June 1, 2006

WHY PERSECUTETH THOU ME? (via Brandon Heathcotte):

The world according to Hitch: What’s a pro-war, anti-abortion, religion-hating Darwinist doing in the Bush camp, or any camp? (Mindy Belz, 6/03/06, WORLD)

Unlike other expat legends—rock stars Bono and Neil ("Shock & Awe") Young come to mind—who fashion themselves as U.S. foreign policy experts while keeping their citizenship and their vote elsewhere, Mr. Hitchens had a change of heart after terrorists attacked New York and Washington. He watched the Pentagon burn from the rooftop of his apartment in northern Virginia and later lost a mailman to anthrax. So one day this month he will walk into a government office just outside Washington, pledge his allegiance to the United States of America, and become a citizen.

"I realized that when I was reading arguments after 9/11 that said there was the American view and there was the European view—that sort of tripe—that as far as I could tell the American view is the one that I took. I felt a much stronger identification than I had before," Mr. Hitchens tells WORLD. "Before I was ready to curse alone. I was an outsider in both countries. But it felt like, feels like, is a gesture of solidarity."

Solidarity with what, exactly, in a country cleanly divided over war in Iraq and led by a president whose policy toward terrorism has dropped his poll numbers into the dustbin?

"It's fallen on the United States to be the country that resists the renewal of barbarism, of religious barbarism in the world," Mr. Hitchens answers. "It doesn't particularly want the job, it doesn't do it terribly well—and I think would have escaped it if it could—but there's something about the United States that makes it both hated and antagonistic to this barbarism." He adds, "If one wants to defend the deployment of forces of fellow citizens, one probably ought to be a fellow citizen."

As a journalist Mr. Hitchens extensively covered the Bosnian war and the Gulf War, yet describes 9/11 as "an exhilarating moment" because it crystallized his views. "Everything I hate is on one side, and everything I love is on the other. I'm never going to get bored with this."

What does he hate?

"Religion. I quite simply identify it with barbarism and backwardness and human stupidity. The methods of theocracy in action are a cult of death." The jihadists, he says, "say they love death more than we love life, and we have to prove that wrong. They're right on the first; they love murder, in which they exult, and suicide, in which they take pride." Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, he says, want to turn the Islamic world back to the seventh century and take the West with them. "Opposed to these and hated by them is scientific inquiry and philosophical inquiry, the emancipation of women, the secular state, and other very hard-won achievements of civilization. And it's good to be reminded they are fragile, they can be destroyed. We can be pushed back into the childhood of our species again."

The beauty of which is that the commentators were all writing that what divides America from Europe is their secularism and our Judeo-Christianity. We all know which side he picked, even if he can't yet accept what he's become.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 1, 2006 10:50 AM

In 2002 you made the bold prediction that he would be a "Catholic in five years." No movement yet.

Posted by: Paul Cella at June 1, 2006 11:10 AM

No movement? He already became an American and a Christian-by-proxy. The Catholicism bit's a small step comparatively.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 11:18 AM

America, except for the idolators, is not a religion. Nor is she a doctrine or a creed. She is a place and a people, some of whom of are of the constitution of mind to construct and debate creeds and doctrines -- but most of whom, mercifully, are not.

You have made this point about American anti-intellectualism repeatedly and with cogency. You have never even attempted to reconcile it with your concurrent belief in a purely Rationalistic notion of what America is.

Hitchens still professes to hate religion; to regard it as "barbarism and backwardness and human stupidity." I'll leave it to your Freudian talents to convert such remarks into "Christianity-by proxy."

To be sure, there have been stranger conversions in history; we're just not seeing any signs of one yet in this case.

Posted by: Paul Cella at June 1, 2006 11:33 AM

America isn't Rationalist, it's Religious, and trying to keep people out of such a univeralist belief system is as futile as trying to stop folks from becoming Christians. Just as you can't be a good Christian and deny another the right to join you so you can't be a good American and deny them their right to be one too.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 11:47 AM

America the Proposition is as Rationalist a dogma as one could imagine.

Your analogy with Christianity is brassbound. A good Christian is obligated to deny that someone who will not submit to the Lordship of Christ is, in fact, a Christian. Similarly, a good American is obligated to deny that someone who will not submit to the sovereignty of our laws is, in fact, an American. This difficulty can only be escaped by Rationalizing America into a mere chimera which has existence only in the minds of glib New Hampshire bloggers who have, despite their Rationalism, done some fine work -- including the book linked to on the left.

Posted by: Paul Cella at June 1, 2006 12:05 PM


Close, a good Christian is obligated to admit that a person who shares his beliefs is a Christian just as a good American is obligated to admit that a person who shares his beliefs is American. Sovereignty belongs to God, not men. An immoral law imposes no obligation on anyone.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 12:15 PM

Hitch is more than a few years off, but Fallaci was at least as strident in her atheism not too long ago, and she'll obviously join the Church before she goes (if she hasn't already, during her not-too-secret meeting with Benedict). You don't use the rhetoric against God that they do if you don't believe He exists...

Posted by: b at June 1, 2006 12:20 PM

In short, beliefs make one an American. The nature of America is Rationalist. QED.

