Pharyngula

We’re about to leave lovely Madison, Wisconsin and the Freedom from Religion Convention. So here’s a short summary: it was a good meeting and I was impressed with most of the speakers; Christopher Hitchens “pissed off” most of us as he promised to do, and the organization of the meeting could have been greatly improved.

Now the details.

I already mentioned Katha Pollitt and Julia Sweeney, the opening night speakers, and they were hilarious and humane. I’d go listen to them anytime, and you should too, at any opportunity. They represent the happy, friendly atheists, and they do it very well.

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Saturday morning opened with Ellery Schempp. You’ve all heard of him, right? Maybe not. He was at the center of an important constitutional law case, School District of Abington Township, Pennsylvania v. Schempp, back in the late 1950s. Coincidentally, when we lived in Pennsylvania our kids were all enrolled in the Abington School District, and the school does not make much mention of their moment in the limelight, although we were familiar with its historic importance, since it was part of our irreligious tradition. Pennsylvania schools used to open their day with readings from the Bible, a habit that was broken when a 16-17 year old Ellery Schempp defied them, got the ACLU involved, and took them all the way to the Supreme Court, where it was decided that it certainly was unconstitutional to use the public schools to advance sectarian religion.

Ellery gave a wonderful talk that both reviewed the law behind the decision and his personal role in it, and also talked about secular values. Great stuff; and you can learn more, there’s a new book, Ellery’s Protest: How One Young Man Defied Tradition and Sparked the Battle over School Prayer by Stephen D. Solomon(b&n/abe/pwll), that recounts the whole story.

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The next talk was amazingly apropos. It was by a 17 year old high school student who has been mentioned here before, Matt LaClair. Matt is from Kearney, NJ, and he was enrolled in a high school US History class in which the teacher seemed to prefer to ramble on about dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark, and how non-Christians were going to hell, then to teach the students history. Matt not only challenged the guy in the face of widespread support for him from his peers and the community, but carefully documented the teacher’s nonsense with recordings. David Paszkiewicz still teaches at that high school, and is apparently still dribbling out his superstitious nonsense to the students, which is unfortunate … but Matt LaClair is an incredibly poised and articulate young man who is going to rise above it and leave that school behind, soon enough.

The third talk was by Stephanie Salter, a columnist for the Terra Haute Tribune Star, and … oh, my! … a theist. She has worked for separation of church and state, and her work is funny and right on target with the goals of the FFRF. Unfortunately, and I’ll mention this later, the organization of this conference left much to be desired, and coming as she did on the end of a long morning session, my attention was flagging a bit — no fault of hers, of course, but just the non-stop immobility of the session was a bit of a killer.

The last talk is the one everyone is going to be talking about for some time to come: Christopher Hitchens at his eloquent, acerbic best and his eloquent, acerbic worst. He got a standing ovation when he was introduced, and he should have stopped there, because the applause got thinner and thinner as the talk progressed, and by the end, people were walking out on him.

The talk began excellently. He gave some of the arguments from his book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), and he had me cheering at his aggressive dismissal of the foolishness of religion. It was not, however, a great talk — he’d have a great couple of paragraphs of red meat that would then fade away into an unfinished anecdote…and then he’d start another one. It was clearly an exhibition of punctuated rhetoric.

Ah, but then at the end — he seemed uncertain about the time allotted and how much time he was using, furthering the impression that he was just making some unorganized, off-the-cuff remarks — he asked if we shouldn’t break for questions, and then suggested that he “bang on”, and when he got signs of approval, said he was going to say a few things to piss us off. And that he did.

Ouch.

Then it was Hitchens at his most bellicose. He told us what the most serious threat to the West was (and you know this line already): it was Islam. Then he accused the audience of being soft on Islam, of being the kind of vague atheists who refuse to see the threat for what it was, a clash of civilizations, and of being too weak to do what was necessary, which was to spill blood to defeat the enemy. Along the way he told us who his choice for president was right now — Rudy Giuliani — and that Obama was a fool, Clinton was a pandering closet fundamentalist, and that he was less than thrilled about all the support among the FFRF for the Democratic party. We cannot afford to allow the Iranian theocracy to arm itself with nuclear weapons (something I entirely sympathize with), and that the only solution is to go in there with bombs and marines and blow it all up. The way to win the war is to kill so many Moslems that they begin to question whether they can bear the mounting casualties.

It was simplistic us-vs.-them thinking at its worst, and the only solution he had to offer was death and destruction of the enemy.

This was made even more clear in the Q&A. He was asked to consider the possibility that bombing and killing was only going to accomplish an increase in the number of people opposing us. Hitchens accused the questioner of being incredibly stupid (the question was not well-phrased, I’ll agree, but it was clear what he meant), and said that it was obvious that every Moslem you kill means there is one less Moslem to fight you … which is only true if you assume that every Moslem already wants to kill Americans and is armed and willing to do so. I think that what is obvious is that most Moslems are primarily interested in living a life of contentment with their families and their work, and that an America committed to slaughter is a tactic that will only convince more of them to join in opposition to us.

Basically, what Hitchens was proposing is genocide. Or, at least, wholesale execution of the population of the Moslem world until they are sufficiently cowed and frightened and depleted that they are unable to resist us in any way, ever again.

This is insane. I entirely agree that we are looking at a clash of civilizations, that there are huge incompatibilities between different parts of the world, and that we face years and years of all kinds of conflict between us, with no easy resolution. However, one can only resolve deep ideological conflicts by the extermination of one side in video games and cartoons. It’s not going to work in the real world. We can’t simply murder enough Moslems to weaken them into irrelevance, and even if we could, that’s not the kind of culture to which I want to belong.

A clash of whole civilizations is a war of ideas. The way we can ‘conquer’ is on the cultural and economic level: the West should not invade and destroy, but should instead set an example, lead with strength, and be the civilization that every rational citizen of the other side wants to emulate. Yes, there will be wars and skirmishes, because not everyone on either side is rational, but the bloodshed isn’t the purpose. Hitchens would make it the raison d’etre of the whole Western effort.

This whole last third of his talk had me concerned about the first part. He had just told us in strong terms about the failures of religion and its detrimental effect on our culture, and now he was explaining to us how the solution in the Middle East was to simply kill everyone who disagreed with you. He didn’t relate the two parts of his talk, which was unfortunate. I’d like to know whether he thinks the way atheists ought to end religion in America is to start shooting Baptists, or whether he sees other ways to educate and enlighten … in which case I wonder why he doesn’t see any virtue in applying those same methods to Islam. I didn’t ask the question since the line for the microphone was long, and I had a depressing feeling that the solution would involve sending the Baptists over to Iraq to kill and be killed.

This is not my freethought movement. The Hitchens solution is not my solution.

I could tell that he did not have the sympathy of most of the audience at this point. There were a scattered few who applauded wildly at every mention of bombing the Iranians, but the majority were stunned into silence. People were leaving — I heard one woman sing a few bars of “Onward, Christian soldiers” as she left to mock his strategy. The questions were all angry or disputative, and were all dismissed with comments about the audience’s intelligence. The answers were always, “War, war, war,” and that we weren’t good atheists if we didn’t agree with murder as the answer. He seemed unable to comprehend that people could despise and oppose all religion, Christian, Moslem, or otherwise, yet have no desire to triumph by causing physical harm to the believers. I’ve noticed the same intellectual blindness in many Christians, actually.

Later that evening, someone in the FFRF was handing out an open letter to the freethought community, one that protested the inclusion of Hitchens and opposing any future speakers of his sort. I sympathized with the sentiment (and if the writer wants to send me an electronic copy, I’ll post it here), but I think it was useful to have Hitchens stand up there and tell us what he thinks — and there was absolutely no reticence in his comments, which I admire. But while I agree with his goal of working towards a rational, secular world, a triumph of enlightenment values, I disagree entirely with his proposed strategy, which seems to involve putting a bullet through every god-haunted brain. To have a clearly stated position to which we can respond with clearly stated opposition is actually a kind of gift.


I have to make a general criticism of the organization of the conference, however, despite knowing that there was a lot of work behind it. It was unimaginative, stuffy, and limiting: we had a small number of first-rate speakers who were given substantial time-slots one after another and sent up there to lecture at us. There was something like 700 or more people in attendance, and almost all of the meeting time was spent in tight focus on one person standing behind a lectern.

Bad pedagogy. Terrible for generating a sense of engagement. This is how you don’t want to run a meeting.

Here’s a post by Jonathan Eisen criticizing science conference organization. Most of it doesn’t apply here, but one in particular is telling:

Have too little time for breaks. The best part of conferences is the coffee and other breaks. No need to have too many talks. Have lots of breaks.

Seriously. What is our goal at these kinds of meetings? It is to organize. To interact with fellow freethinkers. To get ideas that we can carry home to help advance our goals. To meet new people and to network. To be entertained. Strings of long talks do this very poorly.

Another problem: attendance at this kind of meeting is largely on the gray side of middle age, with very little in the way of young people. Why? Because it’s boring! We should be engaging and recruiting more college-aged people, and this format just won’t do it.

Here are some positive suggestions: have more short talks. Have concurrent sessions. Get more of the participants on the stage — we had 6 speakers here, which means we had a pathetic teacher/student ratio. Use all those people who come to learn.

They definitely need more breaks, and I’m impressed with the stamina of all those gray-haired atheists. Have coffee in the hallway, have at least two sessions running simultaneously, and have solid breaks in between short sets of talks … and people moving between rooms or going for coffee will talk and and new ideas will spring up in the spaces between the sessions.

Mix up the format a lot. Every session does not have to be a talking head above a lectern (and note that at this meeting, no one used powerpoint or any kind of visual aids—while PP is not an unrelieved good by any means, at least it can provide some sensory stimulation). Why not have a few panels and workshops, too? Have a workshop on organizing a freethought group in your town, and get tips from successful organizers. Have a panel with an agnostic, an atheist, and a secular humanist at a table, and have them argue (with audience participation!) their differences. Have a media discussion: how are atheists portrayed in the movies? What are the best books on the subject? Get topical and specific: with the new movie on Pullman’s fantasy novels with their godless tone coming out, what are the literary virtues of the books? What do we expect from the movies?

There are many better ways to get an audience motivated and participatory and included in a conference like this, and I’m afraid the FFRF did very little of them. The audience was a passive entity to be talked to, and little more. Get with it, people!

I strongly recommend to anyone organizing this kind of freethought convention that they get in touch with some members of the SF community. Science fiction people know at a deep level how to put together a first rate meeting experience that will engage diverse interests, and be informative and entertaining, and most importantly, will appeal to people under the age of 60. There are big differences, of course — I hope a freethought convention wouldn’t have costume contests, and the dealer’s room isn’t going to be quite as impressive — but there are general ideas of attendee engagement that are universal. The FFRF succeeded on a purely intellectual level of providing a narrow band of information, but could be vastly improved on a social level.

It wouldn’t be hard. Every major city has a collection of die-hard SF nerds who have experience running a con, and there are quite a few godless among them. Cross-connect. Go down to your local science-fiction and fantasy bookstore, check the cork board and discover all the cons going on in your town, and contact the organizers and ask if they’ve got any freethinkers who’d be willing to consult. Not only will you get great ideas, but you might find yourself with a conduit right into a more youthful community, and new members with new ideas.

Comments

  1. #1 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 14, 2007

    The way to win the war is to kill so many Moslems that they begin to question whether they can bear the mounting casualties.

    But with religious fundamentalists this doesn’t work.

    After all, for them it isn’t a mere issue of life and death. It’s an issue of heaven and hell. For eternity. For ever and evermore.

    Hitchens should really stay off the booze. Alcohol smells similar to stupid oxide.

    This is insane.

    Does he also talk like that when he’s sober?

    (Is he ever sober…?)

    and there was absolutely no reticence in his comments, which I admire.

    Booze certainly helps in overcoming reticence.

  2. #2 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 14, 2007

    The way to win the war is to kill so many Moslems that they begin to question whether they can bear the mounting casualties.

    But with religious fundamentalists this doesn’t work.

    After all, for them it isn’t a mere issue of life and death. It’s an issue of heaven and hell. For eternity. For ever and evermore.

    Hitchens should really stay off the booze. Alcohol smells similar to stupid oxide.

    This is insane.

    Does he also talk like that when he’s sober?

    (Is he ever sober…?)

    and there was absolutely no reticence in his comments, which I admire.

    Booze certainly helps in overcoming reticence.

  3. #3 Christian Burnham
    October 14, 2007

    Excellent post.

    1) Go Matt!

    2) I think the atheists are finding out what the left-wingers already knew. Hitchens will turn around and bite you at the first opportunity. He’s poison.

    Maybe you can enjoy Hitchens if you look upon his outbursts as some kind of performance art. He definitely likes being in opposition to the crowd. (I can think of one frequent Pharyngula poster who also displays that trait).

    3) You’re 110% right on the true purpose of meetings. Schmoozing is important and particularly necessary to this community.

  4. #4 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 14, 2007

    I should have expanded my first point: you can deter the Evil Empire from nuking you to radioactive smithereens if the Evil Empire is communist and believes that death is The End. This does not work if the Evil Empire’s holy warriors actually want to die a glorious death in battle against the godless infidels, so they can go to paradise. I’m by far not the first to make this important point, and I’m surprised that Hitchens missed it.

    At least, I’d have been surprised if he had missed it while sober.

  5. #5 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 14, 2007

    I should have expanded my first point: you can deter the Evil Empire from nuking you to radioactive smithereens if the Evil Empire is communist and believes that death is The End. This does not work if the Evil Empire’s holy warriors actually want to die a glorious death in battle against the godless infidels, so they can go to paradise. I’m by far not the first to make this important point, and I’m surprised that Hitchens missed it.

    At least, I’d have been surprised if he had missed it while sober.

  6. #6 SueinNM
    October 14, 2007

    Hitchens and his mad-dog approach to killing, as expressed in an article in Free Inquiry magazine, was the reason I cancelled my subscription to an otherwise entertaining periodical. My letter, giving the reason for my cancellation, was even published. Hitchen used the same rhetoric in that article, calling anyone who disagreed with him “stupid.”

    Whatever good he may have done, he destroys it all with crazy talk and beliefs like this. I’m so glad I didn’t buy GOD IS NOT GREAT.

  7. #7 DrBadger
    October 14, 2007

    Thanks for the summary. I guess, I’m glad I wasn’t able to make it. Even atheists have their fundamentalists. Although, if you pick on one religion specifically, I wouldn’t consider you an athiest. I know now to avoid what he says from now on, but I’m afraid those right wingers who want us to invade Iran will choose him as the voice of the godless left to try to convince the public that even atheists agree that we should destroy muslims.

  8. #8 Schmeer
    October 14, 2007

    Hitchens’ take on war is definitely frightening. I don’t think killing all the Muslims would be my first suggestion for trying to do away with religion. I don’t see how that is even possible without encouraging an all out holy war between Christians and Muslims.

    Hitchens will turn around and bite you at the first opportunity. He’s poison.

    I don’t really agree with you, Christian. I think this is just Hitchens stating openly what he’s hinted at for a long time.

    I like listening to Hitchens speak, but if PZ relayed the gist of the talk accurately, then Hitch is off the deep end.

    There are parts of the world that are very dangerous for admitting that you are an atheist. I think it would be great if we could make those areas safe for everyone who says “I don’t believe in your brand of crazy.” Somehow I’m guessing that it will have to be accomplished through education until the Great Atheist Army(tm) is ready.

  9. #9 Christian Burnham
    October 14, 2007

    Schmeer: Google Hitchens and Blumenthal. Hitchens was heavily involved in trying to bring down Clinton during Monicagate. His betrayal of Sidney Blumenthal won’t soon be forgotten by people on the left.

    I don’t trust him. I’m not going to be surprised if Hitchens starts selling out atheists when he gets bored with his latest group of pals.

    BTW, Hitchens has a pathological hatred of the Clintons, which is partly why he supports Giuliani.

  10. #10 Caledonian
    October 14, 2007

    Even atheists have their fundamentalists.

    Wrong.

    Actually, no. That isn’t even wrong – wrongness is a state that this sort of opinion doesn’t even aspire to reaching at some point in the distant future. Let me correct my labeling:

    Stupid.

    There, that’s better.

  11. #11 Leni
    October 14, 2007

    Wow. Christopher Hitchens sounds like he’s completely gone off the deep end. I had considered going to see him, but I’m glad I didn’t. It sounds like it was a nightmare. And sometimes those start off ok too…

    That said, I am sorry I missed Brocach. I popped in for a minute but didn’t see anything vaguely resembling the head of PZ (I had a restricted view from the large booth I was hiding behind.)

    Then I ran out 🙂 (Kinda weird, I know. I’ve just learned to accept it. Wait- no I haven’t! I was being retarded and shy.)

  12. #12 sailor
    October 14, 2007

    Hitchins is not great, in fact he is is totally nuts. it is amazing that a very literate knowlegeable guy seems to have learnt so little from history. The go kick-arse strategy has very little long-term success. In a battle of ideas, it is ideas that eventually detirmine the outcome. The only way to defeat terrorists is make terrorism totally unaccepatable to all nations and so many people they connot operate. Blowing up Muslims will, as PZ points out, be counter-productive. I wonder if Hitchins really believes this or is trying to Coulterize us?

  13. #13 Laura
    October 14, 2007

    Are all skeptics’ meetings like this, then? I went to one hosted by JREF, and the same criticisms could apply there. Even the bit about Hitchens.

    And about Hitchens–can we stop giving him any more forums? He can be wonderfully eloquent, but not often is. And even when eloquent, he is still elitist, dogmatic and dismissive. What is the purpose of having him speak? So that freethinkers/atheists/skeptics can congratulate themselves on being open to a range of ideas? Let’s not be that open. There are ideas that, no matter if held by an atheist or a theist, deserve to shrivel unheard in the bottom of the glass into which they were first uttered. The notion of better living through genocide is right at the top of the list.

  14. #14 DrBadger
    October 14, 2007

    @#8, you don’t think that someone who thinks that anyone who doesn’t believe what he does should die is not a fundamentalist (or at least acting like a fundamentalist)?

  15. #15 Caledonian
    October 14, 2007

    @#8, you don’t think that someone who thinks that anyone who doesn’t believe what he does should die is not a fundamentalist (or at least acting like a fundamentalist)?

    The description you’re reaching for – and that is utterly beyond your stunted vocabulary – is “zealous ideological bigot”.

  16. #16 Lovetoykilljoy
    October 14, 2007

    Agree to disagree with Hitchens but I hate that liberals think they own atheism. Most of you who are complaining about Hitchens, who has no power to act out a war on Iran are probably jumping in line to vote for Hillary Clinton who will most likely start a war with Iran if no one beats her to it.

  17. #17 DrBadger
    October 14, 2007

    Thanks Caledonian, you don’t have to be an a*hole about it. I might as well add here that even atheists have their a*holes.

  18. #18 Terra
    October 14, 2007

    Thank you for articulating what I’ve been feeling for awhile. Why is “bomb ’em all” a good answer? Why do some people believe that it will ever be AN answer when history proves that is almost never is? Where has the lost art of diplomacy gone?

    Also, I want to attend your con when you organize it! 😉

  19. #19 Joshua
    October 14, 2007

    I guess the useful thing about Hitchens is that he embodies the kind of rabid, morality-impaired straw atheist that theists always go on about, giving us the opportunity to disavow it directly in an embodied form, rather than just vaguely whingeing about how we’re not really like that.

  20. #20 raven
    October 14, 2007

    He told us what the most serious threat to the West was (and you know this line already): it was Islam.

    I don’t buy this one. Islam isn’t my favorite religion, they are stuck in a medieval mindset. In a few countries, women are so oppressed that some just give up and commit suicide.

    But there is no such thing as Islam. or Xianity. or Judaism. These religions have schismed so often and spread to so many different people that they are more a collection of beliefs and cultures with a common name. The majority of Moslems aren’t even Arabs, the largest Moslem country is Indonesia, a sort of ally of the USA.

    A hot war between the world’s 2.1 billion Xians and 1.4 billion Moslems would leave the world somewhere between almost destroyed and destroyed. The vast majority of both just want to go to work, raise their kids while hoping they have a better life, and see what is on TV. The alternative is mutually assured destruction.

    We saw this with the commies. The hegemonic Russians and Red Chinese were going to bury us. So we practiced crouching under our desks in grade school to survive a nuclear attack and the government sent us maps with evacuation routes. The Cheneys, Bushes, Coulters, and Limbaughs of the day rattled on about the evil Red Menace. Then one day the Soviets mickey mouse system collapsed and the Chinese decided that selling us cheap manufactured goods for dollars was more important than worldwide revolution.

    This is a conflict of ideas, ways to live, and culture. If the secular west is superior, they will survive and prosper while the more backward elements of Islam fall further and further behind. Time is on our side and is our friend.

    I’m a lot more worried by the fundie Death cult Xians. They are here, controlled the US government up until 2006, and have plans to destroy our way of life and set up a theocracy. The Arabs are over there and too busy killing each other and spending their oil revenues.

  21. #21 Jack Rawlinson
    October 14, 2007

    Yeah, Hitchens did this at the AAI conference too, although at least there he had the decency to wait until someone directly questioned him about Iraq. But then he was off, and he also declared that any of us who disagreed with him were fools. Poisoining the well is such an elementary, schoolyard fallacy, and it’s excruciatingly embarrassing to see an articulate, educated man like Hitchens reduced to it. Very revealing of the weakness of his position, though.

    It’s sad to see these last few neo-liberal, pro-war holdouts losing their control and becoming increasingly hysterical in their inability to simply do the decent thing and admit they were wrong. It’s demonstrably absurd when people throw the “fundamentalist” slur at Richard Dawkins but on the subject of anti-Islamic warmongering, that’s pretty much what Hitchens has become. He makes a damned ugly fool of himself with it, and I wish he’d stop.

  22. #22 ngong
    October 14, 2007

    Let’s keep doing evolution, neurology, archeology, computer science, anthropology, astronomy, cosmology, geology, physics, etc., and continue to make these destructive belief systems as untenable as possible.

  23. #23 CalGeorge
    October 14, 2007

    I gave up on Hitchens permanently after watching him trash Chris Hedges (War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, American Fascists) on a 3-hour C-SPAN interview.

    The guy needs to see a psychiatrist.

    If he does already, it’s not helping.

  24. #24 Caledonian
    October 14, 2007

    Thanks Caledonian, you don’t have to be an a*hole about it.

    You don’t have to be an ignorant fool when you post, yet you indulge yourself. Why should I be denied the pleasure of mocking you?

  25. #25 HP
    October 14, 2007

    Hitchens hasn’t changed — he has always been like this.

    Hitchens has an undeniable rhetorical gift that is intellectually seductive to people passionate about politics. But there is no depth or substance behind anything he says. Ever. I’d wager people only became aware of him since he was trotted in 2002 as a liberal hawk, but I was reading him 20 years ago in places like The Nation, and I’ve seen the pattern over and over again. He’ll make some forceful, eloquent public pronouncement that appeals to [Group X], and [Group X] will swoon and proclaim Hitchens to be all that and more, and then he inevitably turns into the boyfriend-from-hell, and you wonder how you got sucked into such a shitty relationship.

    He’s an intellectual Lothario, the Don Juan of punditry. Atheists are simply the latest notch in his bedpost. I mean, c’mon, only two or three years ago he was sleeping around with the Religious Right, and now you’re shocked that he’s such a cad?

  26. #26 Roinis?
    October 14, 2007

    By now it’s completely clear (at least to anyone with a working brain) that the theists are using mind control. First Harris goes against the label “atheist”, and now Hitchens is promoting genocide. Ugh…

  27. #27 HP
    October 14, 2007

    Dang. s/b “wager *most* people”

  28. #28 True Bob
    October 14, 2007

    stupid oxide

    Can we call this Hitchensite?
    `
    FWIW, I’ve dismissed everything this boozehound says since I first saw how aroused he is by war. A death cult of one.

  29. #29 gerald spezio
    October 14, 2007

    When those literary geniuses in the English department go after each other with hammer and sickle in their battles over office space, status, grammatical error, and proper dress; you never know whose arse will catch hell, venom, and fundamentalist damnation.

    Hitchens destests Muslims, Christians, and Catholic purists; but believes in human devils and Hellfire.

    As a scientist, I would consider that his love affair with the juice has squirreled his brain.

    When Hitchens sucks on nicotine, I cringe for the man.

    Where is Monica when we really need her?

    Any man who hates Henry Kissenger can’t be all bad.

  30. #30 The Ridger
    October 14, 2007

    That’s why I didn’t go to FFRF this year. Not to insult Madison, but I was bored a lot last year and that was in San Francisco!

  31. #31 Christian Burnham
    October 14, 2007

    Caledonian! Just talking about you…

    I wrote:

    He definitely likes being in opposition to the crowd. (I can think of one frequent Pharyngula poster who also displays that trait).

    In fairness- Caledonian is not anywhere near as nutty as HItchens and is often quite right. However, both seem to revel in being a lone voice against the crowd.

    To a much smaller extent I too enjoy bucking the trend- but not nearly to the same extent.

  32. #32 Unstable Isotope
    October 14, 2007

    I despise Hitchens. Just because he’s right about one thing does not make me view him sympathetically. What I don’t understand why he’s still considered an intellectual in some circles. His method of debate is to impugn the intelligence of his opponents. I think he’s just a sorry drunk.

  33. #33 Reginald Selkirk
    October 14, 2007

    non-stop immobility

    The mind boggles.

  34. #34 spurge
    October 14, 2007

    What about talking to the people who run the “The Amazing Meeting”?

    http://www.randi.org

    The JREF seems to know how to put on an entertaining conference from what I have read about it.

  35. #35 Epistaxis
    October 14, 2007

    In a way, the freethought movement is fortunate to have Hitchens. This way we can all look like plain old moderates next to him. I think we’re much more appealing to middle-of-the-roaders or liberal believers if we can point to someone and say, “At least we’re not as extreme as that guy!”

  36. #36 Eric
    October 14, 2007

    How many whiskey sours did Hitchens have before ambling to the stage? It’s always an amusing game to guess how inebriated he is on his various TV appearances based on his skin tone and how badly he slurs his words. His appearance on Hannity and Colmes after Falwell’s death was the certain winner: his pallor was that of a salamander. His writing is often brilliant but his manner leaves much to be desired. Don’t even get me started on how he manages to condemn religious fundamentalism but then endorses neoconservative fundamentalism. The logical process he follows must look like a spaghetti dinner. He used to be a fervent Marxist Trotskyite and now, just like David Horowitz, he’s swung to the opposite extreme. I expect that in a few years he’ll be converting to Islam.

  37. #37 Caledonian
    October 14, 2007

    Christian Burnham:

    In fairness- Caledonian is not anywhere near as nutty as Hitchens and is often a lone voice against the crowd. However, he is quite right.

    Fixed it for you. 8o)

  38. #38 Caledonian
    October 14, 2007

    In addition:

    I am deeply offended by your comparison of me with Christopher Hitchens. I’m ten thousand times crazier than that eloquent lush – and don’t you forget it!

  39. #39 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 14, 2007

    In a way, the freethought movement is fortunate to have Hitchens.

    “Nobody is useless — they can always serve as a bad example.”

    The logical process he follows must look like a spaghetti dinner.

    <raising geologist hammer> Praise be to the ineffable logic of the Flying Spaghetti Monster!!!

    I expect that in a few years he’ll be converting to Islam.

    If the booze doesn’t do him in first…

  40. #40 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 14, 2007

    In a way, the freethought movement is fortunate to have Hitchens.

    “Nobody is useless — they can always serve as a bad example.”

    The logical process he follows must look like a spaghetti dinner.

    <raising geologist hammer> Praise be to the ineffable logic of the Flying Spaghetti Monster!!!

    I expect that in a few years he’ll be converting to Islam.

    If the booze doesn’t do him in first…

  41. #41 Blake Stacey
    October 14, 2007

    According to Rebecca Watson (personal communication), Hitchens requires a certain amount of inebriation in order to function. If he has had either too few or too many drinks, he crashes and burns. Clearly, the FFRF didn’t appreciate the vital necessity of keeping Hitchens’ blood alcohol content in the approved range!

