Christopher Hitchens' Brother: Atheists Reject Religion So They Can Be Decadent

atheist cartoon
I wish I was kidding.

I’m no longer surprised when religious believers say that atheists just want to be atheists so we can live a decadent, sybaritic, selfish life with no morality. I’ve heard it way, way too many times now.

I was, however, surprised — and saddened — to hear it said by Christopher Hitchens’ brother, Peter.

In an ongoing exchange at the excellent Daylight Atheism blog, Adam Lee has been debating with Peter Hitchens about religion in general, and about the necessity of religion for morality in particular. The whole exchange is well worth following — but what jumped out at me was this comment by P. Hitchens:

An atheist in a society still governed by the Christian moral law has great personal advantages. The almost universal idea among the college-educated young, a sort of crude J.S.Mill belief that ‘nobody has the right to tell me what to do’ is a very powerful force in modern western societies, excusing as it does a great deal of sexual promiscuity and drug-taking which do immense damage and create huge unhappiness, for which those responsible often do not even realise they are to blame.

Yeah. See, here’s the problem with that.

The problem isn’t just that this is grossly bigoted. The problem is that this is a truth claim. And it therefore requires evidence to support it. Evidence that P. Hitchens conspicuously fails to provide. Evidence that’s somewhat stronger than, “College students are often resistant to authority, and often like to take drugs and have sex.” (Shocked. Shocked, I am. Alert the media.)

Now, technically, atheists don’t have to provide any evidence to contradict this assertion. Peter Hitchens is the one making the claim here; the burden of proof is on him. But I’m going to go the extra mile. Because atheists do, in fact, have the evidence on our side: both when it comes to morality generally, and when it comes to sex specifically.

sex and secularism
Let’s take sex first. And let’s look at the extensive Sex and Secularism study done last year, which examined thousands of non-believers who once had religious beliefs. According to this research, sexual behavior doesn’t actually change when people become atheists. People engage in pretty much the same sexual acts, with the same frequency, whether they’re believers or atheists. Religion and atheism does affect people’s sex lives — sexual guilt diminishes, and sexual satisfaction increases, when people let go of religion. But the actual details of people’s physical sex lives, on average, don’t change. Religion doesn’t stop people from having kinds of sex that their religions forbid. It just makes them feel guilty about it. This idea that losing religion means abandoning one’s self to an amoral, self-indulgent, sybaritic promiscuity… it simply isn’t so.

I know. I haz a sad. :’-(

Except not really. Atheists do, in fact, have sexual ethics. We just have sexual ethics based on… you know, ethics. Without religion, we don’t have to base our sexual ethics on an essentially random set of taboos set out hundreds or thousands of years ago by someone claiming to speak for God. We base our sexual ethics based on core ethical values that human beings seem to have evolved with as a social species: concerns about kindness, justice and fairness, unnecessary harm, loyalty, the smooth running of society, and so on. We don’t have to say that having multiple sex partners is bad just because God says so. We can decide whether having multiple sex partners is fair, whether the pleasure and joy it brings outweighs any possible harm it might do, whether it interferes with social stability, and so on. Of course we have sexual ethics. We have sexual ethics because we have compassion.

And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

society without god
So let’s take morality in general. And let’s look at Phil Zuckerman’s extensively researched book, Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment. According to Zuckerman, societies with high rates of atheism are also, overwhelmingly, societies with high rates of happiness, stability, and social functioning. They’re societies with some of the lowest rates of violent crime in the world, some of the lowest levels of corruption, excellent educational systems, strong economies, well-supported arts, free health care, egalitarian social policies, and more.

Now, this certainly doesn’t prove that high rates of atheism creates happiness, stability, and high social functioning. In fact, it’s probably the other way around: happiness, stability, and high social functioning tend to lead to high rates of atheism.

What it does prove, however, is that Peter Hitchens is full of shit. Atheism does not lead to an amoral society in which people think that nobody has the right to tell them what to do. Societies with high rates of atheism seem to be very moral societies, with low rates of crime and corruption, and a strong sense of social responsibility.

So before he shot his mouth off about how atheists — you know, like his own recently-deceased brother — are just selfish sybarites with no moral foundation who are causing misery and ruining society, maybe he should have bothered to check his freaking facts first.

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Christopher Hitchens' Brother: Atheists Reject Religion So They Can Be Decadent
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91 thoughts on “Christopher Hitchens' Brother: Atheists Reject Religion So They Can Be Decadent

  1. 1

    Think of a moral action that could only be performed by a person of faith… you cant do it

    now think of an immoral action that could only be performed by a person of faith… you’ve already thought of it.

    Now, who said that again…

  2. 2

    I can only imagine what Hitchens’ family reunions must have been like, if there were any.

    I know. I haz a sad. :’-(

    Yeppers. I am easily the most boring person I know, sybaritic-debauchery wise.

  3. 3

    It’s just the tired old belief that if a person doesn’t share the same morals as them it means that person has no morals at all. Which is profoundly stupid but unfortunately common.

  4. 5

    ‘Think of a moral action that could only be performed by a person of faith… you cant do it’

    I think all moral action is faith-based, because it requires that we presume the existence of some set of moral facts.

  5. 6

    Something that Peter Hitchens has made clear in his replies to Adam (I haven’t read PHitchens’ actual blog) is that he thinks people choose their religious beliefs.

    If I say ( as I believe) that I cannot know that God exists, and that belief in God must always remain a matter of choice, and that I quite understand that some people prefer not to believe in God…”

    This certainly doesn’t jive with my understanding of the concept of belief and beliefs. I think it’s the source of many of his incorrect ideas about atheists. If he’s working from an assumption that god objectively exists, and either choose to believe or choose not to believe, then he needs to give people a reason to choose not to believe.

    Of course, his premise is faulty and his definition of belief is a strange one…

  6. 8

    Reading failure on my part–he says in that quote that he doesn’t believe he can know that go exists. He certainly acts like he knows it, though.

  7. 9

    What is it with goddists and their pretense that morality comes from The Big Guy In the Sky™?

    According to the propaganda the Biblical TBGITS™ is one immoral critter. He kills folks just because he can.

  8. 10

    Sorry, I hit Submit before I was finished with my comment in #9

    TBGITS™ sets up arbitrary rules and gives infinite punishment for finite offenses. He orders genocide. He gets into a snit and goes smiting without regard for innocent bystanders. Peter Hitchens’ god is an immoral asshole but it’s atheists who forgo worshiping a sadistic bully who are immoral.

  9. 11

    @sqlrob
    I’m not really sure what ‘person of faith’ implies, but it does look to me as though, whether or not you believe in anything supernatural, you still need to have a certain basic confidence in what’s right and what’s wrong. I’m not sure what the difference is between that kind of confidence and the confidence that some people have in God, or whatever.

  10. 12

    Sybaritism? Peter Hitchens says it as if it was a bad thing.

    Or maybe he’s thinking that his brother would have been happier without the booze (but he can’t just assume it) and goes on to conflate this one man with all atheists. Fail, fail, and fail again.

  11. 13

    Simon Frankel Pratt #11 wrote:

    I’m not really sure what ‘person of faith’ implies, but it does look to me as though, whether or not you believe in anything supernatural, you still need to have a certain basic confidence in what’s right and what’s wrong. I’m not sure what the difference is between that kind of confidence and the confidence that some people have in God, or whatever.

    When used in a casual secular context, the word “faith” is generally considered equivalent to pragmatic reliance or provisional assumption. There may be hope, trust, or confidence — but it’s kept within reasonable bounds. The thing you haqve faith in may let you down.

    Religious faith, on the other hand, has a strong component of commitment to it. It is the “substance of things hoped for, evidence for things not seen.” It may be reasonable, but ‘reasonable’ is now measured on a different scale. A change of mind is a betrayal. You have failed.

    Consider it this way: you may have faith in your doctor. You trust in his or her skill, wisdom, and expertise, following directions and expecting a good outcome.

    But — do you have a religious faith in your doctor? Do you ‘believe in’ him the way a devout person ‘believes in’ God?

    If so, you have definitely upped the confidence level to 11. And I think you recognize this.

    Religious faith is different.

  12. 14

    @Simon Frankel Pratt

    I think all moral action is faith-based, because it requires that we presume the existence of some set of moral facts.

    My philosophy teacher would say that you’re wrong since, according to the definition of moral, what moral action requires is that we (society) agree on a set of moral rules, rather than trying to discern some set of abstract “natural moral rules” that we don’t know to exist.

  13. 15

    @Sastra
    I try to imagine how I would feel if I stopped finding value in human wellbeing. I think I would probably feel without any grounding or direction, and that seems like a ‘crisis of faith’ in the sense of how it’s usually used.

    I typically try to avoid using the word ‘faith’ at all if I can help it, because most people equivocate. The faith I have in my doctor is a secular faith, and I can think of conditions for it failing. The faith I have in the value of human wellbeing is a religious faith, because I don’t know what would undermine it.

  14. 16

    @El Suscriptor Justiciero
    Your philosophy teacher’s perspective would then be that a moral norm is valid when a society agrees upon it. That’s very Habermasian, and as a description of how morality develops, I’d say it’s probably true. But I can’t imagine someone truly feeling that the moral rules from which they operate don’t exist. We can say that we know they don’t exist, but we nevertheless treat them both discursively and semantically as having truth value.