If there is not human sovereignty -- derivative but real -- then there can be no legitimate regime but the theocratic.

Posted by: Paul Cella at June 1, 2006 12:24 PM


I don't deny that it's possible. I deny that it is (as yet) accomplished.

George Santayana died an unbeliever (so far as I know), but never abandoned his affection for Catholicism.

Posted by: Paul Cella at June 1, 2006 12:25 PM

Which is why church arson is so common.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 12:26 PM


No, not beliefs generically, but the specifically anti-rational faith that:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

It is because there is no rational way to arrive at such a belief that America is so much different than the rest of the world, the only country premised on pure faith. To deny that faith is anti-American.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 12:29 PM

That was an argument for Rationalists. And a powerful one indeed.

But the first four words of that marvelous passage are the most important because they announce the sovereignty of an already-extant community. The community was not created by the affirmation of beliefs; the beliefs emerged from the organic life of that community. And the beliefs cannot preserve the community; only the loyalty of its members can do that.

That loyalty is being subverted by the decay of the robust Rationalism of the eighteenth century into the pitiful thing of our day.

Posted by: Paul Cella at June 1, 2006 12:45 PM

No, the Rationalist argument is for a discrete community, which is why nationalism is always racist (Ein Reich, Ein Volk, etc.]. The American faith is Judeo-Christian, universalist, and anti-rational. You've elevated loyalty to "a people" above your moral obligation to God and His Creations.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 12:57 PM

An American, unaffiliated with any other church, is a crypto-Christian. It may, though, be so hidden that the believer denies it to himself.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 1, 2006 12:59 PM

Though it's obvious to others. You can't be a bad American and a good Christan or vice versa.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 1:05 PM

I'm a pretty bad Christian.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 1, 2006 1:26 PM

No, American Jews are bad Jews. We Reformed Judaism.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 1:29 PM

The argument for a "discrete community" is hardly Rationalist. It is anti-Rationalist. It is based on a organic, concrete entity, as opposed to abstractions.

The fact that it can so easily be traduced as "racism" to prefer one's own community to another community, is as good indicator of the triumph of Rationalism as we have.

Only from the position of universalizing Rationalism can it be argued that because a man prefers his own community, therefore he must despise other communities.

Did not Oakeshott himself teach that "To be conservative, then, is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, ... the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant.... Familiar relationships and loyalties will be preferred to the allure of more profitable attachments; to acquire and to enlarge will be less important than to keep, to cultivate and to enjoy; the grief of loss will be more acute than the excitement of novelty or promise"?

But then, he must have been a racist.

"It is not monarchy or aristocracy against which the modern spirit fights, but loyalty," wrote Brownson.

Posted by: Paul Cella at June 1, 2006 1:31 PM

Only a very bad Christian would call himself a good Christian.

Posted by: Paul Cella at June 1, 2006 1:33 PM


Exactly. The belief in an organic/concrete community is the root of racism. It's materialist/rationalist. Similarly, your belief that people who think exactly as you do are irremediably different than you and unknowable can be rooted in their ethnicity alone.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 1:39 PM

The notion that we don't know who's a good Christian and who's a bad one is facile multi-culti nonsense.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 1:40 PM

Two nice little non sequiturs there.

(1) I have never said anything about "irremediable differences" or "unknowable" people. That I may have much in common with Mexican or Indian Christians is no argument for me to transfer my loyalty to Mexico or India; much less for me to counsel them to obliterate the sovereignty of their countries in order to accomodate me.

(2) I never said we cannot know who is a good Christian. I merely reaffirmed the danger of pride. I might even have adduced an obscure Christian writer (of my namesake) of the first century, who referred to himself as the "chief of sinners."

Posted by: Paul Cella at June 1, 2006 1:53 PM

Yes, sinning doesn't make someone a bad Christian. Advocating sin does.

If your community is those who share your faith then what is it? Your answer is purely material, rather than spiritual.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 1:59 PM

Lots of atheists of my acquaintance are very good Christians.

I consider myself a bad Christian. God help me if I ever think I am a good one.

Oriana Fallaci calls herself a "Christian Atheist;" seems like she could co-found a transitional "order" with Hitchens and maybe Tony Blair. Could be powerful. Call themselves the "Self-Evidents."

Posted by: Je at June 1, 2006 2:03 PM

Yes, America requires such extraordinary levels of conformity that even putative atheists are often de facto Christians.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 2:07 PM

Good God, man, will you abandon every Conservative principle in order to defend this lunacy? What about the principle of variety, as against, as Kirk put it, "narrowing uniformity"?

Manifestly men are members of several different communities at once.

There is only one spiritual community -- the church. But we will not really know this community in this life. Instead we are called to join in a material manifestation of that community, which is our local church. As it happens, my local church includes both Mexicans and Indians. To this community I owe a duty of loyalty, which is to be discharge with reference to real people, not abstractions. When I became a member, I pledged to "submit to the government and discipline" of the church.

I also owe a duty of loyalty to my neightborhood, my city, my state, my country. The latter duty (to country) includes that I do not advocate the subversion of her laws and agitate for the disintegration of her integrity as a sovereign nation.