    I guess these open expressions of disapproval about our Leader Figure disqualify the Uppity Atheists from “cult” status. Sigh.

    Anyway, it just goes to show that we need more sensible people to step up and gain visibility. PZ, where’s your book? (Alan Sokal has a new one coming out, you know, just a few months after John Allen Paulos.)

  42. #42 Caledonian
    October 14, 2007

    I expect that in a few years he’ll be converting to Islam.
    If the booze doesn’t do him in first…

    No, don’t you see? He’ll adopt the temperance inherent in Islam’s prohibition against alcohol, convert, and then proclaim that Islam saved his life.

  43. #43 RamblinDude
    October 14, 2007

    I didn’t realize Hitchens was so looney tunes. He sounds so rational when dismissing religion.

    I really think he was born in the wrong century. He would be perfect as a Roman senator, inciting war against the Carthaginians.

  44. #44 Christian Burnham
    October 14, 2007

    Blake Stacey: http://xkcd.com/323/

  45. #45 marcia
    October 14, 2007

    Hitchens knows of what he speaks. Look at the recently released Al QAEDA READER by Ibrahim

    http://chronicle.com/temp/reprint.php?id=8ytztvdt6sy6x5p550p2m258myk1c1nm
    and you will see that the Koran is not a nice religious text. “Extremists” are indeed rational if they consider the Koran a legal text with prescriptions for living. I think that this is the real danger that Hitchens sees: If the text is to be followed fundamentally, then we’re doomed no matter how nice we are.

    I can understand where he comes from. Is Fundamentalist Islam on the wane here in 2007? Has the scientific revolution stopped the march of fundamentalism? Will being nice and showing our nice western ways change their minds?

    I don’t agree with his call for annihilation, but he wakes us up to the seriousness of this situation.

  46. #46 Thony C.
    October 14, 2007

    Thanks Caledonian, you don’t have to be an a*hole about it.

    Calling Caledonian an a*hole is an insult to a*holes.

  47. #47 Mooser
    October 14, 2007

    Oh come on, PZ. You must have known what was happening: Hitch needed a drink! Why the hell did you let him talk on beyond the point at which his poor synapses absolutely demanded alcohol? He’s only gonna get more bellicose and crazy after that, until he goes until a full fledged alcoholic withdrawal. Conversely, you could have supplied him with liquor, and you can look up the results of his last speaking engagement (in NY, I believe) at which he was well-lubricated. Fisticuffs ensued, and a pleasant time was guaranteed for all. Google it, Professor.
    The man’s brain is getting, well, moist, ya’ know.
    A predilection for drink is well represented among believers and atheists alike, but only God hisself can determine the exact right amount of alchohol to keep Hitchens from goin’nuts. Did you pray before his presentation? It might have helped, as much as anything else.

  48. #48 Santiago
    October 14, 2007

    I certainly do NOT agree with stamping out religious thought like a malignant tumour: wholesale and total slaughter. However, reading other works by Hitchens, I do agree with some of his opinions.
    The thing is, on a purely pragmatical view both methods are valid: either kill all under religious influence, or make them realize the error of their ways. The problem? making them realize the error of their ways would take decades, if not downright centuries. It is a slow, stuttering, painful process, which on the upside does not strictly necessitate the sacrifice of lives. On the downside, many of these people (and, IMPORTANTLY, their governments) are bent on world domination of Islam, and at least one of them is blatantly pursuing nuclear offensive technology.
    It’s easy to say that you should never use violence, it’s even easier to indiscriminately use violence to solve problems. What’s hard is to accept that sometimes the answer necessitates war, and destruction, and the deaths of innocents. Yes, it’s not pretty, yes it is horrible and monstrous, but the alternative is even worse, and it is the responsibility of those who can to protect rational civilization against the religious zealots.

  49. #49 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 14, 2007

    I guess these open expressions of disapproval about our Leader Figure disqualify the Uppity Atheists from “cult” status. Sigh.

    This just proves the Leader Figure is Dawkins, you dawkobot, you.

    No, don’t you see? He’ll adopt the temperance inherent in Islam’s prohibition against alcohol, convert, and then proclaim that Islam saved his life.

    Good point. Very good point.

    and you will see that the Koran is not a nice religious text.

    Of course it isn’t. Not even the New Testament is nice (see a few threads ago). And the Old Testament has actually even worse orders about holy war than the Qur’an… I hope I can find the page with the comparisons again…

    The point is that fundies of any stripe tend not to be much of a threat to anyone outside their own countries.

    Let’s just hope Busharraf isn’t toppled. Because that would deliver Pakistan’s nukes into the hands of al Qaida. Then you’d have a point.

  50. #50 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 14, 2007

    I guess these open expressions of disapproval about our Leader Figure disqualify the Uppity Atheists from “cult” status. Sigh.

    This just proves the Leader Figure is Dawkins, you dawkobot, you.

    No, don’t you see? He’ll adopt the temperance inherent in Islam’s prohibition against alcohol, convert, and then proclaim that Islam saved his life.

    Good point. Very good point.

    and you will see that the Koran is not a nice religious text.

    Of course it isn’t. Not even the New Testament is nice (see a few threads ago). And the Old Testament has actually even worse orders about holy war than the Qur’an… I hope I can find the page with the comparisons again…

    The point is that fundies of any stripe tend not to be much of a threat to anyone outside their own countries.

    Let’s just hope Busharraf isn’t toppled. Because that would deliver Pakistan’s nukes into the hands of al Qaida. Then you’d have a point.

  51. #51 Tatarize
    October 14, 2007

    Scifi and atheism… I can see it now. Just needs two things.

    1) Prior costume.
    2) Darwins’ Origin of Species.

    Dressed up in a Stargate Prior costume (whiteface, odd looking, Ori staff, etc) asking people if they want to read the Book of “Origin” (Origin of Species).

  52. #52 Mooser
    October 14, 2007

    Let’s see, what was Galloway’s description of Hitchens? “A Gin-soaked Popinjay”, and that seems to be the mot juste (if that’s the French phrase I want).

  53. #53 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 14, 2007

    and at least one of them is blatantly pursuing nuclear offensive technology.

    The Iranians lost the longing for a martyr’s death 15 years ago. They aren’t what I’m afraid of. They want nukes to deter the USA — as long as that still works, see above.

  54. #54 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 14, 2007

    and at least one of them is blatantly pursuing nuclear offensive technology.

    The Iranians lost the longing for a martyr’s death 15 years ago. They aren’t what I’m afraid of. They want nukes to deter the USA — as long as that still works, see above.

  55. #55 eric
    October 14, 2007

    First, I find it telling that so many who pride themselves on their rationality frequently resort to the irrelevant (and boring) “Hitchens likes to drink” bit.

    Second, I get a kick out of those who say, “Ah, Hitchens doesn’t know his history. Doesn’t he know that kickin’ butt never works? It’s the battle of ideas that defeats the other side.” Sure. The Nazi’s were defeated by ideas. How could I have forgotten? So were the Persians. And the Carthaginians, too. Gotta bone up on my history. Maybe Hitchens will join me in a study group. Now don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that “kickin’ butt” is the only approach. My point is that this stuff gets complicated, and to dismiss, a priori, the notion that killing the enemy might be the solution is — well, silly.

    Third, it’s appalling that people who speak about the importance of a battle of ideas will so quickly dismiss someone like Hitchens — who provides thoughtful arguments for his conclusions — simply because of his ideas! Debate with him, question his premises, point out flaws in his reasoning — this is how a battle of ideas proceeds — but don’t dismiss him with an insult (or two). And if you do take the latter course, then you have no credibility whatsoever when you speak about a battle of ideas.

  56. #56 Leni
    October 14, 2007

    Unstable Isotope wrote:

    His method of debate is to impugn the intelligence of his opponents.I think he’s just a sorry drunk.

    And impugning your opponents as “sorry drunks” is better how?

    That might be his method of debate, but it isn’t his justification. Whether or not Hitchens thinks his opponents are stupid is irrelevant to his argument. And he does typically give reasons for his opinions. Just disagree with those, there’s plenty to work with.

    So despite the fact that you (presumably) are sober, you’ve managed to make Hitchens’ mistake twice in one paragraph. Way to go! 😉

    His position isn’t exactly unheard of, so maybe we should try to address that, not his alcohol problem or debate style.

  57. #57 Jon
    October 14, 2007

    This “9-11 changed everything” crowd has always seemed to me a little insane, overly emotional, whatever you want to call it. Harris also talks a little like that sometimes. Sure, 9-11 wasn’t the greatest moment in our history, but it certainly wasn’t anywhere near the worst. I know people have made these cliche comparisons before: cancer, heart disease, car crashes, et cetera. 9-11 doesn’t compare to any one of them. What’s happened since 9-11 is far worse than what happened on 9-11. And I don’t just mean car crashes and heart disease.

  58. #58 RamblinDude
    October 14, 2007

    “If the text is to be followed fundamentally, then we’re doomed no matter how nice we are.”

    It’s not about being nice. It’s about being rational. It’s about using our energy, imagination, and resources to explore alternative ways of dealing with zealous, bigoted, fundamentalist mentality.

    Rational, truth seeking people look at the pugnacious-ness within themselves and see it for the trouble making, endless cycle, dead end that it is. An unwillingness to explore alternatives to the “Let’s just kill them all” mindset is the same lazy mindedness that rationalists eschew.

  59. #59 Sir Craig
    October 14, 2007

    Hitchens is to the progressive side of the debate what Ann Coulter is to the conservative (regressive?) side: An incredible embarrassment, whose sole purpose seems to be acting as a necrotic to intelligent discourse. Both Hitchens and Coulter (along with far too many others to name, but we know who they are), when confronted with fact-based, well-thought reasoning that contradicts their own beliefs, display all the dynamics of a preschool confrontation by resorting to name calling and calling their detractors’ intelligence into question.

    When I saw Hitchens on Real Time with Bill Maher flipping off the audience as they voiced their disagreement with some lame point of his, I knew he was an idiot, and frankly I cringed when I learned he had written a supposedly atheistic book because I knew this would be something the conservatives and theists would latch onto and use as “evidence” of the instability of freethinkers.

    While I agree with PZ that voices such as Hitchens’ shouldn’t be silenced altogether (because otherwise how would we able to judge sane versus insane?), I think I’ve heard enough from the “superior intellect” to know his fame is unwarranted and undeserved. Let’s stick with true intellects like Dawkins and Sweeney.

  60. #60 syntyche
    October 14, 2007

    Second, I get a kick out of those who say, “Ah, Hitchens doesn’t know his history. Doesn’t he know that kickin’ butt never works? It’s the battle of ideas that defeats the other side.” Sure. The Nazi’s were defeated by ideas. How could I have forgotten? So were the Persians. And the Carthaginians, too. Gotta bone up on my history.

    Very well done – those are all very precise and accurate analogies to today’s struggle with islamic extremists.

  61. #61 Christian Burnham
    October 14, 2007

    Sir Craig wrote:

    Hitchens is to the progressive side of the debate what A** C****** is to the conservative (regressive?) side: An incredible embarrassment

    The difference is that Republicans are not embarrassed at all about AC. She actually represents what they all think.

  62. #62 marcia
    October 14, 2007

    Coulter is no embarrassment, Sir Craig. She speaks the truth for the fundamentalist. She honestly portrays the Christian fundamentalist position in almost all her speech.

    http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2007/10/13/ann-coulter-explains-her-jews-need-be-perfected-comment

    To compare that to Hitchens, imo, is wrong.

    It’s not lazy to consider fighting those who follow a text which says that you, the infidel, should be annihilated. It may be extreme, but it’s not irrational.

  63. #63 gerald spezio
    October 14, 2007

    PZ, did Hitchens ever use the word “murder” in his prescriptive program for the Moslem world?

    “I want to murder the Muslims,” would be the ultimate literary metaphor and frame.

    Cocktail final solutions, so to wax poetic and literary.

  64. #64 k
    October 14, 2007

    “David Paszkiewicz still teaches at that high school, and is apparently still dribbling out his superstitious nonsense to the students, which is unfortunate …”

    Ok, aren’t you the same guy who said that people shouldn’t homeschool, they should fight the school system and make it better if they aren’t happy? Matt LaClair fought the school system. What good did it do? I get the distinct impression that the attitude here is, “Oh well. Matt, ‘is going to rise above it and leave that school behind, soon enough.’ All is well.” Hey! What about everyone else?

  65. #65 Watto
    October 14, 2007

    heh. He’s YOUR bomb-throwing anti-theist. Bummer when the worm turns, eh?

  66. #66 Barn Owl
    October 14, 2007

    Hitchens reminds me of Oliver Reed…only with education, and reasoning capacity that exceeds that of an average spruce grouse.

  67. #67 eric
    October 14, 2007

    Syntyche wrote: “Very well done – those are all very precise and accurate analogies to today’s struggle with islamic extremists.”

    The point isn’t that these situations are analagous, but that force has in fact solved some problems in the past. I thought this was clear from the context of my remark, especially since I was responding to the notion that war never resolves conflicts, and that only ideas do.

  68. #68 Nerull
    October 14, 2007

    The Nazi’s were defeated by ideas. How could I have forgotten?

    Psst, the side that used the tactics Hitchens wants to employ are the side that lost that fight.

    Third, it’s appalling that people who speak about the importance of a battle of ideas will so quickly dismiss someone like Hitchens — who provides thoughtful arguments for his conclusions — simply because of his ideas! Debate with him, question his premises, point out flaws in his reasoning — this is how a battle of ideas proceeds — but don’t dismiss him with an insult (or two). And if you do take the latter course, then you have no credibility whatsoever when you speak about a battle of ideas.

    If you disagree with Hitchens on anything, the only thing he has is insults to throw back. What makes him worthy of that respect?

  69. #69 Aaron Baker
    October 14, 2007

    “We cannot afford to allow the Iranian theocracy to arm itself with nuclear weapons (something I entirely sympathize with), and that the only solution is to go in there with bombs and marines and blow it all up.”

    I have to say I think that an Islamic theocracy with weapons would be a significantly more dangerous nuclear power than a secular government with nuclear weapons. (I also think the proposition I’ve just uttered should be obvious.) Still it seems to me an essential moral principle that one should always treat war as a last resort, after all the other carrots and sticks of normal diplomacy have been tried and failed. Additionally, morality aside, one couldn’t trust the Bush administration to wage a war competently.

    But if or when sanctions and rewards have failed? What’s your position then? Islamic fanatics are not now a threat to us on the order of the Soviet Union. I, for one, want that state of affairs to continue.

  70. #70 Nick
    October 14, 2007

    PZ, if you’re referring to Huntington’s blasted “hypothesis” then that is no way good. Empirical studies of it have shown the damn it to be not-correct and deeply flawed, and examining the premises of it (the original paper’s online for free) it is in no-way, shape or form even correct. Huntington can’t even give a solid definition of what a civilisation is, something we generally tear creationists and ID’ists a new one over with their terminology.

    The thing is, civilisations don’t really exist as they’re made up of competing nation-states which typically work along self-interest. Sometimes those interests intersect, sometimes the interactions are due to historical ties. They are less monoliths, and more mosaics.

    When I encountered this in political science (I majored in biology), after examining the evidence presented I rejected Huntington, but also a good deal of what is meant by the term “civilisation”. Although perhaps there is a clash of culture, but I’ll wait for the objective, analytic evidence to come in before I make my mind up. And I don’t mean “evidence + 1” 😛

    And as always the information is out there in the journals.

    Sometimes, political science does actually do empirical studies…

    Ah, otherwise, I wish there was something similar here in NZ, even if we had our very own version of Hitchens to get annoyed by.

  71. #71 fretchie
    October 14, 2007

    If even some people cannot see the dying women and children ripped apart, rather than the empty words used, then there is no hope. Hitchens is another neo-con killer and as such a murderer but we have to say he “supports war.” Wake up all! Discover you are human.

  72. #72 raven
    October 14, 2007

    Second, I get a kick out of those who say, “Ah, Hitchens doesn’t know his history. Doesn’t he know that kickin’ butt never works? It’s the battle of ideas that defeats the other side.” Sure. The Nazi’s were defeated by ideas. How could I have forgotten? So were the Persians. And the Carthaginians, too. Gotta bone up on my history.

    Sure, you have to learn your history. We defeated the communists by force of arms. After the nuclear bombings of Moscow and Bejing as well as a few hundred other Soviet and Chinese cities, they were finished. They say that North America will be inhabitable in a few centuries unless we have to nuke those mutated cockroaches that seem to have taken over.

    You are an idiot.

  73. #73 PsychoAtheist
    October 14, 2007

    Hitchens at least speaks from experience. He has spent some considerable time in the Middle East and has seen first hand the nastiest side of religious fundamentalism. That’s not to say that I believe he is justified in calling for the widespread genocide of an indigenous population, but we should at least give him credit for having the background that entitles him to those opinions (even if they are ****ing barking!)

  74. #74 toomanytribbles
    October 14, 2007

    is there a transcript or video somewhere?

  75. #75 Sir Craig
    October 14, 2007

    To Christian (#55):

    The difference is that Republicans are not embarrassed at all about AC. She actually represents what they all think.

    I would have to disagree: Coulter may at times appear to be the darling of the Republican, right-wing set, but that support comes largely from the visible vocal minority (Hannity and the rest of Faux News, Free Republic, et al). Most of the conservatives I’ve spoken with (and being a member of the military I find there is no shortage of conservatives around me) find her comments incredibly embarrassing, if not outright offensive — many still view her comments regarding the 9/11 widows as nothing less than evil.

    To Marcia (#56):

    Coulter may indeed speak truth for the fundies, but the fundies are a minority even among conservatives. Conservatives and progressives alike have at their core a majority that could be best described as “mainstream” or “middle-of-the-road” (I prefer “lukewarm”); their views are by no means as extreme as what the Coulters or Malkins (on the right) or Hitchens (on the left) would like to believe. Unfortunately, the very passive natures of these moderates is what leads people to believe that these extreme views are embraced by either side: Silence equals acquiescence.

    I’m by no means extreme, but I am passionate in my views, which is why appreciate blogs like Pharyngula: Reason rules.

  76. #76 RamblinDude
    October 14, 2007

    “It’s not lazy to consider fighting those who follow a text which says that you, the infidel, should be annihilated. It may be extreme, but it’s not irrational.”

    Hitchens isn’t “considering” fighting, he’s promoting annihilation, vociferously, (If I’m reading correctly.) Islamic extremism is a problem, but adopting the attitude that nothing can be done about it, and our only alternative to being killed by them is to go kill them first, is unimaginative, simplistic, irrational, animal behavior.

    In Hitchens world, we first kill all the islamists extremists (NUKE EM’!), then we kill off the Christian fundamentalists, then we kill off all the others who don’t agree, and then he drinks himself to death.

    I Like PZ’s statement:

    the West should not invade and destroy, but should instead set an example, lead with strength, and be the civilization that every rational citizen of the other side wants to emulate. Yes, there will be wars and skirmishes, because not everyone on either side is rational, but the bloodshed isn’t the purpose. Hitchens would make it the raison d’etre of the whole Western effort.

    Hitchens may think his mentality is different from the death cult fundies like Hagee, but if the result is the same–everybody getting killed–then what good is it?

  77. #77 eric
    October 14, 2007

    Raven wrote: “Sure, you have to learn your history. We defeated the communists by force of arms. After the nuclear bombings of Moscow and Bejing as well as a few hundred other Soviet and Chinese cities, they were finished. They say that North America will be inhabitable in a few centuries unless we have to nuke those mutated cockroaches that seem to have taken over.
    You are an idiot.”

    Hmm. One indicator of “idiocy” is surely the inability to understand an argument, especially when its qualifications are presented as clearly as this (what follows is the part of my post you didn’t quote — perhaps because you have a hard time dealing with complexity and nuance? Or perhaps because you intentionally misrepresent the positions of thoe who disagree with you because you’re idea of an intelligent riposte is, “You’re an idiot.”):

    “Now don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that “kickin’ butt” is the only approach. My point is that this stuff gets complicated, and to dismiss, a priori, the notion that killing the enemy might be the solution is — well, silly.”

    Perhaps you missed that part.

  78. #78 Andrew
    October 14, 2007

    The way to win the war is to kill so many Moslems that they begin to question whether they can bear the mounting casualties.

    I’m a veteran of Iraq, and I can tell you that this is the only way to “win” the war. Soldiers and Marines would have to be able to drag an insurgent into the street and execute him. But that kind of sacrifice (one of humanity) is not one I (and I think most soldiers) am willing to make. Hitchens may be right about winning the war, but there are other ways to win the conflict which the Bush administration has completely ignored.

    PZ is right when he says the situation is quite a bit more complicated than Hitchens makes it out to be. The root problem in the Middle East are their archaic regimes. These regimes stay in power by deliberately brain-washing their people through poor education, religious indoctrination, and the fostering of anti-Western sentiments. All of these efforts make a young, disgruntled Saudi (for example) much more likely to take on fundamentalism and target the West instead of the REAL source of all the injustice and poverty he grew up with… the Saudi Monarchy.

    It is sad that the need for energy has made us as Americans have to give up so many of our values in places like Saudi Arabia and Iraq. But it’s not like that is ever going to change. We will still need oil long after we no longer need gasoline or diesel. The only permanant solution is the wholesale slaughter (or genocide) of everyone in those oil-producing nations then replacing them with Americans (the end-result of Hitchens’ ideas). That is an act that would rob an entire generation of Americans of their humanity. But I fear that as the world becomes more and more crowded and energy reserves become less and less, that decisions like an act of genocide will become less and less morally ambiguous. I fear that day.

  79. #79 Donalbain
    October 14, 2007

    Hitchens is, at least in part, correct.
    I (and most of you reading this blog) are FAR more likely to be killed by someone who is ideologically driven to kill me by his Muslim faith than by someone driven to do it by their Christian faith. That is a a simple fact of the world we live in. Christians are, on the whole, an annoyance rather than a threat to our life and limb.

  80. #80 Nick
    October 14, 2007

    Donalbain, care to show us a statistical analysis showing that? At least if I lived in the States, I’d be more likely to get shoot by my fellow American. NZ, more a case of being hit by a car accidentally than being purposely murdered.

  81. #81 cliff
    October 14, 2007

    “Reason rules” That’s the silliest quote of the day. Just look five comments up where someone ends with, “You’re an idiot” and the next person refers to “****ing barking.” There are science blogs out there where reason really does rule (realclimate.org does a good job of it), but this isn’t one.

  82. #82 Donalbain
    October 14, 2007

    Oh.. you must have misread what I said. Maybe I should repost it for you…

    “I (and most of you reading this blog) are FAR more likely to be killed by someone who is ideologically driven to kill me by his Muslim faith than by someone driven to do it by their Christian faith.”

    There. Is that better?

  83. #83 Andrew
    October 14, 2007

    I have to agree with Donalbain on this one.

    But you have to consider the liklihood of being killed by a terroist:

    The February issue of Conde Nast Traveler carries a fascinating article in which they polled readers about their greatest travel fears and compared them to the statistical risks. A third of those responding said they worried about terrorist attacks, yet the historical odds that an American will die this way are 1 in 9.3 million. You’re slightly more likely to die in an avalanche, more than twice as likely to perish in a bus accident, 40 times as likely to drown.

    Put it another way: For every American killed by a terrorist, 2,427 die of skin cancer, 4,893 expire in car accidents, 9,735 are shot to death by nonterrorists and — you might want to stub out your cigarette before reading this — 30,666 are claimed by heart disease and another 18,746 by cancer.

  84. #84 sea Creature
    October 14, 2007

    I should have known someone would bring up the old “the nazis weren’t defeated by ideas” b.s. Hello, this is not about not responding to military acts of agression. The point is that military actions themselves cannot put an end to ideologies. Certainly plenty of freethinkers recognize that there are legitimate arenas where military action is appropriate.
    It’s useful to consider that the cold war ultimately put an end to the Soviet Union by economically depleting it. I often wonder if that is the goal of the Religious Right in their “war on terror” – leave the U.S. so economically depleted that the persuit of freedom becomes a luxury we cannot afford.

  85. #85 Nick
    October 14, 2007

    Show me. Don’t just claim it. Show me the statistical evidence instead of opinion. Else that’s all it is.

    Also, I’m more likely to be killed in an accident, or someone driven by greed, rather than any particular given ideology.

    And on the subject of Islam, Ed had a blog post sometime ago drawing parallels between the Reformation and what’s occurring in Islam today. Not that it excuses people from going around killing others.

  86. #86 eric
    October 14, 2007

    Seacreature wrote: “I should have known someone would bring up the old “the nazis weren’t defeated by ideas” b.s.”

    It’s decidedly not b.s. if the claim it’s refuting is the notion that force never resolves conflicts. If you want to discuss whether “military actions themselves” are sufficient to “end ideologies,” well, that’s a different issue, and I wasn’t addressing it. But it’s also a straw man in the context of the current debate, since Hitchens doesn’t think that the military component is a sufficient component; rather, he argues that it’s a necessary component.

  87. #87 Donalbain
    October 14, 2007

    OK.. Number of terrorist incidents carried about by Christianity driven terrorists in the last five years in London = ZERO

    Number carried out by Islam driven terrorists = More than zero.

    Happy now?

    And when you are comparing Christianity to Islam, the number of people killed by road traffic accidents, cancer, space monkeys or meteors is NOT relevant.

  88. #88 tacitus
    October 14, 2007

    OK.. Number of terrorist incidents carried about by Christianity driven terrorists in the last five years in London = ZERO

    Number carried out by Islam driven terrorists = More than zero.

    Only because the IRA stopped their bombing campaign a few years ago. For most of my life in the UK, the numbers were the exact opposite.

  89. #89 Andrew
    October 14, 2007

    Ed had a blog post sometime ago drawing parallels between the Reformation and what’s occurring in Islam today.

    That is, frankly, a gross warping of history to soothe your misguided fears and skepticism. I have been THERE. Even the most helpful, pro-American Iraqi is VERY VERY religious by American standards. Also, the Protestant Reformation was not a good thing for people. Although, taking political power from the Roman Catholic Church was ultimately worth the price, the Protestant Reformation was a fundamentalist movement (hence “reform” or “back to the basics” aka fundamentals). It sparked centuries of warfare, hardly the “enlightened period” you seem to imply it was.

    The only way to end their fanaticism is with education.

  90. #90 Andrew
    October 14, 2007

    By “their”, I meant Muslim.

  91. #91 Donalbain
    October 14, 2007

    I would strongly hesitate to describe the IRA as driven by Christianity. They never used their faith to justify or explain their actions. They spoke strictly in political/tribal terms.

  92. #92 Heterocronie
    October 14, 2007

    “It may be extreme, but it’s not irrational.”

    As PZ pointed out, what is irrational is the notion that all Muslims want to destroy the west, kill the “infidels” etc. Most people just want to live their lives. Now if some thug from Blackwater shoots your little kid in the head, well then it’s much easier to give your life to Jihad, isn’t it? bin Laden is the world’s biggest fan of the war in Iraq because misery is a great recruiting tool. As for Iran, what many Iranians remember about the US is that one of our ships that was essentially in their coastal waters, shot down an Iranian commercial airliner. We’ve had a presence in the region for decades – and now we’ve invaded Iraq. Put yourself in the shoes of the average Iranian.

    We need to deploy Wal-Mart, iphones, Applebees and an Arabic/Farsi version of American Idol, NOT cruise missiles, the 82nd Airborne and warships. HUMINT and small rapid reaction counter-terrorism teams are the only logical military assets to use in the middle east. Bring our conventional troops home now!

  93. #93 jomega
    October 14, 2007

    Epistaxis wrote:
    ‘In a way, the freethought movement is fortunate to have Hitchens. This way we can all look like plain old moderates next to him. I think we’re much more appealing to middle-of-the-roaders or liberal believers if we can point to someone and say, “At least we’re not as extreme as that guy!”‘

    I would have to disagree, here. You might win over a few middle-of-the-roaders, but the godly types are still using the commies as an argument against atheism. A few of the more rabid bomb-all-the-saracen fundies might even be more willing to tolerate you on the basis of Hitchens’ antics, but we all know the reigious right likes to paint their opponents sloppily, witha VERY broad brush. Stuff like this can -and likely will- be used against you .