  15. 17

    I’m not really sure what ‘person of faith’ implies, but it does look to me as though, whether or not you believe in anything supernatural, you still need to have a certain basic confidence in what’s right and what’s wrong.

    That confidence derives from observing and verifying the actual real-world consequences of actions, and determining whether those actions benefit or harm my society, my species, and the world I live in. It doesn’t even require an assumption that the world, humans, or society are good and should be preserved; only that I have no right to destroy that which is not mine. I have confidence in that, and you should probably be glad that I do.
    Faith-based morality, on the other hand, assigns value only to following the rules as laid down, and not for actual consequences. What actually happens doesn’t matter, only that you followed the rules. And following a set of rules that someone I will never meet claims were handed down by God requires assuming a whole lot of facts not in evidence; that there is such a being, that he really does have rules, that he communicated him to this person, that the person didn’t alter them, that he wrote them down correctly, that nothing was lost in translation.
    My set of “moral facts” can be informed by new information; morality based on faith requires continuation despite new information.

  16. 18

    @feralboy12
    But why do you have no right to destroy that which is not yours? Why do you see it as good if your actions your society, species, and the world which you inhabit? How do these values obtain? How do you know they are worthy goals, rather than simply things that please you to pursue?

    The ‘faith-based’ morality that you claim does not regard consequences but only adherence to the rule has its atheistic and Englightment counterparts. Actually, the very rights you believe others to hold has its genealogical origins in just such a morality, and the most influential thinker in modern political philosophy, Rawls, advocates a set of rules that pay no heed to their consequences, at least in the formal sense.

  17. 19

    God doesn’t care that you are religious. He doesn’t want an argument for the inherent good of religion. He wants you to do what is right. But you can’t do right without Jesus. Reference: Gospel of John.

  18. 20

    Simon Frankel Pratt #15 wrote:

    I try to imagine how I would feel if I stopped finding value in human wellbeing. I think I would probably feel without any grounding or direction, and that seems like a ‘crisis of faith’ in the sense of how it’s usually used.

    Now I think you’re equivocating. You seem to have switched from talking about having faith in the existence of ‘moral facts’ (that there is a right and a wrong) to having values.

    I wouldn’t say that a person “has faith” in the value of human well-being; I would just say that they value it, and perhaps are confident that others do as well. Be careful that you don’t define all moral and emotional commitments as “religious.” I think that too broad an interpretation/application of the term.

  19. 23

    Greta wrote:

    Atheism does not lead to an amoral society in which people think that nobody has the right to tell them what to do.

    Indeed. Why do the religious seem so stupid as to believe that because we don’t want them making the rules based on their wretched book of hateful fairy tales, we’re completely against the idea of being good, either individually or collectively?

  20. 24

    My comment was directed toward Peter Hitchens. I don’t doubt that non-religious people can do what is right, but like all people, they don’t always.

    As for religion, here is a nice quote from The Message translation:

    “Quit your worship charades. I can’t stand your trivial religious games: Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings— meetings, meetings, meetings—I can’t stand one more! Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them! You’ve worn me out! I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning. When you put on your next prayer-performance, I’ll be looking the other way. No matter how long or loud or often you pray, I’ll not be listening. And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody. Go home and wash up. Clean up your act. Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings so I don’t have to look at them any longer. Say no to wrong. Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless.” Isaiah 1:16-17 MSG

    From http://www.biblegateway.com/

  21. 25

    My morality is more valuable than those of the religious person. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong for others, though I do have a strong notion that my way is the more correct way (or I wouldn’t have this specific set of guidelines) Why is it more valuable? Because it is mine, and mine alone. I own it–both its successes and failures–just as I own all my actions. I don’t do it for some supposed future reward of to escape the possibility of never-ending torment.

    I live by a code that I believe will best benefit myself and those around me–myself first of course. Some may say “yourself first? well that’s just selfish!” Damned straight it is. It’s selfish as all get out for me to help my neighbor. I believe that helping my neighbor–bettering their life in whatever small way–will contribute positively to my well-being or the well-being of those dear to me, either directly or indirectly. In looking out for myself, I do what I see as right for my society. In my not-so-humble opinion, that’s a good thing.

  22. 26

    @Sastra

    ‘You seem to have switched from talking about having faith in the existence of ‘moral facts’ (that there is a right and a wrong) to having values.I wouldn’t say that a person “has faith” in the value of human well-being; I would just say that they value it, and perhaps are confident that others do as well.’

    Sorry, I can see why I shouldn’t have made that leap without explaining it. When I say that human well-being is valuable, I’m making a value statement. But the shape that statement takes is a truth claim. I could reword it as ‘human well-being is (the) good’ or more precisely that ‘it is true that human well-being instantiates (or defines) the trait of goodness’. Why do I treat this claim as true? I would say that the nearest concept we have is something like religious faith, because I can’t think of a way to subject that claim to tests or otherwise justify it further.

    ‘Be careful that you don’t define all moral and emotional commitments as “religious.” I think that too broad an interpretation/application of the term.’

    I think this is a very good point. As frustratingly stupid as Peter Hitchens seems to be, I suspect that he’s trying to talk about the set of moral commitments embedded within our culture when he talks about ‘Christian law’. I wouldn’t attribute them to Christianity as he does, as doing so sort of mixes up cause and effect, but whether they’re justified by divine authority or just left hanging ‘out there’, they still have something special about them: they specify a connection between our own set of personal values/preferences and the universe independent of ourselves.

    A moral commitment is religious when it cannot be justified or undermined by those who hold it. And I would be very interested, even delighted for the respite from nihilism that such a thing would produce, if someone here could show me an example of a basic concept of right and wrong which can.

  23. 27

    It always amazes me that people who are religious are as likely or more likely to be promiscuous and use mind-altering drugs. You’d think that going to church every week and hearing the dude in the tacky suit rage about your (allegedly) bad habits would be enough to get people to self-select out of church. But study after study shows it’s not true.

    There’s socioeconomic factors, and there’s the fact that society sends people who are struggling with substance abuse to church, and there’s the way some religions celebrate how messed up people are so that they can take credit for fixing them. But in my personal experience the big difference is that religion does nothing one way or the other. People become religious and stay religious for reasons that have nothing to do with their sex lives. Even gay people continue to go to churches that blame them for everything from high divorce rates to the 9/11 attacks because deep down inside they think that’s what they should be doing.

  24. 28

    Looking at my Fundamngelical mother, P. Hitchens views do not surprise me. Instead of looking at his brother for the person he really was, as well as growing up and thinking for himself, he is judging by the dogma that was engrained into him as a child. These views cause a lot of fear, shame, and guilt, as you pointed out concerning sex, Greta. It’s the same with many other things. As a coping mechanism, this shame, fear, and guilt, IMO, get projected onto others, where as if they started thinking for themselves, they might not be so quick to judge others.

  25. 30

    @Azkyroth
    I think I see what you’re getting at: is my willingness to accept the statement ‘I exist’ as true an example of religious faith, by my definition? I assume you meant existence rather than life when you ask if I have faith that I’m alive, and not something about my bodily state.

    I consider ‘I exist’ to be a tautology, and thus self-justifying. Because it’s a self-referential statement, ‘I’ is necessary to make it in the first place.

  26. 32

    AB_CA:
    Personally, I prefer the LOLcat translation:

    16 “Soz befor ceiling cat kikz ur kittehbutts outta teh haus, kleen it up alredi. Stop be trashin mai haus. uzzawize no mor cheezburgrz, EVA.”
    17 “Ceiling Cat sayz lerns teh gud; Find justices, k? Tell teh opprezzed dey can has cheezburgrz. Care 4 teh littel orphan bebes. N cry fur teh widowz.” (http://www.lolcatbible.com/index.php?title=Isaiah_1)

    On a more serious note, the Bible isn’t a valid source. It’s the opinions of the authors who wrote it. I’m going to cut you off at the “but god wrote/inspired it!” pass with this question. How do you know god wrote/inspired the Bible? Because the Bible said god wrote/inspired the Bible. I could write a blog post saying that the only way we can be moral is by eating delicious kitten curry, and write in the same blog that god writes/inspires my blog, but that doesn’t make it true. So why is the Bible any different? Other than the fact that you’ve been taught you’re supposed to believe it.

  27. 33

    Simon Frankel Pratt #26 wrote:

    Why do I treat this claim as true? I would say that the nearest concept we have is something like religious faith, because I can’t think of a way to subject that claim to tests or otherwise justify it further.

    I think we need to explore more carefully what’s meant by ‘religious faith’ — and to what it is applied. A claim or statement that cannot be tested or justified is not ‘religious.’ It may be a value, it may be self-evident, it may be analytical; it’s not empirical. No evidence counts either way.

    That the supernatural exists is a religious hypothesis — not a value. A supernatural claim that will not be tested or justified is being accepted and defended by religious faith. Faith is more of an immunizing strategy, a commitment to assume the truth of an empirical claim — a conclusion or inference — and ignore just criticisms or possible alternatives. Seemingly negative evidence is ignored or “spun.” Positive evidence is embraced.

    whether they’re justified by divine authority or just left hanging ‘out there’, they still have something special about them: they specify a connection between our own set of personal values/preferences and the universe independent of ourselves.

