Man, what a beautiful burn.
And he doesn’t just take on Falwell, it’s the whole rotten edifice of religion.
That was great. It would be nice to see the whole interview. Maybe it’ll get posted in some torrent site.
That’s what I’m talkin about! I am so pleased to see people like Hitchens and Dawkins getting a chance to say these things on American television. I don’t think he would have been invited on TV a year or two ago to go on an anti-religion tirade. The pendulum is swinging in this country.
I will endeavor to refrain from double-posting.
I kept waiting for some atheist cheerleaders to pop in and shout “Gimme an ‘H’ Gimme an ‘I’ gimme a ‘T’ gimme a ‘C’ gimme an ‘H!’ What’s it spell? HITCH!”
It was a great daydream for me, anyway. This was a great leap forward for American Talking Head Interviews. He said what he meant and he meant what he said and he didn’t allow Cooper to interrupt him until he had completely made his point.
I am nearly finished with God is Not Great and my preliminary review can be summed up in one word: “Devastating.” Richard Dawkins has been relatively gentle in comparison. This interview is completely consistent with the book, as he repeatedly makes the point that Falwell was guilty of pious charlatanry.
(Closed-circuit to scienceblog admins: I got a “submission failed” message for name and e-mail address even though I had carefully entered both. I refreshed the page and verified that the post had indeed failed before pasting the text here and starting fresh. Perhaps more repair would be in order, hmmm?)
“even on your network”
He was way better here than on The Daily Show, simply because it appears he had sobered up a bit for this one. That being said, he did a wonderful job laying out the pathetic “morality” of the religious right.
Hilarious and bang on the money. Superb. I have a new hero – get stuck in there my son!
Hitchens is also brilliant here:
All I have to say is it’s a good thing for Falwell that there’s no hell.
Hitchens’ perspective is valuable because it is the point of view on a non-scientist. He attacks religion not from the standpoint of the sciences, but from the humanities – and Hitchens is an eminent literary scholar. He adds a wonderful, Dr. Johnson-esque wit to his atheist tract. He brings atheism down from the heavens, and into the city.
WOW. This just rocked. I think this was better than his bit on the Penn and Teller show when he took down Mother Theresa. I just loved how he was so elequent when he took down that idiot Falwell and was somewhat shocked when Cooper wasn’t going to cut him off, and then went hogwild. Beautifully done.
Caledonian: Right! What is more human than the dissonance between belief and behavior? There’s be no sin or guilt without it.
I understand the temptation to think of these people as frauds and con men, but I think that’s just too easy and comforting. At the very least, they have a huge appeal to people who are genuine in their beliefs. Dismissing the leaders as con artists doesn’t address the real problem, which is that they have an audience that eats this stuff up.
Another fine takedown of the Rev is chapter 6 of S.T. Joshi’s book “God’s Defenders”, published in 2003 by Prometheus Books. The subject is Falwell’s fundamentalist views as espoused in his book “Listen, America!”.
There are other equally deserving victims here, including T.S. Eliot, William F. Buckley, C.S. Lewis and William James.
For the fusion of faith and political power always comes at a price: faith becomes the servant of power and must bend to its criteria
Or even worse: Power becomes the servant of faith. Isn’t that what’s happening here, as political agendas become increasingly faith-based?
HItch is generally a colossal wanker… but he’s not always wrong.
At least he’s right when it comes to religion.
Falwell must have been at least somewhat on to his own con. As digby wrote about yesterday, Falwell in the 1990’s produced a video about Clinton in which Falwell personally suborned a person to pose as an anonymous “investigative reporter” who was “afraid” that the Clintons were trying to kill him, although the person was not a reporter, not afraid of Clinton, etc. It was out-and-out false witness, as was the whole video, and although I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Falwell wasn’t well-read in the parts of the Bible he didn’t like, he certainly knew the Ten Commandments.
The ‘do they or don’t they believe their own BS’ thing has been one of my pet subjects for years.
My current thinking on it may be summed up as:
A) Ultimately, no, they don’t… insofar as the ‘beliefs’ they and religious believers of all stripes claim to have in their religions do appear for a number of reasons to be qualitatively different from the beliefs they themselves hold about other more concrete things. Among evidence for this, some of it may be found in apologetics and the bizarre round-in-circles quality you find in discussions that begin to touch in any way on why, exactly, they claim to believe what they do; you tend not to notice this sort of thing when you ask them questions on beliefs outside these areas.