  94. #94 Nick
    October 14, 2007

    And thank you tacitus…

    And Donalbain those other chance of death are important. They put in perspective any likelihood of death-by-ideology. Ignoring those, leads to any result being over-represented. Stupid thing to do really with statistics like these.

    Andrew, I do view the Reformation that way. Not so ignorant of that period particularly. The reason why I mentioned it, is that there are movements within Islam that share aspects with the puritans etc that the Reformation gave birth to. Google Salafist, Salafism and Tawid/Tawidism. These, if remembering what I learnt in my pol.sci course are sunni groups which mirror in many respects the “back to basics, with a vengeance” approach of the christian fundamentalists.

  95. #95 Andrew
    October 14, 2007

    Yeah, the PIRA (Provisional Irish Republican Army) was a socialist (communist) organization. Hardly what one would call “religiously motivated”.

    This guy “tacitus” has shown himself to be a bit lacking in the historical department. Surprising (or embarassing?) for one who claims to be from the UK.

  96. #96 Eric
    October 14, 2007

    Number of deaths caused in the last six years by terrorists in the United States = 2,974

    Number of deaths caused in the last three years by illegally invading and occupying a country = 654,965

    Happy now?

  97. #97 True Bob
    October 14, 2007

    Nice for the UK, Donalbain. I don’t track it or have statistics, but ideologically driven christer terrrrrrrsts do kill people in my country.

    [Homer]USA! USA! USA![/Homer]

  98. #98 Betsy
    October 14, 2007

    I have to wonder if his talk wasn’t motivated by some of the questions posed at the AAI Convention. There he made few “prepared” remarks, and most of those I’d heard from watching other interviews, and then he took questions for the remainder of the time. And when someone in the audience asked him about his opinion on Iraq he certainly gave precisely the impression PZ got. He was dismissive of the person’s intelligence. He has an irrational hatred of all things Clinton. And while he never mentioned Bush in any of his responses, his position is essentially an apology for the Bush doctrine. I agree that Islam is something of concern that we need to focus on, and an Iran with nukes is significantly more dangerous than an Iran without it, but he can’t seem to see the reasoning behind a strong Iraqi leader actually keeping Iran in check in a balance of power. It’s the power vacuum that is setting Iran loose. Maybe? He won’t entertain it. Education to separate the Islamic youth from the fundamentalist forces around them? Nope.

    I take some comfort in the fact that in one interview I saw, Hitchens said he’s not planning on voting in the next election. So, I guess what he thinks about politics doesn’t really matter. If it even mattered that much to him, you’d think he’d do the smallest thing to promote it.

  99. #99 RamblinDude
    October 14, 2007

    Andrew #72: Interesting comments.

    I agree with you; I don’t want live in a culture that sacrifices its humanity for expediency and conquest. The ultimate goal is not just to win a war but to create an intelligent, rational world. That goal will never be achieved with brutality as our benchmark.

  100. #100 Donalbain
    October 14, 2007

    Fair enough. None of you actually read what I wrote. I will repeat it once more:

    I (and most of you reading this blog) are FAR more likely to be killed by someone who is ideologically driven to kill me by his Muslim faith than by someone driven to do it by their Christian faith

    Now.. look closely at the two things I am comparing there. Look.. see?

    Thank you.

  101. #101 tacitus
    October 14, 2007

    On the downside, many of these people (and, IMPORTANTLY, their governments) are bent on world domination of Islam, and at least one of them is blatantly pursuing nuclear offensive technology.

    “Many” of these people? Al Qaida, at its height was a few thousand strong, and even in war-torn Iraq the vast majority of Muslims just want to get on with their lives in peace. So how many is “many”? It is certainly not millions, otherwise we would have been in deep trouble years ago.

    As for all those Islamic governments? Well, perhaps some Iranian mullahs have ideas for world domination. Who else? Syria? Jordan? Saudi Arabia? Indonesia? Pakistan? There is no evidence that any of these governments want world domination for Islam You are simply buying into the myth perpetrated by the right-wingers about how there is a vast wave of radical Muslims poised to sweep across Western Europe.

    I agree that there may be times to fight, but ridiculous rhetoric about Islamic governments working towards the day the whole world is in their dominion is nonsense. These governments can barely keep their own countries (and more important, their own power base) together. Iran’s desire to have nuclear weapons is more to do with regional power (as it was with Pakistan and India) than any dreams of world domination.

    What really surprises me is how terrified the wingnuts are about everything these days. Until recently I hadn’t realized how appropriate the term chickenhawk is for most of these people. They accuse moderates and liberals of being soft and weak, but really, they’re the ones who are the chicken littles running around and squawking about how the sky is falling.

  102. #102 True Bob
    October 14, 2007

    I haven’t got the slightest concern about Iran getting or even using nuke ya ler weapons, for one simple reason: Israel.

    More complicated reasons include delivery and production issues, again offset by our CLOSE FRIENDS in Palestine, and our own massive destructive capability.

  103. #103 Paul Crowley
    October 14, 2007

    PZ makes a strong case that the phrase “atheist fundamentalist” is empty nonsense even when you’re talking about a man who advocates killing the believers;

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/10/cult_is_the_new_fundamentalist.php#more

  104. #104 Nick Gardner
    October 14, 2007

    I thought it was preferable to rescue the hostages and defuse the bomb as quickly as possible rather than killing all the terrorists. On the other hand, from the perspective of the terrorists, it’s much easier to camp and kill the counter-terrorists coming to rescue the hostages. It’s harder for terrorists on defuse missions since they have to also plant the bomb, and with a good counter-terrorist team camping the bomb sites, this could actually be difficult. But by and large, it’s usually much easier playing as a terrorist since from an objectives standpoint, you could very well take the mindset of “just kill them all” regardless of the mission type.

    Wait, we’re not talking about Counterstrike?

  105. #105 miller
    October 14, 2007

    I’d be happy to see the more uppity parts of the atheist community finally wake up and disavow Hitchens. All I ever hear about him is, “I don’t agree with what he says, but he says it with such style!” or “Yeah, yeah, he’s terrible, but what a character!” Hitchens fans need to listen to themselves.

  106. #106 Heterocronie
    October 14, 2007

    “Wait, we’re not talking about Counterstrike?”

    Rumsfeld’s standing desk makes it easier to switch over to DDR once he starts losing.

  107. #107 Nick
    October 14, 2007

    We’re not… Despite some wishing we were in counterstrike.

    Donalbain, perhaps. But then again in the end I’m more likely to die of old age, than being killed by Islamic fundamentalists.

  108. #108 Bruce Breece
    October 14, 2007

    I wonder if the fact that Hitchs’ father was a military man has anything to do with his current worldview?

  109. #109 Nick
    October 14, 2007

    I should said “ridiculously more likely”…

  110. #110 Donalbain
    October 14, 2007

    Nick. For the LAST LAST time. I was comparing Christians to Muslims. Not Christians to old age. Not Muslims to monkeys. Not Hindus to cancer.

  111. #111 Colugo
    October 14, 2007

    I’m not sure that PZ didn’t misinterpret Hitchens’ remarks and confuse Muslims in general with Islamic militants. Hitchens has a long history of being – and still is – sympathetic to Palestinian aspirations, Kurds, Bosnian Muslims, and liberal Muslims generally. Hitchens’ position on Iraq is largely the result of his solidarity with the Kurdish left.

    Liberal interventionists and neocons alike were on the side of Bosnian Muslims against Christian Serbs (see Kristol’s writings in the 90s for example), in contrast to the non-interventionism that prevailed among (non-neocon) conservatives and the far left. (The Balkans were complicated, with neoliberals and neocons on the same side of the KLA, who were on the same side as … bin Laden!? As they say, “The enemy of my enemy.”) Similarly, some liberal interventionists and neocons were sympathetic to Chechen independence.

    Whatever Hitchens and Harris’ excesses (especially Harris) on (radical) Islam, they are absolutely right that liberal atheists tend to have a double standard on Muslims vs Christians. For example, over-the-top rhetoric about getting tough on Jeebus freaks and gleeful Christ-mocking blasphemy on the one hand and exquisite sensitivity about those Mohammed-mocking cartoons on the other. Perhaps US atheists’ familiarity with Christians has bred contempt and they tend to view Muslims as an oppressed group, the victims of colonialism and Christo-bigotry – so they tend to give Muslims a pass. Maybe that “Muslim = righteous victim” formulation works, sort of, in very specific and local circumstances (e.g. Bosnia circa the 90s, Russian ultranationalist racism), but makes no sense globally (Darfur, Pakistan, East Timor, Thailand…). Who are the primary victims of militant Islam? Muslim minority ethnic and sectarian groups (Kurds, Darfurians…), Muslim women, liberal Muslims, regional non-Muslims (Copts, Bahai…).

    The atheists who are toughest on Islam tend to be ex-Muslims like Ibn Warraq and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Not coincidentally, the most anti-Christian atheists also tend to be ex-Christians.

  112. #112 Nick Gardner
    October 14, 2007

    you know, global events lately aren’t too different from Starcraft

    “we require more vespene gas”

    oshi-

  113. #113 Nick
    October 14, 2007

    Where’s the vespene when you need it?

    Donalbain, perspective. In the case of potential sources of early death, it’s useful to stop yourself from making one particular possible cause over-represented.

  114. #114 CalGeorge
    October 14, 2007

    Hitchens makes me think of this part of the Alice’s Restaurant song (YouTube):

    And I went up there, I said, “Shrink, I want to kill. I mean, I wanna, I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth. Eat dead burnt bodies. I mean kill, Kill, KILL, KILL.” And I started jumpin up and down yelling, “KILL, KILL,” and he started jumpin up and down with me and we was both jumping up and down yelling, “KILL, KILL.” And the sargent came over, pinned a medal on me, sent me down the hall, said, “You’re our boy.”

    He’s their boy, alright.

  115. #115 Mooser
    October 14, 2007

    A drunk is a drunk. While I have no quarrel with Mr. Hitchens need or desire to medicate himself, I don’t think he should do it with alchohol. The damage is inevitable.

    If the Divine comfort is gone, does that mean we must console ourselves with alchohol? Hitchens is the worst possible advocate for atheism.

    BTW, I really wonder if he is an atheist. He is so afraid of Islam, and, as I am sure any extremeist Moslem could tell you, their success at taking over will be in God’s (Allah’s) hands. Their God (Allah) wants them to succeed.
    If Hitchens doesn’t believe in God, what the hell is he worried about? He can certainly explicate the temporal shortcomings of the Muslims, so why is he afraid of them, unless he believes they will get help from God?

    But really, his political passion is in inverse proportion to his distance from a drink.

  116. #116 g
    October 14, 2007

    Donalbain, you’d have been perfectly correct (just not much to the point) if you’d just said that in the US you’re more likely to be killed by Islamist terrorists than by Christianist ones. (“Islamist” and “Christianist” here are abbreviations for the obvious things.) But you also proposed this as evidence that “Hitchens is in part correct”. I think you owe us an explanation of what you mean by “in part correct” and why it’s justified by the fact that, while the probability that you’ll be killed by Islamist terrorism is tiny, the probability that you’ll be killed by Christianity terrorism is even tinier.

    It seems to me that the most that’s justified by that is something like “We should be aware that it isn’t only Christians who sometimes do terrible crazy things because of their religion” or “Islamist terrorist movements can be quite dangerous”. But no one is disagreeing with those, so far as I can see. What is annoying or upsetting some people about Hitchens is how much further he goes. Are you defending *that*, or not?

  117. #117 Anonymous
    October 14, 2007

    Where’s the vespene when you need it?

    ZERG RUSH KEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKEKE

  118. #118 Heterocronie
    October 14, 2007

    “liberal atheists tend to have a double standard on Muslims vs Christians”

    Maybe it’s a politically-correct aversion to criticizing the melanin-endowed. It’s nice being brown – generally I don’t have to worry about someone’s skin color before I tell them they’re smokin crack.

  119. #119 Martijn ter Haar
    October 14, 2007

    The atheists who are toughest on Islam tend to be ex-Muslims like Ibn Warraq and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

    Hitchens is completely smitten with Hirshi Ali and seems to have copied her strange and extremist view of Islam, which I call ‘reverse fundamentalism’: you accept everything the fundamentalists say about ‘true’ Islam – the Koran should be taken literally, the sharia is the only true law, democracy is anti-Islamic – and then triumphantly claim: “See, these people are evil.” Anyone who tries to mention that there are muslims who interpret their religion differently is considered gullible, because surely these people will turn into fundi’s if you just wait long enough.

  120. #120 Mooser
    October 14, 2007

    I ask again: If Allah is not going to help the Muslims, what are we worried about? Last time I checked, Allah’s will, and his protection, were going to play a big part in the “collapsing” (ask Romney about that) of America and the re-establishment of the Caliphate, right? So if there is no Allah, he just ain’t gonna be there for them, huh.
    Hitchens sure “gets religion” when it comes to the possibilities of Muslim domination, but I thought he would be the first to say their entire edifice is constructed on a false foundation, all that and no real industrial base.
    So what the hell is he worried about?

  121. #121 Carlie
    October 14, 2007

    I (and most of you reading this blog) are FAR more likely to be killed by someone who is ideologically driven to kill me by his Muslim faith than by someone driven to do it by their Christian faith

    What if I’m a woman who needs an abortion due to a malformed fetus, but can’t get one because anti-abortion protesters have managed to keep any clinics who perform them from opening anywhere within a couple hundred miles of me, (see:Aurora IL), have pressured doctors who perform the service into quitting due to fear of their lives (see:Operation Rescue), and ends up dying because of it? Pretty likely scenario, really. And give the UltraRight a few more years of power, and we end up with hundreds of women a year dying after abortion is made illegal (see:Nicaragua now, the US until 1973).

    There’s more than one way to kill a person because of your religious beliefs.

  122. #122 Thony C.
    October 14, 2007

    They never used their faith to justify or explain their actions. They spoke strictly in political/tribal terms.

    And their tribe just happened to be the Northern Irish Catholics who just happened to be fighting against the Northern Irish Protestants! Nothing to do with religion at all!

  123. #123 homer
    October 14, 2007

    “Kill-em all” works. Just look how we dealt with the direct threat that the former Soviet Union posed to us. They had the desire and weapons to change our economic and politcal way of life. The only way we beat them as to 1) never talk or negotiate and 2) kill as many citizens in the soviet union as possible. Oh, wait….

  124. #124 salient
    October 14, 2007

    gerald spezio #26 “As a scientist, I would consider that his love affair with the juice has squirreled his brain.”

    It works the other way, gerald. Alcoholism and nicotine addiction are typically just personally preferred self-medications for already-existing emotional damage. Admittedly, alcoholism makes matters worse by unleashing the demons, but alcohol is not a particularly addictive substance for those who are not already traumatized.

  125. #125 salient
    October 14, 2007

    Santiago #44 “It’s easy to say that you should never use violence, it’s even easier to indiscriminately use violence to solve problems. What’s hard is to accept that sometimes the answer necessitates war, and destruction, and the deaths of innocents. Yes, it’s not pretty, yes it is horrible and monstrous, but the alternative is even worse, and it is the responsibility of those who can to protect rational civilization against the religious zealots.”

    Your “solution” does not “protect rational civilization” from a “worse alternative”, Santiago. Your “solution” requires that the warmonger abandon rationality and all the moral gains of civilization. If the other guy starts the war, then that is a different moral case.

    Your argument seems to preclude consideration of the fact that invading a country and killing hundreds of thousands was not a proportional response to a terrorist attack.
    I am not pro-Islam because I deplore institutionalized sociopathy, but the solution was not to escalate the violence and further alienate hearts and minds.

    Hitchen’s exhortation to genocide is both abominable and reminiscent of notorious examples of the horror (and failure) of such attempts.

  126. #126 Colugo
    October 14, 2007

    To state it more pointedly, many left-of-center atheists experience cognitive dissonance when their anti-theism appears to come in conflict with their anti-racism.

    Hence the double standard on Islam. (As manifested in the Christofascist vs Islamofascist debate, Jesus blasphemy vs Mohammed blasphemy, Balkans hawks/post-911 doves, etc.)

    To help resolve this dissonance, consider two facts:

    1) Muslims are every bit as much “Jesus freaks” as Christians.
    Devout Muslims believe that Jesus will return and slay their enemies (Hadiths) and think that blasphemy against Jesus should be severely punished.

    2) Collectively, Muslims have as little claim to the moral capital of “non-white oppressed minority” status as much of the West and Christian world generally. Historically, Persians, Lebanese, Turks, Afghans, and most Arabs were often regarded as white by Westerners, sub-Saharan Africans, and themselves – especially in contrast to sub-Saharan Africans. The Arab-dominated trans-Saharan slave trade, which was racist in ideology and practice, lasted longer than the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

    If it helps, think of Islamic militants as (mostly) white Jesus freaks.

  127. #127 Mooser
    October 14, 2007

    Let’s face it, the hospitality may not have been adequate to Hitch’s needs. I don’t think this is a guy who does his best work with a bottle Perrier.

  128. #128 Eric
    October 14, 2007

    However, no sane atheist would ever advocate the wholesale murder of Jesus freaks. Maybe just confining them to a small box.

  129. #129 salient
    October 14, 2007

    Andrew #72 “The root problem in the Middle East are their archaic regimes. These regimes stay in power by deliberately brain-washing their people through poor education, religious indoctrination, and the fostering of anti-Western sentiments.”

    As the Religious Wrong recognize, ignorance breeds religion and enables recruitment to power mongering causes — not merely the cause of the regime in power, but power wanna-be’s.

    Middle Eastern regimes and wanna-be’s did not invent the distraction idea, though. Stalin blamed capitalism. Hitler blamed both the Jews and the landed aristocracy who had “lost” WWI. Bush blames the Middle East. Jerry Falwell and other religious idiots blamed gays and abortion doctors for 9/11. All are conjuring tricks designed to distract attention from domestic problems or to promote personal hatreds.

    Donalbain #73 “I (and most of you reading this blog) are FAR more likely to be killed by someone who is ideologically driven to kill me by his Muslim faith than by someone driven to do it by their Christian faith.”

    We are actually statistically far more likely to be killed by drunk Christian drivers than fanatical Muslims defending their faith. However, let’s not forget that American Christian-supported and Zionism-protecting foreign policy is largely responsible for the distraction-direction-of-choice for Middle Eastern regimes and power-brokers.

  130. #130 PsychoAtheist
    October 14, 2007

    Posted by: cliff | October 14, 2007 2:09 PM
    “Reason rules” That’s the silliest quote of the day. Just look five comments up where someone ends with, “You’re an idiot” and the next person refers to “****ing barking.” There are science blogs out there where reason really does rule (realclimate.org does a good job of it), but this isn’t one.

    ——————————————————–

    So you wouldn’t agree with the fact that Hitchen’s comments regarding genocide are barking? What would the ‘voice of reason’ sound like to you? I would say that calling Hitchens rhetoric in this respect ‘barking’ is the epitome of letting reason rule. Unless you are suggesting that he is correct…?

  131. #131 jfatz
    October 14, 2007

    #105 – Colugo

    For example, over-the-top rhetoric about getting tough on Jeebus freaks and gleeful Christ-mocking blasphemy on the one hand and exquisite sensitivity about those Mohammed-mocking cartoons on the other.

    Actually, I think most put Christ-mocking and Mohammad-mocking in the same basket, and have a negative view of those who overract, and those who are overly paranoid about “causing offense.”

    Regarding “over-the-top rhetoric” in general you have a point, but that’s pretty much because on only one side to you get “over-the-top” going straight to “glass parking lot.”

    The level and nature of the comments tend to be quite different, so provoke different responses.

  132. #132 Nick
    October 14, 2007

    Colugo, enemies (or unbelievers depending on your point of view…) are “kafir”. Which depending on the version of Islam we’re discussing doesn’t include Christians/Jews.

    And you’re pretty much right on the rest.

  133. #133 Tom
    October 14, 2007

    Eric @49 – I don’t have to debate Hitchen’s ideas. Anyone who proposes genocide immediately goes into the bin with Adolf Hitler and Geoffrey Dahmer. Hitchen’s proposals are just funadmentally wrong, no arguments for, no subtle nuances within; its just plain wrong, whether it ‘works’ or not.

    I’m amazed at people giving him a platform, especially on so called liberal blogs. The guy has gone off the deep end, and should be carted off to the funny farm forthwith.

  134. #134 JBS
    October 14, 2007

    If we have more contact with Christianity, obviously we will criticize it more. When the issue of Islam comes up, I have no qualms about criticizing it just as harshly. It would be absurd, however, to endorse mass-murder of muslims just to prove we aren’t soft on Islam.

  135. #135 salient
    October 14, 2007

    Donalbain #94 “Now.. look closely at the two things I am comparing there. Look.. see?”

    I doubt that anyone actually failed to see which two things you had selected for comparison, Donal.

    I haven’t seen any remarks in defense of Islamic terrorism, merely remarks that a) deplore genocidal “final solutions”, and b) analyse the reasons for Islamic fanaticism.

  136. #136 Martijn ter Haar
    October 14, 2007

    Hence the double standard on Islam.

    Sometimes there is this double standard, but more often this is a straw man argument used by Hitchens and the like: anyone who claims that muslim fundamentalism is a problem, but not a major threat to western civilization is attacked for being an apologist for religious insanity.

    Now that I think of it, I disagree with Hitchens’ view on religion in general. He thinks it’s a major cause of evil, I believe it’s a post hoc justification for evil people would do anyway, because it’s in the species.

  137. #137 skeptic4u
    October 14, 2007

    personal relationship with jesus PARODY
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBvsgQ45bN0

  138. #138 salient
    October 14, 2007

    Carlie #115 “What if I’m a woman who needs an abortion due to a malformed fetus, but can’t get one because anti-abortion protesters have managed to keep any clinics who perform them from opening anywhere within a couple hundred miles of me?”

    For the price of an airfare, you can come to Canada and have the procedure performed by an experienced professional at a clinic. I agree with you, though, Carlie. I am pro-choice precisely because making abortion illegal will not stop abortion, it will merely drive the procedure *back* into unsanitary back-alley settings, where the mother’s life is put an uneccessary risk. Two deaths for the price of one.

    I really doubt that many of the religionist anti-abortion zealots actually value human life or “babies” as much as they claim to. I suspect that a significant proportion of these people are merely looking for sanctified targets for their angst.

  139. #139 Felicia Gilljam
    October 14, 2007

    God is not Great was a fun read, but Hitchens is clearly either an idiot or insane. Or both.

    On the upside, this makes the OTHER New Atheists look meek and mild by comparison. 😉

    As for poor organisation, it sounds like school to me. I have no idea why so many people seem to be stuck in the mindset that lectures is the only proper way to go about things but I’m hoping it’ll change with my generation.

  140. #140 tacitus
    October 14, 2007

    #113 Hitchens is completely smitten with Hirshi Ali and seems to have copied her strange and extremist view of Islam, which I call ‘reverse fundamentalism’: you accept everything the fundamentalists say about ‘true’ Islam – the Koran should be taken literally, the sharia is the only true law, democracy is anti-Islamic – and then triumphantly claim: “See, these people are evil.” Anyone who tries to mention that there are muslims who interpret their religion differently is considered gullible, because surely these people will turn into fundi’s if you just wait long enough.

    This is an excellent point and is a tactic often used by the right to vilify people like Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison and even Barak Obama simply because he used to go to a Muslim school. It’s such an idiotic claim that it’s amazing anyone can take it seriously.

  141. #141 Laura
    October 14, 2007

    Donalbain, repeatedly stating an error does not invalidate the error. I am far more likely to be killed by a Christianist terrorist than an Islamist one. So are most people who, like me, live in the Bible Belt. It’s simply the odds. We are all far more likely to be killed by neighbors than by strangers. If I lived in a Muslim-dominated society, then the odds would favor death by Islamist ideologue.

    Colugo, are you having fun with your strawman? You state that

    “liberal atheists tend to have a double standard on Muslims vs Christians. For example, over-the-top rhetoric about getting tough on Jeebus freaks and gleeful Christ-mocking blasphemy on the one hand and exquisite sensitivity about those Mohammed-mocking cartoons on the other.”

    If this is such a prevalent position among people who are both liberal and atheistic, you will no doubt be able to name plenty of names and instances. I don’t know of any atheists, liberal or conservative, who call for treating Islam anymore gently than Christianity.

  142. #142 Tom Foss
    October 14, 2007

    OK.. Number of terrorist incidents carried about by Christianity driven terrorists in the last five years in London = ZERO

    Number carried out by Islam driven terrorists = More than zero.

    Because “most of [us] reading this blog” are in London. Your statistics might be valid for folks living in London; for those of us in the U.S., I’d say that the Islamic threat is fairly minimal. We’ve had two Islamic terrorist attacks on U.S. soil in the last fifteen years; by contrast, Wikipedia lists at least five times as many terrorist acts (just counting bombings and arson, not counting unsuccessful attacks, not even including shooting sprees and other killings) committed against abortion providers, just in the US, over that same time period. Given that most of these people oppose abortion due to their Christian religious beliefs, or have ties to Christian terrorist organizations like the Army of God, I think it’s far more likely that I’d die in an act of Christianity-motivated terrorism than Islamic-motivated ones. Granted, the death toll of one of those Islamic-motivated attacks is significantly higher than most of the individual Christian terrorist acts, but we should really be aware of statistical outliers.

    Number of times I’ve been to London: Zero.
    Number of times I’ve been in the World Trade Center or the Pentagon: Zero.
    Number of times I’ve been in an abortion clinic: Two.

    Are my experiences generalizable?

    The fact is that there are Christian terrorist organizations operating on U.S. soil, and these groups almost undoubtedly present a greater danger than domestic Muslim groups. Last I checked, the Army of God and KKK weren’t being shipped off to Guantanamo, despite the current “War on Terror.” The chances of either are rather slim, but I don’t think your claim holds water for most Americans.

  143. #143 Tom Foss
    October 14, 2007

    committed against abortion providers

    I apologize; I believe I counted Eric Rudolph’s bombing of the Olympics in my count of ten(-ish). So, all abortion providers, plus the Olympics.

  144. #144 charles lucas
    October 14, 2007

    Here is expressed the never-ending battle of ideas between the forces of Pacifism and those whom acknowledge the effectiveness of violence in warfare.

    Unfortunately wars are always triggered by economic/power/resource disparities. Ideologies/relegons may be key in giving a sense of identity to the opposing forces but neither are enough on their own to cause mass populations to go to war. In the case at hand, the Islamic fundamentalist reaction is the result of the gradual distruction of Islamic culture by Western culture, “the battle of ideas” and the economic/power/resource disparities that it reflects.

    Any hope of peace in the long term was wasted when the governments in the west stalled when confronted with the probability of catastrophic global warming in the early 90s. The amount of warming already in the system will take about one thousand years to cycle through the climate. The means of moderating the rise of carbon dioxide to plateau at some level, say 500 parts per million will come at the expence ie. time and money of the countries doing the industrializing. This process will take many decades.

    So welcome to the twenty first century. Water wars, overpopulation and disease. Oh yeah disease moving ever northward from the starving populations in the desertifing tropics. Islamic fundamentalists are just the preamble to a long struggle. Winner take all, as always as it ever was.

  145. #145 Scott Hatfield, OM
    October 14, 2007

    I realize that ‘atheist fundamentalism’ is a bit of a misnomer, but I’m (based on PZ’s description) I’m hard-pressed to regard Hitchens’ proposed implementation as anything other than the mirror image of the fundamentalism that so many of us deplore.

    To put it another way, Hitchens’ comments show that a fellow may be exquisitely cultivated without being particularly civilized. If the only answer for intellectuals such as Hitchens is whole-sale aggression directed against the religious, then they are of all creatures the most to be pitied. His questioners might indeed lack intelligence, as he implies, but they do not lack humanity.

