at people who deserved it, for the most part.

    • Looks like Hitchens is pretty boring. No wonder I never really noticed him before.

    • JP,

      I wasn’t being insincerely polite. I was thinking that I would have to answer to God eventually for what I wrote and what effect it would have on me and others.
      If I believed as Hitchens there’d be no reason to care one way or the other anyways

      • And in real life, you don’t have to worry about answering to God — only to yourself.

      • Well you wrote that you wanted to rip him a new one, but then decided to write something different.

        I said you were insincerely polite.

        Po-TAY-to. Po-TAH-to.

        But I get it, you didn’t want to stoop to Hitchens’ level. I can respect that. Although since your last article was all about defiantly stooping to Jerry Coyne’s level, I don’t understand it, but I can respect it. Maybe Hitchens’ level was too low even for you, or you lacked the balls to pull it off. Either way it’s all good.

      • Rabbi, is there wisdom in the presupposition that ascribing atheist thinking to the cause of or be synonymous with moral ambiguity? Or are we simply talking about Hitchens, specifically, when we say “if I thought as he did”?

        • Matt,
          Im not totally clear what you mean. A consistent atheist worldview implies complete subjectivity of moral values. In other words, they are anything you like them to be.

          I’m not sure what you are asking about when you mention Hitchens.

          • “A consistent atheist worldview implies complete subjectivity of moral values.”

            That’s nonsense, Moshe, and you ought to know it.

            Atheism means nothing except not being a theist. It says absolutely nothing about morality.

            Theism, since it means a subjective belief (that is, a belief in something not-of-this-objective-world), does imply complete subjectivity of moral values insofar as it sets up God as the moral authority. But you still cannot stretch “atheism” to means a commitment to complete objectivity on moral values. That is a far more demanding discipline than merely not believing in God.

            A theist is necessarily a subjectivist, but an atheist could still be a subjectivist, too, just not one who believes in the supernatural.

          • For a theistic subjectivist, moral values are whatever he feels God says they are (or whatever he feels like accepting on faith from someone claiming to speak for God).

            For an atheistic subjectivist, moral values are just whatever the hell he feels like doing — without resorting to the “God told me to do it” excuse.

            In contradistinction to these subjectivist approaches, an objective morality is one with values based on promoting rational human living.

          • Sorry, words got screwy on cell phone. In any case, you answered, at least in part. I guess my point is that regardless of your view on theism, morality is still a personal issue. There are many Jews who do not observe Kashrut, or who work late Friday nights. There are Christians who hate, who do pretty much everything they’re told not to in their bible, etc etc. If we assume that all atheists do whatever they want and call it morality, would we be any wiser for making it seem as though there’s a distinction at all? Shouldn’t we consider that pretty much EVERYONE, save small handfuls of individuals in all belief systems, does this?

        • Matt,

          Your point is a valid one. When I talk about objective God Based morality vs. subjective atheist morality I am talking in a purely theoretical, abstract sense. Practically speaking, many people whether they believe in God or not, basically do whatever they want. many believers do what they like and simply stamp it retroactively with “God approved.”

          This is something I talk about in my book. There are two steps here. The first is to realize that without God there is no morality at all, just personal or societal preferences and social mores and contracts. The second step is asking the question, How does I know what God wants of me? That is a little more complicated and beyond the scope of these types of comments.

          • Moshe Averick makes the specious claim “that without God there is no morality at all.” He’s very wrong about that, as are many other people who also cling to the same erroneous belief.

            For one thing, God is a myth, a fantasy, a story, not an actuality. For another thing, morality is a code of values to guide our actions in real life — so it is reality we need to refer to when making choices, including naturally MORAL choices. Trying to tie moral choices to something not-of-this-world is a recipe for moral confusion, illusion, and failure.

          • @Steve: How do we first determine if he is wrong, when what he stats is merely opined sentiment? This is where the religious part ways with the atheists. We must ask ourselves how it is, not that we define right and wrong, but how we come by definitions to begin with. Unless one is willing to live entirely in seclusion, can we all not agree that societal burdens are inherent? That whether your law is tribal, such as Jewish law, or more of a world-inclusive view, we must at least, for the sake of discussion, agree to agree upon how we define such things?

          • ‘Practically speaking, many people whether they believe in God or not, basically do whatever they want. many believers do what they like and simply stamp it retroactively with “God approved.”’

            Even if they stamp it “God approved” as the excuse in anticipation of doing it, it is still total subjectivism because there really is no God (or any place “outside the physical universe”). Subjectivists may certainly believe in God or not, as they please, but they are still subjectivists if they believe in God (and that God is somehow telling them what to do to be moral).