    No, it seems to me that moral commitments instead specify a connection between our own set of personal values/preferences and other people (or at least other agents.) The universe need not be a “moral universe” for morality to make sense. I don’t see how it could be. Ethics have to do with relationships; they are not basic cosmic principles or natural laws.

  28. 34

    Atheists choose their belief so they can be immoral? Peter Hitchens evidently was not familiar with his brother’s writing. It sounds implausible, but what other conclusion can I draw? Christopher wrote about morality and ethics all the time. In fact, most of what he wrote stemmed from moral outrage. Peter seems to be willfully blind. That sounds immoral to me.

  29. 35

    ‘…it seems to me that moral commitments instead specify a connection between our own set of personal values/preferences and other people (or at least other agents.)’

    I don’t quite agree. I think that moral commitments, along with the meta-ethical principles from which they derive, tell us what kind of interactions between us and other things are subject to moral evaluation, and how to make those evaluations. Some people view our actions towards other species or towards the environment as subject to moral evaluations and others might not. But not all moral evaluations are the same, in terms of how they’re justified. For example, you and I might both thing that torture is bad. I might think that it is bad because it doesn’t produce a good consequence. You might think that it is bad because it violates a fundamental and inalienable right to bodily integrity. Both of us have made the same moral assessment, but the grounds on which we have done so are different. Those ‘first principles’ of moral belief are treated as truth claims for the purposes of justification, despite the impossibility of empirical support for them.

    ‘A supernatural claim that will not be tested or justified is being accepted and defended by religious faith. Faith is more of an immunizing strategy, a commitment to assume the truth of an empirical claim — a conclusion or inference — and ignore just criticisms or possible alternatives. Seemingly negative evidence is ignored or “spun.”’

    I think that when people make ‘supernatural’ claims, they are making truth claims. Some of these claims are falsifiable, but when falsifying evidence is produced, it is ‘explained away’ by ad hoc changes in the theory. Others are not reasonably falsifiable. ‘God exists’ is not really an empirical claim. Furthermore, what if I believe that there is a god, he sent us commandments, but that those commandments possess no moral authority. My beliefs on God are the same as my views on any other object. Are we to call the acceptance of truth claims like these ‘faith’? To my mind, this is boring. This doesn’t tell anything special about why people accept these claims or how those claims relate to the much more enduring and maddening problem of why moral claims look, act, and yet cannot be, like truth claims.

    Anyway, while I’m enjoying this, I don’t want to get too far off-topic from the idiocy of Peter Hitchens. Perhaps you’d like to keep talking with me on a sort-of on-topic blog post I wrote? http://saidsimon.wordpress.com/2011/12/29/we-need-a-more-nuanced-definition-of-religion/

  30. 36

    I actually think Abrahamic religion is anti-moral, when you get right down to it.

    It rests on a model in which social responsibility scales down with power – the slave must serve the master regardless of how the master acts, the master must serve the state regardless of how the state acts, the state must serve God regardless of how God acts.

    It is essentially might makes right writ large, with God’s actions deemed good essentially because God is considered above moral concerns. God, as an omnipotent being, can in fact engage in eternal sadism and be in the moral right because “who are we to judge God?”

    To obey God is the highest moral duty – even to the point of killing your own children. The story of Jeptha and Isaac both essentially illustrate a “morality” based upon serving the strong at the expense of the weak.

    That isn’t morality, that is immorality.

    In Abrahamic “moral” codes where something is deemed wrong it is not wrong because of the impact it has on society as a whole, but because someone in higher authority forbids it. Under these religious concepts, might dictates right. God, as the being considered strongest, gets the most right to say what actually is right.

    Good is little more than a list of things you won’t be punished for doing, and evil little more than a list of a dictator’s dislikes.

  31. 37

    This is kinda on topic i guess, i’m a christian called James and I’d like to rip apart your ridiculous “new atheist” movement that you and others on “freethoughtblogs” promote.

    ya see, the problem with the new atheist movement is that the fathers of new atheism, on the whole, have no backround in philosophy. For the most part they are either the remains of old guard atheistic Leninism/Marxism or scientists who have no real background in philosophy history or sociology. For example Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Victor J. Stenger and dead Christopher Hitchens. The closest you could get is Daniel Dennett who while has a kind of philosophical education (although more in the philosophical field of Naturalized epistemology and a behaviorist in his education) but is more focused in his career in Behavioral Science.

    The cornerstone of New Atheism is not that God does not exist (secularists believe this all over) but that belief in god is, by itself, a destructive concept and bad for society. See phrases like ” Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where’s the harm? September 11th changed all that.” and “The unfairness of the “special privelage” that religion expects also irritates me” – a phrase that I generally tend to see all over the comments for your blog.

    new atheism is largely a political and social movement rather then an intellectual movement.

    Previously atheists came from philosophy or politics. So from Epicurus to Baron D’Holbach and David Hume you have the atheistic movement based in philosophy. You then had atheists who were atheists as a political movement. From Maximilien Robespierre to VI Lenin, atheism was a political tool rather than a belief system aimed at religion rather then faith.

    Now they are coming from science and ex-communism thus they attack religion by building arguments from examples (ie experiments) that serve as examples of phenomena but they do so only focusing on religion and thus new atheists are able to ignore the history of atheism and atheistic state while in the same breath condemning religion for the crusades (wrongly, it was about the money and politics) and the European wars of religion. They build the argument like scientists by acting like science is the only way of knowing anything and everything else is just superstition.

    The problem with this is it ignores philosophy and history. Science cannot prove the social contract theory. Science cannot prove that George Washington crossed the Delaware or Caesar crossed the Rubicon just like it cannot prove that Jesus was crucified on Cavalry hill.
    New Atheism goes beyond the mere disbelief in God but instead that religion and by extension faith is the most dangerous and wicked force on the planet and the struggle against it will define the future of humanity.

    Atheism is not a religion. New Atheism (TM) is a religion if a religion is a set of shared stories, concepts and characters which explain what is happening in the world and creates a base of morality and influences a worldview.

    please get back to me soon.

    James

  32. 38

    I think that to me the main problem with Atheists Reject Religion So They Can Be Decadent is that I never consciously chose to “reject” religion – I just realised that I didn’t think it was true; my brain just doesn’t do God-belief (these days I could come up with long lists of reasons to reject the Catholic Church as an institution, and God-Belief as a concept; but none of those are “why I became an atheist”).

    I think it is interesting to look at the systems society uses to teach, justify, and enforce morality in its members. Religion is often used as such a system, but there are certainly secular alternatives that can also work – in a modern society with universal schooling a secular school system can provide an opportunity to teach Right Behaviour (howsoever we define it) to almost all children. I don’t think it’s interesting to claim that there is only one possible system for doing this (because that is clearly untrue).

  33. 39

    jamesmichaels1

    ya see, the problem with the new atheist movement is that the fathers of new atheism, on the whole, have no backround in philosophy.

    Daniel Dennet is in fact a philosopher of the analytic school. Ophelia Benson is the deputy editor of The Philosopher’s Magazine. Victor J Stenger is an adjunct professor of philosophy at the university of Colorado.

    In other words, you are talking out your backside so hard I am surprised you still have intestines.

    As to the rest of your argument, try actually reading a few of the figures you are criticising before posting you opinion of their arguments.

  34. 41

    @ Peter Hitchens (40):

    I read the article and your comments over at Daylight Atheism, and Greta’s take on it seems entirely fair. You do suggest that atheists ‘choose’ not to believe in God so they can take drugs, have lots of sex and generally not contribute to society. Firstly, let me assure you that we do not ‘choose’ not to believe in God any more than you choose not to believe in Thor or Zeus, fairies or goblins. We do not believe because there is no evidence. Simple as that. Could you simply choose tomorrow to start believing in Quetzalcoatl instead of Jesus? Secondly, can you not see how vile and insulting your accusation is to the vast majority of atheists who live moral lives as responsible citizens?

    Since you mention reading your comments, I would also like to pull you up on this little gem, quoted directly from one of your posts:

    ‘The British state is these days run on largely atheist lines, which is one of the reasons why our police officers are increasingly armed when they used not to be, why jury trial has been whittled away almost to nothing, why the rule of law is incessantly violate by the state itself, and the state is far stronger, why our doctors are worse-trained than they used to be, our hospitals dirtier than they used to be, our schools worse than at any time for 100 years, for example.’

    So atheists are the reason British society is (supposedly) awful, which it isn’t anyway. As a Brit, I do not see the horrors you describe. But really, atheists are the reason hospitals are dirty? Seriously? How is this any way a logical argument?

    Your comments are nothing but non-sequiturs and hideous prejudice, and you are a despicable, bitter, hate-filled little man. Go back to writing for the Daily Mail, I feel their readership suits you better. May I say, sir, that you are an embarrassment to your great brother’s name.

  35. 42

    Peter Hitchens

    Okay, Hitchens let me point out a few things.

    First of all – my generation is kind of sick of the generation that would have been 23 when violent crime rates peaked, whinging about how bad we are. Sorry, no.

    We do not look back with admiration at institutionalised racism, sexism, and homophobia, though evidently you do. We do not consider ourselves fallen, and we do not consider our parents failures in the enternal quest to make the next generation better.

    We have our problems but at the damn least we aren’t quite as bad as the so-called “Golden” age of your youth.

