Several readers sent me Ross Douthat’s self-satisfied “eulogy” of Hitchens in Sunday’s New York Times, “The believer’s atheist.“ It contained ridiculous statements like these:
At the very least, Hitchens’s antireligious writings carried a whiff of something absent in many of atheism’s less talented apostles — a hint that he was not so much a disbeliever as a rebel, and that his atheism was mostly a political romantic’s attempt to pick a fight with the biggest Tyrant he could find. . .
. . . But my strongest memory comes from a Washington dinner party two years ago, when he cornered me in the pantry and insisted on having a long argument about the Gospel narratives. The point he was particularly eager to make was this: “Suppose Jesus of Nazareth did rise from the dead — what would that prove, anyway?”
It’s a line whose sheer cussedness cuts to the heart of Hitchens’s charm. But it also hints at the way that atheism — especially a public and famous atheism — can become as self-defended as any religious dogma, impervious to any new fact or unexpected revelation.
. . . In his very brave and very public dying, though, one could see again why so many religious people felt a kinship with him. When stripped of Marxist fairy tales and techno-utopian happy talk, rigorous atheism casts a wasting shadow over every human hope and endeavor, and leads ineluctably to the terrible conclusion of Philip Larkin’s poem “Aubade” — that “death is no different whined at than withstood.”
It’s smug, dismissive of Hitchens’s absolutely serious attacks on religion, and gets in a few licks at atheism as well. What on earth are the “new facts or unexpected revelations” that have made us waver? And really—are we atheists bereft of hope and endeavor? If that were true, there would be a lot less science!
But enough, for author Charles Pierce absolutely demolishes Douthat’s “eulogy” in a new piece at Esquire, “Ross Douthat, gravedigger” (thanks to EvolutionBlog for calling this to my attention).
In response to the Jesus reference, Pierce says this:
(No, actually, Ross, it hints at the fact that you were asked a question you couldn’t answer. And, forgive me as a struggling Papist, but is there a “new fact or unexpected revelation” concerning Jesus Of Nazareth that I’ve missed? Other than Tim Tebow, I’m not aware of one. Did you get knocked out of a cab on the way to Damascus? Was there a new scroll dug up at Qum’ran? Did I miss an encyclical? And “sheer cussedness” Really? I’ve heard Hitchens described in a hundred ways since he died, but this is the first time he has been implicitly compared to Granny Clampett. Whooo, doggies!)
There’s a lot more as Pierce takes Douthat apart line by line. Goodtimez.
But for sheer bile and stupidity, as well as incoherence, nothing beats Maniza Naqvi‘s piece in 3 Quarks Daily, “Hitched in history to crimes against humanity.” Not only is it loaded with superfluous invective, making one wonder why Ms. Naqvi is so angry, but, more important, the piece is virtually without content. Even at his most strident, at least Hitch had something to say. Here’s a sample of Naqvi’s prose:
That toad’s [Hitchens's] words hitch him to being part of the language, literature and actions that define the racist, supremacist and fascist ethos of mass murderers who are obsessed with God all the while denying their real obsession as if to say: I don’t deny —my orientation—because I have a greater obsession than that which I need to hide: I actually do believe in a God—in a God for the right people–a white God.
The toad, an inebriated toxic decay wrapped inside the blubber of mid life crisis, appeared to himself, a legend, from a bar stool smoky view of the mirror. So he hitched his sense of self to some confusion with Dorian Gray . .
. . . He must have honed his craft in the shower room of his public school—offering himself up—whilst escaping by being entertaining and witty from those bullies whom he must’ve perceived, in his classist mind, to be his superiors—so that he, would himself survive and gang up with them on inflicting maximum harm on those whom he considered unworthy of kindness—guileless victims, those who were not able to fight back.
Before this essay I had a modicum of respect for 3 Quarks Daily—and, to be fair—they’ve since published a critique of this piece by Tauriq Moosa, “How not to write: Maniza Naqvi’s piece on Hichens“—but one wonders what the webmasters were thinking when they put up such a juvenile and empty rant.