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Taking Mother Theresa Down a Peg

January 23, 2010

Christopher Hitchens is super cool.  Just look at him sucking that smoke down like it’s his job.  The ideas in this video are developed further in his slim volume The Missionary Position.
It’s odd to me that Hitchens is the only human being who has ever bothered to actually look into what that shrew was up to in Calcutta; in that sense, the book is as damning of the media as it is of the woman. If journalists had bothered to wipe the stars from their eyes, Theresa wouldn’t have gotten ultra-reverent coverage handed to her on a platter. My metaphors are all fucked up. Just watch.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. January 24, 2010 10:27 am

    This is interesting. First, let me say that I have very little time for the Catholic Church (although I am a Christian – though, NOT a fundamentalist). Also, I’m not acquainted with every detail of Mother Theresa’s life story – but it seems to me that people like Mr. Hitchens come across as extremely arrogant. It’s the kind of ‘look, I’ve read loads of books and been to university, so I must know better than you’ arrogance that only the truly middle class ‘intellectual’ can afford. He likes to mock faith and mock those who have a faith. Mock on! The thing is, Mr. Hitchens, what have you done for the poor or needy? If your conscience is clear, so be it, but it’s so easy to scoff from the chambers of ‘bookworld’ or academia. I don’t doubt that birth control would be an aid to poverty but if he thinks that it’s the universal panacea we’re in search of, he has a far too simplistic view of how the world works. He just wipes religion (and, therefore ‘the religious’) aside with a sweep of his ciggie sucking hand and forgets about all the good that has been done by spiritually inspired people throughout history. It’s human beings that corrupt ‘religion’, not God. This is self-satisfied nonsense.

    • Barry permalink*
      January 24, 2010 12:50 pm

      Two things: 1. Your comments direct an alarming degree of hostility toward academia. I do think that Hitchens is arrogant, but not because he’s “read loads of books and been to university.” Also, I am unsure why you bring class into the equation.

      2. Hitchens never proposes birth control as a panacea, he aptly points out that it’s one effective measure among many.

  2. January 24, 2010 1:55 pm

    I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sound like I was writing the whole of academia off. This wasn’t my intention. It’s just that Hitchens seems the sort of academic type who finds it easy to snort at others. My apologies.

    Doesn’t he say that birth control is the answer to poverty? I think he does.

    I bring class into it because Hitchins is representative of the kind of mocking middle class intelligentsia that we have here in the UK. Big on talk, small on action because they don’t need to do anything from their comfort zone.

    • Barry permalink*
      January 24, 2010 2:20 pm

      Here in the states, there is a vein of anti-intellectualism that runs very deep. It accounts for the success of politicians like Palin and Bush and for the proliferation of anti-evolution laws that spring up all around the country every year. I am glad that you distanced yourself from that crowd!

      As for Hitchens, I am not convinced that he even *has* a comfort zone. He was a darling of the left who supported the war in Iraq for principled reasons. He voluntarily subjected himself to waterboarding. He was assaulted in Lebanon for defacing fascist propaganda. He risked his life to sneak into North Korea. There are many things he can be accused of, but he never follows the easiest path.

      He suggest birth control as a step toward the alleviation of poverty. He does not propose that it is the only step or even the biggest step.

  3. Jonathan permalink
    January 24, 2010 10:38 pm

    Is anti-intelectualism really an American thing?

    Here is a chapter from an e-book on the topic that argues it is universal in humans:

    By the way Barry, in the chapter titled With Friends Like These… the author says what I think are pretty smart things about Dawkins:

    • Barry permalink*
      January 24, 2010 11:17 pm

      I didn’t mean to imply that it’s only an American thing, just that there is an American brand of proud ignorance, and that’s the kind with which I am most familiar.

      Looking forward to checking out the Dawkins link.

    • Barry permalink*
      January 25, 2010 2:33 pm

      Jonathan – I wasn’t trying to claim anti-intellectualism as an exclusively American phenomenon, just saying that it’s alive and well in this country. (See previous posts re Mississippi.)

      As for the critique of Dawkins, the author does not give the impression that he or she has read very much of what he actually says. The precise questions the piece asks about evolution and selection have been addressed head-on over his 30+ years as an author. The only book he’s written that doesn’t address the evolutionary questions in this piece is The God Delusion.

      Without getting into too much detail, plenty of animals resist natural selection as they become dominant in their ecosystems. Look at sharks and crocodiles; their body plans have changed minimally over extraordinarily long periods of time. They already have the traits that their environments select for.

      As for the question about why natural selection should even work in the first place – of course Dawkins addresses this directly, but for the author to get a really good idea of what’s up, he should go right to the source and see what Darwin had to say. Of course, the molecule of heredity wasn’t discovered for almost a century after the publication of Origin, but that makes it all the more remarkable that he got so much correct.

      As for the questions about the infinite regress: Dawkins is clearly operating based on the assumption of causality. That is to say that every effect in the universe has a cause. To posit a god as an uncaused cause requires not just an explanation of what the god is, but an explanation of how and why we ought to jettison the notion of causality in this one instance.

      Furthermore, the author states that an infinitely old universe is not inconsistent with a created universe. Wrong. Creation is an act, and it necessarily takes place at a moment of time. The elapsed time from the moment of creation until now can not be infinite if “creation” and “now” both occur at points in time. The Big Bang model provides a wonderful explanation for the “when”, and it’s a LONG time ago. But not an infinitely long time ago.

      Anyhow, I take these oversights to be the sign poor research at best. At worst, they show sloppy thinking. Either way, the author’s arguments are unpersuasive.

  4. January 25, 2010 4:16 am

    Barry – I take your point about mindless anti-intellectualism. Please believe me, I’m no right-wing, gun-toting type. I consider myself on the left politically. By the way, I do recall reading about Hitchins subjecting himself to waterboarding – so, fair enough. Don’t get me started on Dawkins, though! Peace – I find your blog stimulating.

    • Barry permalink*
      January 25, 2010 10:23 am

      Glad you like the blog!

  5. Alek permalink
    January 26, 2010 8:58 am

    i wonder if it frustrates him when he says, very seriously, “She’s a fanatic and a fundamentalist and a fraud,” and people chuckle. It’s like, “Ha, ha! Look how angry he is! How neat!” Jerks.

    • Barry permalink*
      January 26, 2010 10:28 am

      Interesting question. I think his use of alliteration is a little tip off; it calls attention to Hitchens when the content of the sentence should result in an audience focused on her. I think it’s him being cute, and I don’t blame them for laughing.

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