In the September Issue of Vanity Fair (now out online) Christopher Hitchens talks about his book tour through the South for his “God is Not Great” book. I don’t know quite what to think about Hitchens as yet, and I haven’t ordered his book yet either. But it is on my list. Hitchens is a complex character and has detractors on all sides – and I’m not familiar with his work or his words and actions.
Still, I find very interesting his observations in the Vanity Fair article, “God Bless Me, It’s a Best Seller!” He had a phone-in interview on talk radio station WPTF in North Carolina while he was on tour in Austin Texas. During that interview the host basically accused Hitchens of insanity due to “syphilitic decay”.
Other parts that I found interesting from the article:
I asked my publishers to arrange my book tour as a series of challenges to the spokesmen of the faithful, and to send me as far as possible to the South. The following is an account of some of the less expected moments of the trip.
At the end of the event (Arkansas Book Fair, April 22, Little Rock, Arkansas) I discover something that I am going to keep on discovering: half the people attending had thought that they were the only atheists in town.
May 14, Austin, Texas: … In the evening to debate with Marvin Olasky at the L.B.J. Library
… My challenge: name an ethical statement or action, made or performed by a person of faith, that could not have been made or performed by a nonbeliever. I have since asked this question at every stop and haven’t had a reply yet.
June 5, Los Angeles: A three-hour debate with the Reverend Mark Roberts, senior pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, in Orange County, on Hugh Hewitt’s conservative Christian chat show. Very nice of Mr. Hewitt. The Rev doesn’t accuse me of not knowing what I’m talking about: indeed, he’s very civil about the book. At one point I ask him if he believes the story in Saint Matthew’s Gospel about the graves opening in Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion, and the occupants walking the streets. Doesn’t it rather cheapen the idea of resurrection? He replies that as a Christian he does believe it, though as a historian he has his doubts. I realize that I am limited here: I can usually think myself into an opponent’s position, but this is something I can’t imagine myself saying, let alone thinking.
I find these observations fascinating. First, the Atheists in Little Rock didn’t even know that other Atheists existed there. I wonder how true this is for Fresno? How many non-believers is my little group missing. We really need a name, and a web presence, so we can get the word out!
I’m also amazed at Rev. Roberts ability to live with the cognitive dissonance of holding mutually exclusive ideas to both be “true”. Yes, I realize that many people do this – and I did too at one time. Now, when I find myself doing this I can laugh at it – realizing that I have more to learn. But still, it is so odd to know that people can be perfectly okay holding two “truths” that conflict.