Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Meaning of Life, Part 52

I once heard the late Abba Eban, one of Israel's more polished and thoughtful diplomats and statesmen, give a talk in New York. The first thing to strike the eye about the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, he said, was the ease of its solubility.

From this arresting start he went on to say, with the authority of a former foreign minister and UN representative, that the essential point was a simple one. Two peoples of roughly equivalent size had a claim to the same land. The solution was, obviously, to create two states side by side. Surely something so self-evident was within the wit of man to encompass?

And so it would have been, decades ago, if the messianic rabbis and mullahs and priests could have been kept out of it. But the exclusive claims to god-given authority, made by hysterical clerics on both sides and further stoked by Armageddon-minded Christians who hope to bring on the Apocalypse (preceded by the death or conversion of all Jews), have made the situation insufferable, and put the whole of humanity in the position of hostage to a quarrel that now features the threat of nuclear war.

Religion poisons everything

As well as a menace to civilization, it has become a threat to human survival. pp. 24-5

--Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything


  1. Well, ...

    Absolute statements, as a rule, are always wrong as well.

  2. I find Hitchens interesting...until I hear him advocate genocide for violent religious extremists (if I recall correctly, he was directing that at the Taliban). I was shocked when I heard him promote it in a video with Harris, Dawkins, and Denning. At that point, he looses a lot of credibility when he labels "religion" as the enemy of human well-being.

    I argue that the Palestinian situation is one of the keys to stability in the Middle East. I also argue that religious extremism is escalating the problem. And I prefer to argue that divine justice (yes, my sense of justice that I have adopted from my religious beliefs and faith experience) is not a justice that destroys "them" to secure "us," but is rather a justice that works toward the transformation of those involved.

  3. I'm not a fan of fundamentalists, whether they're religious wackos, or atheist wackos.

  4. I do like to include Hitchens in the mix now and then. I am reading his God is Not Great now, and finding much of it rather cathartic even as I disagree with his absolutism. I do think he is right on in regards to religion making things worse in the Middle East.

  5. I think he has a lot of decent things to say, but he just takes his criticism way too far too often.

  6. Another one of the "four horsemen" who i think has some really good ideas but may perhaps go a bit far (I've heard it said that he also advocates violence in certain circumstances, though I don't recall him saying so) is Sam Harris. I enjoyed his End of Faith (and I admit to reading it quickly...maybe skimming more than I should have). Interestingly, he is an atheist who believes there is "spiritual" depth to existence.

  7. The myth of Sam Harris promoting violence against Islamic extremism is one he refutes - and interestingly, I understand Hitchens is the one who made the original assertion.

  8. Sam Harris answers critics here regarding violence. I think these four are important to read. My favorite is Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell.

  9. Ah, thanks for the update on Harris and the links. I haven't looked into Dennet much...yet.

  10. I just read this by Harris:

    "A cold war requires that the parties be mutually deterred by the threat of death. Notions of martyrdom and jihad run roughshod over the logic that allowed the United States and the Soviet Union to pass half a century perched, more or less stably, on the brink of Armageddon. What will we do if an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise, ever acquires long-range nuclear weaponry?"

    I'm not sure that he has the radical suicidal Islamicist right. I think each person has to do the fighting. One big bomb would not get all the Muslims that died into paradise in the event of a return strike. Unless the one who pushes the button is only interested in his place in paradise and not that of any other.