  146. #146 Wally Whateley
    October 14, 2007

    That’s why I never understood the hero worship for Hitchens, just because he wrote a pro-atheism book. He’s been like this for something like a decade by now — an insane warmonger, gleeful genocidist, madly pro-Republican, drunk as the drunkiest drunk that ever drunk.

    Hitchens wasn’t transformed into a good guy because he was an atheist, any more than Pol Pot’s love for adorable kitties would’ve made him any less a violent, genocidal tyrant.

  147. #147 darwinfinch
    October 14, 2007

    We need the “political” Hitchens on our side as much as we need suicide bombers: not at all, however wittily he can turn a phrase.
    As with anyone who suggests war (or violence of any kind) as either a method or solution, I simply loudly point out that they are being stupid fuckwits talking through their asses – however nice, hardworking, or clever they might be when not possessed by their particular hemorrhoids of self-righteousness.

    What sacrifice is Hitchens willing to make in the War against Islam? Hot air, yes, but not a finger’s less of whisky or an uncomfortable bed.
    Ah, well… he’s not really a thinker but rather a sort of entertainer. I can’t say that this anti-Muslim cap-and-bells costume flatters him in any way.

  148. #148 eric
    October 14, 2007

    Tom wrote: “Eric @49 – I don’t have to debate Hitchen’s ideas. Anyone who proposes genocide immediately goes into the bin with Adolf Hitler and Geoffrey Dahmer.”

    Where has Hitchens advocated genocide? Please provide a specific source and a direct quote. This is, obviously, a serious charge, so please don’t weasel out by saying something pathetic like, “Just listen to him — it’s obvious” (um, no it isn’t) or, “Well, if you take the totality of his statements, and if you look at the way he treats those who disagree with him, and if you consider how he obviously hates Arabs, and if you take his drinking into account…” Please, give me a direct quote and a source for that quote. If he has indeed advocated genocide, then I’m with you, but you’re going to have to provide some hard evidence first.

  149. #149 wnelson
    October 14, 2007

    P.Z., I would love to see you pour the same derision on Islam, as you do Christianity. Put some of the many Somali immigrants up your way in your rhetorical sights. They’re making more trouble up there right now than the Xian fundies.

    But something tells me I shouldn’t hold my breath.

  150. #150 cm
    October 14, 2007

    If you’re going to attack someone (Hitchens), don’t attack based on a summary of a lecture. Attack specific in-context quotations. The situation Hitchens is speaking about is composite, complex, and his points are easily misconstrued when reported in summary.

    Hitchens extrudes a superhuman count of words each year, so there is no shortage of actual sentences from him on these affairs. Post those, and respond to those. Don’t respond to a summary of what he said.

    And is his use of liquor relevant?

  151. #151 Carolyn
    October 14, 2007

    I can’t believe that Hitchens has seriously thought about any of this, or researched what the middle east is really like right now.

    I’m in a large department where a huge minority of the grad students (and a lot of their significant others and spouses) are from Iran, a lot directly as foreign students, a few more as recent immigrants or the kids of immigrants. Lots of men, lots of women. I’ve heard profs joke that they couldn’t keep the department running without recruiting from Iran.

    Not one of the women covers her head. (I think the sister of one I worked with might? At least very few. This surprised me a little.) Not one of the men has had the slightest issue with this, or with working with a woman. One guy said that all the Iranians his age he knew believed in god, but aren’t very religious. They’re muslim like a lot of moderate people are christian, that is, not very.

    Iran has had a population explosion, something like half of the population is under 30 (exact figures may vary, going from memory and my ass) and from what I’ve heard from my fellow students, the young people who come to my department are representative. The young people are more moderate, enough so that there’s talk of raising the voting age (currently 15, I think?) The same prime minister who was criticized at Columbia was criticized against by students at Tehran. I don’t know as much about young people in Syria, or in Saudi Arabia, or wherever else, but I don’t imagine there’s no surprises.

    Hitchens should get a clue. Fundamentalist islam is real, but so are the internal demographic and political changes within countries in the middle east and southeast Asia. Muslims aren’t some monolithic, uniform group. The Pakistani muslims I’ve met are more conservative than the Iranians, but also more varied in opinions. The Somali muslims seem more devout, but focus most on educating their kids, and come up with workarounds for problematic rules like wearing gloves to meet women, so as not to touch and not to offend (reminds me of how some jews deal with their religious laws).

    Agh.

    Makes me want to take him and shake him.

  152. #152 Clare
    October 14, 2007

    I was staying in the hotel where the FFRF was supposed to be held initially — and where many FFRF attendees were staying. I was there attending an annual conference on South Asian studies, including many panels and presentations organized and given by people who happen, unsurprisingly enough, to be Muslim. Coming back from dinner last night, I saw Hitchens standing outside the hotel, deep in conversation and smoking a cigarette. I wonder if he would have looked so calm had he known how many Muslims were at that moment within 100 feet of him….

    On another note, I too was struck by the “graying” of the FFRF, judging from the crowds exiting the “non-prayer breakfast” on Saturday morning. My daughter was beside herself with excitement to hear about FFRF being in the same town (and same hotel until the venue change) as my conference, having had her own share of battles in the classroom with hostile peers, but she’ll be disappointed to hear that there wasn’t a wider range of ages represented.

  153. #153 Colugo
    October 14, 2007

    Laura: “I don’t know of any atheists, liberal or conservative, who call for treating Islam anymore gently than Christianity.” (#135)

    Remember the progressive outrage about criticism of artists who use urine and excrement as media in images of Jesus and Mary – followed a few years later by outrage in much of the left blogosphere (e.g. Pandagon) about the Danish Mohammed cartoons? Then there were those who bought Chris Hedges’ American Fascists but think the term ‘Islamofascist’ is Islamophobic.

    To the ‘double standards atheists,’ attacking Christianity belief is attacking an oppressive belief system, but attacking Islam – or even specifically militant Islam – is attacking all Muslims, who are generically stereotyped as besieged and marginalized.

    However, as I mentioned earlier, if you mock Jesus you are aggrieving and offending the religious beliefs of Muslims just as if you mock Mohammed. (Examples: UK death fatwah against Corpus Cristi playwright, anger against Ramsey Clark for saying that Jesus would be considered a terrorist). No more displays of chocolate Christs and the like for those who are fastidiously conscientious against offending Muslims.

    JBS: “It would be absurd, however, to endorse mass-murder of muslims just to prove we aren’t soft on Islam.” (#128)

    Obviously.

    Irrespective of the West, militant Islam has a deadly enemy – other Muslims. Surveying armed conflict within the Muslim world, much of it extreme Islamist vs more moderate Muslims (Lebanon, Somalia, Darfur, Gaza, Sunni Triangle, Afghanistan, Waziristan). Granted, in many situations both sides are quite immoderate by liberal secular standards.

  154. #154 Barn Owl
    October 14, 2007

    #143-

    And is his use of liquor relevant?

    It’s relevant to any salaried occupation: lawyer, banker, fireman, physician, dentist, professor, Casey Jones-drivin’-that-train, POTUS, Indian chief, writer, soldier, professional popinjay, etc. Why should Hitchens be any different?

    I’ll bet he doesn’t bloviate, in writing or in public, for free.

  155. #155 sailor
    October 14, 2007

    “Kill-em all” works. Just look how we dealt with the direct threat that the former Soviet Union posed to us. “They had the desire and weapons to change our economic and politcal way of life. The only way we beat them as to 1) never talk or negotiate and 2) kill as many citizens in the soviet union as possible. Oh, wait….”

    Perfect, Homer. Terrorists are tolerated by some countries but not officially sanctioned by any. So they are nothing like Nazi Germany. More like pirates, and pirates as major threat were dealt with by making helping and aiding priates, or letting them spend their booty, unaccepatble to all nations.

    So Iran gets the bomb (we should certainly try and neogtiate our way out of it) but would I go to war to stop it? No. But I would let them know that if their bomb ever goes off they will be rubble. If I was American I might feel differenly if Iran was where Cuba is, but as it is the USA is not under serious threat. And the nuclear threat is spreading and sooner or later one of these is going to go off, and if their aim is good they may kill 200 thouand people (we hope their aim is bad). So what happens if we go to war. One study says that about 600 thou have already died in Iraq
    http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/10/11/iraq.deaths/

    Does that make pre-emptive attack make any sense at all?

  156. #156 Marc L.
    October 14, 2007

    “Blowing up Muslims will, as PZ points out, be counter-productive.”

    For all of you who believe that, I would like to ask you this: what stopped WWII? I’ll tell you – it stopped when the US dropped 2 nukes on Japan. The US didn’t sit and talk. They acted. And it worked.

    Muslims hate us for who we are – just like Neo Nazis hate Jews for who they are. It doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do to them.

    Over here in Canada, the police arrested a few young Muslims who were conspiring to blow up a bomb in Ontario. In Canada!! What did Canada ever do to them? We never went to Irak! I mean, ever! There was even this Muslim woman who kept saying that Canadians should all die! I mean, why? It’s not our actions, it’s who we are. You can’t discuss with them. All you can do is fight them.

    As for the comment about whether Hitchens would act the same with Baptists, well the answer is easy: do Baptists blow up bombs in bars? Do they fly planes into buildings? Do they kill you because you said God is a myth? Do they stone you to death because you became a Hindu?

    The answer is no. Different threats demand different solutions. If a guy wants to kill you, you kill him first. That’s called self defense. And it works. There may be 1,2 billion Muslims out there, but we (the West) have tens of thousands of nukes. We have them for a reason.

    Marc L.

  157. #157 Colugo
    October 14, 2007

    “not officially sanctioned by any”

    Iran and Syria openly sponsor Hezbollah and Hamas.

    “More like pirates, and pirates as major threat were dealt with by”

    Invading and defeating a sovereign state (Marines hymn: “to the shores of Tripoli” – Barbary Wars).

    ” I might feel differenly if Iran was where Cuba is”

    I think Europe, especially France, is beginning to rethink their stance due to their proximity to Iranian missiles, and hence are becoming more hawkish.

    Proximity of threat is also why Israel bombed Syria’s North Korea-supplied nuclear reactor.

    P.S. I totally disavow the loony rant of Marc L. Extremists on both sides of the aisle seem to have difficulty conceptually distinguishing Muslims from militant Islamists.

  158. #158 True Bob
    October 14, 2007

    Marc L.,

    Why didn’t you consider that there is no monolithic group called “Muslims”? They aren’t ALL against the west, just like not ALL christers think abortion clinics should be bombed. We see and hear about the most extreme of every group, because it sells ads, not because it represents the norm.

    Until we invaded and occupied Iraq, they (the people) really didn’t care about us. They were trying to go about their business, making ends meet, educating their children, etc. Well now they are unemployed (our fault), their kids are dead (our fault), and they have no freedom of movement (our fault). If your country was occupied with a foreign military, wouldn’t you want to take action against them? That’s why the Occupation of Iraq is a recruiting boon to megalomaniacs like bin Laden.

    That has NOTHING to do with so-called Islamofacsists. Islamofascist is a word that was created to name Teh Other, the New Age Boogey Man*. And it has you so afraid that you would murder someone based on the suspicion that they want to murder you. If we faced down (and outspent) the Big Bear, without slaughter, we can deal with penny ante dictators and provocateurs that scare you so much, without the slaughter.

    * We’ve seen these before – Kim was one, Saddam was one, bin Laden was one, now Ahmadinejad is one, too.

  159. #159 True Bob
    October 14, 2007

    For clarification, I am not suggesting any of the goons I named are goodie two-shoes. I am saying they bear watching, but that we have no reason to go to war.

  160. #160 cm
    October 14, 2007

    [one’s drinking is] relevant to any salaried occupation: lawyer, banker, fireman, physician, dentist, professor, Casey Jones-drivin’-that-train, POTUS, Indian chief, writer, soldier, professional popinjay, etc. Why should Hitchens be any different?…I’ll bet he doesn’t bloviate, in writing or in public, for free.

    Huh? He’s not salaried, he makes money by selling books and articles and lectures. And, despite his (reported) drinking, he is still more articulate and interesting than most professional word salesmen. So what’s the utility of calling his drinking to attention? Are you afraid he might miswrite a sentence into an iceberg and spill ink all over Prince William Sound?

  161. #161 Ms. Brown
    October 14, 2007

    I’d like to know whether he thinks the way atheists ought to end religion in America is to start shooting Baptists, or whether he sees other ways to educate and enlighten … in which case I wonder why he doesn’t see any virtue in applying those same methods to Islam.

    Thanks for this. I would add the following:

    In the US, our discussion too often is “to bomb or not to bomb” but there are so many people in the Third World who are working for secularizing the public sphere, whether it’s promoting atheism per se, or the separation of religion from politics, or improving educational materials. Some of the most interesting people in these endeavours are Iranians who have become disillusioned about the Islamist revolution, not because they were murdered (obviously) but because of their own reasoning of their own circumstances (e.g. Abdulkarim Soroush).

    I would add, Islamist organizations didn’t grow in popularity by murdering people but by providing social services, which is a rather nicer model for atheists to follow.

  162. #162 True Bob
    October 14, 2007

    cm, maybe we get to hear the most authentic Hitchens when he’s blasted. I believe we heard from the True Mel Gibson when he was sloshed. Lowered inhibitions and all.

  163. #163 Carlie
    October 14, 2007

    Tom – Don’t forget Tim McVeigh. He was an avowed Christian, too, and got 168 deaths all to himself.

  164. #164 Carlie
    October 14, 2007

    I would also venture to guess that a lot of deaths of gays and blacks in this country have been due to people who were just hating others the way their preachers told them to.

  165. #165 Tyler DiPietro
    October 14, 2007

    “Iran and Syria openly sponsor Hezbollah and Hamas.”

    Neither of which focus attacks on the United States. On the other hand, we openly support the Kurdish PKK, which does conduct attacks on Iran (not to mention NATO ally Turkey).

    “I think Europe, especially France, is beginning to rethink their stance due to their proximity to Iranian missiles, and hence are becoming more hawkish.”

    Good for them. As I’ve long been saying, the middle-east is Europe’s strategic backyard. Let them take the risks with a massive political and economic boomerang involved with military action.

    “Proximity of threat is also why Israel bombed Syria’s North Korea-supplied nuclear reactor.”

    From what I understand, it wasn’t a nuclear reactor at all, but a SCUD-manufacturing installation. Here is a link from Foreign Policy on the matter.

  166. #166 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 14, 2007

    It is sad that the need for energy has made us as Americans have to give up so many of our values in places like Saudi Arabia and Iraq. But it’s not like that is ever going to change. We will still need oil long after we no longer need gasoline or diesel.

    But by then there will be no oil anymore.

    Put it another way: For every American killed by a terrorist, 2,427 die of skin cancer, 4,893 expire in car accidents, 9,735 are shot to death by nonterrorists

    What the fuck.

    Americans are twice as likely to get shot than to get hit by a car!?!

    Can I trust my eyes?!? After all, I am unusually tired today, and it’s almost one at night. :-S

    Google Salafist, Salafism and Tawid/Tawidism.

    Don’t. Try Tawhid.

    What really surprises me is how terrified the wingnuts are about everything these days. Until recently I hadn’t realized how appropriate the term chickenhawk is for most of these people. They accuse moderates and liberals of being soft and weak, but really, they’re the ones who are the chicken littles running around and squawking about how the sky is falling.

    If they weren’t scared shitless, they wouldn’be wingnuts. As I always say: ignorance produces fear, and fear produces conservativism.

    Historically, Persians, Lebanese, Turks, Afghans, and most Arabs were often regarded as white by Westerners, sub-Saharan Africans, and themselves –

    And they still are, by everyone except Americans. May have to do with the fact that Colin “Paleface” Powell counts as “black” in the USA; I bet he’d be “colored” in South Africa and “white” in Brazil.

    I really doubt that many of the religionist anti-abortion zealots actually value human life or “babies” as much as they claim to.

    Most of them seem to completely stop caring for you as soon as you’re born. Iraq war? Praise Fearless Flightsuit!!!1! Universal healthcare? AAARGH, communism!!!1!

    So welcome to the twenty first century. Water wars, overpopulation and disease. Oh yeah disease moving ever northward from the starving populations in the desertifing tropics.

    No, the tropics will — on average — get wetter because precipitation increases with evaporation. Has always been that way: just a few million years ago it was so hot that there were no deserts except the Atacama, and the Congo rainforest stretched from sea to shining sea. The diseases won’t move, they will spread. There have already been two cases of malaria in Germany contracted from mosquitos that had survived a particularly mild winter a few years ago and had previously bitten people who had brought malaria from tropical countries.

    On your other point, you don’t need to be a pacifist to understand that Hitchens is a hominicidal maniac. You don’t even need to be against the Iraq war to understand that.

    And is his use of liquor relevant?

    Of course, because it impairs his ability to think. Incidentally, nicotine slows impulse conduction through nerve cells (or between them, I forgot).

    Iran has had a population explosion

    Yep, and the mullahs forgot to close the universities. They’re doomed.

  167. #167 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 14, 2007

    It is sad that the need for energy has made us as Americans have to give up so many of our values in places like Saudi Arabia and Iraq. But it’s not like that is ever going to change. We will still need oil long after we no longer need gasoline or diesel.

    But by then there will be no oil anymore.

    Put it another way: For every American killed by a terrorist, 2,427 die of skin cancer, 4,893 expire in car accidents, 9,735 are shot to death by nonterrorists

    What the fuck.

    Americans are twice as likely to get shot than to get hit by a car!?!

    Can I trust my eyes?!? After all, I am unusually tired today, and it’s almost one at night. :-S

    Google Salafist, Salafism and Tawid/Tawidism.

    Don’t. Try Tawhid.

    What really surprises me is how terrified the wingnuts are about everything these days. Until recently I hadn’t realized how appropriate the term chickenhawk is for most of these people. They accuse moderates and liberals of being soft and weak, but really, they’re the ones who are the chicken littles running around and squawking about how the sky is falling.

    If they weren’t scared shitless, they wouldn’be wingnuts. As I always say: ignorance produces fear, and fear produces conservativism.

    Historically, Persians, Lebanese, Turks, Afghans, and most Arabs were often regarded as white by Westerners, sub-Saharan Africans, and themselves –

    And they still are, by everyone except Americans. May have to do with the fact that Colin “Paleface” Powell counts as “black” in the USA; I bet he’d be “colored” in South Africa and “white” in Brazil.

    I really doubt that many of the religionist anti-abortion zealots actually value human life or “babies” as much as they claim to.

    Most of them seem to completely stop caring for you as soon as you’re born. Iraq war? Praise Fearless Flightsuit!!!1! Universal healthcare? AAARGH, communism!!!1!

    So welcome to the twenty first century. Water wars, overpopulation and disease. Oh yeah disease moving ever northward from the starving populations in the desertifing tropics.

    No, the tropics will — on average — get wetter because precipitation increases with evaporation. Has always been that way: just a few million years ago it was so hot that there were no deserts except the Atacama, and the Congo rainforest stretched from sea to shining sea. The diseases won’t move, they will spread. There have already been two cases of malaria in Germany contracted from mosquitos that had survived a particularly mild winter a few years ago and had previously bitten people who had brought malaria from tropical countries.

    On your other point, you don’t need to be a pacifist to understand that Hitchens is a hominicidal maniac. You don’t even need to be against the Iraq war to understand that.

    And is his use of liquor relevant?

    Of course, because it impairs his ability to think. Incidentally, nicotine slows impulse conduction through nerve cells (or between them, I forgot).

    Iran has had a population explosion

    Yep, and the mullahs forgot to close the universities. They’re doomed.

  168. #168 Laura
    October 14, 2007

    Coluga asks:

    Remember the progressive outrage about criticism of artists who use urine and excrement as media in images of Jesus and Mary – followed a few years later by outrage in much of the left blogosphere (e.g. Pandagon) about the Danish Mohammed cartoons? Then there were those who bought Chris Hedges’ American Fascists but think the term ‘Islamofascist’ is Islamophobic.

    No, I don’t remember any such progressive outrage regarding the excrement art. Nor do I recall anything other about the Danish cartoons on progressive sites than a lively debate about free speech. Certainly, there was no single point of view that predominated. And who amongst these people who you have still not named is an atheist? Remember? You were accusing atheists of applying a double standard. Who are these atheists? Surely you don’t mean Amanda Marcotte who opined at Pandagon on 2/10/06

    “I’ll go a step further and say that I see nothing wrong with poking fun at Islam-I’m in no place to judge, seeing as how my atheist self has an ironic and not at all respectful love of trashy Catholic art.”

    As for the term “Islamofascist,” I personally object to it because it appears inaccurate and merely a cheap Godwin tactic. While the term certainly appeals to Islamaphobes, it is more obviously a weak bid at propping up flagging support for war by referencing the “Good War.” Hedges, when using the term “fascist” to refer to specific Christian groups and trends in the US, was using the term narrowly and making specific comparisons to events in pre-WWII Germany and Italy. If you honestly believe that the current Islamist movement is fascist, as opposed to simply reactionary and radically conservative, please address the subject in as much detail as Hedges did regarding right-wing Christianity, or at least point out some good books on the subject. By “good,” I mean that, at the very least, the books should be properly researched and avoid both vagueness and invective. I am particularly interested to learn how corporatism informs the politics of al Qaeda.

  169. #169 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 14, 2007

    Muslims hate us for who we are – just like Neo Nazis hate Jews for who they are.

    I bet some do. But read bin Laden’s own words to learn why he didn’t attack, say, Sweden.

    I think Europe, especially France, is beginning to rethink their stance due to their proximity to Iranian missiles, and hence are becoming more hawkish.

    I think Bernard Kouchner didn’t think a lot before he made that remark…

    I would add, Islamist organizations didn’t grow in popularity by murdering people but by providing social services, which is a rather nicer model for atheists to follow.

    Bingo. In southern Lebanon, Hezbollah does all the government should do but doesn’t do. You live in southern Lebanon and want to learn French? Go to a Hezbollah school. I kid you not.

  170. #170 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 14, 2007

    Muslims hate us for who we are – just like Neo Nazis hate Jews for who they are.

    I bet some do. But read bin Laden’s own words to learn why he didn’t attack, say, Sweden.

    I think Europe, especially France, is beginning to rethink their stance due to their proximity to Iranian missiles, and hence are becoming more hawkish.

    I think Bernard Kouchner didn’t think a lot before he made that remark…

    I would add, Islamist organizations didn’t grow in popularity by murdering people but by providing social services, which is a rather nicer model for atheists to follow.

    Bingo. In southern Lebanon, Hezbollah does all the government should do but doesn’t do. You live in southern Lebanon and want to learn French? Go to a Hezbollah school. I kid you not.

  171. #171 Nick
    October 14, 2007

    Don’t. Try Tawhid.

    D’oh!

  172. #172 windy
    October 14, 2007

    Over here in Canada, the police arrested a few young Muslims who were conspiring to blow up a bomb in Ontario. In Canada!! What did Canada ever do to them? We never went to Irak! I mean, ever! There was even this Muslim woman who kept saying that Canadians should all die! I mean, why? It’s not our actions, it’s who we are. You can’t discuss with them. All you can do is fight them.

    If you Canadians get your panties in a bunch over that, imagine how the Iraqis must be feeling…

  173. #173 charley
    October 14, 2007

    Atheism is simply the belief that there is no god. It does not dictate political orientation or moral systems, except to exclude those which are based on theism. Atheism doesn’t prevent you from being a drunk or genocidal maniac any more than it makes you one.

    Before we get too embarrassed about Hitchens or embroiled in what is the correct response to Islam, we should remember that we don’t need to endorse personalities or agree on politics.

    Hitchens won’t be the last atheist to behave badly. We should get used to divorcing the philosophy from the politics, character and morals of its adherents. These are separate issues.

  174. #174 Leni
    October 14, 2007

    Incidentally, nicotine slows impulse conduction through nerve cells (or between them, I forgot).

    And was it nicotine that made you forget which? Or are you drunk?

    The alcohol use is as relevant to his arguments as his “you’re stupid” (assuming he makes them) remarks are to others’. Further, a lot of perfectly sober people agree with him. What are we supposed to say to them? That they’re stupid? Perhaps we should just accuse them of being drunks with emotional problems and be done with it?

    I don’t love Hitchens, and I think his position on the war is wrong. But even when Hitchens is blind drunk he’s still more articulate and cogent than many of his opponents. Which just makes the “he’s a big fat drunk who smokes (gasp!)” remark only that much more priggish and impotent.

  175. #175 Rick Astley
    October 14, 2007

    Are we lovers
    Or only just friends
    Come tomorrow
    Will I be lonely again
    When you see me
    Is it love in your eyes
    What you feeling
    Deep down inside

    Do you think about me
    When i’m far away?
    Do you dream about me
    Can I find a way?
    To make you want me
    The way I want you
    ‘Cos I think I love you
    Could you love me too?

  176. #176 Barn Owl
    October 14, 2007

    He’s not salaried, he makes money by selling books and articles and lectures. And, despite his (reported) drinking, he is still more articulate and interesting than most professional word salesmen.

    Oh, I get it now…the old “Get Out of Personal Responsibility Free Card”, which makes substance abuse and personality disorders irrelevant for writers, artists, performers, musicians, and other “creative” types. “Salaried”, “paid”, “makes money”, “is monetarily rewarded”-whatever you call it, Hitchens receives money for his essays and for his talks. Do the people who pay him believe that his performance is demonstrably improved when he’s liquored up? Are we meant not to notice that even the un-gods have clay feet?

    Btw, whom is Hitchens attempting to resemble in that photo on his “BuildUpThatWall” website (linked at the Dawkins website)? Aging James Dean? Pre-hemorrhagic Jack Kerouac?

  177. #177 Colugo
    October 14, 2007

    Laura: “I am particularly interested to learn how corporatism informs the politics of al Qaeda.”

    It doesn’t. Nor does it inform the politics of American Christian conservatives, because “corporatism” doesn’t mean what a lot of people thinks it means.

    My point was that there is a double standard, and many who object to “Islamofascist” have no problem with “Christofascist” and similar formulations. I think they’re all problematic because they rely on a generic conceptualization of fascism.

    Reread my sentence on liberals and puerile body fluid art. Any criticism of such by public officials or threats to withdraw public sponsorship was widely regarded as the Inquisition reborn, while many in the later “lively debate” about the Danish cartoons were appalled by them, viewed them as virulently racist, hate speech, an attack on all Muslims et. – reactions they would be unlikely to have about Life of Brian, the choco-Christ sculpture, etc.

    A more recent article on the Israeli strike on the Syrian nuclear facility
    http://tinyurl.com/2xhkrf

    Tyler DiPietro: “Neither of which [Hezbollah and Hamas] focus attacks on the United States.”

    Hezbollah has attacked US embassies, military bases, and aircraft.

    Also, see the section ‘Assistance from Hezbollah and Iran to al Qaeda’
    http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report_Ch7.htm

    Hezbollah’s Imad Mugniyah (Note what Robert Baer says about him.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imad_Mugniyah

  178. #178 Terry
    October 14, 2007

    Why is Hitchens always right about religion and atheism, but always wrong about war? The Iraq war is a horrendous debacle, but can you negotiate with Islamic fundamentalists? As for is killing baptists the way to end religion in the US; well, if most US Christians began using the tactics of Al Qaeda, I’d say yes.

  179. #179 Skip
    October 14, 2007

    “We cannot afford to allow the Iranian theocracy to arm itself with nuclear weapons (something I entirely sympathize with), and that the only solution is to go in there with bombs and marines and blow it all up. The way to win the war is to kill so many Moslems that they begin to question whether they can bear the mounting casualties.”

    PZ, I think this is a bit misleading and/or unclear. Firstly, the bit about the way to win the war was in response to a question about how we would determine victory in Iraq and not anything to do with Iran. And I don’t recall him suggesting that we blow all of Iran up. I’d swear that, in answer to one of the questions, he said that it was imperative to blow up Iran’s nuclear weapons. After this, it would be optimal to remove the theocracy but that this was not an imperative as was destroying their nuclear weapons.

