Grant Rants

Welcome to the Friday Hitchslap: 10 Commandments edition

- October 26th, 2012

Greetings web denizens, heathens, zealots and the rest of you!

Given the weird volume of religion-related news of late, and my propensity t6u9y1o write about them, I’ve decided to introduce a new feature here on the Rant blog: The Friday Hitchslap.

If you are not familiar with the term “Hitchslap” I present to you the definition provided by the “Urban Dictionary” which is a more helpful little web-tool than you might think:

HITCHSLAP: The process of utterly obliterating an opponent’s entire (usually religious or political) argument, usually in one or more succinct or terse statements, orally or in writing; employed almost exclusively by Christopher Hitchens.

To kick off our weekly dose of the Hitch, I thought we’d start with something basic, something everybody knows. The 10 Commandments.

Hitchens takes exception with the commandments, as laid out in the Old Testament, being held up as some manner of moral or ethical guidelines or rules. In the video below, and in the Vanity Fair article upon which it is based, Hitchens brilliant deconstructs the famous list of 10 and offers up  his own, 21st century replacements which read as follows:

  1. Do not condemn people on the basis of their ethnicity or their color.
  2. Do not ever even think of using people as private property.
  3. Despise those who use violence or the threat of it in sexual relations.
  4. Hide your face and weep if you dare to harm a child.
  5. Do not condemn people for their inborn nature. (“Why would God create so many homosexuals, only to torture and destroy them?”)
  6. Be aware that you, too, are an animal, and dependent on the web of nature. Try to think and act accordingly.
  7. Do not imagine you can avoid judgment if you rob people [by lying to them] rather than with a knife.
  8. Turn off that fucking cell phone.
  9. Denounce all jihadists and crusaders for what they are: psychopathic criminals with ugly delusions and terrible sexual repression.
  10. Reject any faith if their commandments contradict any of the above.

So what say you, readers of the Rant? What do you make of this list? Do you have your own? Do you take exception with the Hitch here? Don’t be shy. Speak up!

 

 

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6 comments

  1. Karrie says:

    Hi Grant,

    I enjoy your columns, even though I never seem to agree with you on much. I have two points:

    Hitchslap, as a take on bitchslap, is not progressive. You can do better, especially since you are a vocal supporter of Gillian’s Place.

    Because of Hitchens’ unwavering support of the invasion of Iraq, I just can’t swallow any of this from him. Even after it became widespread knowledge there were no weapons of mass destruction, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, and the invasion was planned pre-9/11, he didn’t let up. How could he say these things while justifying 100,000 civilian deaths, depleted uranium, the rape and pillage of the country, the astronomical cost, the psychological toll on children and families, the sexual assaults, the injuries and deaths of coalition soldiers. I enjoy your columns, but I hope you don’t continue with this Hitchens crap. I don’t think he’s briliant. He’s an arrogant hypocrite. Signed, an atheist!

    • grant.lafleche says:

      Karrie;

      Thanks for your comment.

      The phrase “hitchslap” is obvious a play on words, but it has, however, become a meme used to describe the Hitch’s ability to dismember his rhetorical foes. What’s more, because a “hitchslap” is an oral argument, not an abuse attack or physical assault, it actually is play on a words demonstrating, I think, that talking in a reasonable way is always preferable to being abusive. In other words, like good satire always does, it steals away the offensive term and twists it into something else.

      I did not agree with him on much of what he said about the Iraq war, beyond the fact that Saddam was a monster (a US created monster at that) that should have been taken out decades before he was. The Iraq war was, I think, largely a failure and did nothing to combat terrorists who were based out of Afghanistan.

      But, in his arguments about ethics and religion, his dissection of the myth of Mother Theresa and political commentary HItchens was often spot on. One of the great things about being an atheist is that there are no popes, no holy doctrines or books. An atheist can disagree with his or her fellows on one point and agree with them on another. That Hitchens supported the Iraq war doesn’t make what he is saying here about religion isn’t correct.

      What do you think about his list of 10?

      • Karrie says:

        The list of 10 is fine, as long if I could forget who wrote them. I would reword number 9 to say “Denounce all jihadists and crusaders with all your might, but fight the conditions of poverty and oppression that created them with the same fervour”.

        I was no fan of Mother Theresa and I believe exposing people’s agendas is important, even when it’s wildly unpopular to do so. Exposing MT was brilliant.

        Because he used to be a socialist, I do agree with a lot of his earlier writings. He wrote a book with Edward Said, who I admired. Unfortunately his neo-con politics and racist writings on “islamofascism” near the end of his life, which he tried to cover up as hardline atheism, are just too offensive to me. I lost all respect for him, so I don’t hold him in great esteem as a great atheist of our time. His calling of the Dixie Chicks “fucking fat slags” didn’t help either. I often wonder if the alcohol did something to his brain.

        Although I am an atheist, I don’t believe that religion is the root of all evil. From Marx, “Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” People turn to religion because of the society we live in, not because they are stupid and ignorant, and both religious and non-religious people can become terrorists for complex reasons. Yes, individual terrorists should be denounced, but I don’t believe that blaming a whole religion for the actions of a few is right or makes any sense. This is where I really disagree with him.

        • grant.lafleche says:

          Well I agree with you up to a point. However, it must be said, I think, that when we look at terrorists today (and in fact through most of history) these are people driven mostly by a fanatical religious belief. The 911 hijackers, for instance, the Air India bombing, the attacks on London and Athens, the poison gas attack some years back Japan’s subways, and so on. All motivated by religious zealotry.

