Hitchens on religion

Christopher Hitchens has a new book out. It’s called God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. I’m not sure what it’s about.

Hitchens also wrote an Londonistan Calling, an article in Vanity Fair, in which he mentions the Undercover Mosque programme I discussed a while ago.

An illuminating aside from the Q&A which followed the article: “I’ve heard a lot of secular Pakistanis complain that the cops, when they think we better go talk to the community, walk straight past them and head for the imam at the mosque, assuming that he’s the one they want to talk to.” It’s the sort of thing that Dawkins bangs on about in The God Delusion (“Why the chaplain? Why not the cook or the gardener?”) combined with a naive multi-culturalism which assumes that people can be divided into faith blocs based on their ancestors’ country of origin.

I don’t know whether Hitchens is right that the government is weak when it comes to sticking up for secular democracy. You might think that last year’s veil controversy represented some sort of stirring in that direction, but that seemed more like veering to the right in search of votes than any sort of coherent policy. As Hitchens points out, faith schools and the government’s choice of so-called community leaders are far more interesting than what Jack Straw’s constituents choose to wear.

5 Comments on "Hitchens on religion"

    1. It’s possible I stole the joke from someone there, but I can’t remember who.

      The Slackivist post is interesting. I can see the point that people ought to know about a book on which their culture is based, but like the Slackivist, I worry that it’d be easy for it to slip into promotion of a particular opinion.


  1. Here’s one issue where I actually agree with the militant atheists! The assumption that religion is culture is very annoying. As pathetic gestures towards multiculturalism go, working only through the religious community is really limiting even if what you’re doing is fairly nominal anyway. Of course, religious communities are easy to find, they have an obvious structure and I’m sure that’s part of it, as well as just excessive and undeserved respect for religion.

    But yeah. My mother is being used as a community contact point for everything “ethnic” or “multicultural”, simply because she’s Jewish. She’s a concerned and politically experienced citizen, so she’s not the worst person they could pick. But she’s probably the least ethnic person in the whole of Cambridge, she’s solidly English and middle-class (hello, two hundred and fifty years of English-born ancestry!).

    I do think that respect for differing religious beliefs is part of what multiculturalism should be aiming for. But ignoring all the people who need to be part of the multicultural project but are not committed members of religious communities, that is totally unhelpful.


    1. Oops, now I’ve read the actual article and it’s a steaming pile of racist cliches. Ugh. I completely agree with comment #31:

      Solutions to this sort of problem would meet less resistence from the “politically correct lobby” if they were formulated without racist undertones.

      And the “well, Jews (and Hugenots, of all things) are ok because they’re white our sort of people” is particularly creepy. So much for thinking I could find common ground with the fundamentalist atheists.


      1. Some of the commenters on the Dawkins site are a bit mad (I linked to the copy of the Vanity Fair article there as I thought it might persist longer). But what are Hitchens’s racist cliches? He says that the children of immigrants are more likely to be extremists than their parents, but I’ve heard older Muslims say similar things (although I can’t find a reference now). Inasmuch as he suggests that all young muslims are like that, he’s wrong, but he is describing a tendency that exists.


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