  • For starting out saying you were not going to write the mean obituary, you ended up there. He was no more inflammatory or biased then you are. You start with the premis there is a god and continue from there. I follow you on FB and on your blog. You seem to be very bitter and closed to all other thoughts and opinions.

    Hitchens had much to say to the world and even when it was uncomfortable he made you think, question and reconsider you on place in life’s journey.

    • Dick,

      that’s only because you never saw what I intended to write originally. I try to be open to many different views. However, the things that I write about are usually things that I have very strong and clear opinions about. If something is unclear to me I will usually not talk about it in public. In any case, I will try to keep in mind what you wrote.

  • There is no rational excuse for religious beliefs, no matter how common they may be. In the intellectual sense, theism is wrong and atheism is correct — absolutely regardless of who the theists and atheists happen to be. It is simply not a matter of personalities at all.

  • Hitchens was an awful person with an ego that demanded he always be right, facts of no importance.

    See his stance on Iraq and WMD for example.

    While he clearly loathed all religions he hate, hate, hated Islam, in his books he would mutter and grump about the Jewish and Christian flavours of theism but drip complete vile over Muslims.

    He even painted Saddam as a pious Muslim, which was patently false. Saddam, like most dictators and other politicians, use religion as a tool but he was evil so Hitchens made Saddam an example of a Muslim with power.

    Hitchens was a drunk, he would show up at interviews clearly blasted but because he was a functioning drunk he was never sent home, ever mind he was an unprofessional slob.

    His writing was good but unremarkable, I don’t think I’ve ever re-read a word, outside one of few his often repeated vaguely derivative atheist quotes I can’t think of anything memorable.

    I find it hysterical that he upset you because he compared the ritualistic slicing of genitalia to the ritualistic slicing of genitalia. While clearly one is worse than the other the underlying principle has much in common; bizarre appeasements to a sex obsessed god.

    The fact you think him “likeable” Moshe (again) makes clear your powers of observation are limited. He was not likeable, he was an *sshole who got away with it.

    And the worst thing about him being dead is that he never got the chance to realize and make up for it.

  • Sometimes I think it would be terribly hard to live in a world like Hitchens, where you could actually find fault with a Mother Teresa. Pity the man who needs to hate his ‘enemy’ no matter the reasonableness of his position.
    Orthodoxy and passionate belief in G-d often appears inflexible or intransigent but truthfully, in my life, there is no greater intransigence than the outright hatred of religious beliefs and believers that stems from an outright intellectual line in the sand beyond which all things become less than human.
    Perhaps, ultimately, what an atheist is most jealous of is ultimately having no faith at all in anything. Pascal’s wager would probably be better place to start.

    • >actually find fault with a Mother Teresa.

      There was fault to be found. Did you read the various articles and book? Which accusations did you find fault with? You think it’s okay to take the money a dictator stole from his impoverished people to improve his image?

      I know, it’s hard to image someone in the Catholic Church hierarchy doing something unethical or otherwise wrong but it has on rare occasion been know to happen.

    • Hitchens doesn’t sound like any fun to me, but you cannot let that fool you into believing that Mother Teresa was somehow a good person. Just because Hitchens didn’t like her doesn’t mean she wasn’t a bad person.

      Also, are you guys trying to hold out for the view that atheism must be bad because Hitchens was a goof?

      • I hadn’t thought of Mother Teresa in years, and I wasn’t really aware of who Hitchens was — but after a little googling, it looks as if they were a pair of peas in a pod, who deserved each other because they were so very unhappy. One was a drunk on booze and contrariness, the other like a drunk on faith and misery. These are not the kind of people we should take seriously.

    • Mitchel, Pascal’s wager is never a good place to start. But if you find it appealing, you can send me the $5,000 you owe me.

      (Remember, even if you don’t have any evidence that you owe me any money, it’s better to be safe and send it to me than to risk debtor’s prison, don’t you think?)

      As for it being hard to live in a world where even Mother Teresa can be criticised, I’d rather live in that world than one in which certain thoughts were arbitrarily forbidden.

    • >> Sometimes I think it would be terribly hard to live in a world like Hitchens, where you could actually find fault with a Mother Teresa.

      I don’t mind iconoclasts, as I’d rather have a more rounded view of people and issues.

      >>Perhaps, ultimately, what an atheist is most jealous of is ultimately having no faith at all in anything.

      Just because I’m an atheist doesn’t mean I have no faith in others or certain ideals (such as a strong belief in human rights) or that I lack a moral compass or a desire to treat others with respect. If I fall short (it happens and I do have regrets), it’s not due to lack of religion, it’s due to my own shortcomings.

