Paul G. muses on Hitchens/Blair debate

Paul G. has written in to me with these comments. I thought they were a fair reflection, and the links may be interesting to readers.

Hi David,

did you hear the debate on ABC radio this morning between Christopher Hitchens and Tony Blair? [No, I didn’t, so thanks for this!] CH is making his exit from this earthly stage a very well discussed and analysed process.

The only place on the internet I have found so far for the debate is
http://www.munkdebates.com/home.aspx
where you seem to have to pay a few dollars for it. [Does any one have a “free” link?]

There are some post-debate comments by Christopher Hitchens at
http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/guestvoices/2010/11/debating_tony_blair_on_faith.html

and Tony Blair at:
http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/guestvoices/2010/11/tony_blair_on_religion.html

I thought there were some interesting paths Christopher Hitchens went down. He criticised religious people who reject some Christian beliefs like angels, an afterlife etc. He said “you are halfway out the door already, you don’t need my help”. Frankly, I agree with him completely.

He also mused that you can’t really follow Jesus just by reading the reports of his life, you need some guidance by people here, who call themselves Christ’s Vicar on Earth. Again, hear, hear.

He has a hangup on being subservient to God, which he sees as eternal servility. Blair’s comment was that it is not servility, it is obligation.

Hitchens also calls it a spurious argument for religion when you say religious people do good works. He says this is avoiding the issue, and even very misguided people do good things. I think he is missing the point here. Even though non religious people can of course do good, the argument is that a religious faith helps people to do good.

Anyway, I thought it was an interesting debate, I don’t know if it will be repeated again on the ABC.

regards,
Paul

Thanks, Paul! I did find this comment by Hitchens in the link you gave us above telling:

Tony Blair…did exemplify, to an unusually high degree, the tendency of modern believers to eclecticism and to the public presentation of what often turns out to be a virtually private or personal definition of religion. (I find this doubly odd in the case of a man who went to a lot of trouble to convert to one of history’s more disciplined and rule-bound churches, at a time when its latest pope is striving to reinvigorate a highly traditionalist interpretation, but let that pass for now.)

Mmm. Good question.

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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5 Responses to Paul G. muses on Hitchens/Blair debate

  1. adam george says:

    On the continuing reference to CH here on this site I should mention an interview he gave to Jeremy Paxman on ‘Newsnight’ last week, 27 Nov,on the BBC. In that interview (frankly too much time and space), CH was hailed by Paxman as a man ‘celebrated worldwide’ for his ‘forcible convictions’. What raving stupidity by Paxman. I doubt if a single indian or chinese has ever heard of the man, and that’s 2 billion+ of the global population.

    But more critically CH was asked again about his criticisms of Blessed M Teresa.
    He then blasted her for her ‘pretended concern for the poor’ and her belief that ‘abortion was murder’.

    Those two comments only reinforce the horrendous positions the man holds on the value of each human life, let alone his libelous attacks on the dead saint of Calcutta. having personally met Mother a number of times, one of which was in Calcutta for 30 minutes private conversation, and seen her at work amidst the poor and the children she took in from the streets, this woman was truly a saint. Her quiet, effective and fervent defence of the unborn is well known and she never wavered.

    CH is not the type of person who ought be given media space or kudos of any type especially when it comes to attacking Mother or the tenets of the Catholic faith.

  2. Paul G says:

    I hear what you are saying about Christopher Hitchens’ statements about Bl M Teresa. I certainly don’t agree with everything he says, but neither do I disagree with everything. At least he is engaging seriously on his side of the debate about religion, which I think is better than the usual apathy and lack of serious thought from most atheists and not a few Catholics.
    Apart from the nasty things he has said about Bl M Teresa and both recent Popes, I have found his public speeches to be good humoured and gracious.

    I do get hot under the collar about things like the ABC TV programme “Rake”. This must be one of the most vile pieces of immoral sludge I have ever seen on our TV, and of course, the main character is a lapsed Catholic. That is just ignorant sneering at all that is good. As well as that, my taxes help pay for Rake, but I don’t have to pay for Christopher Hitchens.