    And when it comes to godlessness and what we are learning “to our sorrow”?

    Phil Zuckerman’s research shows the exact opposite correlation with regards to organic atheism, and what we are learning ‘to our sorrow’ is that the deeply religious shouldn’t trusted further than we can spit ’em, considering how thoroughly corrupt so many politicians are while protesting their deep and abiding faiths.

  36. 43

    @Peter Hitchens

    Well, you wrote this, didn’t you?

    An atheist in a society still governed by the Christian moral law has great personal advantages. The almost universal idea among the college-educated young, a sort of crude J.S.Mill belief that ‘nobody has the right to tell me what to do’ is a very powerful force in modern western societies, excusing as it does a great deal of sexual promiscuity and drug-taking which do immense damage and create huge unhappiness, for which those responsible often do not even realise they are to blame

    So, since we don’t believe in a celestial dictator that lays out a set of arbitrary rules we are prone to sexual promiscuity and drug abuse?

    Fuck that noise.

  37. 45

    #44 christinelaing: I’m not doing anything of the sort. The three blogs I chose to post my OP in are three of the most active blogs on FTB. If I get responses, I promise to give an honest reply (as honest as you guys would perceive a christian to be I guess) to all the rebuttals I get to my original post. I’m currently working on some for the Pharyngula bunch. Haven’t received anything from AE yet as far as i know.

  38. 46

    I’ve been both sexually promiscuous and a drug-taker, and I don’t recall damaging anything immensely, even myself. Sure, when I smoked some pot, I broke a law, but the world didn’t end, society didn’t collapse around my ears, and nothing got any more dysfunctional in my life than it already was. I think most people’s experiences are about the same way.

    In other words, I’m trying to say that if you made your claim that sexual promiscuity (whatever that even means; I’m still trying to figure out what “promiscuous” means other than “is having more sex than I am,” and/or “is having sex in ways I don’t like”) and drug use causes “immense damage” on Wikipedia, it’d wind up with a huge [CITATION NEEDED] after it.

    Do you think that because there are edge cases where harm happens, that justifies enforcing a strict schema of social control on everyone? I mean, let’s face it, you’re not going to stop people from having sex or doing drugs; those things have been with humanity for the entirety of history, as far as I can tell. Why? Because they’re fun.

    I rather suspect you’re one of these people who is simply deeply suspicious of the idea of fun, and possibly just fundamentally anti-pleasure, particularly when experienced by other people. I’d get that hang-up of yours looked at, if I were you; you’ll be happier for it.

  39. 47

    …you are a despicable, bitter, hate-filled little man.

    Finbarr @ #41: Please note my comment policy. In particular, please note #1: “Be respectful of other commenters in this blog. No personal insults; no namecalling; no flame wars.”

    I am fine (to an extent) with using personally insulting language to critique public figures — but if those public figures show up in the blog and participate in the conversation, I ask that they be treated with civility. Critique their ideas and behavior with as much passion as you like — but don’t insult them personally. Thanks.

  40. 48

    Acting on the (low-probability) assumption that jamesmichaels1 is being honest about wanting to interact, and not just preach:

    The problem with this is it ignores philosophy and history. Science cannot prove the social contract theory.

    It can, however, analyze the differences between societies and determine the factors present in healthy, happy societies.

    Science cannot prove that George Washington crossed the Delaware or Caesar crossed the Rubicon just like it cannot prove that Jesus was crucified on Cavalry hill.

    “Prove”? No, science cannot perfectly prove anything, as anyone who has better than a middle-school understanding of science knows. It can, however, investigate the evidence for a given historical event, in an attempt to determine how reasonable our acceptance of a given event is. When multiple lines of evidence point in the same direction, that reinforces our acceptance of the event. When a single, largely untrustworthy source is our only reference to an event, it makes us rightfully suspicious of the event.
    The application of this concept to your examples is left as an activity for the reader.

    New Atheism goes beyond the mere disbelief in God but instead that religion and by extension faith is the most dangerous and wicked force on the planet and the struggle against it will define the future of humanity.

    (Citation needed)
    In any case, I believe that New Atheists believe that the rejection of humanistic ideals is the most dangerous and wicked force on the planet (there are exceptions, of course). Of course, both atheistic and religious movements have at times accepted and rejected humanisim. The primary difference appears to be that athiest movements tend to recognize that doing so as evil, while religious movements tend to see it as good.

    Atheism is not a religion. New Atheism (TM) is a religion if a religion is a set of shared stories, concepts and characters which explain what is happening in the world and creates a base of morality and influences a worldview.

    You appear to be a fan of philosophy, as referenced in your post. What, given your definition, is the difference between religion and philosophy?
    Make certain that your argument includes recognized world religions, and includes New Atheism, while excluding whatever philosophy you feel New Atheism excludes to its detriment. Doing otherwise will heavily undermine your point.

    I’d also be interested in what ‘stories, concepts, and characters’ a New Atheist must accept to have the world explained. If these are highly congruent with stories that are true, concepts that are verifiable, and characters that live(d), than you’re just saying that a New Atheist must accept reality.
    This would, of course, put it substantially at odds with religion.

    (I suspect I’m playng chess with a pigeon here, but there’s always hope).

  41. 49

    @ Greta (47)

    Noted. Apologies for the personal insults. What I should have said was that the argument Mr Hitchens made about atheists being apparently the reason for all social ills in Britain was hate-filled and despicable, and came across as bitter. I seem unable to edit the original post (41) but if you would be so kind as to remove the offending final paragraph, it would be appreciated.

  42. 50

    From the exchange:

    And the statement ‘There is no God’ is no more open to proof or disproof than the statement that there is a God. As I have said elsewhere, the default position, as long as we confine ourselves strictly to facts and logic, must be agnosticism. To move away from that – in either direction – is an act of faith, which is in my view an act of choice.

    So, what is your position on all of the religious people either seeking or presenting evidence of their particular flavor of god?
    According to you, they must be fundamentally on the wrong track, yes?

    Your position on this issue only makes sense if religion never makes truth claims of any sort. In a world in which religion was considered utterly and completely personal, with one’s religious beliefs not seeking to influence public policy – in short, a world in which religion did not claim to be true – I might be tempted to agree with your position.

    That would be an interesting world, but it bears no resemblance to this one.

    But what I find is that the new type of atheist, often aggressive and dismissive of believers, almost always wants me to be more confident and dogmatic than I am, because it would suit his case if I were.

    No, we’d just like you to understand that making statements of facts will be more pursuasive with… facts.

    If I say that the Bible must be read intelligently, and that different parts of it have different significance (a platitude, really), I am accused of ‘picking and choosing’.

    True. Oddly, your recognition of this does not make it incorrect. An atheist would – rightly so – ask your basis for picking and choosing. The fact that the justifications for doing so tend to come off as poor when examined isn’t actually the fault of the questioner.

    Of course, if I insisted that it had universal binding Koranic force in every syllable, I would be accused of ‘fundamentalism’ and jeered off the stage.

    Well, you would likely be asked to demonstrate its infalibility. When you failed at this, then you’d be jeered off the stage. How would you suggest such a claim be treated?

    This is just one way in which it is impossible to beat the dogmatic atheist. He cannot ever be wrong, and he cannot ever be nuanced. It must all, always, be based on ‘How stupid and backward you are. How clever and enlightened I am’.

    Good, verifiable evidence for the existence of even a single god will prove every atheist wrong forever. The fact that every single instance of such ‘proof’ has turned out to be bunkum when investigated, throughout all of history, is telling. How many times must we search your garden for faeries before you’re willing to conclude they’re just simply not there?

    As Tim Minchin said, every claim investigated has turned out to be ‘not magic’.

  43. 51

    Greta: Is it OK to preface my remarks with the observation that in families where one sibling is an intellectual giant, the other siblings in general aren’t? And that Peter seems to be an example of observing the rule and not the exception?

    OK, on to his “argument”. There are obviously many things wrong with it, not merely limited to the inconvenient facts that stand in its way.

    The most important is that it is banal. You hear this one over and over and over again. It tritely assumes that atheists “know” in their “heart of hearts” — which I would replace with “brain of brains” — that there is a god and that atheists reject what they know to be true merely to live a profligate life.

    Frankly, I think it’s beyond doubt the worst argument in favor of religion (not theism, the argument says nothing about the existence of god because it assumes one).

    This argument is, in effect saying:
    1. There is a god.

    2. This god rewards right-thinkers and punishes wrong-thinkers. (While right-thinking is the only requirement for rewards in a fairly hefty percentage of Christian denominations, others add “good works” to the list of requirements. But that’s a derail: all Christian denominations require right-thinking.)

    3. The punishments for wrong-thinking are so severe and so permanent that only brain-damaged people or those with severely limited intelligence would possibly deliberately think wrongly.

    4. Atheists deliberately choose to be wrong-thinkers, knowing full well the severe, permanent (eternal) consequences of wrong-thinking.

    Really? You’re giving atheists in general and your brother in particular that little credit? Pardon me if I can only shake my head and walk away.

  44. 52

    No, no I think Mr Finbarr (No 41) should stick by his original contribution, as it gives me (and anyone else interested) much more of an insight into his thought process, such as it is, than if the yah-boo stuff is left out.