      I think the key is to remain curious and open-minded, be able to agree to disagree, and see what our common points are. I like to think that I have far more in common with the kind and caring people -religious or not – that I encounter than I do with Christopher Hitchens.

      Mitchel, I hope that was only your anger at a noisy man that made you stereotype atheists. If not, then you may have more in common with Christopher Hitchens than you think.

  • We need some way on this blog to edit misspellings, or at least to delete and replace comments.

  • I’ve never read any Hitchens, and I’ve never read Elmer Gantry, either, as a matter of fact. But I saw the movie, and Gantry is a good show about how religion is a con. But since theism is a con, how can atheism also be a con. There isn’t some third alternative, is there?

  • I’ve never read any Hitchens, and I’ve never read Elmer Gantry, either, as a matter of fact. But I saw the move, and Gantry is a good show about how religion is a con. But since theism is a con, how can atheism also be a con. There isn’t some third alternative, is there?

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Sports Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    The Israel National soccer team could be facing a World Cup ban, and other soccer sanctions, unless it alleviates travel restrictions and increases field access for Palestinian players and coaches. The head of the Palestinian Football Association is pushing for international soccer’s governing body, the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA), to issue a ban on Israel competing internationally, claiming Israel’s restrictive travel for Palestinians is equivalent to a form of oppression. “It’s not only the athletes,” Jibril Rajoub explains. [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    JNS.org – While the national debate on “Obamacare” rages on past the recent March 31 sign-up deadline, bestselling Jewish author Dr. Joel Fuhrman says the “current disease care model of what we call ‘health care’ cannot possibly be sustained.” “There is simply not enough money available to support a system in which the lion’s share of expenditures is devoted to acute care, with virtually nothing being spent on preventive medicine, i.e. health care,” Fuhrman says in an interview. “To make [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    JNS.org – “This is how I want to be—without fear. Independent. I want to be like a bird. I want to spread my wings.” So reads part of the description beneath one of the 30 paintings on display until the end of May at the ZOA House in Tel Aviv. The collection represents the first-ever art exhibit of its kind: an exhibit created entirely by Israelis in treatment for eating disorders. Dubbed “Tears of Color,” based on one of the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    JNS.org – Rachel Ament noticed that she and her friends often shared humorous anecdotes that were typically variations on a theme: overprotective, worrying Jewish moms who smothered them with love. That included Ament’s own mother. “My mom is probably every Jewish stereotype scrunched into one,” the Washington, DC, resident tells JNS.org. “At the root of all these stereotypical, worrying, overprotective moms, is love.” A social media writer for Capital One, as well as a freelance writer, Ament decided about three years [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    Kosher Lust, by Shmuley Boteach (Gefen Publishing House, 2014). You really do want to find something positive to say about Shmuley Boteach. He is a phenomenon; very bright, an articulate bundle of energy and self-promotion. Anyone who has the chutzpah to describe himself as “America’s Rabbi” deserves ten out of ten for effort. I believe that along with most Chabad alumni, official and unofficial, he does a lot of good and is a sort of national treasure. In this world [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    JNS.org – In a throwback to the golden age of cinema, Hollywood has declared 2014 the “Year of the Bible.” From Ridley Scott’s Exodus starring Christian Bale as Moses, to Russell Crowe playing Noah, Hollywood is gambling on new innovations in technology and star power to revisit some of the most popular stories ever told. “It’s definitely a throwback to the 1950s and early ’60s,” Dr. Stephen J. Whitfield, an American Studies professor at Brandeis University, told JNS.org. Starting with The [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    Eddie Carmel, dubbed “The Jewish Giant” by American photographer Diane Arbus, is the centerpiece of a new exhibit opening April 11 at The Jewish Museum in New York. Arbus met Carmel, who was billed “The World’s Tallest Man,” at Hubert’s Dime Museum and Flea Circus in 1959 but waited until 1970 to photograph him at his parents’ home in the Bronx, according to the museum. The son of immigrants from Tel Aviv, Carmel posed for Arbus with his head bowed to [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    A Passover themed cover of hit songs Let It Go and Do You Want to Build a Snowman? from Disney’s Frozen has attracted tons of media buzz and a cool 65,ooo views on YouTube within days of going online. The work of Jewish a capella group Six13, the track is aptly named Chozen. We are celebrating “our freedom, our favorite festival, our fabulous fans, and aspiring Disney princesses everywhere” the group said. The Chozen music video tells the story of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.