Christopher Hitchens is dead.
I was going to attempt to write something eloquent about my feelings on the matter, but I really just don’t have the words.
I think I will purchase a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black this evening and drink in his honor.
Here’s to you, Mr. Hitchens. I wish I’d had the honor of knowing you and your work sooner. I can only offer up my gratitude, far too late, for enriching my poor life.
First of all, let me say that this is in response to and in support of the sentiment espoused by Maryam Namazie, with her blog entry on the reactions of Muslims to the caricature of Muhammad on the cover of Charles Hedbo.
First, after printing this oh-so-disgusting caricature (really?), they got firebombed… and then, in a move of spectacular attitude, they printed it again, just to prove a point. Personally, I admire their commitment, and wish American publications had this level of journalistic integrity.
It has been said many times, and by wiser men than I, that it is possible to attack the belief without attacking the believer. Personally, since my stance falls more in line with that of Christopher Hitchens, I have no problem with attacking the believer, either… but I digress.
None of these religious beliefs are or should be exempt from mockery or scrutiny. They should not be placed on a pedestal, much less locked in a sealed room where no one can get a close look at them.
I have said before (many times, in fact) during my numerous informal theological debates that religion is merely another set of ideas, and that every idea exists to be challenged and attacked, continually and mercilessly, from every possible angle and in every conceivable way. This can, will and must continue indefinitely. If the idea cannot withstand the assault, it will crumble to dust, as it should. If it can, then it will come out like the end product of a rock tumbler: with the detritus and rough edges gone, polished and beautiful… something that anyone could take out and show to others and say, “Look what I’ve got,” with the same simple, childish joy and pride of ownership that we had as children when we knew we had come into possession of something truly worthwhile.
No aspect of theological thinking, particularly and especially that of the monotheistic religions, can withstanding the kind of attacks that I’ve described above. The faintest touch of reason drops off large chunks of the whole, though the believer will desperately scramble to keep the crumbling edifice together through the force of sheer will, duct tape, and perhaps some Gorilla Glue. The joke is often made of very old cars, “If not for all the rust, I don’t know what would hold that thing together.” The comparison seems very apt, in my mind.
As hard as the theists try to fight back against the Enlightenment values that created the United States (and yet, that the Founding Fathers had to publicly suppress, in order to keep the masses in line), the world is a changing place. You cannot stop people from learning. Not even in an Islamic state.
Eventually, people grow tired of living under the lash. I commend the people at Charles Hebdo for doing what was right, rather than kowtowing to the will of religious zealots. Know that you have one more supporter across the Atlantic.