December 16, 2011

Deathbed Confessions

It is said that as Voltaire lay dying, a priest was called to his bedside. The priest asked him if he accepted Christ with all his heart and soul. Voltaire replied that he did not. The perplexed priest, frantic to save the great philosopher’s soul, tried the absolute low-bar under which Voltaire might scuttle his sorry way into heaven. “Do you,” the priest offered, “renounce Satan and all his works.” The dying Voltaire, quite exhausted, looked at the country priest for a long moment. “Young man,” he replied, “now is no time to be making new enemies.”

 

And so on this day 15 December 2011, we note the death of the great essayist Christopher Hitchens, whose first-rate mind and poison-dart tongue gave us so many hours of nasty fun.

 

 

GREAT MOMENTS IN HITCHENS:

Mitt Romney is in no position, and shows no inclination, to campaign on matters spiritual. His own bizarre religion is regarded as just that by much of the mainstream and as heretical at best by the evangelical Christian rank and file. Advantage Perry—at least among Republican voters. Rep. Michele Bachmann, if she is still seriously considered as being in the race, can also only lose from the comparison: Her religious positions are so weird, and so weirdly held, that they have already made her look like a crackpot. (Or revealed her as such: the distinction is a negligible one.) …

And this is what one always wants to know about candidates who flourish the Good Book… Do they, themselves, in their heart of hearts, truly believe it? Is there any evidence, if it comes to that, that Perry has ever studied the theory of evolution for long enough to be able to state roughly what it says? And how much textual and hermeneutic work did he do before deciding on the “inerrancy” of Jewish and Christian scripture? It should, of course, be the sincere believers and devout faithful who ask him, and themselves, these questions. But somehow, it never is. The risks of hypocrisy seem forever invisible to the politicized Christians, for whom sufficient proof of faith consists of loud and unambiguous declarations. I am always surprised that more is not heard from sincere religious believers, who have the most to lose if faith becomes a matter of poll-time dogma and lung power.”

 

Mother Teresa was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.”

 

The one thing that the racist can never manage is anything like discrimination: he is indiscriminate by definition.”

 

I knew it was all over for Sen. Larry Craig when he appeared with his long-suffering wife to say that he wasn’t gay…

Without overthinking it or attempting too much by way of amateur psychiatry, I think it’s safe to assume that many tearoom traders have a need, which they only imperfectly understand, to get caught. And this may be truest of all of those who are armored with “the breastplate of righteousness.” Next time you hear some particularly moralizing speech, set your watch. You won’t have to wait long before the man who made it is found, crouched awkwardly yet ecstatically while the cistern drips and the roar of the flush maddens him like wine.

 

What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.”

 

The discovery of the carcass of Jerry Falwell on the floor of an obscure office in Virginia has almost zero significance, except perhaps for two categories of the species labeled “credulous idiot.” The first such category consists of those who expected Falwell (and themselves) to be bodily raptured out of the biosphere and assumed into the heavens, leaving pilotless planes and driverless trucks and taxis to crash with their innocent victims as collateral damage. This group is so stupid and uncultured that it may perhaps be forgiven. It is so far “left behind” that almost its only pleasure is to gloat at the idea of others being abandoned in the same condition.

The second such category is of slightly more importance, because it consists of the editors, producers, publicists, and a host of other media riffraff who allowed Falwell to prove, almost every week, that there is no vileness that cannot be freely uttered by a man whose name is prefaced with the word Reverend.

 

It is notorious that the news of the Emancipation Proclamation was kept from the people of Texas and not celebrated until ‘Juneteenth’. There may be those in Texas now who believe they can insulate their state—a state that had its own courageous revolution—from the news of evolution and from the writing in 1786 of a Constitution that refuses to mention religion except when demarcating and limiting its role in the public square. But we promise them today that they will join their fore-runners in the flat-earth community, and in the mad clerical clique of those who believed that the sun revolved around the earth. Yes, they will be in schoolbooks—as a joke on the epic scale of William Jennings Bryan. We shall be fair, and take care to ensure that their tale is told.”

 

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