The Showboat vs. the Bastard

by alphamonkey on May 15, 2007 · 13 comments

in Uncategorized

Had the Rev. Al Sharpton not made his ill-thought out comment about Mormon Mitt Romney’s chances in the 2008 Presidential election, I’ve no doubt last week’s debate between Sharpton and contrarian & pundit Christopher Hitchens would have received little to no press.  Atheism seems to be the last boogeyman in America, with little coverage given to prominent speakers on the subject, and that little coverage usually focuses on the supposed zealotry and prejudice of atheism (two terms which, I’ll admit, kinda boggle the mind in being tied to atheism).  Considering this country was founded by students of the Enlightenment, you’d think we’d be a little be more open minded and secular on the matter.

Anyway…. Slate Editor Jacob Weisberg moderated the debate, which you can watch below.  Very informative, and certainly worth watching.  Sadly it lacks the sheer comedic genius of pairing up evangelist Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron against members of the atheist movement, Rational Response Squad that occurred last Wednesday on Nightline (which you can find at the ABC News site)

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  • elkciN

    Yeah! Damn Atheists!

    With all of the wars they’ve started, and their hypocracy, elitism, close-mindedness, and spreading of propoganda!


  • elkciN

    You know what else bugs me about Atheists?

    It’s how they pretty much control our country (having all but abolished any semblance of the seperation of church and state), constantly treat anyone who doesn’t agree with them like shit, and still manage to complain that they’re constantly ‘under attack’. F’ing Atheists, and their magical book that must be true because it’s a book, and thinking for yourself is ‘too hard’.

    Still, though, I can’t shake this feeling that I’m doing this wrong…hmm…

    Well, in any case, screw Atheists.

  • elkciN

    I could go on, but I suppose the joke is wearing a bit thin, and now I’ve gone and gotten myself into a huff.

    Besides, it’ll be hilarious if the Rapture DOES come, and Jesus is all “Well, I noticed you read the book and everything, but damn, you guys are dicks. Seriously, did you just gloss over the parts that didn’t suit you? That’s what you did, didn’t you? Dammit, I was crucified for THIS?!?!?”

  • Poet

    Christopher Hitchens remains one of the most well spoken men on the planet.

  • Look Madge! I soaked in it!


    When you make it perfectly obvious that you only have disdain for anyone who considers themselves to be religious – no matter how moderate or liberal they may be – you prevent any and all possibility of mutual agreement and compromise.

    As such, you have made yourself incredibly similar to the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells and Muslim and Jewish fundamentalists of the world: “Believe what I believe or you are a worthless piece of sh*t.”

    Any conversation you may have had with me would have probably revealed that you and I agree on many many things. However, we will never find that out because you have made it perfectly clear that you believe I can’t even think for myself.

    Way to give further credence to intolerance and bigotry. Really, I applaud your “f*ck all who disagree” attitude rapt in the cloth of intellect.

    Really enlightening.

    BTW. Christopher Hitchens is the ONLY person in the world who still believes that Saddam actually tried to buy yellow cake in Niger –

  • elkciN

    Yeah, sorry about that, I was a bit on edge about that yesterday. A friend of mine and I had a bit of a falling out over religious beliefs. (Nothing like this, the comments here were just my venting.)

    Generally I don’t care what you believe, as long as you’re a decent person. The factors that anger me about religion are the people who use it as a crutch to facilitate evil deeds. I didn’t mean for my anger to come out as a broad hatred of faith and religion.

    Generally, I am pretty level-headed when it comes to Theology and Philosphy, (indeed, my chosen studies), you just caught me on a bad day. So yeah, sorry that came out all wrong. Religion can be a very good thing, it just pains me to see it being abused so rampantly. These days, it seems like religion is doing more harm than good.

    To sum it up, you’re right, I was wrong.

  • .alphamonkey.

    Hitchens views on Iraq remain my major sticking point with him.  Sometimes I wonder if he’s just abiding by his contrarian ethos by refusing to back down or admit that Iraq was a massive mistake, but mostly it just pisses me off.  At least he’s willing to admit that it’s been horribly mismanaged from the get go.

    However, his eloquence and passion in most other fields wins me over.

  • Look Madge! I soaked in it!

    Thanks for the apology, elkciN. I heartily accept it.

    I firmly believe that the only way for me to combat people who use religion as a veil to excuse hatred/intolerance/violence is to stand up and be heard as a counter-example. That is, to be a person of faith who refuses to accept fundamentalism.