B) An excellent model for understanding this psychology is probably that of the high-pressure salesman who must repeat his own spiel regularly to sell his product, and who must learn to emphasize to himself and to others its claimed advantages while ignoring contrary evidence that might sap his own enthusiasm (and thus endanger his livelihood).
C) While the social structure and social conventions that allow them to continue in such fraud are extremely long-established, I’m not even sure they’re that big part of the equation. The folk encouraging investment in the dot com bubble frequently got burned in it themselves; you don’t need long-term social conventions to fool yourself very, very thoroughly indeed… Just a few people moving in the same direction as yourself, and a strong enough need to believe your own claims.
D) Compartmentalization and nice, ad hoc explanations that attempt to reconcile the contradictions between their fantasies and their reality are probably a big part of it. Benny Hinn stays at luxury hotels, rakes in the cash, tells people he’s healing them, and his services have evolved remarkably consistent methods to make sure no-one with an organic, external ailment he can’t be seen to ‘heal’ ever makes it to the stage. Yet he can stare into the camera and say ‘I have never lied to you’. On a level, he probably believes that, even as the skeptical among us literally guffaw at his expression, sense his insincerity in every muscle in his face he does so. He probably tells himself: sure, my god exists and works through me, even if not a lot of people really get healed in a way their doctors recognize as useful, I give them hope, and I give so many people hope, surely that’s worth a few bucks in salary, right? All the stagecraft, that’s just to keep the show going, and what I do, it’s worth it, I’m sure.
E) Calling them frauds nonetheless is still entirely fair, whatever their actual internal cognitive state might be, insofar as selling lies is, after all, what they do. And most frauds are probably possessed of much the same mentality, anyway.
Hitchen’s interview is an honest asessment and a great counterpoint to the following:
It seems after death your history can easily be rewritten by exclusion of, shall we say, some less than flattering items.
In truth, I cannot think of one positive thing to say of Jerry Falwell’s public life. It is seldom that someone seemingly lived such a hate filled and negative life. The article/letter referenced above is astonishing in what it leaves out:
Falwell’s support for South Africa during apartheid
Falwell’s attack on Desmond Tutu calling him a “phony”
Falwell’s opposition to the civil rights movement of the 60s
Falwell’s regressive stand on stem cell research, human rights (anti gay, anti feminist, and so on and so forth)
Falwell’s highly quetionable business dealings in taking over PTL
Falwell’s support of creationism/ID
Falwell’s production and distribution of the thoroughly discredited “Clinton Chronicles” video
Astonishing hypocrisy as he makes outlandish comments (cf. 9/11, desmond Tutu, stand on segregation, etc. etc.) and then backs off said comments over and over and over again.
The list could go on and on, his remarks concerning 9/11 have already been covered.
I don’t know, it is amazing to me that someone like Falwell could attract a moment’s notice, much less gain the influence and power to “advise” presidents, pontificate on television, and so forth.
I think Richard Dawkins just found his “bad cop”.
#3 on NY Times Bestseller List
Incredible! And on mainstream, primetime TV — Wow!
I notice several people seem to think it important whether or not Falwell “sincerely” believed in the Bible. That’s a complete side issue, isn’t it?
Jim Jones (Kool-Aid in Guyana), David Koresh (Branch Davidians in Waco), Marshall Applewhite (Heaven’s Gate), and in a different way Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, Ted Haggard, and even L. Ron Hubbard and Joseph Smith …
Does it really matter how much or what they “believed”? In light of what they actually DID, I don’t think it does, any more than the motive or beliefs of a murderer matter to the family of the dead person. What’s important is what Falwell DID.
In my view, if he truly believed in what he was doing, so much the worse for the rest of us that such insanity can exist and prosper among us.
Even by the twisted standards of the godly, Falwell was not a nice man.
He was a hate merchant who took sanctimonious joy in dividing people against each other, a smiling, smug, Christian Ebenezer Scrooge who never got his life-changing epiphany, and who goes to his grave fat and rich on other people’s pain.
The only joy in any examination of Falwell’s life is that some people are actually willing to say what a toad he really was, and the message is credible enough that other people – even the media – are listening.