    I guess we’ll be able to judge for ourselves when his speech is shown on TV here and posted online at this site:

    http://www.wisconsineye.org/index.html

  180. #180 imp
    October 14, 2007

    I used to be a fundamentalist christian. Now I don’t know if I’m an atheist or not. But I do know one thing.

    I’m not a genocidal maniac.

  181. #181 Tom Foss
    October 14, 2007

    Carlie (#157-8):

    Tom – Don’t forget Tim McVeigh. He was an avowed Christian, too, and got 168 deaths all to himself.

    I thought about including McVeigh, but I’m not certain how much his bombing was motivated by his Christianity, as opposed to his nutty political paranoia. I wanted to be sure to fit Donalbain’s criteria they were laid out.

    As for the thing about gays and blacks, I have to agree. The KKK is undoubtedly a Christian terrorist organization, and I believe the body count attributable to them far outweighs the one attributable to Islamic terrorists in the United States. I’m not sure of any specifically anti-gay terrorist organizations (the Phelps clan seems to stop short of violence, and most of the gay bashing I know of was individuals against individuals), but I wouldn’t be surprised if they existed, especially a decade or two ago.

  182. #182 cm
    October 14, 2007

    Oh, I get it now…the old “Get Out of Personal Responsibility Free Card”, which makes substance abuse and personality disorders irrelevant for writers, artists, performers, musicians, and other “creative” types. “Salaried”, “paid”, “makes money”, “is monetarily rewarded”-whatever you call it, Hitchens receives money for his essays and for his talks. Do the people who pay him believe that his performance is demonstrably improved when he’s liquored up? Are we meant not to notice that even the un-gods have clay feet?

    I don’t understand your point. What are you holding him personality responsibility for? What is his prescribed duty? Tell me in the following format so I understand:

    HITCHENS ought to do/not do (circle one)           because           .”

  183. #183 Tommy
    October 14, 2007

    Here’s a link to a post about an event Hitchens was at a few months ago which depicts him at his worst.

    http://www.takimag.com/site/article/hitchens_unhinged_part_i/

  184. #184 RamblinDude
    October 14, 2007

    “Muslims hate us for who we are – just like Neo Nazis hate Jews for who they are. It doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do to them.”

    Of course it matters what we do or don’t do to them. It always has mattered.

  185. #185 the great and powerful oz
    October 14, 2007

    This thread seems to have attracted a lot of visitors. Welcome to Pharyngula!

    Just a couple of points:

    “Hitchens is completely smitten with Hirshi Ali and seems to have copied her strange and extremist view of Islam”

    The Koran is extremist, just like the Bible. The “strange” view is the one that picks out the nice bits.
    If you’re giving Islam a free pass for fear of looking racist, fear not. Islam is not a race, any more than Christianity or Judaism is.

    “I gave up on Hitchens permanently after watching him trash Chris Hedges (War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, American Fascists) on a 3-hour C-SPAN interview.

    Interesting. I became interested in what Hitchens had to say after watching him wipe the floor with Chris Hedges in a debate (Is God…Great?) on KPFA.

    I protested the war before it began, and I still think it is wrong.

    Yet Hitchens reasoned arguments on religion probably make me more likely to listen to what he as to say on the war.

    I might not agree with him in the end, but if you’re going to shout him down (or stick your fingers in your ears going “lalala”) you’re just doing yourself a disservice.

    By the way, watching Hitchens nailing theists with one hand tied behind his whiskey is really devastating.

    Those calling him a drunk can take their ad-hominems and stick them.

  186. #186 Chris Wren
    October 14, 2007

    Poor Hitchens…he used to have a mind. I’m not sure what happened. Now he just seems to have morphed into a mutant Mark Steyn who pilfered from Ann Coulter’s medicine cabinet.

  187. #187 Chris Wren
    October 14, 2007

    “Yet Hitchens reasoned arguments on religion probably make me more likely to listen to what he as to say on the war.”

    For me, the exact opposite. His insane, genocidal and ethnocnetric views regarding the war make me less inclined to take seriously his views on religion – or any other subject for that matter. In any case, Hitch on religion is just Dawkins with a more urbane erudite style. He brings no new ideas to the debate.

  188. #188 Bert Chadick
    October 14, 2007

    Hitchens stands as a cautionary tale for those who take themselves far too seriously and drink amazing amounts of Johnny Walker. Hitchins can be found by following the trail of burned bridges.
    The man is pure poison.

  189. #189 eric
    October 14, 2007

    I thought that one of the benefits of adopting a rational worldview, which of course includes atheism, is that it fosters tolerance in a way that dogmatic religious belief never could. Hmmm. Hitchens doesn’t suffer fools gladly, but he does present well thought out arguments for his political positions, and he is almost always very well informed. Yet so few of the rational atheists posting on this thread can think of anything more clever to say than, “Hitchens is a drunk, he’s calling for genocide, he’s insane, etc.” Are you serious? This is what passes for well-reasoned responses to those whom you disagree with? Honestly, it all sounds like the sort of blather you’d expect to see from creationists in a debate with supporters of evolution. Nearly all of these anti-Hitchens responses can be summarized as: “Hitchens dares to question conclusions entailed by our political ideology, so he’s no longer worth listening to.” Where’s the tolerance for diverse, intelligent opinions? As Hitchens himself would say — pathetic.

  190. #190 Chris Wren
    October 14, 2007

    Eric, you’re defending a man who proposes defacto genocide, or as Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds might call it, the “more rubble, less trouble” doctrine, and you accuse US of intolerance?

    Just take a deep breath and think. That’s all we ask.

  191. #191 the great and powerful oz
    October 14, 2007

    “His insane, genocidal and ethnocnetric views regarding the war make me less inclined to take seriously his views on religion”

    If it’s not too much trouble, would you please explain what you mean by ethnocentric?

  192. #192 CalGeorge
    October 14, 2007

    Interesting. I became interested in what Hitchens had to say after watching him wipe the floor with Chris Hedges in a debate (Is God…Great?) on KPFA.

    Hedges knows more about war than Hitchens ever will. As a war reporter, he saw what it does to people. He also understands what the religious right is trying to accomplish in this country and he is trying to wake people up.

    Losing a debate to Hitchens: not so important.

    Recommended:

    Who Are the American Fascists? (Cambridge forum)

    War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (Cambridge forum)

  193. #194 Christian Burnham
    October 14, 2007

    Calling Hitchens a drunk is not an ad-hominen attack. It’s an attempt to explain how a seemingly intelligent person could come up with such rot.

    I would despise Hitchens more if I knew that he were sober.

  194. #195 cm
    October 14, 2007

    Eric (#180) said:

    Yet so few of the rational atheists posting on this thread can think of anything more clever to say than, “Hitchens is a drunk, he’s calling for genocide, he’s insane, etc.” Are you serious? This is what passes for well-reasoned responses to those whom you disagree with?

    I’m with ya, man. These comments are weak gruel.

  195. #196 Dan
    October 14, 2007

    I think the biggest qualm I have about Hitchens is that he’s the same kind of person who, if he happened to have been born in many parts of the Middle East, would be right up there talking about how terrible Westerners are and how thoroughly justified and necessary any given conflict or action was. If he were born in Israel he’d be talking about shooting Palestinians, if he’d been born in Palestine he’d be talking about shooting Israelis.

    It’s the exact same thought process on either side, and the inability to recognize the fact is fundamentally irrational. If you’re actually an enemy of bloodthirsty ideology, it shouldn’t be a selective distaste. Similarly, he’s well willing to overlook the fact that we’re in Iraq because God told G.W. to go there and pretend it’s a secular mission of rationality while being infuriated with Muslim extremism. It’s a sort of myopia- or maybe farsightedness- which gives him clarity only when criticizing an ideology he’s far away from. Wolfowitz personally sold him on the current wartime agenda, and that seems to be why he’s in favor of it.

    Since earlier people were calling for cited quotes for accusations of genocidal ideation, I dug a few up.

    ‘But can he see a time when this kind of jihadist fever will be as marginalised as, say, Nazism is now, confined to a few reactionary eccentrics? “Not without what that took – which is an absolutely convincing defeat and discrediting. Something unarguable. I wouldn’t exclude any measure either. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to stop this form of fascism.”‘

    Apart from the fact that this is basically a blank check, the one big word I’m thinking of is “Dresden”. Also: Intentionally starving the occupied German people after the war while keeping relief organizations out. Hitchens is very well-read, he has to know what he’s saying.

    Citation: http://www.johannhari.com/archive/article.php?id=450

    I found this one interesting, if only for novelty in that he’s now (mysteriously!) not talking about this very same hypocrisy: “But for the moment, the Bush Administration seems a hostage to the Pakistani and Saudi clients who are the sponsors and “harborers” the President claims publicly to be looking for!”

    Not to over-editorialize, but we’re also presently giving nuclear weapons to India. Pakistan already has them.

    http://www.thenation.com/doc/20011008/hitchens20010924

    And this is apart from the fact that almost every article he’s written since the 9/11 started has scorned the very idea of paying attention to complicated sociopolitical factors rather than … shooting people. Simplistic explanations do appeal to “cognitive misers” and to the embattled and threatened, but they’re almost never correct.

    Over-editorializing even further, I’d like to quote, as regards to the effectiveness of the current war’s tactics, a political thinker noone could accuse of being overly leftist, soft, terrorist-supporting, or similarly “bad”. I’d like to quote him about why, issues with the initial invasion aside, our handling of Iraqi affairs is doomed to failure. This is someone who was in favor of powerful rulers with no checks or balances, of killing your enemies brutally, and taking all their stuff; someone who said it was better, all else equal, to be feared and not loved rather than loved and not feared.

    Specifically: “a ruler should make himself feared in such a way that, if he does not inspire love, he at least does not provoke hatred.”

    Superpowers on the scale of the United States did not exist in Machiavelli’s time. There was no wiggle room to fight four year guerrilla wars in his agenda. The Iraqis hate us, and we’ve had four years spent making it worse. If they continue to feel, primarily, hatred for us, there is no way to control the country except genocide. These are the basics of occupying a country, but we’ve somehow forgotten them over five hundred years. Our army isn’t even heartlessly repressive to the Iraqis, it’s incompetent. A Machiavellian prince, all else equal, would slaughter an army run as ours is and use the skulls of its leaders as cups.

  196. #197 Dahan
    October 14, 2007

    Lovetoykilljoy #14,

    Nope, not voting for Clinton in the primary. Will do it if I have to in the general election though to keep someone like Brownback out of office.

  197. #198 Dan
    October 14, 2007

    Also everyone who posted about “weak, not-well-reasoned comments” while I was typing that can start eating crow.

  198. #199 the great and powerful oz
    October 14, 2007

    “Hedges knows more about war than Hitchens ever will. As a war reporter, he saw what it does to people. He also understands what the religious right is trying to accomplish in this country and he is trying to wake people up.”

    That may be. However I was talking about him getting his arse handed to him in a discussion of religion, not politics.

    Anyway, I can appreciate Hedges’ appraisal of Christian fundamentalism in the US, but unfortunately he seems to have a blind spot when it comes to Islam.

    It is possible to sympathise with the real struggle of oppressed people without giving a free pass to the religious parasites that prey on them.

  199. #200 the great and powerful oz
    October 14, 2007

    Chris Wren wrote: “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnocentrism”

    Sorry, perhaps I was unclear.

    I was asking you to explain what you mean by ethnocentric?

  200. #201 Dan
    October 14, 2007

    Hitchens consistently seems more horrified by the relatively few deaths on 9/11 than anything the US does in response to it. In the past he’s been a great enemy of what he calls “Kissingerian” intervention, which is “bad” foreign intervention. He’s convinced Wolfowitz and the neocons have a “new”, “good” form of interventionism. The differences are (or seem to be) basically emotional for him, and in practice, this comes off as having come to care a good deal more about dead Americans than dead anyone-else.

    Insert ramble about imperialism and betraying the Left (as if it were a singular entity!) here. Thus, there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth and Hitchens-hating. I’m not really on board with the fury, I just think he’s wrong on several levels.

  201. #202 Dan
    October 14, 2007

    … not to put words in anyone’s mouth about definitions of ‘ethnocentrism’, but that’s where something like it is readily evident to me and a large swath of those I’ve read.

  202. #203 Caledonian
    October 14, 2007

    in practice, this comes off as having come to care a good deal more about dead Americans than dead anyone-else.

    What’s wrong with that? I would expect – and demand – a government to care more about the lives of its citizens than the lives of foreigners.

    That doesn’t imply considering the lives of foreigners to be worth little.

  203. #204 komponisto
    October 15, 2007

    To the anti-Hitchens people piling on here:

    Yes, Hitchens disagrees with you about the use of military force, e.g. in Iraq. Get over it. He’s allowed to have a different opinion from yours; this doesn’t make him a genocidal maniac, ethnocentric bigot, or even a right-wing neocon. It so happens that Christopher Hitchens is an extremely well-informed, exquisitely civilized, and very humane individual. He has traveled widely (including to both Iran and Iraq) and written in detail about his experiences. He has written numerous books and articles that are full of strong (and not always mainstream) opinions expressed with sensitive nuance, and backed by rigorous argument. Get a clue.

    Dan(#187): To interpret Hitchens’s statement “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to stop this form of fascism” as endorsing genocide is to be extremely uncharitable. How many times a day do people engage in hyperbole, saying “I would do anything to…” or “at all costs, we must not…” without necessarily meaning they’re actually willing to behave like Adolf Hitler? It is clear to anyone who reads Hitchens that he is as much an opponent of genocide as any other decent liberal (in fact, he’s probably done more to actively oppose evil regimes than most people here). It’s true that he may be willing to use military force — but genocide? Please. So the choice is you’re either a pacifist or genocidal? Get real.

    Yes, he likes to drink alcohol. Well, I don’t drink alcohol at all — how many of you Hitchens-bashers can say the same?

  204. #205 Dulcinea
    October 15, 2007

    I appreciate your comments about the Hitchens talk. My partner was at the convention and is a fan of Hitchens (an enthusiasm I do not share for a variety of reasons), and I definitely did not get a full picture of the talk from him.

    I’m always amazed when someone comes up with a solution for “cold blooded killers” or “terrorists” which involves cold blooded killing and or terrorizing of said peoples.

    As for the way the conference was scheduled, I think Madison political tradition may have had something to do with it. As a native, I’ve attended more than my share of day-long agonizingly dull meetings. Is it habit? Tradition? The belief that “hard work” yields the best results? I would like to attend an FFRF convention at some point, but I may have to wait until you and others have done the hard work of making it more fun to do so. And the headliner is someone I’d want to be in the same room with.

  205. #206 Caledonian
    October 15, 2007

    He’s allowed to have a different opinion from yours; this doesn’t make him a genocidal maniac, ethnocentric bigot, or even a right-wing neocon.

    What makes you think that people are objecting to Hitchens merely because his opinions are different than theirs, either in general or on specific topics?

  206. #207 Will
    October 15, 2007

    Here’s Hitchens’ speech on youtube:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=ozE1Rr3MFjM

    That’s part one. Part two and three are linked nearby.

  207. #208 hexag1
    October 15, 2007

    where can i hear Hitchens’ speech? or a transcript??

  208. #209 Lex
    October 15, 2007

    Ha ha. Whats with all the anti-booze statements. Sounds fundamental. Anyone a scientist here? No drinking when scientists get together. Yeesh.

    And besides, Hitchens is just giving you another view point, focus on that.

    Also, how many of the posters here have lived outside of North America? Islamic integration in Europe is a major problem, I fear its an oxymoron.

  209. #210 komponisto
    October 15, 2007

    Caledonian: people are accusing Hitchens of supporting genocide — because he supports the use of military force (disagreeing with them).

    Here’s one example (you’re welcome to scroll up and find more):

    #11:

    And about Hitchens–can we stop giving him any more forums?…There are ideas that, no matter if held by an atheist or a theist, deserve to shrivel unheard in the bottom of the glass into which they were first uttered. The notion of better living through genocide is right at the top of the list.

  210. #211 cm
    October 15, 2007

    Thanks Will, for the link to his speech on YouTube, but unfortunately they seem to be incomplete. The parts that PZ describes are not on there, at least not yet. It’d be great if they were posted so we could have a record of what he said.

  211. #212 Dan
    October 15, 2007

    komponisto: I was actually talking about things America did, like completely levelling cities full of civilians, bombing the countryside flat, and starving occupied countries punitively. Hitchens has read a lot of history. When he talks about ending Islamic terrorism “by any means” in the same breath as he mentions World War Two measures against Nazism I think of the things America did during and after that war, and given his education on the topic I think he does as well, or at least should. Am I off in doing so? If so, what more charitable reading am I supposed to afford the passage? If I were hyper-optimistic I might be inclined to wince and say “I hope he doesn’t mean what that sounds like”, but I’m not.

    I’m not advocating pacifism or defending terrorists any more than I’m saying our involvement in World War Two was a mistake and defending Nazism. This is a false dichotomy, and one that is far, far too prevalent in the Iraq war debate. I’m questioning the means of waging war, even where it is somewhat justified. If the Iraq war had toppled Saddam, promoted greater freedom and safety, and raised the standard of living in Iraq I’d say it was a great thing. It’s basically failed on all of these counts til this date- which many Iraqis WERE initially optimistic about- and those waging it refuse to acknowledge the fact.

    One of the Big Conclusions I’d like to draw from all of this is that it’s basically no different from past “Kissingerian” interventions by the United States, the kind Hitchens used to hate. It was formulated poorly and politically with little thought to real consequences or goals and no ultimate regard for the future and welfare of Iraq. Hitchens seems to be so uncritical of warfare this time around because Wolfowitz sold it to him and because he lives a few minutes from the Pentagon. It’s understandable that the people closest to the sites hit on 9/11 are the most upset and that the US is putting its interests first. The ultimate problem is that ideology’s overtaken rationality, and the result has been consistent snafus.

    I’m not even going to touch drinking; I’m probably worse than Hitchens. I think it’s necessary to reiterate that I primarily think he’s just utterly wrong about Iraq, there’s not a lot of “anti” about it.

  212. #213 Caledonian
    October 15, 2007

    Caledonian: people are accusing Hitchens of supporting genocide — because he supports the use of military force (disagreeing with them).

    Wrong, on multiple levels.

    1) Hitchens IS supporting the wiping out of a class of people – genocide.
    2) Supporting the use of miitary force does not imply genocide.
    3) People are not accusing Hitchens of genocide because they disagree with his position that use of military force is appropriate, but because of how he wants to use that force.

    You fail.

  213. #214 darwinfinch
    October 15, 2007

    I’d comment further, but I no longer argue with fuckwits like the crop of apparent newbies here who are attempting to support Hitch on this one.
    Off to Free Republic with you creeps.

    Seal this pointless food fight of a useless thread soon, please. I wouldn’t want anyone else to waste the ten minutes I just have.

  214. #215 Colugo
    October 15, 2007

    Caledonian: “Hitchens IS supporting the wiping out of a class of people – genocide.”

    Which class of people? Back up your claims with direct quotes, not hearsay, inferences, interpretations, extrapolations, and speculations.

  215. #216 komponisto
    October 15, 2007

    1) Hitchens IS supporting the wiping out of a class of people – genocide.

    There — you’ve made my point for me yourself.

    This is an entirely unsubstantiated charge. I want to see a quote from Hitchens where he explicitly endorses genocide.

    You fail.

    No, you fail.

  216. #217 Colugo
    October 15, 2007

    Incidentally, the spelling generally preferred by Muslims is “Muslim” not “Moslem.”

  217. #218 komponisto
    October 15, 2007

    Dan:

    When he talks about ending Islamic terrorism “by any means” in the same breath as he mentions World War Two measures against Nazism I think of the things America did during and after that war, and given his education on the topic I think he does as well, or at least should. Am I off in doing so? If so, what more charitable reading am I supposed to afford the passage?

    Assuming that such tactics were necessary in order to defeat Nazism, would you have supported them? Evidently Hitchens would have, rather than seeing Nazism triumph. For him, the same goes for Islamic extremism. Perhaps you disagree in either of these cases. But is someone who is willing to bomb Dresden in order to stop Hitler necessarily to be placed in the same category (“genocidal”) as Hitler?

    On the other hand, if such measures were not necessary to defeat Nazism, then what reason is there to think Hitchens would have been in favor of them?

  218. #219 Tim
    October 15, 2007

    I’m not saying I agree with Hitch’s solution. I wish we could have a “war of ideas” in which Muslims and more generally those in totalitarian societies had free access to information. The problem is that you can’t for example publish Hitch’s book “God is not Great” in Saudi Arabia because it would be censored. So the Muslims won’t let us make a peaceful approach because they censor us, while they are allowed to spread their religion in our society.

    I would like to give every muslim a translated copy of “God is not Great” but we cannot because of the totalitarian nature of the religion. Deprived of the opportunity to communicate our POV, we are left with only cruder means such as violence? Maybe there is a better solution. I’d like to know what it is.

  219. #220 Ian H Spedding FCD
    October 15, 2007

    So the fact that Hitchens holds opinions about the Iraq war that many here find objectionable means that everything else he says or writes is wrong?

    Was Einstein completely wrong about relativity because he could not get on board about quantum mechanics?

    Come on, people, you make a big deal about how being atheist means being rational and then make a pathetically fallacious argument like that.

    I think that what is obvious is that most Moslems are primarily interested in living a life of contentment with their families and their work,…

    I would agree. I think most here would agree

    I would have thought the same about the people of Germany and Japan before WWII. Yet it took an alliance of the most powerful countries on the planet to crush Germany and two atomic bombs to put an end to the bitter, desperate, suicidally fanatical resistance of the Japanese.

    I haven’t heard all of Hitchens talk yet but if he was warning us that if this “clash of civilizations” turns into a real shooting war we had better be prepared – if we want to win – to kill the enemy on an even greater scale than in previous wars then I think he’s right.

    It’s not genocide, it’s called attrition and it’s the reality of war. You win by killing more of the enemy than they can afford before they kill more of you than you can afford.

    Or, as George Patton is supposed to have said, “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”

  220. #221 Dan
    October 15, 2007

    … I think targeting for killing upwards of twenty thousand civilians due to the nation they’re citizens of at a stroke is “genocidal”, yes. Whether it’s justified is a different question, but it’s still genocidal by most definitions I know of. If I kill someone, it is homicide. If he was trying to kill me, it’s justified homicide, but it is notably still homicide. Similarly, if you make a habit of carpet-bombing and firebombing noncombatants it’s genocide, not to draw too fine a point on it and insist that only our enemies ever commit “genocide”. The key is “noncombatants”, and it is key.

    As for whether it’s justified: World War Two bombings were highly questionable, so “maybe”. The subsequent campaign of starving Germany was a gross violation of the Geneva conventions, and almost definitely not justified. Trying to fight “terrorism” with the same sorts of tactics is beyond not justified; it’s stupid and a dangerous path to go down. It’s attractive, it’s wonderfully Manichean in its rhetorical bent, and it’s just completely wrong. It involves a fundamental misunderstanding of what terrorism is- at its heart, politically motivated violence undertaken by very pissed off individuals needing little or no equipment.

    It isn’t, in other words, a problem you can successfully carpet bomb- the instability will probably just contribute, a la the Khmer Rouge. It might be a problem you could successfully nuke, but only if you got all of them. We’re actually doing a so-so job of trying to starve the problem, with massive sanctions all around, especially to Palestinians who dared to vote the wrong way in elections we had praised. Iraq was largely starving before the war, and now it’s even worse. The real question is, can you starve people into hating you less? The intuitive answer is “probably not, no”. If I’ve got a logical error in one of the links along this line I’d love to spot it, but as is our course of action appears to be barking mad.

    The ultimate problem is, this kind of justification has been used for all kinds of, to be blunt, stupid shit. It’s been used to justify arming Osama bin Laden, arming Saddam, destroying democracy in Iran – which it still hasn’t come back from – supporting varying tyrants and terrorists in South America, and so on. When we look back at those decisions, we say it was to thwart the communists, but idiotic in retrospect. In twenty years we’re going to look back on this era and say the same, but it will be “terrorists”. We’re there to free the Iraqis, just like we had to free the Iranians from their democracy, even though the majority wants us to leave. It’s ridiculous rhetoric, and that’s about it.

    It’s a cycle of intervention, blowback, intervention with no signs of stopping. Most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis; Al-Qaeda largely recruits from Saudi Arabia, because the people hate their dictatorial, American-sponsored government. American guns, American money, and until relatively recently, American troops keep them in power. Saudis get angry, Saudis blow up twin towers, Americans invade Iraq and create hated regime propped up by American guns, money, and troops- only even worse than Saudi Arabia.

    Pardon my cynicism.

  221. #222 Donalbain
    October 15, 2007

    Laura. That is crap. Complete, unadulterated crap.
    Perhaps you would provide some case studies of strangers being murdered by people driven to kill by their christianity.
    Being killed by someone who HAPPENS TO BE a Christian is NOT in the same category as being killed by someone BECAUSE they are a Christian.

    You also seem to have trouble with the meaning of the word “terrorist”.

  222. #223 Ichthyic
    October 15, 2007

    Pardon my cynicism.

    no pardon necessary from my viewpoint.

    right or wrong, I can’t find anything that I personally would disagree with in your take.

  223. #224 Colugo
    October 15, 2007

    A recent article by Hitchens outlines his large-scale strategy. Whether one agrees or disagrees with it – where’s the genocide?
    http://www.city-journal.org/html/17_1_urbanities-steyn.html

    “Islam is as fissile as any other religion (as Iraq reminds us). Little binds a Somali to a Turk or an Iranian or an Algerian, and considerable friction exists among immigrant Muslim groups in many European countries. … Muslim women often demand the protection of the authorities against forced marriage and other cruelties. …

    I would also propose the following: …

    A declaration at the UN of our solidarity with the right of the Kurdish people of Iraq and elsewhere to self-determination as well as a further declaration by Congress that in no circumstance will Muslim forces who have fought on our side, from the Kurds to the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, find themselves friendless, unarmed, or abandoned. …

    Energetic support for all the opposition forces in Iran and in the Iranian diaspora. A public offer from the United States, disseminated widely in the Persian language, of help for a reformed Iran on all matters…

    Unconditional solidarity, backed with force and the relevant UN resolutions, with an independent and multi-confessional Lebanon. …

    The Islamist threat itself may be crude, but this is an intricate cultural and political challenge that will absorb all of our energies for the rest of our lives: we are all responsible for doing our utmost as citizens as well as for demanding more imagination from our leaders.”

  224. #225 Ichthyic
    October 15, 2007

    Being killed by someone who HAPPENS TO BE a Christian is NOT in the same category as being killed by someone BECAUSE they are a Christian.

    um, so if they were Muslim, that would be in the same category, right?

    just to be clear, IIRC you stated you are from NZ, yes?

    If so, have you actually spent much time in the states?

    do you know how to spot religion-promoted terrorism?

    do you know who the Westboro Baptists are?

    I’m curious as to why you are so focused on defending xianity from charges of terrorism, when it’s the religion that was associated with the very embodiment of terrorism in the form of the inquisition?

    seriously, why are you trying so hard to defend xianity in every thread you post in?

  225. #226 Dan
    October 15, 2007

    Helping Kurds sounds inspiring, but a large number of them are … terrorists. International terrorists scattered throughout the middle east, at that. If they form their own state (which is largely their eventual goal), they’ll be attacked faster than Israel. This kind of attitude is why we have massive sectarian violence in Iraq- we love the Manichean, good versus evil angle. The radical Kurds, Shi’ites, and Sunnis (and radical Israelis, too) all love it as much as we do. They just can’t agree which side is which, and they all want our guns to kill infidels.

    And we’re giving them the guns, too. Apart from the official, badly-monitored Iraqi government guns, Blackwater and the other mercenary companies in Iraq and Afghanistan all have long and illustrious histories as arms dealers in the most violent regions in the world. This is leaving out the Iran-Contra scandal and other CIA fiascos.

