Friday, August 06, 2010

keep the ~(faith)

mo' from the death of Hitchens...

Author and critic, Christopher Hitchens is fighting for his life. He has esophageal cancer that has metastasized to his lymph nodes and lung. But, don't expect to hear him pray as a result of it all.
Hitchens, has been a journalist of some note for decades and is a         regular contributor to "The Atlantic", "Vanity Fair", Slate and "The Nation"
He is an author of some note whose titles alone cause controversy. "The Trial of Henry Kissinger", "The Missionary Position: Mother Theresa in Theory and Practice" and "God Is Not Great."

From that last title you can surmise that he is an unapologetic atheist. Thursday night he spoke on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 program about his mortality. He is resigned to the law of averages which says that more people than not don't come back from what he is stuck with.

Asked if his prognosis has driven him to a deity to whom he prays, Hitchens told Cooper, that he is aware of prayer groups that have sprouted in his honor but, "I shall not be taking part in that."

Hitchens' demise (which CH himself grants is likely...) reiterates the proverbial "are there atheists in foxholes" chestnut (deathbeds, cancer wards, vets hospitals, etc). We here at Contingencies don't detest Hitchens though generally disagree with his tactics (not to say his pro-Bush stance circa '03-04). He writes fairly effectively, certainly in comparison with the usual 'Merican pundit. He also understood the secular vision of the chief American founders, at least (unlike so many apparatchiks).  His slightly Humean prose seemed  refreshing when it appeared in the 90s, compared to the gonzo hacks, the Safire savants, the Sally Fields PC-hysteria crew. 

His reluctance to pray or to ask for a cleric deserves some respect. Many a skeptic has waved away the preacher or priest at the end. David Hume died in rather ugly circumstances--cancer of the bowels, more or less--and yet told Boswell a few days before death, that he was convinced the soul dies with the body. Voltaire told the priests to keep their distance (saying "this was no time to be making enemies," etc). Bertrand Russell also refused to allow clergymen attend his death--reportedly (tho' some reports suggest an Anglican bureaucrat was in attendance). Apart from the usual and somewhat trite prayer issue (wouldn't a loving G*d answer prayers of a young christian who lost his legs in an accident where a drunk driver struck him and his family, etc) why bother with mere ritual at the last? Besides, given the miniscule probability that a rational Deity exists, does He demand a mere wafer and confession? He--or is it They-- will weigh human souls according to their deeds, hopefully, as even Pascal suggested--not count the notches of the masses ingested (or so one wagers). No amount of repentance will likely save a truly corrupt or perverted individual (like this republican wiccan-on-steroids, Tusconius).   And will a box of sacred wafers suffice to...expiate the sins of corrupt or criminal papists--an Al Caponay, or...Dimaggio...Der Fuhrer?  Unlikely.   Couragio....


jh said...

from a humanist point of view
one could only say UNLIKELY

the frustration remains in the dialectic -- those of us who know know by faith and aside from the continual apologetics and encouragement of intelligent adherents for those of us who desire strength for what we call the JOURNEY there is no way to scale the wall of indifference which is often expressed in terms of hate --

in fact we are admonished to accept with smiling love the words of those who hate us -- the general NO of postpissedmodernism is in fact a fruitful point of departure for some very interesting 21st century theology - -- check out DAVID TRACY

positivist/humanist/fullblownempiricism whithers and dies for sheere lack of energy
the siege against metaphysics has resulted in the macabre display of the worldwide spectacle foisted consciously into the minds of the woeful more meaningless display of multimedia dreck for your entertainment pleasure -- the real stuff the stuff every soul yearns for is not too far away -- just down the street on a quiet unpretentious corner

once yr'all tired of the noise and the illusion come and check out the real stuff

the quiet repetitive insistence that what the heart most desires is actually available

so i will offer prayers of healing for mr hitchens
he's no more irritating than some of my brothers in the monastery after all

pascal would urge christopher in his trial to enter into a wager - stake his very life on it
weigh up all the evidence of course

one can admire the audacity of taking on mother theresa but one is left as well with the disappointment of his not having done his homework not having gone to see what it really was that little albanian lady was about..he no doubt maintained that the british empire in its glory did more for the east indians than did that little christian tyrant

poor pathetic bastard
he should've stuck to literary criticism - something he was good at

do not go gently into that dark night - pal
my parting words to the sorry excuse for a contemporary don quixote
that is he

christ's cross possesses more far grace than any one sinner can defy
more grace than any griping whine from semi-moral rodents

he pissed into the ocean of belief
and it was noticed briefly

the world does not forgive

we are all one of the two criminals
to christ's left and right on golgotha

may the angels of charity lushishly kiss every inch of his decaying flesh
for some other points of view

one crumb of one blessed wafer is more powerful than all the world's sin



J said...

Thanks for comment and lo siento for delay. I don't like moderating. But without...mucho spam and death threats from fundies, mormons, etc.

I agree sort of with the Pascalian view...though I don't think Maestro Pascal was a traditional catholic. Not sure. He wants people to...uphold the code of the Beatitudes; ie wager that it holds, since you won't lose if it does (a debatable point). Not sure if that means ...necessarily upholding all the sacraments. Pascal wants humans to "Do the right thing", in other words just in case. That is, assuming one knows what the right thing is.

But the skeptic's points on prayer-- contra-prayer--do not lack a certain force. All the mamas' prayers of the world don't keep their enlistees from being mowed down when sent overseas into battle (consider WWI/II, Korea, 'Nam etc). Or the prayers for the terminally ill and so forth (Hitchens' point). Personally I would prefer to associate with somewhat virtuous ...skeptics or agnostics than biblethumping zealots and conservatives (consider Kirby O), tho' granted there are virtuous believers--even papists!. But on the other hand, I can understand some who find the Hitchens/Dawkins crew somewhat...irritating. Arrogant in the typically British skeptic fashion--Tory atheists (and Dawkins at least is hardly the PC leftist some mistake him for. Hitchens waffled most of the time).

To me, Jefferson was a more valuable person than Jerry Falwell, regardless of his lack of church attendance.

I view prayer--whatever it is--- as a type of mental exercise--focusing, or something. Not an actual ...order to the Big Guy to rearrange reality as we see fit.

J said...

Actually what bugs me the most about the neo-atheist crew may be that they insist on a sort of PC-Pollyannaish secular ethics, and at the same time scream Gott is Tot. They champion Darwin and naturalism, and then turn around and say "but play fair." Older naturalists, like Nietzsche for one, sort of realized what was at stake when disemboweling JC (and or Maria)--however trite, you say G*d's dead, everything ..may be permissable (especially for British imperialists), or at least ...that may facilitate RealPolitik in a sense.

Not a real profound point for most in collegeville (ethical relativism 101) but the neo-atheists get away with it. Why be moral, in an amoral, Godless world? What is morality to a wolf hunting caribou? etc. As I said previously I don't disagree with all of the skeptic's arguments (say in regard to prayer not ..working). But I generally disagree with his arrogance and his tactics, certainly in the case of Dawkins....

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