    What I think happens all too often is that those of us who believe in God but eschew fundamentalism wind up hiding our faith in order to avoid being painted as a “Bible thumper.” As a result, the only people proclaiming faith at all are those proclaiming a hate-filled faith. And secular society only knows the fundamentalists.

    I think Christopher Hitchens makes the same mistake as fundamentalists make when viewing religion. That is, he sees it as an all-or-nothing take-it-or-leave-it system of dogma.

    It’s comical, really. He portrays religion in grotesque caricature, then uses that caricature as the reason why he rejects religion. A little too simplistic – Assume all who are religious are fundamentalists, show that fundamentalists are crazy, prove that religion is insane.

    The bottom line seems to me to be that Hitchens is too arrogant to believe that anybody could have a more superior intillect than him. Therefore, by definition, there is no God.

  • elkciN

    It’s strange trying to define my own beliefs. In fact, I’m more than a bit envious of people who have ‘figured it out’. Personally, I guess I just think that it’s not our purpose to figure out why we’re here, or where we’ll go when we die, but rather to live our lives, and be the best person we can be.

    Faith is all well and good, but I just can’t know for certain, and I think that trying to figure out which religion is ‘right’ is pointless. Several religions are pretty similar in their ideals (i.e. love one another, don’t kill (which is ignored. I don’t remember anything next to that commandment that said ‘you know, unless you’ve got a good reason&#8217wink, etc, etc), but the people are seperated by semantics.

    If there’s one thing that frustrates me about religions (atheism included) it’s the sense of ‘entitlement’ or the feeling that one’s beliefs are infallible, leading to the inablity (or unwillingness) to see the world around oneself. You can believe whatever you want to believe, but once you start marginalizing me for not sharing those beliefs, we may have a problem (general statement, not directed at you).

    So, yeah, for me I guess religion is full of great ideas, but poor implementation, and widespread misunderstanding. Not to mention that several of those who have risen to prominence in their respective groups have become unimaginably corrupted, and are now corrupting those who follow them.

    Funny side note: during our argument on religion, my friend brought up the fact that Christianity is so widespread ‘so many people can’t be wrong’, etc. My reply: ‘when you go around killing everyone who doesn’t think like you, you’ll tend to gather alot of followers’

    Another funny side note: The Boondocks last weekend was the Martin Luther King Jr. episode, and it’s one of my favorites. Dr. King becomes villanized as an ‘Al Queda lover’ after an appearance on a talk show in which his response to the terrorist attacks was to ‘turn the other cheek’, following his faith. Interesting side not to the side note: Al Sharpton was pissed about that episode due to the excessive use of the ‘n-word’, regardless of the fact that it was used to make a point. Al Sharpton last his credibilty (to me) decades ago, due to his willingness to go after the headline-grabbing (but in truth, meaningless) topics (naughty words), while mostly ignoring anything that could actually make a difference.

  • elkciN

    Another shout out to the people who tell me I’m going to hell, no matter how good a person I am, because I haven’t accepted their Lord. You’re making your God sound like a petulant asshole, bravo.

    Had an intersting debate with another friend last night about religion, involving creationism vs science. It was interesting (this was before the fighting started) hearing one friend (science) and another (christianity) arguing the points. If particles collided in space to create everything, then where did the particles come from, where did the space come from? On the flip side, if God created everything, who created God?

    The way I look at it, somewhere along the line you’d have to concede that some things don’t neccessarily have a ‘beginning’ or an ‘end’. Time, for instance. Then it seems to me to be pretty arrogant to think that we’re capable of comprehending this idea, and anyone who has a set belief system is relying entirely on unfounded ‘faith’, and that doesn’t sit well with me. Religion, to me, is a product of man’s fear of death, a way of comforting. By the same coin, deciding that there most definitely is NOT a god, is the atheists way of doing the same thing, I suppose.

    I guess, in the end, I just think that living your life is much more important than worrying about your death. I’d like to think that, if there is a big guy in the sky watching us, he’d much rather we enjoy all the gifts he’s given us than to ‘praise’ him constantly. That would get pretty boring. And I especially doubt that he/she enjoys people killing in his/her name. Unless God is the petulant spoiled brat that most religions make him out to be. In which case, screw him.

  • Look Madge! I soaked in it!

    I think the afterlife is over-emphasized when discussing religion. Most people of faith that I know don’t feel that the point of religion is going to heaven/paradise/nirvana. Instead, we believe in God and _hope_ to go to heaven/paradise/nirvana. If the only reason you believe in Jesus is to go to heaven you kind of missed the point. Besides, anyone who is conversant with the Bible can easily tell you that Jesus implores us to _follow_ him. At no point in the Gospels does Jesus ask us to _worship_ him. The difference between following and worshiping is pretty big, in my opinion.