    If you want to check into whether or not we’re inflaming sectarian violence, look no further than Saddam’s execution. Watching men in ski masks shouting Shi’a curses at the Sunni Saddam, then killing him mid-word through his own prayer is particularly inspiring as to the peaceful future we have to look forward to. If you haven’t seen it, you should be aware that all the Sunnis have, and both they and several humanitarian groups think his hasty trial by those he’d spent his lifetime oppressing wasn’t fair (for some reason).

    That talking point alone is a wonderful way to make everything immeasurably worse, basically. That’s not to say it’s not being done; it is.

    From here on I’m going to ramble about his points, one by one, in order, with minimal organization.

    His first point about not just letting Muslims move in and go on killing women and declaring fatwas over books, movies and comics is obviously true to anyone sane, IMO. His second point is about supporting India, which we are, by helping them build nuclear weapons in violation of several treaties. I can’t say I agree, personally; we may feel obligated, however, since we already gave nuclear weaponry to their often-enemies next door, Pakistan. Third is about “helping” African countries who have oil we want, which we’re sort of doing. We’re, ah, building military bases in and nearby them. That’s like helping.

    Fourth is the Kurds and other allies (already addressed), fifth is to try to get the Iranians to be less like fascists- an effort likely doomed for another couple of decades, but it’s a good cause. The only problem is the people actually in charge want to bomb and/or invade the country … again, which would be a brilliant way to set progress back once more. Helping them along might work, but might not. Also, if Iran – for some reason – really does deploy nuclear weapons, everything will go quite to hell, but everyone knew that.

    Sixth is, if you read between the lines, to stop Israel from invading and/or bombing Lebanon again – which will never happen, because we (and by ‘we’ I mean the US) let Israel invade and bomb whoever they like. Seventh is interesting; it’s semi-well known, but the best cash crop in impoverished Afghanistan is opium. Cruelly and stupidly, coalition forces have been burning it as part of the international “war on drugs”. Hitchens’ solution of buying it is much better than this; you can imagine what dirt-poor farmers think of the people who go around burning their crops. Probably will never see implementation, however. We’ll go on burning their crops and they’ll go on hating the Hell out of us for it, instead.

    And his eighth point is a hopeful and naive mention of trying to “avoid” the interethnic tensions his other points would ignite. It’s both too late, and was at best questionably possible from the start.

    But again, I’m cynical.

  226. #227 Laura
    October 15, 2007

    Donalbain:

    Do you know what Christian Identity is? How about Army of God? Or the KKK? These groups don’t just “happen” to be Christian. They use their brand of Christianity as motive and justification for violence, and they have wide support from sympathizers outside their organizations.

  227. #228 Ichthyic
    October 15, 2007

    Laura:

    I predict a quick usage of an argument closely resembling that of the no-true-Scottsman variety from donalbain in response to your post.

    I say this in the likely vain hope to stem it beforehand.

  228. #229 the great and powerful oz
    October 15, 2007

    Icthyic:

    Read up thread a bit

    Up in #73, Donalbain wrote:

    “I (and most of you reading this blog) are FAR more likely to be killed by someone who is ideologically driven to kill me by his Muslim faith than by someone driven to do it by their Christian faith. That is a a simple fact of the world we live in. Christians are, on the whole, an annoyance rather than a threat to our life and limb.”

    This was followed by umpteen rebuttals, all missing the point, such as:

    – people are more likely to die in a car accident
    – people in other places die of other things
    – many Iraqis have died in the war
    – lack of access to safe abortion kills too

    …and most recently (by Laura)

    – you’re more likely to be killed by someone you know than a stranger

    …and all the dodging seems to have given Donalbain the shits.

    Not that surprising, really.

  229. #230 mikmik
    October 15, 2007

    I think the Ku Klux Klan were good Christians, were they not? They weren’t terrorists by any stretch, they were/are ‘good ole boys’.

    Was Einstein completely wrong about relativity because he could not get on board about quantum mechanics?

    You mean special or general? Perhaps he is completely wrong, but that is no analogy to the hitchens criticism, is it now? You should be aware of transparent straw false equivalencies, but oyu resort to them.
    Tell me why GR and QM are incompatible, hey? How about dimensional definition, and granular time, there is one you should be able to handle, no? Occams paradox ring any bells for you? how about Bell’s theorem? You don’t think the model of QM could be incomplete, do you? That is my vote, without doubt. Also another concept no one realizes is the particle/radiation paradox (which is really a mathmatical modelling difficulty and not actual reality) hold a large idea about infinitely smooth versus granular measurments and appearance.

    Let’s go. I hate pedantic frauds.

  230. #231 Ichthyic
    October 15, 2007

    meh, he hasn’t raised any new arguments since he started posting on the issue, in the other thread, either.

    It’s not the absolute temporal accuracy of his statement that is even of interest (in a any given time and place, any given religious sect is less/more violent than other – this is an entirely trivial observation), it’s the general gist he is implying by it: that xianity by it’s “nature” is somehow less prone to violent usage than Islam is. It was wrong then, and it still is.

    everything you mentioned as “dodges” I also skipped on by as not relevant to the point I’ve been making to him since he started.

    was there another point you were trying to make that I am somehow missing?

  231. #232 the great and powerful oz
    October 15, 2007

    “it’s the general gist he is implying by it: that xianity by it’s “nature” is somehow less prone to violent usage than Islam is. It was wrong then, and it still is.”

    Agreed.

    “everything you mentioned as “dodges” I also skipped on by as not relevant to the point I’ve been making to him since he started.

    was there another point you were trying to make that I am somehow missing?”

    No. You got it.

    Anyway, those recent posts that actually list christian terrorist groups make the point better than the previous irrelevant dodges.

  232. #233 John Morales
    October 15, 2007

    A marathon thread.

    My take is: regardless of whether Hitchens is good or bad overall (or any alleged substance abuse) he’s made a notable contribution to the cause of atheism.

    I have no problem with PZ lauding the good and castigating the bad, as he sees it.

    Some have implied that, because of the (perceived) bad, he should henceforth be ignored, and I would remind them of the genetic fallacy.

  233. #234 Louis
    October 15, 2007

    Loath as I am to take anyone’s word for anything as emotive as this, even PZ’s, I will just say:

    IF (and it is an IF) Hitchens is advocating genocide (as distinct from war/military action) and claiming he is doing so as a defender of Enlightenment values, then Hitchens has not understood Enlightenment values.

    IF (note again: conditional tense) he is doing this then I, as someone who DOES understand Enlightement values having been at least as equally exposed to them as dear old Chris, will disagree with him on that basis.

    I’m not opposed to military action [i]per se[/i] as some kind of automatic given, because I can see that inc ertain limited circumstances it is necessary. I am however a sort of pacificst in that I think that military action should be the option of last resort (or close to last).

    Someone (I forget who, apologies) up thread made a good point. This cycle of war/hatred/terrorism/repeat as necessary will not be ended by further war, especially further interventionist war designed only to foster our (US/UK/European/Western/whatever you want “our” to be) interests. It will be ended by discussion, social development, increasing the standard of living in certain nations and good old fashioned cultural hegemony from the west. Nothing stops a war like a nice desire for more consumer durables! 😉

    The downside is not only “who is going to pay?” but “where are we going to get all this shit from?”. Sadly, like it or not, we have six billion people on the planet and to raise the living standards of each and every one of them to anything approaching current western standards is erm, well, rather difficult. Not impossible, just remote and very hard. It will take change and compromise on our part (as the developed, richer nations) and that is something we are unlikely to do. It will also take chnge and compromise on the part of the developing world: one example at least is the abandoment of the idea that “You did it so we want to do it too”. The change and compromise does not have to be drastic, incidentally. Nor does it have to be the hair shirt wearing straw men promoted by advocates of stasis. There is a lot of energy shining down onto this planet, and a lot of resources in and on it. We need to harvest these resources more effectively and there is only one way we are going to do that: more research, more cooperation, more investment, less prejudice, more attempts at cohesion, more humanitarian effort so people get more opporunities etc etc etc.

    Wiping out a serious segement of the human population IS an option, let’s never forget that, but it’s hardly one derived from the values of the Enlightenment. You can’t really be for the Enlightement and genocide at the same time, it kind of doesn’t work.

    Oh well, I’ll wait for the rest of the videos to come out. The first 4 parts don’t have him goosestepping up and down the dais demanding the blood of millions be spilt to preserve his own kind.

    Louis

  234. #235 Emma Thompson
    October 15, 2007

    Science fiction people know at a deep level how to put together a first rate meeting experience that will engage diverse interests, and be informative and entertaining, and most importantly, will appeal to people under the age of 60. There are big differences, of course — I hope a freethought convention wouldn’t have costume contests, and the dealer’s room isn’t going to be quite as impressive

    As a veteran “geek” convention atendee (anime specifically, but a few sci-fi), I have to say word. We all know when we head of to con that the aim is to network. It’s a bonus that we might hear someone we admire speak or learn something new about our fandom, but the most important thing is to network. Big social areas, put the big speakers in the afternoon/early evening but with managable time slots, have workshops and bars and such. It could be great.

    Though, I have to admit, I would LOVE to see a freethinkers costume contest. I think I should start work on my Darwin costume right away, just in case.

  235. #236 John C. Randolph
    October 15, 2007

    “The KKK is undoubtedly a Christian terrorist organization, and I believe the body count attributable to them far outweighs the one attributable to Islamic terrorists in the United States.”

    I would doubt that. It’s been quite a while since the KKK did anything more than make noise and parade in their nighties, and even back in their heyday after the civil war and their brief resurgence in the 1950’s and 60’s before J. Edgar Hoover broke their back, they tended to kill people in ones and twos.

    The 9/11 perps killed a couple thousand people, and if you look at the worldwide body count of the terrorists who say they’re doing it for allah, the KKK aren’t anywhere close to being their league.

    -jcr

  236. #237 csrster
    October 15, 2007

    mikimik – ok, I’ll bite. What the f. is “Occam’s Paradox”?

  237. #238 auden
    October 15, 2007

    PZ – Serious question – nothing to do with Hitchens.

    EVERYTHING you said about engaging the audience with those ideas – they’re happening at Dragon*Con. It’s ALREADY happening at a conference and you can see the success at Skepticality podcast! 😀

    The last Dragon*Con demonstrated how Skeptics and Science fiction, through Skeptic magazine and Skepticality, can marry together the Science and the Speculative. Are you going to the next one? James Randi, Shermer and Phil Plait apparently will be there in 2008.

  238. #239 Caledonian
    October 15, 2007

    The change and compromise does not have to be drastic, incidentally.

    Ha ha ha ha!

    I don’t think you appreciate just how much of the world’s available resources Americans and Western Europeans consume.

  239. #240 Don Quijote
    October 15, 2007

    I liked ‘God is not Great’ but I often disagree with Hitchens on international politics. However, I do not think that he usually argues badly. If he really said things the way they are described above I would find that completely off the mark and it would surprise me in view of the usually eloquent way Hitchens argues.

    Having said that, I would like to emphasise that ‘Genocide’ might be an attractive nuclear political argument (similar to the ‘fascism’ accusation) but it is still a defined concept in international law in the first place. Legally it is very difficult to prove genocide as a crime even after the fact. I think it should not be used in a political discourse too light-heartedly.

  240. #241 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 15, 2007

    The alcohol use is as relevant to his arguments as his “you’re stupid” (assuming he makes them) remarks are to others’. Further, a lot of perfectly sober people agree with him. What are we supposed to say to them? That they’re stupid?

    Yes.

    Most likely such stupidity is built upon ignorance, but that’s not really an excuse, because the argument from ignorance is the pinnacle of stupidity.

    I don’t love Hitchens, and I think his position on the war is wrong. But even when Hitchens is blind drunk he’s still more articulate and cogent than many of his opponents.

    Yes. I agree. And?

    That makes his opponents worse, not him better.

    Do the people who pay him believe that his performance is demonstrably improved when he’s liquored up? Are we meant not to notice that even the un-gods have clay feet?

    LOL!

    Those calling him a drunk can take their ad-hominems and stick them.

    Ad hominem? I’m proposing a testable hypothesis to explain his sudden irrationality.

    I agree with comment 185: it would be much less nice of me if I said “no, the booze has nothing to do with it, he’s that crazy even when he’s sober”.

    But, again, that’s testable. I’m sure it has been tested — it won’t surprise you to learn that I don’t know the man personally.

    Yes, Hitchens disagrees with you about the use of military force, e.g. in Iraq. Get over it. He’s allowed to have a different opinion from yours; this doesn’t make him a genocidal maniac, ethnocentric bigot, or even a right-wing neocon.

    Oh, I agree. What makes him a genocidal maniac is not any of the above. What makes him a genocidal maniac is that he advocates killing people en masse.

    Isn’t that, like, obvious?

    Yes, he likes to drink alcohol. Well, I don’t drink alcohol at all — how many of you Hitchens-bashers can say the same?

    Me. It stinks, and it burns in the throat. Yuck.

    Also, how many of the posters here have lived outside of North America? Islamic integration in Europe is a major problem, I fear its an oxymoron.

    I’ve lived in North America for about a week, so…

    Integration of Islamic immigrants in Europe is indeed an issue. But you’re overblowing it. I’ve spent most of my life so far in Vienna, which has seen strong Turkish immigration.

    The problem is that you can’t for example publish Hitch’s book “God is not Great” in Saudi Arabia because it would be censored. So the Muslims won’t let us make a peaceful approach because they censor us, while they are allowed to spread their religion in our society.

    Don’t you see there’s a difference between the 7000 princes of Saudi Arabia and “the Muslims”?

    So the fact that Hitchens holds opinions about the Iraq war that many here find objectionable means that everything else he says or writes is wrong?

    Who has said that?

    A recent article by Hitchens outlines his large-scale strategy. Whether one agrees or disagrees with it – where’s the genocide?
    http://www.city-journal.org/html/17_1_urbanities-steyn.html

    “Islam is as fissile as any other religion (as Iraq reminds us). Little binds a Somali to a Turk or an Iranian or an Algerian, and considerable friction exists among immigrant Muslim groups in many European countries. … Muslim women often demand the protection of the authorities against forced marriage and other cruelties. …

    I would also propose the following: …

    A declaration at the UN of our solidarity with the right of the Kurdish people of Iraq and elsewhere to self-determination as well as a further declaration by Congress that in no circumstance will Muslim forces who have fought on our side, from the Kurds to the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, find themselves friendless, unarmed, or abandoned. …

    Energetic support for all the opposition forces in Iran and in the Iranian diaspora. A public offer from the United States, disseminated widely in the Persian language, of help for a reformed Iran on all matters…

    Unconditional solidarity, backed with force and the relevant UN resolutions, with an independent and multi-confessional Lebanon. …

    Ah, that sounds better. Let me risk the testable hypothesis that Hitchens was sober when he wrote that.

    Still, it’s not terribly farsighted as a whole.

    First paragraph: I agree.

    Third paragraph: The second part is good. The first part sounds good, but would lead to more trouble than there currently is, because the generals in Turkey will not accept an independent Kurdistan. If one comes to pass, Turkey will enter the war, and we will live in interesting times. A lot more should be done to increase Kurdish autonomy in Turkey, but immediately making the leap to independence would be quite counterproductive. Never mind Iran and Syria, which also wouldn’t like an independent Kurdistan… Syria could be weak enough to be annoyed with impunity, but Iran is not. We are looking at a classical case where diplomacy is needed over decades. Get the generals off the power in Turkey — without the country regressing deep into Islamic conservativism in the process, and without losing a good friend of the West in general and the USA in particular in the process –, get the mullahs off the power in Iran, and then start negotiating about the independence of Kurdistan. Not the other way around.

    The fourth paragraph is great, except that it shouldn’t be trumpeted out so loudly. The mullahs live in the justified fear that one day they’ll lose their power in a great big civil war. Any perceived threat will immediately lead to greater repression, which in turn could lead to the civil war that the Iranian opposition doesn’t want either. Iran should be discreetly helped to collapse like the Soviet Union or, better yet, like the communist regime of Poland. Anything faster and/or more visible would be counterproductive.

    The fifth paragraph sounds great, but would involve bringing the power of the government back in southern Lebanon so that Hezbollah is no longer needed to provide the basic services that are the government’s duty to provide, and it would involve getting the neocons and the rapturists away from the control of foreign policy in the USA. All that should be feasible, but it isn’t easy. Again, Hitchens sounds like he wants an overnight solution that simply doesn’t exist.

  241. #242 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 15, 2007

    The alcohol use is as relevant to his arguments as his “you’re stupid” (assuming he makes them) remarks are to others’. Further, a lot of perfectly sober people agree with him. What are we supposed to say to them? That they’re stupid?

    Yes.

    Most likely such stupidity is built upon ignorance, but that’s not really an excuse, because the argument from ignorance is the pinnacle of stupidity.

    I don’t love Hitchens, and I think his position on the war is wrong. But even when Hitchens is blind drunk he’s still more articulate and cogent than many of his opponents.

    Yes. I agree. And?

    That makes his opponents worse, not him better.

    Do the people who pay him believe that his performance is demonstrably improved when he’s liquored up? Are we meant not to notice that even the un-gods have clay feet?

    LOL!

    Those calling him a drunk can take their ad-hominems and stick them.

    Ad hominem? I’m proposing a testable hypothesis to explain his sudden irrationality.

    I agree with comment 185: it would be much less nice of me if I said “no, the booze has nothing to do with it, he’s that crazy even when he’s sober”.

    But, again, that’s testable. I’m sure it has been tested — it won’t surprise you to learn that I don’t know the man personally.

    Yes, Hitchens disagrees with you about the use of military force, e.g. in Iraq. Get over it. He’s allowed to have a different opinion from yours; this doesn’t make him a genocidal maniac, ethnocentric bigot, or even a right-wing neocon.

    Oh, I agree. What makes him a genocidal maniac is not any of the above. What makes him a genocidal maniac is that he advocates killing people en masse.

    Isn’t that, like, obvious?

    Yes, he likes to drink alcohol. Well, I don’t drink alcohol at all — how many of you Hitchens-bashers can say the same?

    Me. It stinks, and it burns in the throat. Yuck.

    Also, how many of the posters here have lived outside of North America? Islamic integration in Europe is a major problem, I fear its an oxymoron.

    I’ve lived in North America for about a week, so…

    Integration of Islamic immigrants in Europe is indeed an issue. But you’re overblowing it. I’ve spent most of my life so far in Vienna, which has seen strong Turkish immigration.

    The problem is that you can’t for example publish Hitch’s book “God is not Great” in Saudi Arabia because it would be censored. So the Muslims won’t let us make a peaceful approach because they censor us, while they are allowed to spread their religion in our society.

    Don’t you see there’s a difference between the 7000 princes of Saudi Arabia and “the Muslims”?

    So the fact that Hitchens holds opinions about the Iraq war that many here find objectionable means that everything else he says or writes is wrong?

    Who has said that?

    A recent article by Hitchens outlines his large-scale strategy. Whether one agrees or disagrees with it – where’s the genocide?
    http://www.city-journal.org/html/17_1_urbanities-steyn.html

    “Islam is as fissile as any other religion (as Iraq reminds us). Little binds a Somali to a Turk or an Iranian or an Algerian, and considerable friction exists among immigrant Muslim groups in many European countries. … Muslim women often demand the protection of the authorities against forced marriage and other cruelties. …

    I would also propose the following: …

    A declaration at the UN of our solidarity with the right of the Kurdish people of Iraq and elsewhere to self-determination as well as a further declaration by Congress that in no circumstance will Muslim forces who have fought on our side, from the Kurds to the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, find themselves friendless, unarmed, or abandoned. …

    Energetic support for all the opposition forces in Iran and in the Iranian diaspora. A public offer from the United States, disseminated widely in the Persian language, of help for a reformed Iran on all matters…

    Unconditional solidarity, backed with force and the relevant UN resolutions, with an independent and multi-confessional Lebanon. …

    Ah, that sounds better. Let me risk the testable hypothesis that Hitchens was sober when he wrote that.

    Still, it’s not terribly farsighted as a whole.

    First paragraph: I agree.

    Third paragraph: The second part is good. The first part sounds good, but would lead to more trouble than there currently is, because the generals in Turkey will not accept an independent Kurdistan. If one comes to pass, Turkey will enter the war, and we will live in interesting times. A lot more should be done to increase Kurdish autonomy in Turkey, but immediately making the leap to independence would be quite counterproductive. Never mind Iran and Syria, which also wouldn’t like an independent Kurdistan… Syria could be weak enough to be annoyed with impunity, but Iran is not. We are looking at a classical case where diplomacy is needed over decades. Get the generals off the power in Turkey — without the country regressing deep into Islamic conservativism in the process, and without losing a good friend of the West in general and the USA in particular in the process –, get the mullahs off the power in Iran, and then start negotiating about the independence of Kurdistan. Not the other way around.

    The fourth paragraph is great, except that it shouldn’t be trumpeted out so loudly. The mullahs live in the justified fear that one day they’ll lose their power in a great big civil war. Any perceived threat will immediately lead to greater repression, which in turn could lead to the civil war that the Iranian opposition doesn’t want either. Iran should be discreetly helped to collapse like the Soviet Union or, better yet, like the communist regime of Poland. Anything faster and/or more visible would be counterproductive.

    The fifth paragraph sounds great, but would involve bringing the power of the government back in southern Lebanon so that Hezbollah is no longer needed to provide the basic services that are the government’s duty to provide, and it would involve getting the neocons and the rapturists away from the control of foreign policy in the USA. All that should be feasible, but it isn’t easy. Again, Hitchens sounds like he wants an overnight solution that simply doesn’t exist.

  242. #243 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 15, 2007

    Oops. Comment 185 is now comment 187.

  243. #244 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 15, 2007

    Oops. Comment 185 is now comment 187.

  244. #245 Louis
    October 15, 2007

    Caledonian,

    No, sorry, but I have an excellent idea of how much as a proportion of the world’s resources the west/whatever you want to call it consume. My point was we don’t all have to throw our collective hands in the air and “cry oh noes I have to give up my job and car and house and live in a mud hut not going outside for fear of disturbing something or making an emission” and instantly stop everything we are doing. The way we are going to do this is by careful research, implementing policies (evidence based of course) that give us big bang for our buck where appropriate (i.e. small changes that have synergistically larger effects) and so on. The Etch-a-Sketch approach (shake it all up and start again) a) won’t work and b) will create more trouble than it solves.

    Of course we have to change, but that change doesn’t necessarily have to be dramatic (i.e. involving drama) it can be measured and sustainable. Greater reliance on other sources of energy (for example) is a good start. It’s far from the complete package, but it’s a good start. Try to think of it in evolutionary terms: a chimp might be “drastically”/”dramatically” different from a human (by some measures), but how a chimp got to be a chimp and a human a human was by small, incremental changes from a common ancestor, not a saltation. What I am advocating is such an evolutionary approach. We want to get to a very different global situation than the one we have now, if we’ve learned ANYTHING it’s that massive revolutions, might makes right and dramatic gestures usually breed more trouble than they solve and usually don’t last long term. There are of course exceptions, but then politics is not an exact “science” (or even a science at all).

    The compromises mentioned will initially have to be things from the West/wherever I imagine, as at least that’s a show of good faith that no one expects. The major thing that worries me is that we couldn’t even get everyone to sign up to (for example) Kyoto, which as far as environmental treaties for fostering change went was initially (phase 1) more than a little toothless. Demonstrating our good will and our desire to share the resources equally is going to be tough, but it’s a neccessary part of the process. Again, to use my previous example, if we had non-petrochemical based energy sources supplying all/the majority of our power then the conflicts over that resource would be greatly reduced (we still need oil for materials etc, so not totally eradicated). This can be acheived, we’re on the edge of sustainable hydrogen fuel cell technology (which is at the moment underpinned by oil, this does not have to happen forever though), we have programmes in place for wind/solar/alternative power sources and are beginning to switch to those. Change can and does happen.

    Do we need to do more things and more things faster? Sure we do, but sadly if you want to sell things to an electorate or to a series of nations sceptical (for good reson) of our intentions you’re going to have to do it by increments. That is a sad fact of reality. Sure if most people weren’t self interested idiots, sure if our systems of government favoured long termist views rather than short termist electability etc things would be different. The sad fact is that this is the hand we’ve been dealt and we better play it as it is rather than as we might like it to be. Chucking the cards away and sulking until we get to play the game we wanted (which will never happen) or whipping out an Uzi and shooting 2 of the 6 players at the table doesn’t win us the game (well the last one might!).

    We had the lion’s share of the resources in (for example) the 1970s but our lives were a lot different than they are now in terms of connsumption of those resources. We can make material alterations to out 21st century lifestyles whilst still retaining many of the advantages. A reduction of things like engineered redundancy and any move away from consumer culture would be a start. These are changes that have happened incrementally and will have to be reveresed incrementally. Take the richest nation of today and compare it to the poorest: there are many sustainable points on that spectrum between the two. We know that everyone on the planet today living (for example) an American lifestyle is a possibility BUT at massive (ecological) cost, so we have to not only reduce certain of those lifestyle factors but also change others. Incidentally, this massive cost is sufficiently large that this sort of scenario is unsustainable. The question of how far down do we have to drag the richest nations and concomittantly how far up we have to drag the poorest nations is still a valid question.

    I think you’d be better served by not playing the knee-jerk contrarian, and by not snipping out parts of people’s arguments and treating them as the whole. The argument is not that we don’t have to change, and that in the end the changes will not be enormous. The argument is that we have to change incrementally (not necessarily slowly) and carefully based on the evidence we can garner. No one sane denies (for example) anthropogenic climate change and no one sane denies other aspects of well understood science. What we have to do is have the humility and common sense to lead the rest of the world into a more sustainable future (because no other bugger is going to do it) and learn, give and take where necessary. I’m not sure how genocide or global war or precipitous and rapid revolution will help us here, it never really has before.

    Louis

  245. #246 Michael O'Donnell
    October 15, 2007

    By the way, the town that Matt LeClair is from is spelled: Kearny.

    I grew up in Kearny and can tell you that it is an odd place for a religious debate to pop up. It’s not an overly pious place.

  246. #247 Derek James
    October 15, 2007

    PZ wrote:

    This was made even more clear in the Q&A. He was asked to consider the possibility that bombing and killing was only going to accomplish an increase in the number of people opposing us. Hitchens accused the questioner of being incredibly stupid (the question was not well-phrased, I’ll agree, but it was clear what he meant), and said that it was obvious that every Moslem you kill means there is one less Moslem to fight you … which is only true if you assume that every Moslem already wants to kill Americans and is armed and willing to do so.

    Here’s a story from the Badger Herald, with a direct quote:

    http://badgerherald.com/news/2007/10/15/hitchens_rails_on_re.php

    Responding to a question from an audience member on what he said was the futility of killing Muslims in Iraq to end extremism, Hitchens parodied:

    “‘How does killing them lessen their numbers?’ You must have meant something more intelligent. … We worry too much in America about our ‘right’ to be in Iraq.

    “Make them worry. Make them run scared. … I’m going to fight these people and every other theocrat all the way. All the way. You should be ashamed sneering at the people guarding you as you sleep.”

    Like Colugo in comment #106, I think PZ must have been conflating “muslim extremist” with “muslim”. Hitchens has voiced too much support for muslims of various nationalities around the world that it is just silly to think he advocates the indiscriminate slaughter of run-of-the-mill muslims. It’s clear in his writings on the matter that he advocates killing the cancerous core of extremists (Al Qaeda and their ilk) on the grounds that sometimes your enemy cannot be reasoned with (you don’t try to reason with the madman strangling your child…you look for something to club him over the head with).

    True, he doesn’t engage this particular question on its merits. It is legitimate to ask whether killing extremists, which necessarily involves indirectly harming innocents, increases the ranks of the extremists. He does a disservice to the questioner by denigrating him instead of taking the question seriously. But so far I have seen nothing in the coverage to suggest what PZ said, that Hitchens was advocating genocide and was calling for the death of all muslims based on their beliefs.

  247. #248 Pierce R. Butler
    October 15, 2007

    Donalbain: I (and most of you reading this blog) are FAR more likely to be killed by someone who is ideologically driven to kill me by his Muslim faith than by someone driven to do it by their Christian faith.

