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Join Date: Jan 2004
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Hitchens on the Religious Right + A Response To It
A rather thought provoking article by Christopher Hitchens against the religious right and it's creeping influence over the Republican Party.
I hope and believe that, by identifying itself with "faith" in general and the Ten Commandments in particular, a runaway element in the Republican leadership has made a career-ending mistake. In support of this, let me quote two authorities:
* The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100%. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. . . . Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some god-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of "conservatism."
"Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother." And he said, "All these have I kept from my youth up." Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, "Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me."
The first citation is from Barry Goldwater, moral founder of the Reagan revolution, who, when I interviewed him on his retirement from the Senate, vowed to "kick Jerry Falwell in the ass."
The second citation is from Luke 18:20-22.
I am neither a Republican nor a Christian, and I don't propose that there is any congruence between Sen. Goldwater's annoyance and the alleged words (which occur in similar form in all four gospels) of the possibly mythical Nazarene. Yet two things are obvious. The first is that many conservatives appreciate the value of a secular republic, and do not make the idiotic confusion between "secular" and "atheist" that is so common nowadays. The second is that no "Moral Majority" type has yet proposed that the most important commandment, the one underlined by Jesus himself, be displayed in courtrooms or schoolrooms. It turns out that the Eleventh Commandment is not "Thou shalt speak no ill of fellow Republicans," but is, rather, a demand for the most extreme kind of leveling and redistribution.
I have never understood why conservative entrepreneurs are so all-fired pious and Bible-thumping, let alone why so many of them claim Jesus as their best friend and personal savior. The Old Testament is bad enough: The commandments forbid us even to envy or covet our neighbor's goods, and thus condemn the very spirit of emulation and ambition that makes enterprise possible. But the New Testament is worse: It tells us to forget thrift and saving, to take no thought for the morrow, and to throw away our hard-earned wealth on the shiftless and the losers.
At least two important conservative thinkers, Ayn Rand and Leo Strauss, were unbelievers or nonbelievers and in any case contemptuous of Christianity. I have my own differences with both of these savants, but is the Republican Party really prepared to disown such modern intellectuals as it can claim, in favor of a shallow, demagogic and above all sectarian religiosity?
Perhaps one could phrase the same question in two further ways. At the last election, the GOP succeeded in increasing its vote among American Jews by an estimated five percentage points. Does it propose to welcome these new adherents or sympathizers by yelling in the tones of that great Democrat bigmouth William Jennings Bryan? By insisting that evolution is "only a theory"? By demanding biblical literalism and by proclaiming that the Messiah has already shown himself? If so, it will deserve the punishment for hubris that is already coming its way. (The punishment, in other words, that Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson believed had struck America on Sept. 11, 2001. How can it be that such grotesque characters, calling down divine revenge on the workers in the World Trade Center, are allowed a respectful hearing, or a hearing at all, among patriotic Republicans?)
Then again, hundreds of thousands of young Americans are now patrolling and guarding hazardous frontiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Is there a single thinking person who does not hope that secular forces arise in both countries, and who does not realize that the success of our cause depends on a wall of separation, in Islamic society, between church and state? How can we maintain this cause abroad and subvert it at home? It's hardly too much to say that the servicemen and -women, of all faiths and of none, who fight so bravely against jihad, are being stabbed in the back by the sunshine soldiers of the "crusading" right. What is one to feel but rage and contempt when one reads of Arabic-language translators, and even Purple Heart-winning frontline fighters, being dismissed from the service because their homosexuality is accounted a sin?
Thus far, the clericalist bigots have been probing and finding only mush. A large tranche of the once-secular liberal left has disqualified itself by making excuses for jihad and treating Osama bin Laden as if he were advocating liberation theology. The need of the hour is for some senior members of the party of Lincoln to disown and condemn the creeping and creepy movement to impose orthodoxy on a free and pluralist and secular Republic.
I would say that it is a well placed article, the man is of the international left, he has travelled far and wide and directs his criticism against those he disagrees with. Definitely right in bringing up Ayn Rand and Leo Strauss and contrasting their attitudes and theory to what the religious right represents.