    I have in my time been insulted by experts hired for the purpose by political parties and governments. Mr Finbarr isn’t such an expert. the leader of Sinn-Fein/IRA once said I should be ‘decommissioned’. The Prime Minister of my own country has called me a ‘maniac’ at a public meeting in, yes, a church, for daring to critciise his sacred person in a TV programme. The ineffable Anthony Blair once told me to ‘sit down and stop being bad’ for having the temerity to ask him a difficult question.

    So this stuff doesn’t distress me at all. Onthe contrary,it bolsters my confidence that the Attack Atheist fraternity are themselves deeply lacking in confidence about their own dogma.As well they might be, given how thin , intolerant and frantically self-serving it is.

    Please, let’s hear and see more of it. It serves my cause.

    Oh, and reading a tiny bit of what I’ve written in (I think) four lengthy contributions at ‘Daylight Atheism’ doesn’t really qualify as having taken the trouble to see what I say.

  45. 53

    I am surprised that Peter Hitchens commented here with anything other than a full retraction and apology. Instead he appeared to be accusing everyone of not being aware of what he had said. As far as I can see, most people are commenting on the statement quoted in the OP.

    “An atheist in a society still governed by the Christian moral law has great personal advantages.”

    Since the moral law represented in the Old Testament are mostly barbaric and that of the New Testament either utterly absurd or obvious to anyone, I would be interested to know how you would define ‘Christian moral law’. As an atheist in the UK I also have to contend with one or two disadvantages, such as being forced to subsidise the Bible Broadcasting Corporation, religious schools and the 26 unelected bishops in the House of Lords.

    “The almost universal idea among the college-educated young, a sort of crude J.S.Mill belief that ‘nobody has the right to tell me what to do’…”

    Almost universal? Are you seriously suggesting that nearly every young person who has taken on some form of further education is an amoral hedonist with no shred of respect for authority? Not only that, suggesting that atheism is to blame for this imaginary explosion of vice?

    “…is a very powerful force in modern western societies, excusing as it does a great deal of sexual promiscuity and drug-taking which do immense damage and create huge unhappiness, for which those responsible often do not even realise they are to blame.”

    As a Happily married, hard working, law abiding, husband and father who has never been sexually promiscuous or taken drugs, I think that I would be right in saying that I am not to blame. The commenters on this thread have completely demolished your badly conceived argument and I think that you owe atheists everywhere an apology.

  46. 54

    Peter Hitchens #40: Just wondering how many of these contributors have troubled to read what I actually wrote?

    I read your piece in the Daily Mail, from which Adam Lee quoted. I also read some of your comments at Daylight Atheism.
    .
    I made a few comments over at Daylight Atheism, but found that you repeated some rather stupid things after they had been criticized, so I have no hope that you read my comments. For example, you presented as evidence for theism which you find convincing: the first cause argument, stated as “that there is something rather than nothing.” You actually called atheists’ response to this question evasive. Most atheists I have met answer either ‘physics‘ or ‘I don’t know,’ so you must have met a very different set of atheists than I have. I pointed out that the theist’s response of ‘God did it‘ is an evasion, since it doesn’t actually answer the question, it just steps it back one level, while creating a new question, ‘why is there God instead of nothing?‘ After I made this response in one thread, you repeated the original claim in a second thread.
    .
    Another piece of evidence for Christianity which you claimed to find persuasive was the existence of Christian martyrs. This was vigorously questioned at Daylight Atheism, so I won’t reproduce the discussion here.
    .
    You seemed eventually to get upset that people were nitpicking you on such basic stuff, rather than your comments about morality. But since your comments on morality are based on theism, this seems perfectly in line to me.
    .
    You stated that people believe what they prefer, and that atheists are evasive when queried about why they believe as they do. Once again, you must have consistently met a different class of atheists than I have met. I responded to this that we should believe what is true, and that the discussion could naturally proceed to reliable methods of discerning knowledge.
    .
    Your suggestion that atheists prefer not to believe in God so that they can use drugs and engage in promiscuous sex struck me as an attempt to fallaciously attack the motives of atheists, rather than their arguments.
    .
    Over at Daylight Atheism I eventually figured out that you have nothing that is new, or intelligent, or even interesting to say on the topics of religion and morality, so I ended my participation in those threads.
    .
    I see that you have not yet plugged your book, as you made sure to do at Daylight Atheism, so I’ll save you the effort. Peter Hitchens has authored a book on religion and morality: The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith. I have not read it, and no not intend to. I presume it contains the same depth and quality of commentary as found in his Daily Mail piece and his comments on Daylight Atheism.

  47. 55

    That’s it, I’m going to start saying this:
    “Religious people embrace religion so they can do whatever evil thing they like and be forgiven”.

    Truth? There has to be truth to a statement you make?! What?!

    Have you ever met a god-er that says “yep, since I have god, I don’t ever do anything wrong, no rule-breaking, no harm to others.” No, it is quite the opposite, you need to admit you’re a dirty little sinner that will always be a sinner, but you just need forgiveness for something or another, but even after forgiveness you’ll still be doing sinning you evil sinner…

    Cause it seems like I’m presented with 2 options, one says I need to understand that my actions have consequences that cannot be erased by anyone and that to make things better I have to actively make MYSELF better and to get forgiveness I must get it from those I have actually harmed, or another view that says I can keep harming myself/others and as long as I mumble sorry to myself then everything’s perfectly fine even though I don’t have to face those I’ve hurt.

    I would be inclined to believe that the one who doesn’t really want to change their actions going forward would pick the religious life.

  48. 56

    RE Greta Christian #47: I took care to direct such adjectives as “stupid” at things Peter Hitchens has written, rather than at his person. I hope this is enough to meet the guidelines.

  49. 57

    Peter Hitchens @ #52: You may be okay with it, but I’m not. I try to maintain certain standards of civil discourse in my blog, and personal insults towards other people in the conversation are an obstacle to that. Please respect my right to set my comment policy in my own blog, and don’t encourage people to violate it. Thank you.

  50. 58

    Oh, and reading a tiny bit of what I’ve written in (I think) four lengthy contributions at ‘Daylight Atheism’ doesn’t really qualify as having taken the trouble to see what I say.

    I’m sorry, I’m enough of a cat to assume anything said in the room is automaticaly about me – if this comment was directed at someone(s) else, my apologies.

    If, on the other hand, you meant (or at least included) what I wrote in this comment, I’ll admit to confusion. If I’ve gotten what you were saying wrong, I’m happy to be corrected, but I’m afraid you’ll have to be pretty specific, as I was actually quoting you.
    To put it another way, when I quote what you said, and then respond to it, a blanket “Oh, that’s not what I said,” really isn’t terribly convincing. That’s one reason I tend to make my posts overlong by quoting entire paragraphs – so I don’t quote-mine.

  51. 59

    I really don’t need some external authority to tell me that having indiscriminate sex with many partners would leave my wife feeling betrayed by me breaking a promise I made to her. I don’t need religion to tell me that I can’t do my gig wasted or high, and if I develop a problem with alcohol or drugs that’s probably what will happen. I don’t lie, cheat, or steal to get what I want not because doing so would damn me to hell or not doing so would please a god who for some reason takes an interest in what I do (or, realistically, even because I’m afraid of the law), but because I think about how the person I lied to, cheated, or stole from would feel, whether or not they would realistically find out. Morals and ethics have nothing to do with religion unless you’re empathetically bankrupt and need god, commandments, or police officers to tell you what to do. For example, none of Greta’s elegant and concise rules for ethical sexual behavior center around religious mores (watch her skepticon talk if you haven’t heard them). They focus on doing good and preventing harm to the people (capable of and giving consent) involved. Realistically, if a god chooses a believer who hurts little kids, defrauds their flock of their pensions, or restricts the rights of people because of their sex, color, or background over an ethically-acting non-believer who is vehemently opposed to any of those things, s/he’s not a god I’d want to hang out with anyway.

  52. 60

    Oh, and reading a tiny bit of what I’ve written in (I think) four lengthy contributions at ‘Daylight Atheism’ doesn’t really qualify as having taken the trouble to see what I say.

    The criticism in the opening post is directed at something you wrote at Daylight Atheism. If you have written something more sensible elsewhere and elsewhen, it does nothing to change what you wrote at Daylight Atheism, and does not exempt it from criticism. If you have written something better elsewhere and elsewhen, your comments at Daylight Atheism and in your piece in the Daily Mail do not motivate me to go and find it. I.e. you are not helping your brand by writing material of such quality.

  53. 61

    Oh, and Peter Hitchens @ #52: It’s hard not to notice that you’re ignoring the many calm, civil, reasoned responses here criticizing your actual ideas, and are focusing instead on one ill-considered insult, in order to bolster your conclusion that atheists are intolerant and self-serving. If you want us to take your ideas seriously, that’s not a good place to start.

  54. 62

    “So this stuff doesn’t distress me at all. On the contrary,it bolsters my confidence that the Attack Atheist fraternity are themselves deeply lacking in confidence about their own dogma. As well they might be, given how thin , intolerant and frantically self-serving it is.”

    I wish to comment on this even though Greta beat me to it. It is very easy to take insults on the chin and say that they don’t bother you, especially in written debates which provide a better oportunity for calm responses that face to face verbal debates do. What is a little more difficult is actually responding to the more measured and rational arguments that are being presented here. As far as I can see, you have not done this at all. forgive me if I suspect that the reason for this is that you can’t.