    Having gone face-to-face with countless christians while escorting patients into abortion clinics, confronted howling mobs of christian “patriots” counterdemonstrating at war protests, and accosted cross-wearing Kluxers in the deep south (as well as having travelled from Afghanistan to Egypt), I have some experiential knowledge of your proposition. Guess what: it’s horseapples.

    The ideological danger we all face is not Islam, nor christianism, nor even fundamentalism. It’s fanaticism – and particularly the positive-feedback loop of fanaticism currently being enjoyed by the Bush-Hitchens axis on one side and the bin Laden-mujahideen faction on the other.

    jomega: A few of the more rabid bomb-all-the-saracen fundies might even be more willing to tolerate you on the basis of Hitchens’ antics, but we all know the reigious right likes to paint their opponents sloppily, witha VERY broad brush. Stuff like this can -and likely will- be used against you .

    I monitor & collect a sizeable fraction of wingnut screeds, but see Hitchens mentioned very rarely (most often supportively, in his Islamophobe and anti-abortion modes). Maybe I’m missing the fora where the rightists discuss him, but I suspect they find him too erratic to be of even rhetorical use.

  248. #249 Dan
    October 15, 2007

    “In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

    (a) Killing members of the group; ”

    Some of our firebombing and carpet-bombing campaigns had as their specific goals, to paraphrase, killing so many Germans they gave up. When a “war of attrition” starts specifically targeting “civilians” of the opposing nation, it becomes “genocide”.

    There’s a mindset in the practical application of international law I find disturbing which insists that if you do it from a plane, it’s not genocide; ‘genocide’ as prosecuted can only be done face to face, with small arms, even if the intent and body count are exactly the same. I’m just going to say I completely disagree with the idea that using a bomb is nobler than a gun.

    I think that’s basically a minimal point compared with the fact that we’re fighting the war badly, and losing, but that’s me.

  249. #250 Colugo
    October 15, 2007

    Ibn Warraq, ex-Muslim atheist scholar, defended Western values (free thought, secularism etc.) over Koranic values in a 10/9/07 debate with Islamist intellectual Tariq Ramadan:

    “I don’t want to live in a society where I get stoned for committing adultery. I want to live in a society where I get stoned. And then commit adultery.”

    http://tinyurl.com/2bhytl

  250. #251 johannes
    October 15, 2007

    A full scale defeat in a conventional war (rather than just the destruction of a few armoured divisions in hours rather than days of desert warfare) – I hope this was what Hitchens meant, rather than all-out Genocide – was necessary to cure most nations of eastern and central Europe from the madness that had befallen them between 1914 and 1945*. On the other hand, Stalinism collapsed without military defeat. So the commentors chose the example that suits their position more: Those who tend to agree with Hitchens quote WWII – or even the fate of Carthage – as an example, those who disagree with him the cold war.
    The problem with the cold war analogy is, of course, that it involves nuclear deterrents, and, as David has pointed out above, the use of mutual nuclear destruction as a deterrent doesn’t work with people that actually want to die a martyr’s death (or at least prefer a quick end in a nuclear blast to a collaps of their regime in revolution and civil war, wich will also lead to their deaths, but in a slower and nastier fashion).

    My conclusion is that the “cold war” solution is obviously preferable to the “WWII” solution, but can only be pursued if regimes and rackets that share the nihilist death wish can be prevented from acquiring nukes.

    *But perhaps not forever. Remember the collapse of Yugslavia.

  251. #252 Alt Numlock
    October 15, 2007

    “It was simplistic us-vs.-them thinking at its worst, and the only solution he had to offer was death and destruction of the enemy.”

    And from long experience, we all know you are steadfastly against thinking of that sort, Myers. No irony here.

  252. #253 Rey Fox
    October 15, 2007

    Alt Numlock: Are you seriously trying to say that you think that PZ Myers is for the death and destruction of anyone?

  253. #254 Donalbain
    October 15, 2007

    The Klan? No, really? The Klan??
    You mean the 8 or nine kooks living in trailers? Wow, they really are a threat, arent they? And Christian Identity fit much the same profile. Yes, these militant Christians will shout at people, they will even burn crosses. But, the fact is, at this point in time, they are NOT a major threat to life and limb. Certain groups of Muslims are.

    Icthycic: The reason I havent added any new points is because people havent understood the first point. They kept throwing stupid, irrelevant arguments that didnt address my point. There is no point moving on until people understand the first thing you try to tell them. I think however, the people DO understand the point I made, but liberal sensitivity makes it hard for people to admit a fact that might make them feel islamaphobic.

  254. #255 Tom Foss
    October 15, 2007

    Oz (#222)

    This was followed by umpteen rebuttals, all missing the point, such as:

    – people are more likely to die in a car accident
    – people in other places die of other things
    – many Iraqis have died in the war
    – lack of access to safe abortion kills too

    It was also followed by several rebuttals quite accurately addressing the point (not to toot my own horn or anything) referencing groups like the Army of God, the KKK, and their affiliates (most recently Laura and Icthyic’s posts directly before yours) whose track record for terrorism in the United States represents a far greater danger than that of Muslim extremists. It may be true that people in New Zealand or London have more to fear from Muslim terrorists; it is not true in the United States (which, I would imagine, represents the “most of you reading this blog” which Donalbain mentioned in the initial post. The fact that his only recent post ignores all that really demonstrates who’s doing the dodging.

    Note that the original post

    Incidentally, I agree that many were missing the point with the “you might be killed in a car crash” comments, but I think the number of hedges and qualifiers which made it into that initial comment helps to illustrate just how vanishingly small your chances of being killed by a terrorist–Muslim, Christian, Baha’i, or other–really are.

    John C. Randolph (#229):

    The 9/11 perps killed a couple thousand people, and if you look at the worldwide body count of the terrorists who say they’re doing it for allah, the KKK aren’t anywhere close to being their league.

    I’ve been having some trouble finding the references again, so it’s possible that I’m mistaken. However, I know the last time I looked to compare the KKK’s kill count to the 9/11 terrorists (and other Muslims), I was absolutely shocked by how easily trumped the hijackers were. I’ll continue looking for a decent source on the matter.

  255. #256 Alt Numlock
    October 15, 2007

    Rey Fox,

    I refer to simplistic us vs them thinking, and the desire for destruction of those on the other side, as witnessed by charming Myers utterances such as:

    “The only appropriate response should involve some form of righteous fury, much butt-kicking, and the public firing of some teachers, many school board members, and vast numbers of sleazy, far-right politicians … I say, screw the polite words and careful rhetoric. It’s time for scientists to break out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles, and get out there and hammer on the lunatics and idiots.”

    or

    “Others can coddle the fools who dither and simper wishfully over gods and old myths and apologetics, but some of us have to charge forward and stake out a solid position, one that excludes altogether the ancient fairy tales.”

    Yeah. there’s no simplistic “us vs them” thinking on display here. Nor any calls for destruction. Of course I don’t think he’s calling for death, merely the ruination of the careers of all of the retards and subrational religious morons he disagrees with 100%. Again, there is no simplistic “us vs them, destroy the enemy” thinking on his part. Obviously.

  256. #257 Tom Foss
    October 15, 2007

    You mean the 8 or nine kooks living in trailers? Wow, they really are a threat, arent they? And Christian Identity fit much the same profile. Yes, these militant Christians will shout at people, they will even burn crosses. But, the fact is, at this point in time, they are NOT a major threat to life and limb. Certain groups of Muslims are.

    You, sir, are wrong. These militant Christians will bomb abortion clinics and shoot their employees, bomb the Olympics, lynch individuals, and far more. I think that represents a “threat to life and limb.” Is the threat major? The heavy security and bulletproof glass at my local Planned Parenthood would suggest that it is. It’s certainly not as “major” a threat as, say, heart disease or cancer, but then neither is Islamic terrorism.

    Again, “most of [us] reading this blog” aren’t in areas where large populations of angry Muslims are a commonality, or where there are significant monuments and structures that represent the sort of symbolic targets that Muslim terrorists seem to like. Most of us, however, do live in regions where there are fundamentalist Christian organizations, and where there are abortion clinics that such organizations like to target for destruction.

    And if we go by number of incidents (as you did in your follow-up post to the initial claim), the number of Muslim terrorist acts here in the United States is far outweighed by the number of Christian terrorist acts in the same timeframe. If you’re going to shift the goalposts to “number of deaths,” the only way the numbers look at all like they favor your claim, then be aware that such a tactic relies entirely on one incident (by all appearances a statistical anomaly) and does not represent an accurate sample of everyday risks.

  257. #258 Tom Foss
    October 15, 2007

    Again, there is no simplistic “us vs them, destroy the enemy” thinking on his part. Obviously.

    And there’s certainly no “take quotes out of context, cherry-pick the evidence” thinking on your part. Obviously.

  258. #259 Rey Fox
    October 15, 2007

    So you’re a hyperbolic moron rather than a delusional moron. Thanks for clearing that up.

  259. #260 Alt Numlock
    October 15, 2007

    Oh, yes, Rey. That’s what I am. I see now how wrong I was. There is simply no simplistic “us vs them” thinking in evidence on this blog. My apologies. My moronic apologies.

  260. #261 Leni
    October 15, 2007

    David Marjanovi? wrote:

    Ad hominem? I’m proposing a testable hypothesis to explain his sudden irrationality.

    And?

    Whether or not your remarks constitute a testable hypothesis is irrelevent. Ad hominem statements can be not only testable, but true. What makes them ad hominem is how they are used, not whether or not they are accurate. So I guess we can add non sequitor to your list =P

    Yes.

    Most likely such stupidity is built upon ignorance, but that’s not really an excuse, because the argument from ignorance is the pinnacle of stupidity.

    You mean like the argument that since you don’t know why Hitchens thinks what he thinks, it must be because he’s drunk? Like that sort of argument from ignorance?

    Yes. I agree. And?

    That makes his opponents worse, not him better.

    My remark was a cut on those of us slamming Hitchens’ alcoholism as if it had anything to do with what the man said. I’m glad you noticed, and I agree that it indeed does make them worse.

  261. #262 Colugo
    October 15, 2007

    Tom Foss: “how vanishingly small your chances of being killed by a terrorist–Muslim, Christian, Baha’i, or other–really are.”

    An error is repeatedly being made in these threads, which is that current risk of an American being killed in a terrorist attack is a useful indicator of the scale of the threat of militant Islamism. Viewed in this way, militant Islam looks almost insignificant when compared to deaths caused by auto accidents, diabetes, or ordinary homicide.

    But that is the wrong way to think of it. Most Americans, and anyone else in the world, had an astronomically low chance of being killed by anarchists at the turn of the last century, yet through their assassinations of heads of state they changed the course of history. Communist grouplets were an obscure phenomenon in the years before World War One. Near-nobodies. But by seizing control of a major state they promoted revolutionary coups worldwide, and over the 20th century communists were ultimately responsible for the deaths of tens of millions, from the Soviet gulag to Ethiopia’s Red Terror. (And over 100,000 Americans in two wars.) Fascist sects first appeared to be smallish clubs of ranting oddballs. Laughable thugs. Yet they managed to take power in several European countries, started a world war that took tens of millions of lives (including 400,000 Americans), and murdered millions through genocide. Along with all of the dead – the wars and genocide that these fanatics are responsible for – the impoverishment, misery, cultural degradation, and chaos they have produced is incalculable.

    What is the track record of militant Islamists? Control over several states, including Iran (Shia Islamism) and Sudan (Sunni Islamism), domination of Waziristan, Gaza, partial control over Saudi Arabia (the royals have made a pact with the radicals since the 1979 Grand Mosque seizure) and Lebanon, funding of terrorist organizations which have which has killed thousands worldwide. Secular Baathist Syria patronized two Islamist terror groups, Hamas and Hezbollah. Nuclear proliferation through Pakistan’s AQ Khan network. The continual replacement of moderate local syncretist variants of Islam with fanatical pan-Islamism. The de-Christianization of Lebanon and Palestinian territories. Genocide in Sudan that has killed millions (southern Sudan as well as Darfur), which most progressives fail to tie to international Islamist jihadism. Oppression of religious minorities, countless thousands, including women and gays, executed in political purges and enforcement of codes of “morality.” Civil wars and terror insurgencies from Algeria (post-French civil war of Islamist vs nationalist) to Somalia to Thailand. That is already millions dead, most of them Muslims, at the hands of Islamists. And millions more if these groups take command of more states and acquire nuclear weapons.

  262. #263 thalarctos
    October 15, 2007

    ‘Genocide’ might be an attractive nuclear political argument (similar to the ‘fascism’ accusation) but it is still a defined concept in international law in the first place. Legally it is very difficult to prove genocide as a crime even after the fact.

    It is my understanding (and if I am mistaken, I’ll gladly defer to any experts in international and human rights law who can correct me) that the Khmer Rouge are not considered to have perpetrated genocide against the Sino-Khmers (Chinese Cambodians) during the Pol Pot years.

    The reason is that, although they certainly did kill hundreds of thousands of Sino-Khmers, and they certainly did target them in propaganda, they also killed hundreds of thousands of other groups as well (ethnic Khmer and Cambodian Vietnamese, for example). So, despite killing hundreds of thousands of the Sino-Khmers, there is not the differential in the rate of killing them, compared to the other groups, that would constitute genocide under the legal definition.

    I appreciate the distinction the law is trying to draw, but at the same time cannot help but regard it as lacking something essential when there’s such a loophole that the KR can get away with murder on that scale without it being considered genocide.

  263. #264 Ichthyic
    October 15, 2007

    You mean the 8 or nine kooks living in trailers?

    Whoa!

    talk about someone who doesn’t have a clue.

    ok, you obviously have NO idea of the history of the Klan in the US.

    did you know, for example, that they were once one of the largest single influence groups in the US?

    …and there are still a hell of a lot more than “8” of them.

    sweet plastic jesus on my dashboard, you need to actually review some damn history before you continue to make yourself look like an ass.

  264. #265 Caledonian
    October 15, 2007

    It’s all very well to decry simplistic us-vs.-them thinking… but what about when it really is us-vs.-them?

    There’s a time for complexity, and a time for simplicity, a time for nuance, and a time for lines-in-the-sand.

    It seems to me is that the two primary factions in American politics have each failed to react to challenges appropriately, but in different ways. The Republicans have tried to apply simple solutions to complex problems and idolized force to the degree that they used it when it was harmful. The Democrats have tried to apply complex solutions to simple problems and idolized compromise to the degree that they used it when it was harmful.

    Result: everyone flails around uselessly.

  265. #266 Ichthyic
    October 15, 2007

    The Democrats have tried to apply complex solutions to simple problems and idolized compromise to the degree that they used it when it was harmful.

    I can visualize examples of applying overly simplistic solutions to complex situations, but am having trouble visualizing actual examples of applying overly complex solutions to simple problems.

    did you have an example in mind for the latter?

  266. #267 johannes
    October 15, 2007

    > I bet some do. But read bin Laden’s own words
    > to learn why he didn’t attack, say, Sweden.

    Well, he said that he attacked the USA because of Israels invasion of Lebanon in 1982, wich, according to bin Laden, was supported by the American Fleet. It is not entirely untrue that the US fleet fired upon targets in Lebanon, but this was in 1983/84, and the targets were Shiite positions and strongholds. Neither bin Laden nor the Palestinians were especially fond of Shiites in general and Amal, Hezbollah and their Syrian sponsors in peculiar. In fact, they were mortal enemies. Nor is al Quaeda very interested in greater Syrian* affairs at all. The fact that they timed their most murderous and spectacular attack at 9-11, the day when Ali Jinnah died, proves that Pakistan is far more important for them. Bin Laden tends to say what he thinks a western audience wants to hear. The results are often tragicomic, remember bin Ladens attempt to win over neoliberals by stating that there will be no taxes higher than 2,5 % in his Caliphate?

    * I use this term only in a geographic sense. In no way do I support
    the ridiculous claims of the equally ridiculous Syrian National
    Socialist Party – or any other Syrian fraction – on the territory
    of Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan or Palestine (but I think they
    only want the West Bank in the latter case, Gaza is to Egyptian.
    Those fellahin lack the cachet of true Syrian superhumans…: ))

  267. #268 Donalbain
    October 15, 2007

    Yes. I know that the Klan used to be a deadly force capable of tremendous harm. However, you will note that I am referring to the PRESENT tense. That is what can happen now. In the past, the Knights Templar were a devestating military force. Today, they are a few kooks in a flat. It is much the same the the Klan. Every so often they will all gather together and shout about niggers on the steps of some town hall, but they are NOT a threat to life an limb. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies do NOT spend an inordinate amount of time foiling Klan plots. They ARE constantly in the process of foiling extremist Muslim plots.

  268. #269 Donalbain
    October 15, 2007

    No. I am not frm NZ, I am from the UK. And I am not defending Christianity. CHristianity is stupid and silly and indeed, its followers would quite like to restrict our liberties in certain ways. However, the threat that Islam poses is greater and enormously more violent.

  269. #270 Ichthyic
    October 15, 2007

    The FBI and other law enforcement agencies do NOT spend an inordinate amount of time foiling Klan plots.

    and how would you know this, exactly?

    Every so often they will all gather together and shout about niggers on the steps of some town hall, but they are NOT a threat to life an limb.

    sure about that, are you?

    suggest you take a gander at some local news in the south for the last 20 years.

    continuing on in your ignorance is not doing well for your image here.

    as to people in the US killed by terrorists… you might want to check out some of the recent school shooting sprees.

    …then of course, you’ll say something even more stupid, like:

    “oh, well those aren’t REAL xians, they’re just nuts.”

    right?

    do recall that I’m reminding you again of the “true scottsman” fallacy here, so you can at least try avoid that one in your ranting.

    holy crap, not only are you ignorant of history AND the present, you continue to make fallacious arguments AND move your goalposts at the same time.

    give it up already. You haven’t the slightest clue what you’re on about.

    It’s like if I started making commentary about the suppression of the Maori in NZ without even having met one.

    can’t you see that’s exactly what you’re doing?

  270. #271 Donalbain
    October 15, 2007

    And Westboro Baptists? They are the small group of kooks who wave annoying, signs and shout things? What do they have to do with a conversation on terrorism?

  271. #272 Ichthyic
    October 15, 2007

    However, the threat that Islam poses is greater and enormously more violent.

    then, are you at least willing to admit this isn’t true INTRINSICALLY?

    that you are arguing from an entirely localized perspective?

    because here in the States, you ARE far more likely to be axed by a xian than a muslim.

    in the middle east, you are far more likely to be axed by a muslim than a xian.

    but the reasoning for the homicidal tendencies in both instances is quite similar in most cases.

    apologies for the NZ mistake; thought you had mentioned that somewhere, but in the UK, you would be a far better judge than I who you fear the most, based on statistics, but you simply cannot overgeneralize the effects of one crazy religion over another.

  272. #273 Ichthyic
    October 15, 2007

    And Westboro Baptists? They are the small group of kooks who wave annoying, signs and shout things? What do they have to do with a conversation on terrorism?

    define terrorism and maybe it will start to become clearer.

    try checking out their website, too.

    terrorism doesn’t just mean “threat of imminent death”, boyo.

  273. #274 Donalbain
    October 15, 2007

    OK.. I give up Ichtthyic. You did read what I said. I spoke of people motivated specifically by their religion. You chose to ignore that. The reason you are more likely to be killed by a Christian in the US is because there are MORE Christians. That does not even come clsoe to addressing the point that I made.

    As to wether Islam is inherently more dangerous than Christianity, I would suggest that it probably is more dangerous NOW. Christianity has essentially been beaten down. It is like a dog that has been partially trained. Islam hasnt been trained like that yet. Mainly because it still has secular power in too many places. One day, Islam will get beaten down.. I am sure of that.

  274. #275 Tom Foss
    October 15, 2007

    Colugo (#252)

    An error is repeatedly being made in these threads, which is that current risk of an American being killed in a terrorist attack is a useful indicator of the scale of the threat of militant Islamism.

    If I were responding to a post regarding the general threat of militant Islamism, you would be correct. On the contrary, I was responding to a claim about one’s likelihood to be killed by someone driven by Islam vs. one’s likelihood to be killed by someone driven by Christianity. These are related, but not identical, matters.

    Icthyic: thanks for the response to that idiotic remark; my post on the subject was held for moderation (it included too many links, methinks). The general jist of it: people bombing abortion clinics and Olympic events, shooting doctors and security guards, and lynching and torching minorities and their public assembly areas, do indeed represent a threat to life and limb. To laugh off such a threat as “8 or 9 kooks living in trailers” is as absurd as laughing off the threat of Muslim terrorists as “8 or 9 barbarians living in caves.”

  275. #276 Donalbain
    October 15, 2007

    Which of the school shootings was motivated by Christianity, rather than insanity? Which one? And the “True Scotsman” fallacy doesnt even come close to applying here, since I never said that Christians dont kill. I am saying that.. ohh you know what.. fuck it.. go back up.. read what I said.

  276. #277 Donalbain
    October 15, 2007

    terrorism (t?r’?-r?z’?m)
    n.
    The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons

    WHEN have the Westboro Baptists ever used or even threatened violence? NEVER. That is not their MO. But, if you think that waving some signs makes you a terrorist, then you dont understand the word and probably shouldnt discuss it.

  277. #278 Ichthyic
    October 15, 2007

    Which one?

    you mean, you don’t know?

    but I thought you were omniscient wrt to the application of evangelical xianity in america?

    And the “True Scotsman” fallacy doesnt even come close to applying here, since I never said that Christians dont kill

    you did indeed try to explain away xian sect killings as “not motivated by xianity”, without even the slightest inkling that you had even examined the cases themselves. The very next step is claiming those responsible are “not true xians”, which is exactly what the Scottsman fallacy consists of as an argument, and is a very common statement from those starting from the position you are espousing. In fact, I was attempting to head you off from going there. IOW, don’t for a second think that the Westboro Baptists are “not true xians”, because that is exactly the argument they make of everyone who doesn’t believe as they do. Moreover, if you look at the whole of Islam, you will find exactly the same kinds of divisions between “moderates” and “extremeists”. The only difference between now, and the times of the crusades, are who is in charge.

    seriously, I can understand, given that you live in the UK, that you have more fear of Muslims than Xians, but really, it has nothing to do with the tenets and trappings of the religions themselves. If you were born in the UK, you grew up in a country with a STATE CHURCH. take a look at how the Anglican church is constructed, and don’t confuse it with the history or application of Xianity as a whole.

    don’t you see how your local experiences have created your projections?

    Can’t you envision similar arguments to yours being rendered in support of the crusades and the inquisition?

    If you can’t concede that you really have no idea of how fundamentalist xianity is just as wrought with the potential for terrorism as fundametalist Islam is, then, like I said, you need to actually spend some time looking at the history of the two religions.

    both Xianity, and Islam are quite similar in how they can be used to motivate violence against “infidels”.

    are you SURE you can’t see how the Westboro Baptists utilize the tenets of Xianity to support their hate crusade?

    are you SURE you can’t relate the same arguments they make to those of the Klan?

    you really can’t see the similarity?

  278. #279 Ichthyic
    October 15, 2007


    WHEN have the Westboro Baptists ever used or even threatened violence?

    BWAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

    you don’t know them very well, do you?

    If you choose to remain ignorant, that’s your business. Good luck with that.

    bye.

  279. #280 Tom Foss
    October 15, 2007

    I actually think Donalbain is (mostly) correct Re: the Westboro Baptists. Fred Phelps, former lawyer, is very careful about keeping things legal–reprehensible, but legal. They applaud and welcome acts of violence, but do not threaten them.

    Donalbain, you’ve shifted from “people motivated by [religion] to kill” to “terrorists.” It really doesn’t matter either way; Christianity-motivated terrorist organizations are still more likely to kill people in the US than Islam-motivated ones. The KKK, while nowhere near the height of their power, has been setting fire to houses as recently as 2005. The Army of God and its affiliates have been involved with numerous bombings and shootings, mostly related to abortion providers (but again, Google “Centennial Olympic Park bombing” to see just how little a threat they pose). These are terrorist organizations motivated by Christianity to kill people. They may not have the body count of 9/11 under their belt, but they are responsible for far more attacks, on far more wide-ranging targets (i.e., not just big monumental buildings in major cities). Based on your initial criteria (from the first two posts on the subject), your claim is quite simply wrong for anyone living in the United States.

  280. #281 Donalbain
    October 15, 2007

    Closing remarks.
    Icthythic: I notice that when asked for examples, you completely fail to provide any. That is a fascinating debate technique, but one that does not tend to convince people. If you have an example of a school shooting being motivated by Christianity, or an example of an act of violence from a Westboro Baptist member, please post it here. I would be truly fascinated to see either.

  281. #282 Arnosium Upinarum
    October 15, 2007

    HP #23 says, “Hitchens hasn’t changed — he has always been like this.”

    This is exactly correct. I am amazed that ANYBODY on ANY side ever bothers listening to that Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde shmuck. He’s a warmongering lunatic. As an ‘atheist’, he’s about as deep as a film of perspiration.

    Sure, he’s got the gift of an occasional delicious turn of phrase, but that’s ALL he’s got. Big effin’ deal.

    Oh, and David Marjanovic? Come on, man. That’s NOT the booze talking. That’s HIM talking, okay? HE is responsible for what he says AND his sobriety too, dammit.

    Yes, yes, of course, chronic boozing turns brains into mush. But there are lots of drunkards who are able to carry on an intelligent conversation. Some of them are far more thoughtful, substantive, pleasant, respectful and non-violent about it than Hitchens – and even know when to shut up when they’ve had enough, unlike Hitchens.

    Yet there are multitudes more who sound like idiots while stoned sober and wouldn’t know how to shut up if their lives depended on it. You want to explain that in terms of some booze correlation too, like, say, a lack of it?

  282. #283 kellbelle1020
    October 15, 2007

    Donalbain: “If you have an example of a school shooting being motivated by Christianity, or an example of an act of violence from a Westboro Baptist member, please post it here. I would be truly fascinated to see either.”

    Well, the Virginia Tech shooter certainly compared himself to Jesus and spoke at length about Christianity in the materials he sent to NBC in between bouts of violence. He arguably had many other psychological problems that motivated him too, but for your point to remain, you’d have to argue that no underlying psychological issues affect Muslim terrorists. Since I know neither the shooter nor any muslim terrorists, I guess I can’t really judge which has(had) greater sway. Perhaps you feel you can?

    As for Fred Phelps, him and his cabal of lawyers make sure he remains in the realm of the law – except, of course, when it comes to child abuse. Some of his children have come forward to expose how horribly he beat them in their youth (or does that not count as an act of violence?): http://www.cjonline.com/stories/072306/loc_phelps.shtml

    Also, a direct quote from Phelps: “The death penalty was violently carried out by God on a massive scale when the biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire and brimstone. I am inclined to the view that the closer man’s laws come to God’s laws, the better off our race will be.” (source: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/michael_haggerty/expose3.htm#CHAPTER%20ONE)

    It is completely ridiculous to argue that Phelps is non-violent. He’s simply trying to make it LEGAL to be that violent, and staying out of jail in the meantime. Is that more or less scary?

    As for death-by-christians being a mere stastistical liklihood rather than the violence being motived by Christianity itself….

    “I knew then I had accomplished my task. I continued to lift my heart to the Lord, thankful for success. I had not failed in my errand and He had not failed me. The Lord had done great things through me.”
    and
    “Much of the joy I felt after shooting the abortionist, and still feel today, is the joy of having freely obeyed Christ after long being enslaved to fearful obedience to men.”

    Said by Paul Hill, after murdering an abortion doctor. (source: http://www.religioustolerance.org/abo_viol.htm)

    I used to live in the UK, and I understand why you’re not particularly afraid of the brand of Christianity most common there. However, the state of affairs here in the US is much much different.