    As for the sense of entitlement, again I think what you are really criticizing are those who can’t envision themselves as being factually incorrect. Clearly, arrogance is neither applicable to all who believe in god nor is it absent in the unreligious. There are lots of idiots with opinions.

    As for the poor implementation, I submit that any endeavor of mankind will be fraught with poor implementation. The Church, being an establishment of mankind, is still fallible. Seems a reasonable argument for not being active in your local church, mosque or synagogue, but not a very good critique of the existence/non-existence of God.

    As for Al Sharpton, I refuse to believe that anyone “ordained” at the age of 9 is sufficiently trained to wear the mantle of “Reverend.” Paint me a mainline-Christian if you must, but it seems to me that anyone claiming to have a unique ability to lead the faithful ought to have had some education and training before setting off in the name of God. So you’ll never hear me defending him.

    I try to think of my faith as what it is, a faith (as opposed to a certainty). I _believe_ in God, but I am not _certain_ of God. I _believe_ that I am factually correct. However, I still acknowledge that I may _not_ be factually correct.

    Regardless, it is important to point out that factual correctness and moral righteousness are not the same thing. I could be factually correct, which would mean that Jews would be factually incorrect (the whole Jesus being the Messiah is pretty much a true/false, but not both, kind of thing), and that says nothing about the moral righteousness of a Jew, who may very well be a better person than me.

    I think this last point is very important. Fundamentalists are so certain of their factual correctness that they assume it makes them morally righteous – it is not a certainty and it does not make them righteous even if they are factually correct. By contrast, too many liberals are so afraid of being seen as claiming they are morally righteous that they are unwilling to even consider the point.

  • elkciN

    Like I said before, I don’t mean this as a broad generalization of all people who proscribe to a religion, just those who fit into the ‘molds’ I described, really. I have no problem with your beliefs, and am willing to admit that maybe you are right in them.

    It’s refreshing being able to talk rationally about things like this, as I always have the luck of getting into these types of converstations with those fundamentalists and zealots that we’re talking about, and I will admit that it’s caused me to view religion (generally) in a negative light.

    I agree completely with what you said in your first paragraph, but the problem is that a great deal of ‘people of faith’ seem to, in my opinion, be worshipping instead of following, almost akin to ‘do as I say, not as I do’.

    We are not that opposed, you and I, even if our basic belief structures differ. If I had to be put on the spot, I would probably say that I don’t believe in a ‘God’ persay. I would have to say that alot of my personal philosophies are a mish mash of the ideals of several different religions, though I am unable to adhere to one in particular. They way I see it, religious texts are more moral fairy tales, rather than works of non-fiction. But, just like you said yourself, I understand that I could be wrong. Since I am unable to decide, all I can do is the best I can.

    And yes, I’m not such a big fan of discussions related to the afterlife. Because I don’t believe that anyone can know what will happen when we die, I’m of the opinion that worrying about it is a waste of time. Maybe there’s a heaven. Maybe we’re reincarnated. All I know for sure is that I’m here now, so I guess I’ll just have to cross those bridges when I get there.

    Also, more power to you for your faith, in all truth. As I said before, I’m envious, and I think that being a person of faith, at times, can be alot tougher than being a lazy undecided ass, like myself.

  • KGsharkk

    Big words and heated discussions scare me. Therefor, I will keep this relatively short.

    This is what I have come up with, concerning religion:  It’s none of my personal business. If people feel a sense of belonging, hapiness, and comunion, why should I ruin it for them? They are right. Completely. and so am I. and Everyone else in the world. Whetever makes you happy in the short, ever so brief time that we are given.

    I, for one, firmly believe that all organsisms, from 2000 nm long protists to the largest redwoods and whales, share a common desire to survive, prosper and eventually pass on what made them prosper and survive. What powers this drive to resist returing back to base elements, I don’t know. I guess one could call this “God’s Influence” or whatnot, and that’s cool. I really don’t know what it is. As for an afterlife, why should I care? I’m too busy focusing on what’s happening now(and survivng and prospering). Besides, my death will come eventually. I’ll just enjoy life and find out what happens when the time comes.

    The only people I have a problem with is people who force, make fun of, or justify actions using religion. This just isn’t cool at all. Especially if these actions hurt people.

    It’s just something to make your life better, for God’s sake.  grin

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