    As an atheist I don’t have “dogma”, that I need to have confidence in, if evidence comes to light that I am wrong about something, I examine it, and if it stands up I change my mind. I find it interesting that you feel confident in labelling every single one of us as lacking in confidence because just one of us swore at you. Even after the guy who swore at you apologized.

  55. ben
    64

    A possibly amusing tangent:

    Religion doesn’t stop people from having kinds of sex that their religions forbid. It just makes them feel guilty about it.

    A friend of mine is a Catholic (yeah, I know). At first he did it just for the Latin (not even real Latin, for Christ’s sake!) and the choral and organ music (at which the Catholics actually do put most of the rest of the world to shame). But he said something to me once that, knowing him, was more than half-serious. Something like:

    Sex is the most beautiful experience a human can have. How can you make it even better? You can add an air of the forbidden, of secret transgression, of getting away with something naughty.

    Much could be read into that coming from a Catholic, but he’s not the type to do anything actually harmful–he is sexually knowledgable, responsible, and utterly ethical.

    Yes, the fact that the existence of this religious guilt permanently maims the sexual lives of billions of humans is not lost on me. I merely present one anecdote in which someone has learned to harness the guilt as an added source of fun.

  56. 66

    Thanks to everyone for this lovely deflation of Peter’s gas-baggery. Judging from his own words, the man doesn’t even understand the actual definitions of “atheist” and “agnostic”, so I’m not terribly confident in his pronouncements about anything else. Thanks for taking at least some of the wind out of his sails. (One is about what we know, the other is about what we believe, Peter. Making your ignorance to glaringly obvious so soon is no way to make yourself look like an expert!)

    His evasions and complete failure to respond to any of the many calm and reasoned responses, while attempting to tar all of us with the same brush after one single person insults him are quite telling, aren’t they?

    All I can really say is, “I know Christopher Hitchens, and you sir, are no Christopher Hitchens.”

  57. 67

    ““Quit your worship charades. I can’t stand your trivial religious games: Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings— meetings, meetings, meetings—I can’t stand one more! Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them! You’ve worn me out! I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning. When you put on your next prayer-performance, I’ll be looking the other way. No matter how long or loud or often you pray, I’ll not be listening. And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody. Go home and wash up. Clean up your act. Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings so I don’t have to look at them any longer. Say no to wrong. Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless.” Isaiah 1:16-17 MSG”

    This would appear to be one of those very rare Bible passages that an atheist could agree with. I have one from the book of Ecclesiastes, not sure about always dressing in white or putting oil on your hair but otherwise OK.

    “But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward; but the memory of them is lost. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and they have no more any share in all that is done under the sun. Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already approved what you do. Let your garments be always white; let not oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life which he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.”

    Ecclesiastes Ch. 9 Vs. 4-10.

    I would be interested to hear how true belivers deal with the Gnu Atheists pointing out that the Bible says that there is no afterlife, over to you Peter.

  58. 68

    Philosophical discussions about morality are far funnier if you reimagine them as vigorous debates over if there are “intrinsic traffic laws” or if we “just made them all up”.

    I read “The Rage Against God”. it was terrible. Peter confuses his own rebel without a cause youth with the motivations of most atheists, confuses Soviet Communism with atheism, and does little else for several hundred pages.

    Peter Hitchens, you are no Christopher Hitchens.

  59. 69

    Mr Failes ( at No. 68) claims to have read ‘The Rage Against God’. I don’t think he really has. Apart from anything else, it has but 219 pages of text in its US edition (161 in the British edition), and his description of its contents is, ah, inaccurate and inadequate. Quite a lot of people, especially those afraid of exposing themsleves to ideas they do not share, think they have read books when in fact they have only read a few of the (hostile) reviews of them.

    Of course I’m not Christopher Hitchens. Who said I was? I came here (as I visited Adam Lee’s site) to respond to criticisms made of me. I generally do this where I am criticised on the Internet, as I relish argument and think it a shame to waste any opportunity to defend myself and perhaps influence people I have not previously encountered. Of course, I know from experience that this will also attract personal abuse. But as someone who has for many years espoused unpopular positions in my own country, I am accustomed to that.

    I already know that some of my brother’s fans are angry that I even exist, and, just as I take the spleen and rage of many of the comments here as evidence of a deep insecurity among modern dogmatic atheists, I take this hostility as a sign that these people lack much in the way of breadth or depth, and are hero-worshippers and fanatics rather than readers or thinkers.

  60. 70

    “I came here (as I visited Adam Lee’s site) to respond to criticisms made of me.”

    Sorry to be picky but you don’t seem to have responded to any of these criticisms yet. Are you going to make a start any time soon?

  61. 72

    And in response to our host, who says : ‘It’s hard not to notice that you’re ignoring the many calm, civil, reasoned responses here criticizing your actual ideas’, perhaps she’d care to tell me which contributions she thinks qualify for this description.

    Many? Hmmm. Perhaps a handful verge on the civil. Hardly any seem to me to qualify as ‘reasoned’, since those who have any awareness at all of what I have said show no sign of having read my words with any care, let alone with curiosity or interest, and almost invariably begin from a posture of personal affront. This makes reasoning difficult.

    Several contain some sort of ad hominem abuse, stating that I am in some way stupid or inadequate, or involve contemptible, spiteful comparisons between me and my recently-deceased brother. It is unnecessary to say any more about them.

    I can see why she’s embarrassed by her supporters and wants them to conceal their true natures.

    I would be embarrassed too. The crude misrepresentation of my position, accompanied by personal loathing, spite, fury and intolerance invariably revealed by the ‘new atheists’ when anyone dares to argue with them is of course part of the argument. When one meets these people one is always interested by the strange and rather pitiable rage which grips so many of them.

    If they are so sure that God doesn’t exist, then why can’t they leave it at that and quietly live their lives accordingly? Why do they need to be so perpetually angry with those who think He does exist? Why are so many of them so full of spite? Why do they so seldom reflect on the origins of that spite? Who dares to ask, for fear of unleasihing yet more of that same spite?

    I came here to answer a criticism made of me by our host, as I think I am entitled to do under any conceivable moral code. I had (and have) no desire for yet another encounter with intolerant and hateful dogmatists of this kind. I have met them before. They have no idea how to conduct a civilised argument, and appear to regard debate as a form of mud-wrestling.It is in the end all rather dull.

    But I am grateful to them for reinforcing my view that their fury and intolerance are rooted in a deep insecurity and uncertainty, contrasting rather strongly with their superficial certainty.

    I commend my assailants to pages 149-51 (US Edition)of my book ‘The Rage Against God’ (good title, huh?) , where I quote extensively from the thoughtful and reasonable atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel. Many contributors here might learn from his approach to the subject. Then again, many of them might not. I’ll say goodbye now.

  62. 73

    “If they are so sure that God doesn’t exist, then why can’t they leave it at that and quietly live their lives accordingly?”

    Because the things that religious people believe have negative effects upon my life and upon the lives of others. Also I think that it is a bit rich accusing us of being hateful and intolerant when the OP here quotes you telling insulting lies about a whole group of people most of whom you have never met.

    If as you say the reasoned arguments here are so few, why have you not even responded to those? All you have managed to do is admonish us for being rude to you. Since you were rude to us first I can’t see why you are acting surprised.

  63. 74

    Why are atheists so angry? Oh, how I wish someone, somewhere had written a post on that subject!

    Only 216 pages? It sure felt like a lot more, what with your total lack of coherent argument, endlessly painful overgeneralizations and logical errors and, most surprisingly, your dull and condescending writing style.

    That is, of course, what I mean when I say you are “no Christopher Hitchens.” I already knew that you two disagreed vehemently on theological issues, but I was expecting so much more from you, something like CS Lewis; language so beautiful it takes a few minutes to turn away from it to examine the vacuity of the arguments themselves.

    So, yes, I have read your awful book from cover to cover. It’s exceptionally telling that your immediate response was to accuse me of not reading it at all, followed by claiming I just didn’t understand it.

    A far more parsimonious explanation is that I did read it and understand it, and that you are simply a poor writer who has chosen a poor stance to make an embarrassingly poor case for.

  64. 75

    If they are so sure that God doesn’t exist, then why can’t they leave it at that and quietly live their lives accordingly? Why do they need to be so perpetually angry with those who think He does exist? Why are so many of them so full of spite? Why do they so seldom reflect on the origins of that spite? Who dares to ask, for fear of unleasihing yet more of that same spite?

    Translation: “Why aren’t you atheists happy sitting at the back of the bus just like you deserve?”

    Tell you what, Peter, is you ever get on the internet, you might stumble across a site called Freethoughblogs. One poster there is named Greta Christina – she’s really worth looking up.
    She’s got a post about atheists and anger. It’s kinda hard to find, because it’s rather cryptically titled “Atheists and anger”. She doesn’t like to publicize it, and you can tell, because it’s the second item of a section called ‘If You’re Just Going to Read Five Things…’

    So, either you didn’t bother actually looking for the answer to your purported question on the blog you actually took the time to sign in to and type it up on, or you did, and you’re JAQ’ing off.

    Either way, it shows your exact upper level of thoughtfulness and thoroughness, intellectually. Good riddance.