  283. #284 Joseph D'Hippolito
    October 15, 2007

    Alcohol or no alcohol, Hitchens is dead on about several things: The West IS soft on Islam and that this is a clash of civilizations that will ultimately have to be fought militarily, a lot harder than we’re doing now. Of course, that’s not a popular idea. But remember, the fight against Nazism and Fascism also was a “clash of civilizations” that cost hundreds of millions of lives because, during the 1930s, nobody took Hitler and Mussolini seriously (cf, the French failure to move against Hitler’s re-militarization of the Rhineland, the Munich disgrace and the support of many Western intellectuals of totalitarianism as the “wave of the future”). Let’s also not forget that the Cold War was a “clash of civilizations” and was won by the West militarily, essentially (the Soviet regime could not furnish the military or industrial capability to keep up with Pres. Reagan’s idea of space-based missle defense).

    The problem with most in the intelligencia is that they view some things as somehow too quaint and backward to be taken seriously. This was the case with Nazism and Fascism. Also, most in the intelligencia are so “sophisticated” (read: complacent) that they don’t want to fight for anything anymore (cf, the Oxford Union in 1938). Such people believe that all we need to do is “negotiate” with our enemies, and they’ll leave us alone.

    Balderdash! The lives of innocent people are at stake. Are they not worth fighting for?

  284. #285 Joseph D'Hippolito
    October 15, 2007

    I’d also like to take issue with the following comment:

    I think that what is obvious is that most Moslems are primarily interested in living a life of contentment with their families and their work, and that an America committed to slaughter is a tactic that will only convince more of them to join in opposition to us.

    How do we know that the former is true? The highest Muslim religious leaders at al-Azhar, the foremost Sunni seminary in the Muslim world, have failed or refused to issue fatwas condemning bin Laden, Zarahiri, the Palestinian suicide bombers and other Sunni jihadists. Meanwhile, their Shia counterparts have remained silent in the face of Ahmadinejad’s bellicose rhetoric and Iran’s two decades of support for Hezbollah, ostensibly in God’s name.

    If the a religion’s highest leaders will not condemn gratuitous violence performed in that religion’s name against the innocent, then why should the average believer care?

    Regarding the second half of that statement, again, how do we know? What consequences have the Muslim world had to face as a result of the barbarity coming from it? If, for example, their holy places are destroyed and cannot be rebuilt, why would any Muslim bother remaining a Muslim — especially since visiting one of those places, Mecca, is a requirement for any devout Muslim?

  285. #286 the great and powerful oz
    October 15, 2007

    Tom Foss:
    “It was also followed by several rebuttals quite accurately addressing the point (not to toot my own horn or anything) referencing groups like the Army of God, the KKK, and their affiliates (most recently Laura and Icthyic’s posts directly before yours)”

    Those rebuttals were made while I was writing my reply. I already acknowledged that when I wrote this:

    “Anyway, those recent posts that actually list christian terrorist groups make the point better than the previous irrelevant dodges.”

    “Incidentally, I agree that many were missing the point”

    Great. So did Ichthyic. So we’re all in furious agreement, then.
    Thanks for making a valid point. Watching so many people talking past each other was doing my head in.

  286. #287 Prophet "Dude!" Mohammed
    October 15, 2007

    I’m in ur churchez, convrten ur Christizziles.

  287. #288 the great and powerful oz
    October 15, 2007

    “The highest Muslim religious leaders at al-Azhar, the foremost Sunni seminary in the Muslim world, have failed or refused to issue fatwas condemning bin Laden, Zarahiri, the Palestinian suicide bombers and other Sunni jihadists.

    If the religion’s highest leaders will not condemn gratuitous violence performed in that religion’s name against the innocent, then why should the average believer care?”

    Sounds fallacious.

    The highest [American] leaders at [the White House] have failed or refused to issue [anything] condemning [torture].

    If the [government]’s highest leaders will not condemn gratuitous violence performed in that [country]’s name against the innocent, then why should the average [American] care?

  288. #289 JJR
    October 15, 2007

    Sam Harris isn’t quite so blood-lusty, but he tilts the same way as Hitchens.

    I despair watching Freethought prostituted as apologetics for Empire. Screw that.

  289. #290 Colugo
    October 15, 2007

    Well, I despair watching flimsy Chomskyian/Hardt & Negri “anti-imperialism” masquerading as being synonymous with Freethought.

  290. #291 Fastlane
    October 15, 2007

    Hey PZ.

    Had a ball at the meetup, next time, I’ll double the number of reservations!

    I agree about Hitchens, but I was stoked to meet Ellory Schempp.

    I wanted to ask Hitchens whether, to be consistent with his apparent world view, if we should just start lining up al the xians in this country and executing them? I’m afraid, I know what his answer would be.

    As a funny aside, when I got his autograph, I asked him to sign my copy “f*&k you”. He laughed, but then he just signed it.

    Cheers, hope I can make to next year’s convention!

  291. #292 Jim Lippard
    October 15, 2007

    “There are many better ways to get an audience motivated and participatory and included in a conference like this, and I’m afraid the FFRF did very little of them. The audience was a passive entity to be talked to, and little more. Get with it, people!”

    Did you miss “Tunes and Toons” (with Dan Barker and Steve Benson) and the open mike at the membership meeting?

  292. #293 Caledonian
    October 15, 2007

    The highest [American] leaders at [the White House] have failed or refused to issue [anything] condemning [torture].

    If the [government]’s highest leaders will not condemn gratuitous violence performed in that [country]’s name against the innocent, then why should the average [American] care?

    The average American doesn’t care, GAPoz.

  293. #294 Joseph D'Hippolito
    October 16, 2007

    To Caledonian and great and powerful oz: Whatever the Bush Administration has done or failed to do concerning torture does not equate to the desire of Muslim fanatics to murder millions of innocent people to re-establish a totalitarian caliphate that will either murder or enslave those who do not become Muslim.

    Why don’t you ask the victims of Beslan, Madrid, London, Bali and Istanbul, for starter, whether there’s any moral equivalence between the Bush Adminstration and al-Qaeda/Palestinian suicide bombers/Ahmadinejad/Hezbollah/Hamas/etc.?

    Equating suspected terrorists who are incarcerated with Russian schoolchildren, transit passengers or vacationing tourists is not only pureile. It is sick.

    Both of you exemplify the same kind of self-abnegating foolishness that afflicts much of the Western intelligencia: Because we’re not perfect, we have no business standing up to those who would destroy us, let alone criticize them.

    Well, what enables you to practice your ideas freely, huh? Magic? Luck? Evolution (please, if evolution were the answer, then the Nazis and Communists wouldn’t be such recent memories, historically speaking)? It’s the ability of people to recognize threats and fight them — and, if necessary, die fighting them.

    What do you think would happen to the vast majority of correspondents on this thread, let alone the two of you, under a caliphate? Can you spell “genocide,” boys and girls?

  294. #295 Tyler DiPietro
    October 16, 2007

    The idea that rag-tag militias of theocratic ideologues, most of whom have conflicting interests and often oppose each other, are going to establish a caliphate that can challenge, let alone overwhelm, the technological and military superiority of the west is pure foolishness.

  295. #296 C.T.
    October 16, 2007

    Here is another view of the convention and Hitchens’s statements: http://uncrediblehallq.blogspot.com/2007/10/my-notes-on-ffrf-convention.html

  296. #297 the great and powerful oz
    October 16, 2007

    “Whatever the Bush Administration has done or failed to do concerning torture does not equate to the desire of Muslim fanatics to murder millions of innocent people…
    Equating suspected terrorists who are incarcerated with Russian schoolchildren, transit passengers or vacationing tourists is not only pureile. It is sick.”

    Nice strawman.
    If you’d read my post, you’d see that I wasn’t excusing the murder of innocents.

    I was pointing out the flaw in your assertion that all muslims want to harm the innocent, based on the actions of their leaders.

    “Both of you exemplify the same kind of self-abnegating foolishness that afflicts much of the Western intelligencia: Because we’re not perfect, we have no business standing up to those who would destroy us, let alone criticize them.”

    Well, I’m not sure what “self-abnegating” is, but I think you’ll find I never said that.

    I have no problem with pointing out that the Koran, like the Bible, calls for the conversion or destruction of believers.

    It’s your claim that “the average believer” would rather take up arms and go on a killing spree than just getting on with their life that I took issue with.

  297. #298 the great and powerful oz
    October 16, 2007

    oops, unbelievers

  298. #299 Joseph D'Hippolito
    October 16, 2007

    Oz, what I said is that we really don’t know what most Muslims, especially in the West, want. According a Pew poll, about 25 percent of young Muslims in the U.S. would have no problems going on a suicide mission to kill innocents. While 25 percent might not be a majority, it’s too large a percentage to ignore. Besides, those are the 25 percent who are publicly committed to such action. How many others would do something like that yet not publicly admit their desire?

    Look at the raw numbers here:

    http://hotair.com/archives/2007/05/22/pew-poll-of-american-muslims-chock-full-o-nuance/

  299. #300 Darrell Barker
    October 16, 2007

    Being anti-theist is a concept that has real merit. If you are anti-theist in verbal expression, good.

    If you are a Christopher Hitchens type of anti-theist, bad.

    To be vocal, to peacefully protest your opposition towards impositional religions, you’ll find me right next to you, shoulder to shoulder on the anti-religious-war parade wagon.

    Last weekend I was sitting in a meeting of 700 atheists in Madison Wisconsin listening to Hitchens tell we good and thoughful atheists that we should be “ashamed” for not agreeing with him in his nefarious solution to “bomb” the muslim infidels back into the dark ages.

    His sobering “solution” reducing the problem to a “to bomb or not to bomb” situation causes me to be appalled in aghastness.

    To shame us into allignment with his position is just wrong.

    I am anti-theist, I am anti-war but I am also more Pro-thinking, pro-negotiating, pro-creative solutioning and pro-technology. For example, we have “weapons” that can stop the enemy via sound waves, eliminating the need for bombs in certain situations. Hitchen is selling himself short in not exploring other viable solutions, resorting to gross violence.

    How about appeasing the jihadist fundamentalists by giving them what they are asking for: To get the hell out of their affairs and leave their lands and stop meddling in their business. Let’s start there in our anti-theism.

    Meanwhile, let’s get busy, we have fuel cells and solar panels to manufacture.

  300. #301 George Copitsas
    October 16, 2007

    What really annoys me about Hitchens is his pomposity, his “Who are you to disagree with me?” attitude. It seems that there is nobody whose knowledge and expertise is not superceded by Hitchens’ boundless genius. Zinn, Cole, Chomsky, Vidal – leave your accomplishments and honourary degrees at the door, fellas! The guy who got a third class degree from Oxford has spoken, and his stance will not be shaken. So of course he responded to those questioning him from the audience with contempt and condescension. Hitchens does indeed have a religion – bottomless faith in his own infallibility. He is his own Pope. No matter what he would’ve said, be it as extreme and unhinged as what he said here, or even more so, it’s “end of story, no debate, no wiggle room, I’m right, you’re wrong, period”. Any disagreement is uniformly a function of intellectual inferiority or moral confusion of his opponent. “Convictions are more dangerous enemies to truth than lies” – so said a certain Herr Nietzsche, whose words Hitch would be wise to take into account.

  301. #302 JonnyJohnkins
    October 16, 2007

    “What really annoys me about Hitchens is his pomposity, his ‘Who are you to disagree with me?’ attitude. It seems that there is nobody whose knowledge and expertise is not superceded by Hitchens’ boundless genius. Zinn, Cole, Chomsky, Vidal – leave your accomplishments and honourary degrees at the door, fellas! The guy who got a third class degree from Oxford has spoken, and his stance will not be shaken.”

    Hitchens certainly doesn’t attempt to argue from authority when up against those famous academicians. In fact, he doesn’t really ever do that. You’re just imagining it.

  302. #303 eric
    October 16, 2007

    “The guy who got a third class degree from Oxford has spoken, and his stance will not be shaken.”

    Technically, this is innacurate. Degrees from Oxbridge don’t have classes themselves. Honours classes apply to examination results, not to degrees.

  303. #304 Nullifidian
    October 16, 2007

    According a Pew poll, about 25 percent of young Muslims in the U.S. would have no problems going on a suicide mission to kill innocents.

    Wow. You got all that from the poll? What are you, the Amazing Kreskin?

    All I saw was an answer to a question about whether or not suicide bombing was ever justifiable. It said nothing about whether or not they personally would go on a suicide bombing, and said nothing about whether or not the targets were innocent.

    I might answer that question in the affirmative, and I’m not even Muslim. I’m not completely committed to pacifism, and, in the context of an asymmetrical war waged against military and government targets, suicide bombing is often at least as successful as any other form of bombing.

    If one’s mind goes straight to the negative connotations of civilian deaths associated with suicide bombings, one is not only begging the question since the Pew poll didn’t make any mention of targets, contrary to your claim, but is also being hypocritical by ignoring the far larger civilian death toll caused by conventional bombing campaigns.

  304. #305 the great and powerful oz
    October 16, 2007

    Darrell:

    “I am anti-theist, I am anti-war but I am also more Pro-thinking, pro-negotiating, pro-creative solutioning and pro-technology.”

    Great.

    “For example, we have “weapons” that can stop the enemy via sound waves, eliminating the need for bombs in certain situations. Hitchen is selling himself short in not exploring other viable solutions, resorting to gross violence.”

    Woah, there.
    Sure there’s other things to do than bombing people, but using a weapon that doesn’t really exist in any useable form isn’t really one of them.

    “How about appeasing the jihadist fundamentalists by giving them what they are asking for: To get the hell out of their affairs and leave their lands and stop meddling in their business. Let’s start there in our anti-theism.”

    You’re assuming that what the “jihadist fundamentalists” want is for us to “get the hell out of their affairs and leave their lands and stop meddling in their business”.

    Perhaps for the average middle-eastern joe.

    What the jihadist fundamentalists call for however, is global surrender to Islam.

    You don’t have to take my word for it, just go read some fundamentalist propaganda.

  305. #306 Ian Nieves
    October 17, 2007

    My own interpretation of Hitchen’s stance is not that of rabid crusader, but of rational practitioner of the sanguine craft of Realpolitik. Obviously, it’s impractical and irrational to consider simply KILLING 1 billion plus Muslims en masse. However, given the general proclivities
    towards violence and entrenched fanatical mindset that dominate the mainstream Muslim Worldview, its rational to champion initiatives like Iraq that work to degrade the Muslim capacity to organize violent action on a large,united scale. Also, the most virulent practitioners of Jihad,
    especially would-be nuclear Jihadis, must simply be eliminated, without apology!

    Obscene as it may sound at the start, the intellectual denouement from present Middle East religious wars may ultimately benefit humanity. Consider that the senseless slaughter of the European Reformation Wars
    served to discredit the most fanatical strains of Catholicism and Protestantism and laid fertile ground for the Enlightenment. The madness of the Thirty Years War made Voltaire and Diderot possible. Similarly,
    many have reconsidered their allegiance to religion in the aftermath of the Faith-Based Initiative of 9/11. Current and future clashes between Muslim Jihad fanatics and American Evangelical Christian Chialists may serve to discredit religious extremism on a global scale. A popular urban
    legend from the First World War tells of English and German soldiers meeting on the battlefield, and, amid the carnage and folly, discovering their common humanity and purging their psyches of the poisons of rabid nationalism and bigotry. Perhaps as we speak, Jihadis from Afghanistan
    and Falwell-inspired latter-day crusaders from the American Heartland are questioning their own commitments to religious folly on Middle Eastern battlefields.

  306. #307 Brownie
    October 17, 2007

    Thanks Will, for the link to his speech on YouTube, but unfortunately they seem to be incomplete. The parts that PZ describes are not on there, at least not yet. It’d be great if they were posted so we could have a record of what he said.

    All 5 parts are on there. The fact that you cannot find the parts PZ Meyers “describes” speaks for itself, does it not?

    I fear Mr. Meyers must have attended a different meeting. That’s my charitable interpretation, at any rate.

  307. #308 Mark Fournier
    October 17, 2007

    I like Hitchens, but I think he is a romantic rather than a realist, and as such, values moral purity over practical results. I think this is part of his visceral reaction to Kissinger (although its hard not to object to someone that Machiavellian)–it isn’t just a difference in goals, but in style. Kissinger was a strategist, who played to win. Hitchens doesn’t actually seem to care about winning, as long as he’s fighting the good fight. As a result, considerations of strategy seem morally reprehensible to him, because they lack the directness of just charging in for the cause.

    Of course, as you have probably all noticed, moral purity leads to moral travesty. Strategy means not only considering the means, but first, of being sure of your goals, of defining what victory means and figuring out how to achieve it. Carpet bombing the middle east is not a part of any winning strategy, even if your goal is to defeat Islam. Hitchens heart is in the right place, but he has to get his head there too.

  308. #309 Richard Prins
    October 17, 2007

    PZ’s write-up of Hitchens’ speech featured here today.

  309. #310 Richard Prins
    October 17, 2007

    Oops, linkie no workie. Should be: http://www.antiwar.com/justin/?articleid=11768

  310. #311 Terry
    October 17, 2007

    Why is it just fine for Hitchens to criticize Christianity, especially the fundamentalist brand, but not Islam? Where I live there are plenty of Christian churches. When someone gets on the bus, I don’t generally worry about them setting off a bomb. If there was a mosque on every corner, I’d worry about that bomb a little bit more. Back in the eighties, that Andres Serrano had his great work of art Piss Christ. I do remember Christians being outraged. I don’t know remember any violent protests like when those cartoons of Muhammad were published in Holland. Do you really think if the west withdrew from the Muslim world they’d be satisfied? If there was a true Palestinian state? Can you educate and enlighten someone like bin Laden? People willing to kill themselves and others because they believe it’s the will of Allah, and they’ll get into Paradise in the bargain? Could you have educated and enlightened the Taliban? They have a problem with flying kites and they wear beards so they won’t be mistaken for women. Would you have killed those nineteen hijackers to prevent the attacks on September 11th 2001? Would you actually fight, for anything? The Iraq war? A mistake to invade in the first place; a horrendous mistake the way it was carried out. And of course a big part of it is about oil. How many of us don’t use oil and gasoline? I’ve rambled long enough.

  311. #312 Arun
    October 18, 2007

    As long as no one says Hitchens isn’t a real atheist 🙂

  312. #313 some guy
    October 18, 2007

    “said that it was obvious that every Moslem you kill means there is one less Moslem to fight you …..”

    I was shocked when I read that, since I’ve admired Hitchens for a long time, and it didn’t sound like something he’d say. I found all the footage I could of his FFRF talk, and I haven’t been able to find any evidence that he said anything this bad. You’re making a pretty serious charge here, saying that he advocated genocide… I hope you can back it up. He’s been known to sue people for libel in the past (he sued Kissinger for calling him a holocaust denier).

  313. #314 George Carty
    October 19, 2007

    Alcohol or no alcohol, Hitchens is dead on about several things: The West IS soft on Islam and that this is a clash of civilizations that will ultimately have to be fought militarily, a lot harder than we’re doing now.

    What is your suggested plan of action?

    Remember that Islamism isn’t like Nazism – a pure ideology of conquest which only has popular support as long as it is winning and bringing in loot. (Not to mention that we could deter post-1945 Germans from attacking us by threatening to throw them to the Soviet wolves.)

    It isn’t like Soviet Communism either – which was a criminal conspiracy ruling an unwilling people by terror. The only popular Communist regimes were in Cuba and Vietnam, and they gained legitimacy by fighting against American imperialism (and French imperialism in the case of the Vietnamese).

    Before European colonialism, Shari’ah was the rule, not the exception in the Islamic world.

  314. #315 Darrell Barker
    October 20, 2007

    “said that it was obvious that every Moslem you kill means there is one less Moslem to fight you …..”

    I was shocked when I read that, since I’ve admired Hitchens for a long time, and it didn’t sound like something he’d say. I found all the footage I could of his FFRF talk, and I haven’t been able to find any evidence that he said anything this bad. You’re making a pretty serious charge here, saying that he advocated genocide… I hope you can back it up. He’s been known to sue people for libel in the past (he sued Kissinger for calling him a holocaust denier).

    He said such, in so many words, after his FFRF speech during the Q&A session and said it in a demeaning way to the Questioner at the mic.

  315. #316 E
    October 21, 2007

    I was shocked at some syntax in the main article: “…the way athiests ought to end religion in America…” forget the segments before and after this snippet. That these nine words would be part of any question betrays less than wholesome motives amongst athiesm’s rank and file. Athiests, as “brights”, “higher primates”, “evolutionary illuminati”, whatever, should not aim to do anything but refine their tools of science and the means of expressing their findings. Are there any examples within evolution of an evolved portion of a particular population convincing the rest of their poor, obsolete brethren to add an extra flipper, or plaster some kind of film over their eyes, or walk upright? If athiests know the truth, as indeed they and evangelical Christians claim, their only obligation is to live by that truth. Neither party should traipse around brandishing truth sticks and beating non-believers of any kind into submission. Remember, not only is it possible to believe or not believe, it is also possible not to give a damn one way or the other.

  316. #317 Robert Halfhill
    October 23, 2007

    Hitchens claim that every Muslim you kill is one less Muslim who can attack you assumes that ALL Muslims are jihadists who are ready and willing to kill any infidel they can in response to Allah’s command. As to someone else’s statement that the conflict with Islam is not comparable to the nuclear standoff with the communists (actually Stalinists – RH) because the Muslims are not afraid to die since they believe they will continue living in paradise, 100% of the Muslims are not suicidal. Like most Christians, most Muslims do not believe strongly enough to actually test that belief. If most of them did, the Iranians would have thrown themselves against the nuclear armed Soviet Union when the USSR invaded another Muslim country, Afghanistan. They would have attacked the USSR secure in the belief that Allah would intervene to give them victory, or, if not, they would still live on in paradise even if Allah, for His unknowable reasons, let them be destroyed in this world. The fact that they did not proves conclusively that, in spite of their religious fanaticism, they were no more willing to court death than fanatical Christians. When the Spaniards drove the Muslims out of Grenada in 1492, most Muslim left in accordance with the peace agreement, although a suicidal minority remained behind to throw themselves against the entering Spaniards.
    As for the poor fool who said we were diminishing the power of the Muslims to attack us when we invaded Iraq, all specialists in Muslim affairs agreed that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida were mortal enemies. And no evidence of WMD’s in Iraq has turned up since the U.S. invasion.
    And someone actually said that we didn’t know the Muslims well enough to know they would hate and attack us after well killed Muslims. When you kill a Muslim, jihadist or not, you have killed somebody’s son, father, or brother or sister. And when you bomb or fight pitched battles in an area, you have killed somebody’s mother, wife, sister or daughter as well. I do not think I am making an unproven assertion when I conclude that when you kill one homocidal Muslim, you have created several more who will hate and try to kill you.
    I would aggree that you have to defend yourself when attacked, even if deadly force if necessary. If anyone had been present when the Muslim immigrant killed the great granson of Vincent Van Gogh, they would have been justified in using force to stop him, even killing him if necessary. We don’t want his kind in our countries. But when Hitchens advocates mass slaughter of Muslims, and he does when he says we have to kill so many of them that the rest are afraid to attack us, we would only end up with many more Muslims trying to kill us.
    One final point. The point is that calling Hitchens a drunk is irrelevant to the arguments for or against his position, just as his telling people they are stupid is irrelevant to the arguments for and against their position. He could be a drunk and his position right or sober and his position wrong. Or he could be sober and right or drunk and wrong (which is the one actually true). You would not have proved that the Sun revolves around the earth if you could prove that Copernicus was a drunk, or that the earth is flat if Columbus was a drunk. That may be relevant to their fitness for employment but not to the soundness of their arguments.

  317. #318 David Zugman
    October 23, 2007

    Being the 309th commenter puts me in poor stead to be read and I haven’t gone through all the comments, but I feel this must be added. I’ve read most of what Hitchens has written on the middle east (which is no small task.) Those who think he wants to kill all Muslims confuses the desire to destroy a mode of thinking (Islam) with the persons who think that way. What Hitchens was saying was that as currently constituted, radical-jihadism is not amenable to negotiation or placation. They want to fight and fight them we must.
    Hitchens is no racist or advocate of genocide. Some of his most effusive writing is about his time with the Kurds of Northern Iraq, how we shouldn’t abandon them (again), and about how the secular left in both Iran and Iraq deserve a life without cruel dictators or the psychopathic lifestyle of radical Islam. His argument is about an absolute war with totalitarianism. Were this the 1940’s, you would understand the difference between smashing Nazism and smashing Germans and for those of you who don’t appreciate the parallel, you really are simply uninformed.

  318. #319 Allan Rosewarne
    October 26, 2007

    Regarding Hitchens, was he intoxicated during his time at this conference? His bellicosity and hostility are noticeably effected by his sobriety; example, an episode during Bill Maher’s HBO show in spring 2006, he was very obviously in some altered state and not sober, he repeatedly gave ‘the finger’ to Maher’s audience, called them f*****g idiots often, there’s a counter example, a recent interview on CSPAN cable where he seemed as sober as a Baptist deacon, and his bellicosity was noticeability reduced.

    Regarding his current position, unless wants to euphemistically explain away his rhetoric, they are genocidal towards world Islam. He actively says we should kill Moslems until they are no longer a threat to the West.

    YMMV.

  319. #320 G. Jetson
    October 26, 2007

    Free thought! Hah. None here. “Agree with me or move on” “He’s a drunk” “He’s insane”

  320. #321 hexag1
    November 9, 2007

    PZ,
    The full FFRF speech by Hitchens is now available online for all to see.
    You could hardly be more mistaken in your summary of Hitchens’ position:

    Basically, what Hitchens was proposing is genocide. Or, at least, wholesale execution of the population of the Moslem world until they are sufficiently cowed and frightened and depleted that they are unable to resist us in any way, ever again.

    Seriously, how did you take that from the speech he gave? Go ahead, watch it again:
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4160168770758983240&q=hitchens+ffrf&total=16&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=6
    The Iraq comments are in parts 5,6, & 7

    I’m starting to think that you were the inebriated one. Its almost as if you didnt listen to Hitch at all.

  321. #322 Mel
    November 28, 2008

    Seriously PZ, what a shame, instead of listening to Hitchens confronting some pacifist do-gooders with their naive fallacies on world politics you didn’t think twice to parrot some lubricious phrases you heard from his leftist former colleagues from the nation.

    Hitchens always distinguishes between “jihadists” and Muslims, something you seem not to gasp at all (as you apparently prefer to toy around with the term “genocide” like a moron and political illiterate).

    I already lost quite some respect when you started your infantile “wafer-fuss-campaign” a shame for every atheist that truly gives something about religious tolerance and something that you for sure would not try with anything that’s holy for Islam (why?). But the pope is not OBL or Mahmoud A. and not a mass-murderer and thus shall not be trivialized with drivel of yours like those two.

    This now did it for me, especially because I had to find this post on some Leninists’ web-site.

  322. #323 PZ Myers
    November 28, 2008

    Right. He can distinguish between them, which was why he was advocating a bombing campaign against Iran…because bombs are very clever, and would only blow up jihadists.

    And jebus, could you clueless morons knock it off with the fatwa envy?

  323. #324 Mel
    November 29, 2008

    It’ll stop when you earned your fatwa. Try it, it’s much easier than with all the other religions. I heard Michael Jackson converted to Islam that’s a nice starting point. When you made it in a press release of CAIR raging about your “islamophobia” you did it right.

    hexag1 already pointed your words vs. Hitchens actual words (the link works!) if you disagree with his assessment that we are in a war that might need difficult decisions (as to threaten with force so that the Islamist regime in Iran refrain from arming itself with nuclear bombs) you could have said so but you didn’t. Maybe you didn’t want to make a complete fool out of yourself in saying something like “we should leave those Mullahs alone so that they are not angry with us”.
    Instead you said (as a reminder):

    “Basically, what Hitchens was proposing is genocide. Or, at least, wholesale execution of the population of the Moslem world until they are sufficiently cowed and frightened and depleted that they are unable to resist us in any way, ever again.”

    Which is simply a wrong and foolish and fatuous thing to say. I thus think “clueless liberal” might describe you better than “godless” one.

  324. #325 Nerd of Redhead
    November 29, 2008

    Mel, you are a clueless idiot. Listen to PZ. He makes sense, unlike you.

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