    • adam george says:

      CH ‘engaging seriously’. That must be one of the great misstatements I have ever seen. If making calumnous and outrageous statements against M Teresa can be said to be ‘engaging seriously’ then I don;t know how there can be any objectivity on this man.
      Besides, it is one thing to seek the truth, to seek if there is a God, if there is life beyond the grave, as all people do, believers or not. It is another to be a confirmed atheist who posits and argues for NO God, no higher being and no life after death. CH holds the latter position and I see no valid reason to argue, debate, enter into dialogue with such people. Christians have no reason to waste time in so called ‘dialogue’ with atheists. No. Christians have a duty to proclaim the Gospel, the Good News. This is not a debating match we are involved in.
      Jesus said ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. He who believes in Me will live’. I see no mention of ‘Let’s just engage seriously and discuss this’.
      That is not what the Gospel is all about. It is about the fundamental truth of Jesus as Lord and saviour. Atheists choose their path and make their bed. Let them lie in it.
      And less we forget, there is the biblical injunction to wipe the dust from one’s feet and move on. In this case CH has his own case to make and he seems very certain of his atheistic position. In that position he still believes that Blessed Mother Teresa was wrong on abortion. Tell that to the thousands of unborn who are killed daily. The Nobel laureate and saint made no compromise on that matter and we would do well to remember that and not to sup with those who countenance the opposite.

      QED

      • Paul G says:

        Hi Adam,
        by coincidence, I just read a comment by Peter Hitchens on this “debate” between his brother Christopher and Tony Blair:
        http://tinyurl.com/235mgnk
        Peter agrees with you that this event wasn’t really a debate.

        There is a lot of background baggage to this group of people. My impression is that Peter, who is an Anglican and very sympathetic to the Catholic Church is more hostile than Christopher towards Catholic convert Tony Blair. A couple of quotes from Peter’s blog post are:

        “In fact, I’m quite sure that both men owe a lot of the popularity and success of their lives to being in tune with the post-1968 Age of Aquarius ethos of a whole generation of successful, prosperous and self-satisfied baby-boomers. The two men’s radical interventionist, anti-sovereignty, utopian support for the Iraq War (though entirely consistent with this position) goes a little too far for most boomers, whose strong sense of their own goodness forbids them to support any sort of war. I seem to recall an occasion a couple of years ago when my brother actually took a ride in Mr Blair’s armoured car, for a friendly chat about the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

        But, interestingly, most of my brother’s fan club are prepared to forgive and forget about Iraq, and even for his sympathy with the Blair creature, because what really matters to them is the liberation from ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘mediaeval’ and ‘repressive’ moral systems, which is the real foundation for 21st century militant Godlessness. And it is his espousal of that position which has propelled him into intellectual superstardom in the USA. The ditching of Christianity is, alas, an idea whose time has come among the college-educated young of the USA.

        After all, the same people generally still hate and despise me (where they’ve heard of me), even though I opposed the Iraq war, which they also opposed. And it’s my attitude towards sex, drugs and rock and roll which causes them to do so.”
        ….

        “I’d also say that my brother gives more or less the same speech at all these debates, whoever his opponent is. I’ve joked for years that there was a major problem with the sound system at our clash in Grand Rapids, which meant that the speakers could not hear what the other one was saying properly (at one point I sat on the edge of the stage trying to catch what he was saying, and it was still so difficult to hear that I pondered going to sit in the audience. I probably should have done, and stayed there). While this bothered me quite a lot, it didn’t trouble him, since he would have said pretty much the same thing whatever I said, and his assembled fan club (mystified by their very recent discovery of my very existence, and none too pleased by that discovery) would have whooped with joy over it.”

        While I am sure you are right about the primacy of proclaiming the Gospel, it is good sometimes to debate and listen to debates to understand what people are thinking. In the case of the Peter/Christopher/Tony triumverate, I confess I find the discussions a lot of fun as well.

        • adam george says:

          Interesting comments Paul, much of which I would agree with re PH and Blair.
          But of course my point has always been about CH and M Teresa. Big difference between M Teresa and Tony Blair, the main one being that he took Britain into an illegitimate and unwanted was with Iraq and also a man who has come to catholicism very late in life and AFTER he left office as PM. Interesting that he thought of becoming catholic as PM but never did. Too many conflicts over position and other matters, one of which would be that as British PM he has to make recommendations to the Queen on every new Anglican bishop. So will Britain ever get a Catholic PM while the Anglican Church is the establised faith?

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