  65. 76

    Peter Hitchens seems to have his brother’s pugnacity without the intellectual honesty part. “Lack of curiousity”? That would be making assumptions about and not trying to find out about why atheists might be angry.

    Some of us are ex-Christians. A few even ex-ministers with specific education in the bible, church history, etc. But Christian apologists never tire of suggesting that we just don’t understand Christianity, not really. I suppose we never will until we read his book with all the reverence he seems to believe it deserves. But we’re the desperate ones, you see.

    At this point in my life it would be like being asked to read one more book on why perpetual motion is the energy source of the future.

  66. 77

    I still can’t quite get over what an oddly one sided discussion this has been. Greta, in the OP, block quoted something that Peter Hitchens had said and did a pretty thorough take down of it. When Peter Hitchens himself turned up in the comments I was looking forward to a really interesting discussion. I am still trying to figure out why he came here when it appears that he had absolutely nothing to say. Going back over the thread I see that there are many intelligent and cogent challenges to his views, he doesn’t even attempt to engage a single one of them but instead behaves like a bad tempered toddler and denounces us all as evil for being so mean to him. It appears that he takes disagreeing with him as a personal insult.

    As far as I can see I was never rude to him, I answered his questions concisely, the questions that I asked of him he completely ignored. The only conclusion that I can draw is that by attempting to engage with a bunch of very ordinary atheists he found himself completely out of his depth.

  67. 78

    sexual behavior doesn’t actually change when people become atheists. People engage in pretty much the same sexual acts, with the same frequency, whether they’re believers or atheists. Religion and atheism does affect people’s sex lives — sexual guilt diminishes, and sexual satisfaction increases, when people let go of religion

    When I was a believing Catholic teenager, I would keep praying to God to give me the strength not to masturbate, but then I would give in and then ask for God’s forgiveness and promise not to do it again. And so the cycle went on. Went I became an atheist, I still masturbated from time to time, but didn’t have any guilt about it at all. The behavior remained the same, but my attitudes towards it changed.

    As an atheist, I am happily married and monogamous. While I might fantasize about other women sometimes, I don’t act on it. Why? Because I value my wife and the relationship I have with her. So, suck on that Peter Hitchens.

  68. 79

    If they are so sure that God doesn’t exist, then why can’t they leave it at that and quietly live their lives accordingly? Why do they need to be so perpetually angry with those who think He does exist? Why are so many of them so full of spite? Why do they so seldom reflect on the origins of that spite? Who dares to ask, for fear of unleasihing yet more of that same spite?

    This is what I get for not reading the comments and scrolling directly to the bottom.

    Mr. Hitchens, you want to know why atheists can’t leave it at that. Because, here in the United States at least, a large segment of the population equates being a “good” American with believing in a god, preferably the Christian one. In the 1950’s, “under God” was unnecessarily added to the Pledge of Allegiance, thereby denigrating the citizenship of Atheist Americans. When I signed my son up for the Cub Scouts, he was given a handbook with a scout pledge that required pledging his duty to god. When I tried to reason with the Scout leaders about it without success, I had to pull my son out. Mean spirited American politicians like Newt Gingrich denigrate secular Americans while themselves engaging in behavior that goes against the teachings of the religion they espouse.

    We’re not vocal atheists because we get some thrill out of pissing in the cornflakes of the religious. We speak out because an influential segment of one major political party in this country pushes a narrow, intolerant religiously based agenda. How can we not speak out in the face of this?

  69. KG
    80

    I commend my assailants to pages 149-51 (US Edition)of my book ‘The Rage Against God’ (good title, huh?) – Peter Hitchens

    Well yes, insofar as it gives the potential reader fair warning that the work is likely to be a stupid rant by an ignorant bigot. I understand the contents do not disappoint if this is what one is seeking.

  70. 81

    stonyground #77

    The only conclusion that I can draw is that by attempting to engage with a bunch of very ordinary atheists he found himself completely out of his depth.

    This was my reaction as well with one addition. Apparently rebutting Peter Hitchens and disclaiming his accusations of atheist immorality is itself immoral.

  71. 82

    Peter Hitchens #72: I commend my assailants to pages 149-51 (US Edition)of my book ‘The Rage Against God’

    After seeing your performance here and at Daylight Atheism, and after reading your piece in the Daily Mail (already linked above), I will not be buying or reading your book. As i have stated already, you seem to have nothing new, nor intelligent, nor even interesting to say on the topics of religion and morality.
    .
    I would suggest other commenters at least check out P. Hitchens’ piece in the Daily Mail, which was quoted at Daylight Atheism to start off this episode. It’s not that long, it contains some reminisces about Peter Hitchens’ recently deceased brother, and it gives an impression of the level of sophistication to be expected in his book, which is disappointing coming from someone who has participated in public debates about religion and who has written a book about religion and morality. Some examples:
    .

    (About his burning a Bible, which was a gift from his parents) But this was my Year Zero. I was engaged in a full, perfect and complete rebellion against everything I had been brought up to believe.

    Despite your insinuations about atheist motivation, I never went through any such period myself. When i gave up the religion I was raised in, it was certainly not motivated by rebellion nor by a desire for illegal drugs and promiscuous sex.

    My own, slow return to faith began when I was 30, in 1981… the old unsettling messages. One was the inevitability of my own death… No doubt I should be ashamed to confess that fear played a part in my return to religion, specifically a painting: Rogier van der Weyden’s 15th Century Last Judgement, which I saw in Burgundy while on holiday.

    Yes, you should be. But that is just the motivation. If you later came to a reasoned justification, the motivation could be overlooked. Likewise, if you could stick to attacking the arguments of atheists rather than your strawman charicature of their motivations, you would be better off.

    At around the same time I rediscovered Christmas, which I had pretended to dislike for many years. I slipped into a carol service on a winter evening, diffident and anxious not to be seen. … I am not exactly clear now how this led in a few months to my strong desire – unexpected by me or by my friends, but encouraged by my then unbelieving future wife – to be married in church.

    So he likes the cultural trappings of religion. Fine, but still nothing substantial.

    Why is there such a fury against religion now? Because religion is the one reliable force that stands in the way of the power of the strong over the weak. The one reliable force that forms the foundation of the concept of the rule of law.
    The one reliable force that restrains the hand of the man of power.

    There might be other reasons which apparently have not occured to you. And the third sentence there looks highly suspect to me. You would need to argue for that, rather than state it as a given.

    As he has become more certain about the non-existence of God, I have become more convinced we cannot know such a thing in the way we know anything else, and so must choose whether to believe or not. I think it better by far to believe.

    I do not agree with you on that, and having seen a few of the arguments you present in its favor; such as the first cause argument, I am not at all impressed by your reasoning or even the level of sophistication in your argumentation. This is not trivial or off-topic. If you want to impose moral codes on others which are based on your belief in the supernatural, then you need to present a solid justification for that belief.

    He (Christopher Hitchens) often assumes that moral truths are self-evident, attributing purpose to the universe and swerving dangerously round the problem of conscience – which surely cannot be conscience if he is right since the idea of conscience depends on it being implanted by God. If there is no God then your moral qualms might just as easily be the result of indigestion.

    I disagree with C.H. over the existence of moral truths, so any arguments directed against that will not apply to me. This statement that “the idea of conscience depends on it being implanted by God” seems unjustified.

    One of the problems atheists have is the unbelievers’ assertion that it is possible to determine what is right and what is wrong without God. They have a fundamental inability to concede that to be effectively absolute a moral code needs to be beyond human power to alter.

    Effectively absolute” – how odd. How nonabsolute. Such waffling undercuts your use of the word absolute.

    Absolute = unalterable by humans. I get it. No problem. It’s built into the definition of absolute. Now, on whether absolute morals exist, and whether humans can discover them, and whether any god can be the source of them, you do not comment.

    On this misunderstanding is based my brother Christopher’s supposed conundrum about whether there is any good deed that could be done only by a religious person, and not done by a Godless one. Like all such questions, this contains another question: what is good, and who is to decide what is good?

    The same question applies with either atheistic or theistic assumptions. Euthyphro on you.

    Left to himself, Man can in a matter of minutes justify the incineration of populated cities; the deportation, slaughter, disease and starvation of inconvenient people and the mass murder of the unborn.

    1) If an omniscient, omni-present God existed, how could man ever be “left to himself”? The mind boggles.
    2) Left to himself, Yahweh of the Old Testament was guilty of many of the listed offenses. The New Testament which you prefer to cherry-pick explicitly states its reliance on the OT.

    For a moral code to be effective, it must be attributed to, and vested in, a non-human source. It must be beyond the power of humanity to change it to suit itself.

    The first statement is a bald, unjustified assertion. The second runs into evidential problems, since moral codes have indeed changed over time. The usual examples will do: slavery, the treatment of women.

    (Missing antecedent) Its most powerful expression is summed up in the words ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’.
    The huge differences which can be observed between Christian societies and all others, even in the twilit afterglow of Christianity, originate in this specific injunction.

    Oh? And all those Japanese who were willing to lay down their lives for their Emperor in WWII; were they secret Christians?

