1130 Christopher Hitchens


I have a short list of public figures that I use to inform myself and my beliefs. Christopher Hitchens is at the top, right after Jiddu Krishnamurti, and on par with Stephen Fry. The others are Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, as well as Dan Dennett; these - writers, journos, polemicists - stand alongside scientists like Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawkins, Brian Cox, Paul Davies and Carl Sagan.

In November 2010 Christopher Hitchens, then dying of cancer, gave this interview to Jeremy Paxman. Filmed at Hitchens's home in New York, it was a wide-ranging discussion, with Hitchens characteristically unflinching in his exploration of contemporary controversies, as well as his own illness and death.

In the interview Hitch debunks the 'mystery' of Mother Theresa (she was morally wrong, in as much as she exercised control over women's bodies, denying them birth control and abortions), talks about why it would have been inconceivable - even immoral - to allow Saddam Hussein to remain in power, and - as an aside - says that conflicts are desirable. He also puts us straight on the issue of Pascal's Wager, which inspired me to add an essay to my book, PASCAL's WAGER

Says Hitch:

The wager involves a very cynical God, and a rather stupid one, who'll say, “ah, I noticed you made a profession of faith just there and I also - because I’m God - I know why you did, because you want to win favor with me. Well that’s fine, you will therefore get it.” That seems to me a rather contemptible thing and necessarily therefore to entail a rather contemptible human being, who says, "I don’t really believe this, I have no faith, but what can I lose by pretending to God that I do ... I might get a break." I mean, this is pretty low, isn’t it? If I’m surprised to find (God) when I pass on … I would say, “I hope you noticed that I didn’t try and curry favor. That I was honestly unable to believe in the claims made by your human spokespersons. Now, do I get any understanding?" And if that doesn’t work, well then I don’t know what would. But I’m not gonna try being servile. I’m resolved on that point.

Furthermore - truly in form here - Hitch justifies ridiculing religions.

Still furthermore, the video below is a talk and Q and A; to begin with about his book God Is Not Great (do I need to insert there, his "excellent" book? Certainly not) then a discussion about religion per se. One question dealt with here is: "Where would our morals come from, if not from God?"


Also, “The human need for the transcendent, for the spiritual is undeniable, but that’s not the supernatural. It’s very important to understand that. The feeling that people get out of landscape and music, or landscape and music in combination, had extraordinary consequences for many people. These are things we can’t do without ... but that’s no reason to deem them supernatural.”