          This does not preclude an atheist becoming a terrorist, but to my knowledge, no one was read the works of Bertrand Russell or Carl Sagan and then used that as justification for blowing up a building. It’s like I have said many times, “militant” fundamentalists blow up buildings and shoot abortion doctors. “Militant” atheists write books.

          Yes indeed, Hitchens could be rude and offensive. I did not always agree with him. But on this point he, along with Sam Harris, are spot on. We cannot pretend that the most active terrorists in the world today are not driven by a Muslim theology. It’s undeniable. And while you are very correct that we cannot and should not, therefore, look at every Muslim and think “potential terrorist.” That is plainly irrational and unfair. And I think the difference between a Muslim living in Toronto and one in Afghanistan is profound.

          At the same time, it is worth pointing that we’ve never heard of a Quaker terrorist or a Jainist terrorist do we? We don’t hear about the followers of James Randi blowing up churches or throwing acid in the faces of little girls. There is something very particular about a strain of Islam (one that goes back to the collapse of Muslim civilization. Read “What Went Wrong by Bernard Lewis. Brilliant book) that fosters and promotes this sort of violence in the middle east.

          It is not unlike looking at certain strains of Christian fundamentalism that breeds people who think that shooting doctors is “god’s work.” This is not representative of Christian believers as a whole, but is none the less made possible by the theology.

          The thing is if you take ignorant people and make them believe that a god that loves them wants them to do these things, they will do it. As Voltaire said, those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

  2. Karrie says:

    There are over 1 billion Muslims vs. a handful of Quakers in this world. Of course you’ll find more bad Muslims. If there were 1 billion Quakers, and they lived under the conditions that many Muslims in this world live, there would probably be several terrorist Quaker sects.

    Religion is many things to many people. It can be both a tool of the ruling class to keep people in line and a tool of the oppressed to resist, e.g. usual Catholic repression versus Catholic liberation theology of Latin America. It’s a haven and can seem like the only real alternative, as Zionism was a response to the Holocaust. This is true no matter what religion. To blame the history of a religious sect or group for creating terrorism, without looking at it in a wider context, is extremely superficial and dangerous. This is the path I see your argument going when I read things like “There is something very particular about a strain of Islam…” When we think back to any war, act of terrorism, genocide, etc., we should not simply think “What is it about those that made them do this?” The point I’m trying to make is that religious movements do not exist in a vacuum. They are born out of a society’s historical, political and economic realities and struggles.

    Bernard Lewis is an orientalist, which is my polite way of saying a total racist. His views baffle me because he trivializes important historical facts. e.g. western colonization of Middle East and Africa. The strain of Islam you’re talking about I assume is Wahabism in Saudi Arabia. One could argue that this is another example of a ruling class using and manipulating a certain ideology to their benefit – to keep the masses in line while keeping a tight grip on power and one of the largest fortunes in the world. Is the root cause of terrorism in Saudi Arabia religion or money/greed/class antagonisms? What fosters and promotes violence anywhere? What makes men in the Congo rape women? They’re Christians and chances are those dudes go to church. Do we blame the Catholic Church’s historical and continued oppression of woman for this? It might play a role, but is not the cause.

    Would I love everyone to wake up tomorrow as an atheist? I do, because I think we could stop having arguments like this, about whether one religion is worse than another. These arguments don’t go anywhere and miss the point.

    Please read Edward Said’s “Orientalism”. If you do this first, I will try to make it through some Bernard Lewis without puking or putting my fist through a wall.

    • grant.lafleche says:

      Well I must disagree. While it is true that once cannot discount context (which is why I say a Muslim in Toronto is likely to believe much different things than his counterpart in Afghanistan) once also cannot discount doctrine.

      Simply put there is nothing within Quakerism or Jainism that could be a justification for violence, particularly violence against non-believers for being non-believers. On the other hand if your religion says, as all strains of Islam does, that the punishment for apostasy is death, well, you are likely to have people killing each other. It is not a question of statistics. Quakers and Jains are extreme pacifists who don’t even fight to protect themselves from violence. If a member of either group committed some awful act of violence, they wouldn’t be justifying it via their religion because no such justification exists.

      The question is not are there are other reasons for people to kill each other. Of course there are. It’s an easy concession to make. Money, power, territory, sex, a disagreement over which Sliver Surfer is the real Silver Surfer – the Kerby Silver Surfer or the Mobius Silver Surfer? The point is that religion often provides ready made justifications for violence. There is school of Islam, for instance, that disavows violence, rejects death as a penalty for disbelief and so on. If your religion, as Christianity does, contains justifications for murder on the basis of believing another religion, what do you think is going to happen? The books of the Abramic faiths are replete with theological justifications for the worst kinds of barbarism.

      The thing about Lewis is that he was in the book I mentioned bang on the money if you know your history. You want context, there is there. There was a point when the Muslim world was the zenith of civilization. Art, music, science (yes science), philosophy…all happening in the Muslim empires when Europeans were living in filth and scratching on animal skins. This was all undone by fundamentalist religion. When Europe began it’s long recovery and started to catch up (particularly in terms of economy and military) the school of Islam emerged that said the reason this was happening was because god was angry that Muslims were not devote enough and the aim of the faithful was to return the world to the state it was in when the prophet was alive. This lead DIRECTLY to the ruination of high Arab culture and the theology remains a dominate one in the middle east to this day. The most sophisticated society on earth at the time was brought low because of religion. You see the same time of thought in fundamentalist Christians in North America today.

      To say “well crime X was done by a religious person but not justified by their religion, therefore religion cannot be blamed for any wrong doing,” is, in my view, to ignore a great many facts.

      I will look up Said. Thanks for the recommendation. :-)

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