Looking over the NY Times hardcover nonfiction bestseller list, I see that The God Delusion is still hanging on at #17, and Hirsi Ali’s Infidel is one notch behind.
Damn. I need to write a book.
Yet if you’d actually been reading him before and after, it was clear that his stances arise from moral outrage and in the case of the ‘war against terror’, a deep loathing of religion’s intrusion into politics.
Well, right, but that’s not really what I meant. Politics aside, he just seems like kind of a self-important ass. When people come to me and say, “I can’t take Dawkins because he seems so arrogant,” I say, “He’s not arrogant, he’s right.” But if Hitch becomes a new poster boy, and people come to me and say, “I can’t take Hitch because he’s a self important ass,” I can only say, “Well, duh.”
Also I made no reference to his drinking, so I’m not really sure why that came up.
Hitchens felt “moral outrage” justified invading Iraq. That clears things up for me. Obviously, anyone possessing moral outrage must have an intellectually defensible position. (I’ll have to take another look at that guy Fred Phelps – he’s got moral outrage by the bucketful).
But wait – here’s a conundrum. I’m morally outraged that a bunch of nincompoops decided to get us into a war justified by a pack of lies; that they lied about how that war would be paid for; that they didn’t consider any worst-case scenarios when they did so; and that they harnessed the worst jingoism to steamroller intelligent discussion on the subject. And I’m also outraged that public “intellectuals” like Hitchens gave them cover to do so – never asking the tough questions that came so easy when the big issue of the day was the peregrinations of Clinton’s dick.
So now Hitchens is morally outraged – and so am I. So now how do we decide who’s right? Measure who’s got the bigger outrage? Figure out whose outrage is more moral? One thing I do know – Phelps has got us both beat.
…and the funny thing is, a lot of the fools think Dawkins is the bad cop!
Very interested in the comments about whether or not Falwell believed what he said.
I can’t comment on him personally as he is not well known in the UK, but I have often thought that some of our UK ‘charismatic’ leaders (eg Tony Blair IMHO) actually belive what they say, rather than say what they believe. In the UK many members of parliament are trained lawyers and therefore are experienced in presenting a winning case, irrespective of the actual truth. When public opinion changes these leaders magically believe something completely different without any impact on their self belief.
Charismatic leaders depend on massive self belief to sway their public, and have to actually believe the latest ‘truth’ to do so.
Once you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made!
Michael Kinsley has a great review of Hitchens’ book in last Sunday’s NYTimes Book Review. Actually, it’s not so much a review of the book, as a review of Hitchens. I’d characterize it as irreverently sympathetic, but it’s informative, and certainly very funny.
The article I mentioned:
Not Even a Hedgehog: The stupidity of Ronald Reagan.
By Christopher Hitchens – Slate Magazine – 07-Jun-2004
“Atheism without a corresponding humanism is almost more terrifying them religious fanaticism.”
Thank you Mooser for a statement that means exactly nothing. How long did it take you find this vacant formula?
“Almost more terrifying” means “less or equally terrifying”.
Hitchens has humanism, btw.
sailor: “I recommend [Randi's "The Faith Healers"] for those who still believe these guys are mistaken but GENIUNE.”
You are talking about “big evangelists” and “faith-healers”, whose success may well be directly correlated with their insincerity. This is understandable since these are easy targets to focus on, especially because of the current news. What about the many many others who aren’t engaged in fraudulent activity but act out of a sincerity of belief?
That’s why I don’t say “genuine”. Its all obviously “mistaken”. What could be genuine about their belief except the possibility of sincerity? I said “sincere in their belief”. You know, like FANATICS: popes, preachers, suicide bombers, hijackers, and legions of blind followers, etc., of whatever ill-conceived faith.
There’s an awful lot of dangerous sincerity in all of that. As a culture I would not be at all surprised to find that they cultivate a disproportionate share of the kind of insincerity we see in the con-artists who so frequently prey (and ‘pray’) upon their own. We’ve lately seen lots of politicians from this very population, which exhibits a capacity for credulity that would make their GOD blush, appear to have gained the knack, probably using them as a training ground before taking advantage of people on the national scene. Where else would they get the idea from? Its a perfect breeding-ground for perpetrator and victim alike. (Naturally, they are apt to whine incessantly at the greater secular resistance they encounter on the national scene, and so they do).