For elaboration; the religious right do generally seem to advocate censorship, religion interfering with education in the misguided aim of "freedom and balance" - namely creationism, a school of thought that has not been able to produce a testable and plausible theory for the diversity of life that we see on earth and the connections between organisms. Government funding for embryonic stem cell research is another example; what good is a "culture of life" when so many lives could be improved or saved are not because investigation and application of these technologies is blocked by religious objection. I suppose that a good point could be made in contrasting the teachings of Jesus Christ to Objectivisms rational self-interest.
It ilicited a response from Jerry Falwell who didn't take a likign to the characterisations of the creationist movement, anyhow here is that response; doesn't clarify much because the likes of Ken Ham and the entire Answers in Genesis crowd do fit the bill of religiously minded bigots quite well (homosexuality, humanism, atheism all being results of the theory of evolution; that evolution enables relativism in morality and all that tripe).
Creationism for skeptics
If we are to believe Vanity Fair columnist Christopher Hitchens, people who believe in creationism – the belief that the designed universe actually has a Designer – are idiots.
I can almost see Mr. Hitchens smiling under his tousled hair saying, "Yeah, Falwell. That's right."
In a recent Wall Street Journal article titled, "Why I'm Rooting Against the Religious Right," Mr. Hitchens defines the conservative Christian faction as a "creeping and creepy movement" that is "trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent."
That is certainly a simplistic – and wildly exaggerated – way to define the efforts of religious conservatives who want to preserve their rapidly disappearing rights in this great land. In appearing on the daily talk shows to promote the article, Mr. Hitchens has specifically gone to great lengths to define creationism as "nonsense" and to belittle those who dare to disbelieve that the universe just randomly appeared.
Well, even though our era's fashionable intellectuals seek to disparage those who embrace biblical truth, I want to proudly state that I am a creationist.
In fact, Liberty University will be co-hosting a Creation Mega Conference, in concert with Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis, July 17-22 on the Liberty campus in Lynchburg, Va.
I would like to use this column to personally invite Mr. Hitchens to come to Lynchburg to attend the conference so that he can learn that creationism is not just the whim of a bunch of snake-handling mountain evangelists.
This conference will be led by an assemblage of brilliant men, scientists who have dedicated their lives to the study of the earth and its history.
The conference features an impressive list of speakers from a wide range of disciplines. Topics will include everything from human origins and Noah's Ark to fossils and the big bang.
Speakers will include Dr. Werner Gitt from Germany, Dr. Jonathan Sarfati from Australia and Dr. John Whitcomb, co-author of "The Genesis Flood" with Dr. Henry Morris, who will also be one of the speakers. (This book is largely credited with establishing the modern creationist movement.)
Liberty University's own Dr. David DeWitt says this Creation Mega Conference is especially designed to equip Christians to defend the Genesis account of creation and biblical authority. Pastors and teachers will be given information that they can use to teach others. Parents will be shown how to counter evolutionary arguments that their children might be exposed to in school or on television. Young and old will be encouraged in their faith as they see evidence that supports the truth of the Bible.
By the way, Dr. DeWitt has been publishing and been doing research on Alzheimer's disease for more than a decade. He will be one of the featured speakers at the Creation Mega Conference, speaking on "Molecular Evidence for Creation."
The Liberty faculty and our guest speakers hope many people who are skeptical about creation will come to the conference to see high-quality, scientific presentations supporting biblical creation. They may be very surprised by what they see.
Test your IQ!
Dr. DeWitt believes that biblical authority and origins are two of the most pressing issues for the Christian church today.
Answers in Genesis founder Ken Ham, who will be the moderator of our Creation Mega Conference, often states, "If you can't trust the Bible's history, how can you trust its morality?" Christians must be equipped to defend their faith and be prepared to give an answer to everyone who challenges them on their views.
Readers who are interested in creation or have questions about origins are encouraged to join us for the conference July 17-22.
Visit our website to learn more about this special event or to register to attend.
And Mr. Hitchens, I'll be looking for you in July. If you're going to beat us up all the time, I encourage you to at least come and see what we really believe and on what we base those sincerely-held beliefs