Your intransigent insistence on an opposition between spiritual and material is, in effect, a denial of the doctrine of the Incarnation. The spiritual world entered the world of flesh, God became man, and the material world has never been the same since.

Posted by: Paul Cella at June 1, 2006 2:20 PM

If a Mexican Christian shows up at your church you welcome him as a brother, but if you could stop him at the border you would.

That latter bit is perfectly rational, just evil.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 2:26 PM

Every Border Patrolman who performs the job he has sworn to, is evil. The border itself is evil. And the right to gain entry into the United States is God-given to every man on earth. More than that, anyone who opposes this program of subversion, disloyalty and treason is anti-American.

Fortunately, despite the bulls of Pope Orrin, Christianity does not enjoin the dispossession of the country.

Posted by: Paul Cella at June 1, 2006 2:44 PM

There were plenty of good Germans who collaborated in the evil of Nazism. Nor is it any surprise that our Border Patrol was created during the Darwinist/Eugenicist heyday.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 2:48 PM

And thus, in the end, ideology issues in madness. The Border Patrol as Nazis.

Posted by: Paul Cella at June 1, 2006 2:52 PM

Not all Germans were Nazis, but the regime was. Our immigration regime is similarly Applied Darwinist, as well as anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic in origin.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 3:01 PM

I'm also in favor of open borders, but aren't you exaggerating a bit? There's a difference between a mistaken policy and an evil policy.

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at June 1, 2006 3:57 PM

A policy need not be as evil as Nazi exterminationism in order to be evil, though our abortion policy is close.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 4:01 PM

The debate about Christianity confounds me. Good Christian -- bad Christian. Can a Jew or a Hindu be a good Christian? Is a good Christian similar to the Confucian ideal of the Superior Man who embodies all the virtues?

I think I understand what it means to be a good American and I work at that every single day.

Posted by: erp at June 1, 2006 6:16 PM

erp, Can't speak for OJ, but maybe one of his points is that many folks who don't think of themselves as Christian are perhaps better Chhristians than those who profess to be. "I yam what I yam", no matter if I know it or not.

Posted by: jdkelly at June 1, 2006 7:59 PM

Yes, in America the Jews and Hindus have been molded into good Christians.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 8:17 PM

I would say that you can't be a Christian of any sort if you actively deny Jesus' divinity, which lets out the Jews and Muslims. Atheists, though, don't deny Jesus' divinity specifically, they just deny the concept of divinity. So, in the US, the end up living as Christians do. They don't turn the other cheek, but they do put up a tree in December and take the 25th off. They say that they derive their morality independently but, hey what a coincidence, it's 97% Christian morality, plus sex and tolerance. They believe in the generic American religion, with its Santa God and First and Only Commandment: Thou Shall Not Be Mean To Those Less Fortunate Than Thyself.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 1, 2006 10:14 PM

> Yes, sinning doesn't make someone a bad Christian. Advocating sin does.

OJ, I've been reading the site for some time and this line of argument -- while it's undeniably appealing -- isn't familiar to me (though I can think of various New Testament passages that could be read that way: Paul on eating meat sacrificed to idols; the one unforgivable sin being blasphemy against the Holy Spirit; etc.). Could you elucidate?

Posted by: Guy T. at June 1, 2006 10:17 PM

And as good as accept Christ's divinity. America has made Jews acquiesce in the notion that Christ brought Judaism to the gentiles. Thus the ease with which Christmas is accepted. He is divine as to Christians.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 10:46 PM


I'm merely saying that as a function of being Fallen we all have to recognize that we'll sin no matter how hard we try not to. What is evil is to advocate that folks sin. Jean Valjean can be forgiven more easily than Peter Singer.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2006 10:51 PM

Makes sense to me. Thanks for the reply!

Posted by: Guy T. at June 2, 2006 7:02 AM

Has anyone actually read the article? Hitch states that he is anti-abortion (aesthetically, intuitively, and so a tiny bit of reflection should tell him what that means), thinks that the debate over ID should be taught, and states that it is crucial that he teach his children about the Bible. He's just a Christian fundie who still humorously insists on his teenage self-image as a "contrarian"...

Posted by: b at June 2, 2006 2:02 PM

What Hitch is reacting to is established Christianity as he knew it in the UK.

It's basically a state-subsidised scam, 'religion' as it would be were it delivered by a particularly feckless postal service. It's so unimpressive when seen close up that it inoculates most Brits against religion permanently.

Posted by: ZF at June 2, 2006 3:01 PM

OJ: The word for someone who celebrates Christmas is Christian.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 2, 2006 7:51 PM

... And while assimilation is obviously an American trait, the theological drawing together of Christianity and Judaism is a result of the two religions being mewled up together in Europe for 1500 years.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 2, 2006 7:56 PM



Posted by: oj at June 2, 2006 9:06 PM

No, 300 together here.

Posted by: oj at June 2, 2006 9:07 PM

No, theologically all the interesting stuff happened in the middle ages when all the Christian divines spoke Hebrew and they would cross pollinate with Jewish thought.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 2, 2006 10:30 PM