I maintain it: most believers or ‘people of faith’ are dangerously sincere. Never mind the con-artists who are RELATIVELY few. Anybody who has a modestly operational skepticism can avoid being victimized by those swine…of course, those who have had their critical-thinking skills systematically quenched by religious instruction are vulnerable. No one can think any of these people insincere for their gullibility.
Those swine can be working anything, and religion is not exempt, but it is foolish to identify these fraudsters or a peculiar class of them (like ‘faith-healers’) as representing the foundation of religion.
Religion (‘mainstream’ or ‘orthodox’ or whatever) is FAR more insidious in its effect on culture and civilization, precisely because it is so sincerely offered: it removes rationality from people’s minds, their ability to think critically, and thus basically robs them of their humanity. It’s the ultimate con BECAUSE IT IS UNCONSCIOUSLY SELF-INFLICTED. Sincerly.
I do not doubt for a moment that faith healers are frauds. I do not doubt that many in their audiences are in on the con. I’ve seen it personally myself. (And BTW, I much enjoyed Randi’s “The Faith Healers” when it came out).
But they obviously can’t ALL be cons. What would be the point of the con then? To exploit themselves??? I said they were more CRAZY then they are crafty, not STUPID. You have to have at least that much awareness (an extremely cynical kind of intelligence, to be sure) in order to pull off a con.
Frauds and hucksters who rob vulnerable, yet innocent, folks of their money are swine. They are bad. What is incomparably worse is a belief system that robs people of their ability to think. One has to be a pretty sincere and genuine fanatic in order to accept stupidity as a lifestyle. That’s what we’re facing. The con-gamesters are just a symptomatic consequence of a culture full of dangerously-sincere people busy cultivating an environment in which stupidity can thrive unchallenged.
Is it just me, or does it bring any one else to tears of laughter when he says “….from a CUP!” Not sure what it is.
And he cracks me up the way he just won’t let Cooper get a word in. “Do you get an idea now of what I’m meaning to say?” “Oh yeah you are making yourself very clear. Wh….” “How DARE he blah blah blah”
Still not a big fan of ol’ Hitch in general, but very nice job here. Kudo’s to CNN for airing it.
On hypocrisy: the best salesman believe what they say, while they are saying it. They may know the next moment that it’s all BS, and the moment before they open their mouth. But self-delusion is a requirement for good salesmanship.
That’s why the best salesmen are often the biggest suckers as well.
Aaarrrghh! I really don’t want to like Hitchens anymore. How can he talk such sense and do it so brilliantly in this interview and be such a tool the rest of the time?
Hitchens gave Sean Hannity a smackdown a few nights ago, watch it here.
On the topic of Hitch’s book – if you haven’t read his book on Mother Teresa (“The Missionary Position”) it’s equally devastating and brilliant.
I would give my left arm (seriously) to have a president who was as articulate and well-read as Hitch. Whether you agree with him or not, that guy says what he believes and says it well, and can back it up.
How many of the fraudsters set out to defraud, and how many started out with the sincerest of intentions only to realize somewhere along the way that they were perpetuating a line of utter crap?
For every top-of-the-heap Falwell or Swaggart or Popoff, there are thousands of obedient sheep saving their pennies, sending in their money, perhaps hoping one day to reap a little of that spiritual power for themselves. When the Demon of Doubt perches on their shoulders and whispers, they only need reach for the nearest Bible to swat it off… and perhaps clutch that bottle of anointed spiritual miracle water a little closer. And the harder and more frequently they swat their doubts away, the more convinced they become that soldiering on despite them is the Christian thing to do.
(I’m saving my pennies, too–for the Dawkins/Hitchens Good Cop/Bad Cop Pay-Per-View Atheist Extravaganza. I can only hope there will be chair-flinging, and perhaps a cage fight.)
I wasn’t going to buy his book after his Daily Show appearance, but this clip totally changed my mind. Bravo, Hitchens.
Any chance someone can slip a “gay” Teletubby into Falwell’s coffin?
Hitchens has great charisma and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of annecdote, it makes him exciting to hear in any interview. People might be interested in this recent, hour long interview with Phillip Adams on Australia’s Radio National.
“… selling pencils…… from a CUP!”
As quotable as a good Monty Python sketch. Lovely.