    It is striking that in his dismissal of a need for absolute theistic morality, Christopher says in his book that ‘the order to “love thy neighbour as thyself” is too extreme and too strenuous to be obeyed’. Humans, he says, are not so constituted as to care for others as much as themselves.
    This is demonstrably untrue, and can be shown to be untrue, through the unshakable devotion of mothers to their children; in the uncounted cases of husbands caring for sick, incontinent and demented wives (and vice versa) at their lives’ ends; through the heartrending deeds of courage on the battlefield.

    I don’t see that theistic morality is necessary to explain any of those. Caring for one’s children or the co-parent of one’s children have clear evolutionary explanations. And none of these examples are specific to Christian societies.

    I am also baffled and frustrated by the strange insistence of my anti-theist brother that the cruelty of Communist anti-theist regimes does not reflect badly on his case and on his cause. It unquestionably does.
    Soviet Communism is organically linked to atheism, materialist rationalism and most of the other causes the new atheists support. It used the same language, treasured the same hopes and appealed to the same constituency as atheism does today.

    Yes, he really wrote that.

  72. 83

    I am also baffled and frustrated by the strange insistence of my anti-theist brother that the cruelty of Communist anti-theist regimes does not reflect badly on his case and on his cause.

    And as I never tire of pointing out in response to this is that Russia was a brutal despotism under the tsars for centuries before Stalin came along. Stalin was essentially Ivan the Terrible with more advanced weaponry. Ivan the Terrible styled himself a very pious Eastern Orthodox Christian who also committed terrible atrocities against enemies real and imagined, and I dare say Josef Stalin would not have been possible had there not been an Ivan the Terrible.

  73. KG
    84

    a moral code to be effective, it must be attributed to, and vested in, a non-human source. It must be beyond the power of humanity to change it to suit itself. – Peter Hitchens

    The first statement is a bald, unjustified assertion. The second runs into evidential problems, since moral codes have indeed changed over time. The usual examples will do: slavery, the treatment of women. – Reginald Selkirk

    I’d guess that Hitchens supports slavery and the subordination of women, regarding modern objections to them as examples of the decadence that follows the decline of religion.

  74. 85

    The things I have learned:

    I’m not angry at religious organisations for trying to impose beliefs on others and inject them into schools and laws, I’m angry at a being I don’t believe in.

    But wait. I actually DO believe in the Christian God(the other gods still don’t exist, k), and the afterlife, I’m just choosing to go against It because I wanna be a rebel and partake in drugs and sex and murder all the unborn chidlins.

    Christian morals never change and our UK laws are based ~exactly~ on those originally laid down in the bible. We don’t employ our own natural sense of empathy or observe negative/positive consequences for people when we consider laws, we just look at the bible! Sooo atheists and followers of other religions should be killed, right? Rape victims should marry their rapists. Slaves should listen to their masters as though they were Jesus Christ. The man who killed a 15 year old boy at Christmas 2010, the reason being that he was a witch, was right to do so… I feel like emigrating.

    I saw more comments from Peter and read on.

    Phew! I must have just misunderstood all of that, I clearly didn’t read or understand Peter’s plain as day words before. I’m not sure exactly which parts we got wrong, as Peter failed to specify, but surely, surely nobody could write and mean something so ridiculous.

    So yeah, totally adding this exchange to my mental list of reasons why I’m an angry atheist. That study on atheist vs theist sex was really interesting, btw. I really do feel for the people who feel guilt for something so natural and enriching to us as a species. I share the sad you haz :c

  75. 86

    KG: I’d guess that Hitchens supports slavery and the subordination of women,…

    Rumtopf: Christian morals never change and our UK laws are based ~exactly~ on those originally laid down in the bible…

    Now now, Peter Hitchens has made it clear that he is a cherry-picker. He doesn’t like the term cherry-picker, but what else to call it? Here he is in a comment at Daylight Atheism, prattling on about which parts of the Bible are not the reliable Word of God:

    The psalms are quite obviously man addressing God, not the other way round ( and often rather irritably, or worse). What the Song of Songs is doing there at all, I have no idea. Much of the original Jewish law, rendered obsolete for Christians by the New Testament, is plainly the word of the lawyers, not the word of the Lord. The books of Kings, Judges, Exodus and Genesis are the works of historians, or of story-tellers. Much of the rest is by poets and prophets. Sometimes God speaks through them, or so Christians believe, but very little of this great library is the direct word of God, and none of it is unmediated. It all comes, as Mr Lee correctly points out, through the tongues and pens of human witnesses (or as he prefers to believe, fantasists). Atheists think they are terribly clever to have discovered these things about the Bible. Did they think Christians didn’t know them too?
    .
    Christ himself, in the most potent and important parts of scripture, namely His actual words as recorded by others, repeatedly speaks in parables. There never was a Good Samaritan, nor a Prodigal Son, nor was there a Vineyard owner, nor any Wise or Foolish Virgins, etc etc. If God communicated with men in this way when He walked on this Earth, then it is reasonable to suspect that He might have used this method before.

    How are we to know the actual words of Christ, recorded by others (sometimes when they could not have been present at the occasion described) are accurately recorded? It is well-known to textual scholars for instance, that the story of the woman who was to be stoned for adultery was a later invention. That Peter Hitchens prefers to believe a certain portion of the Bible is true (as he has stated that we believe what we prefer) is not a strong rational justification of the sort required if one is to apply one’s own moral code onto others.
    .
    Setting aside at this time the question of how the first book can be fiction, but the sequel can be true, since the NT explicitly states its dependence on the OT; let’s get back to morality. The unreliabilty of the Bible, acknowledged by Peter Hitchens puts him in an uncomfortable position, as he believes 1) that God exists, 2) that objective morals exist and 3) that objective morals can only come from God.
    .
    This means that it is not enough to make a good case for the existence of God (at which Peter Hitchens has failed miserably), he must also tell us how to go about getting hold of those God-given objective morals. Clearly cherry-picking the parts that happen to agree with our own ideas not adequate.
    .
    .
    To take a completely different tack, Peter Hitchens believes that objective moral codes can only come from God, but then wants to offer rational, secular justification for behaviour he views as moral. He wants to explain how moral behaviour has actual benefit to individuals and to society. This undercuts hiw own stand that immoral behaviour is bad because God says so, not because it has actual benefit. If there are rational, secular justifications for a moral standard, then we simply don’t need the “God said so” excuse.

  76. 87

    He actually claimed that the Jewish law was rendered obsolete by the New Testament?

    Jesus Christ, the founder of the Christian religion, as quoted in the New Testament:

    “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righeousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

    Matthew Ch. 5 Vs 17-20

    Actually Peter, all those absurd and pointless laws were abandoned, not because Jesus Christ rendered them obsolete but because potential new recruits enjoyed a bacon sandwich and had a bit of a problem with having the end of their dicks sawn off.

  77. 88

    “On a more serious note, the Bible isn’t a valid source. It’s the opinions of the authors who wrote it. I’m going to cut you off at the “but god wrote/inspired it!” pass with this question. How do you know god wrote/inspired the Bible? Because the Bible said god wrote/inspired the Bible. I could write a blog post saying that the only way we can be moral is by eating delicious kitten curry, and write in the same blog that god writes/inspires my blog, but that doesn’t make it true. So why is the Bible any different? Other than the fact that you’ve been taught you’re supposed to believe it.”

    I’m going to cut you off by saying that not all Christians post from a list of predefined answers. I have doubts about the Bible too. (From your secular point of view, think of the Bible as being from a philosopher you don’t agree with–it doesn’t mean it’s not valid to all people.) The part in the Bible about Jesus even says the Bible isn’t the end all, be-all. It also says religion isn’t the end-all, be-all. Think higher, love one another. Religion’s effect on society can be detrimental, even to a person of faith–part of my point.

  78. 89

    I want to expand a bit further. I know you don’t believe Jesus is real. For arguments’ sake, if He were here, He would be trying to reach to the people who want to do what is good and right. Those are who would hear Him.

    He was not interested in lining up with the established religion of the time. Now I know you want nothing to do with Him, but He was reaching out to those who wanted to do what is right and He wanted to free them from the man-made restrictions of religion. Apart from you believing in Him, you are closer to what he wanted than many of us believers (e.g. doubting Thomas). (I also realize the definition of good is in question for many of you, but to me, that just means you are asking the right questions.)

  79. 90

    Peter Hitchens, that is such bullshit! You do not have the right to pontificate upon what I think and my innermost motivations, because you have no fucking idea what they are!

    I am both moral and chaste, not to say a little prissy, and yet I don’t believe in your sky fairy, the sun-god Ra, witches, ghosts, leprechauns, nor Little Red Riding Hood.

  80. 91

    Heh. Oh my. Peter Hitchens has a theory, has he? One that imputes base motives on no basis whatsoever?

    How very… precious.

    … and funny that. As I’ve one of those of my own, here…

    Yeah. I think he only says silly bumpf like this because he’s jealous of all the attention his brother got.

    Well, he staaaarted it.

    Oh, and Petey, word to the wise: repeating so dismally banal a smear as that prolly isn’t quite the way to correct that whole ‘forgettable drudge standing beside a vastly more entertaining brother’ problem you’ve got going, there. Hell, I probably shouldn’t even be helping you by mentioning as much, but what can ya do. I’m finding being one of those who points it out is, I’m afraid, just a mite irresistible, here. Let’s just call it one of the decadent pleasures my corrupt unbelieving heart is prey to, shall we?

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