Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hitchens on Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens is something of an intellectual celebrity in this country--always up for a good quote, a reliably outrageous guest on the talk and lecture circuit. My reading of Hitchens fell off markedly once he became such an unabashed cheerleader for American interventionism abroad.

[My Six Degrees of Separation with CH is this: During the summer of 2003, my son remained at college in Tennessee and, I am told, worked at the campus post office. He bunked with another student in the basement/workshop of one of their professors. Hitchens visited the campus to deliver a lecture. Before the night was out, he somehow found his way to my son's basement room, where he remained for some time. My son remembers that he either drunk, or well on his way to being so, and that he thumped cigarette ashes on anything and everything.]

With the release of God Is Not Great, Hitchens is now perhaps this country's most famous atheist. Less known in this country is his brother, Peter Hitchens, a noted columnist and author. In How I Found God and Peace with my Atheist Brother, Peter Hitchens writes of his slow road to faith, his sometimes prickly rivalry with his older brother, and their public and private debates. And, the younger Hitchens has himself just released The Rage against God, which chronicles his personal struggle out of atheism.

The fact that these two brothers, both intellectuals, would follow wildly divergent paths is not so rare, I suppose. But their story is a fascinating one, and I recommend Peter Hitchens' article. If nothing else, it introduced me to Rogier van der Weyden's remarkable The Last Judgement, partially shown here. A h/t to Milton.


s-p said...

Your son's experience with Hitchens is interesting. I don't know that I've ever met a truly "integrated" atheist. I have no doubt that his public persona and his private existence are wildly divergent. Although I'd have to be fair, there's a lot of Christians who put up a good public front too... but it begs the question, which philosophy offers the cure for our schizophrenia?

David B said...

So that folks can see the whole work, a large jpeg can be found HERE.

John said...

s-p, while a lot of people live in denial of their mortality (or at least, they try to), one seldom runs into a flat-out atheist who lives their life accordingly. I know one.

David, isn't that a great painting! We sometimes think that people in the past were somehow different than us. What strikes me about this 500+ year-old painting is just how contemporary the subjects seem.

Milton T. Burton said...

A couple of years ago Christopher Hitchens showed up where a highly respected Catholic Priest was speaking on a religious subject---drunk, of course---and during the question and answer section of the program revealed himself as a complete jackass by attacking the guy personally. Then about the same time, after having howled and screeched in print for years that waterboarding is not torture, he was able to stand about ten seconds of the procedure before he was willing to cop to being Judas Iscariot.

The man is an oaf, a buffoon, and the only reason he is of any concern to decent people is that he has such a large and admiring fan base.