On the question of Falwell’s sincerity:
He preached hatred while claiming to follow in the footsteps of a man who preached love. He aligned himself with the powerful and amassed a fortune while claiming to follow a religion sympathetic to the poor and oppressed. I have no idea what was going on in Falwell’s head, but his actions were clear.
It’s been many years since I read Vonnegut’s Mother Night, but some of the recent articles written in appreciation of his work reminded me of it and its central moral:
We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.
“Pretend” is perhaps too loaded a word. I would say we are how we act, so we must be careful how we act. Falwell’s actions were obviously that of a huckster, a fraud, a charlatan. So that’s what he was.
Hitchens is never going to sell to the faux-news crowd (he is educated and literate), except when he is cheerleading for Bush’s invasion of Iraq. He did take some shots at W in that interview though…
Tinky Winky weighs in on Falwell’s death in Salon
I had to Google TMZ.com. What are they saying about Falwell and/or Hitchens? I’m rather loathe to click on that myself, especially at work.
In a move that threatens to deplete America’s already low irony reserves, Fred Phelps has announced that he’s going to be protesting at Falwell’s funeral.
I don’t think there’s anything you can say to make this funnier than it already is.
I think I’ll let Tinky Winky have a say…
Oh, he already had that at great length over at Salon
Tinky Winky says bye-bye to Jerry Falwell
It’s a priceless piece. For example, I love this part
The star never has clarified his sexual orientation, insisting on his privacy and denying rumors over the years that he had affairs with two of his costars on the 1997-2001 show, the male Dipsy and the female Po.
“We love each other very much,” he says. “Big hug. But it’s not like that. It was a kids show, know what I mean? And this Falwell guy and his followers wanted to turn us into something else. We weren’t modeling a gay lifestyle and we weren’t trying to corrupt anyone’s kids. We were just kids ourselves, really. Give us a little Tubby toast or custard and a film of some kids washing clothes or something, that’s all we needed. We didn’t give a shit about modeling a lifestyle.”
Tinky Winky sounds angry. The wounds are still raw.
Dang, kids! Does the Rude Pundit write that well habitually? ‘Cause if so, there goes another chunk of my workday spent on the net….
Keep smoking the crack.
Three more months and it’ll all work out right?
“Dang, kids! Does the Rude Pundit write that well habitually? ‘Cause if so, there goes another chunk of my workday spent on the net….”
Yes. The Rude One always writes atleast that well.
if you say so. stop smoking the stuff that turns you cerebral cortex into an 8th grade cliched taunt-generator. if you were born that way and can’t blame the drugs, my apologies. and condolences.
Hitchens on Hannity and Colmes (via Crooks and Liars)
The parting shot from Hitchens:
If you gave Falwell an enema, he’d be buried in a matchbox.
Gotta love it.
I might almost respect him now, but too bad Snitchens was a Clinton witch-hunter and an Iraq fanboy.
“…including the President’s father”. oh, i forgot- the irrelevant, also, would be a part of that silly group. sorry. you must have all of those qualities in spades. sorry again!
I was in favor of the invasion of Afganistan. (Well, not favor exactly, but it thought it was right and necessary.) I thought the invasion of Iraq was madness founded upon obvious lies, motivated by self-delusion, and doomed to horrible failure.
So I was once again shown to be correct. Would you characterize me as an ostrich, isolationist, or pseudointellectual? (I’ll give you a hint: my IQ is higher than yours.)
Three more months and Iraq will be fine right? RIght?
I supported the invasion of Afghanistan.
Actually I supported the invasion of Iraq too. I didn’t think there was any possible way they could go in if they didn’t have solid intelligence of WMDs. I thought they would have to be insane to be just using it as an excuse for some other purpose.
I was wrong. They completely fucked it up. It was a mistake from the beginning. And they continue to fuck it up.
“So if was hating people, he intentionally not following scripture, deceiving himself and others, and therefore dead to the faith: a fraud.”
Edit: So if [Falwell] was hating people, he [was] intentionally not following scripture, deceiving himself and others, and therefore dead to the faith: a fraud.
I guess that’s why it’s not good to post at 3 a.m. neh?
cal, you’re a pseudointellect of the highest order, and i suspect you know this. your comical insecurity is hardly concealed by your prissy, schoolyard bleat “my iq is bigger than yours”- you might want to work on that.
Coming in late, but the transcript of the full interview is on CNN.com here.
I’ll be glad when my schedule lets me read on a daily basis again!
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