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Christopher Hitchens – (1949 – 2011) was a British/American leftist journalist, author, anti-totalitarian and popularizer of anti-theism. Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it. 

Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens, philosopher of the persuading non-theist left

Sources for quotations: WikiQuotes, GoodReads, EGS, BrainyQuotes, Patheos; YouTube – watch all 8 videos


Quotations from Christopher Hitchens

Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it. 

Forgotten were the elementary rules of logic, that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and that what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.

What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.

Terrorism is the tactic of demanding the impossible, and demanding it at gunpoint.

The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.

By trying to adjust to the findings that it once tried so viciously to ban and repress, religion has only succeeded in restating the same questions that undermined it in earlier epochs. What kind of designer or creator is so wasteful and capricious and approximate? What kind of designer or creator is so cruel and indifferent? And—most of all—what kind of designer or creator only chooses to “reveal” himself to semi-stupefied peasants in desert regions?

Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody—not even the mighty Democritus who concluded that all matter was made from atoms—had the smallest idea what was going on. It comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge (as well as for comfort, reassurance, and other infantile needs). Today the least educated of my children knows much more about the natural order than any of the founders of religion.

Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith. We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason. We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, openmindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake.

If religious instruction were not allowed until the child had attained the age of reason, we would be living in a quite different world.

I try to deny myself any illusions or delusions, and I think that this perhaps entitles me to try and deny the same to others, at least as long as they refuse to keep their fantasies to themselves.

Faith is the surrender of the mind; it’s the surrender of reason, it’s the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals. It’s our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated.

Name me an ethical statement made or an action performed by a believer that could not have been made or performed by a non-believer.

Take the risk of thinking for yourself, much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way.

Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.

MT [ Mother Teresa ] was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.

If all religions died out, or were admitted to be false, all of our problems would be exactly what they are now: How do we live with one another? Where, indeed, do morals and ethics come from? What are our duties to one another? How shall we build the just city? How shall we practice love? All these questions would remain exactly the same. Emancipate yourself from the idea of a celestial dictatorship and you’ve taken the first step to becoming free.

The only real radicalism in our time will come as it always has — from people who insist on thinking for themselves and who reject party-mindedness.

The enormous dynamic and creative, as well as destructive energy of capitalism… is written up with more praise and more respect by Marx and Engels in the 1848 Communist Manifesto than probably by anyone since. I don’t think anyone has ever said so precisely and with such awed admiration how great capitalism is, how inventive, how innovative, how dynamic, how much force of creativity it unleashes.

It [Obama’s Nobel peace prize] would be like giving someone an Oscar in the hope that it would encourage them to make a decent motion picture.

Is there anything that is forbidden to anybody who says they have God on their side? Who says they have God with them? Is there any evil that they forbid themselves to do?

I shall simply say that those who offer false consolation are false friends.

Atheists have always argued that this world is all that we have, and that our duty is to one another to make the very most and best of it.

Religious exhortation and telling people, telling children, that if they don’t do the right thing, they’ll go to terrifying punishments or unbelievable rewards, that’s making a living out of lying to children. That’s what the priesthood do. And if all they did was lie to the children, it would be bad enough. But they rape them and torture them and then hope we’ll call it ‘abuse’.

There is not a single world religion which doesn’t hold women in contempt. Even Buddha was apparently born from a slit in his mother’s side, anything but the filth and disgust of having to contemplate the female reproductive system. Yet again, anything but the vagina. Disgust for females, contempt for females, revulsion from menstrual blood and the female reproductive system. What could be more obviously man-made than this, and made in a barbaric period even in the history of the male sex?


COMMENTS on Christopher Hitchens quotations

Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it. Many philosophers and others have made similar statements but they have missed why the statement is valid. The underlying reason could not have been known before evolutionary theory was in place, but with the observation of the power of repeated selection placed on a living system, it becomes clear that humans are decent and learn morality easily because our ancestors valued these qualities and chose mates who possessed them.

There is nothing more; but I want nothing more. That was Hitchens’ attitude toward his life, and which denied an emotional need for an afterlife, or for a heavenly reward. It might be fun to live a few more alternate lives, like we already do in the various media, but to live an infinity of them, especially within the confines of an emotionally shallow heaven would be hell. Isn’t it strange there are so few movies placed within heaven? I’ve never encountered one – a few comic skits, Monty Python perhaps. Atheists have always argued that this world is all that we have, and that our duty is to one another to make the very most and best of it. Life is varied in the problems that come to us, but they come to us in a form that we have been prepared for by evolution, by experience and by reality to participate in. It is the participation in life that is our ultimate opportunity, and the source of our contentment.

I shall simply say that those who offer false consolation are false friends. This is a profound condemnation of religion, because the generation of hope in fantastic things deprives individuals in need of true hope in realistic ones. When people are distracted from reality their relationship with it and with their own selves is degraded. Hitchens emphasized this idea with, Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others.

Take the risk of thinking for yourself; much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way. That is great advice, but it is difficult to apply as nearly all of our behavior goes on automatically, and the only effective option we have is to modify our habits on those few opportunities that present themselves. This ability is at the heart of Jesus’ teaching, and all the rest is commentary. “What men should do to you, you do to them.” The operative word is should, and that comes to helping them to their highest self-chosen destination, and that is the essence of kindness to others, and the practice of that habit of kindness trains all your habits toward yourself.