Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Christopher Hitchens’s letter to American atheists

with 6 comments

Via PZ Myers. Hitchens was to address the American Atheist convention, but could not because of voice problems. So he sent this letter:

Dear fellow-unbelievers,

Nothing would have kept me from joining you except the loss of my voice (at least my speaking voice) which in turn is due to a long argument I am currently having with the specter of death. Nobody ever wins this argument, though there are some solid points to be made while the discussion goes on. I have found, as the enemy becomes more familiar, that all the special pleading for salvation, redemption and supernatural deliverance appears even more hollow and artificial to me than it did before. I hope to help defend and pass on the lessons of this for many years to come, but for now I have found my trust better placed in two things: the skill and principle of advanced medical science, and the comradeship of innumerable friends and family, all of them immune to the false consolations of religion. It is these forces among others which will speed the day when humanity emancipates itself from the mind-forged manacles of servility and superstitition. It is our innate solidarity, and not some despotism of the sky, which is the source of our morality and our sense of decency.

That essential sense of decency is outraged every day. Our theocratic enemy is in plain view. Protean in form, it extends from the overt menace of nuclear-armed mullahs to the insidious campaigns to have stultifying pseudo-science taught in American schools. But in the past few years, there have been heartening signs of a genuine and spontaneous resistance to this sinister nonsense: a resistance which repudiates the right of bullies and tyrants to make the absurd claim that they have god on their side. To have had a small part in this resistance has been the greatest honor of my lifetime: the pattern and original of all dictatorship is the surrender of reason to absolutism and the abandonment of critical, objective inquiry. The cheap name for this lethal delusion is religion, and we must learn new ways of combating it in the public sphere, just as we have learned to free ourselves of it in private.

Our weapons are the ironic mind against the literal: the open mind against the credulous; the courageous pursuit of truth against the fearful and abject forces who would set limits to investigation (and who stupidly claim that we already have all the truth we need). Perhaps above all, we affirm life over the cults of death and human sacrifice and are afraid, not of inevitable death, but rather of a human life that is cramped and distorted by the pathetic need to offer mindless adulation, or the dismal belief that the laws of nature respond to wailings and incantations.

As the heirs of a secular revolution, American atheists have a special responsibility to defend and uphold the Constitution that patrols the boundary between Church and State. This, too, is an honor and a privilege. Believe me when I say that I am present with you, even if not corporeally (and only metaphorically in spirit…) Resolve to build up Mr Jefferson’s wall of separation. And don’t keep the faith.


Christopher Hitchens

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2011 at 3:20 pm

Posted in Daily life

6 Responses

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  1. Oh, I didn’t read all that harangue and am glad I stopped soon because I am a Christian.


    30 April 2011 at 4:29 am

  2. I read it several days ago and I’m glad I did.


    30 April 2011 at 9:34 am

  3. I don’t like knowing one of my favorite writers and indeed role models is withering away. Hitchens’ legacy will live on in many apt minds.

    Hitchens’ has always called individuals on their bullshit and empty arguments, and the way he delivers his calculated argumentative assualts on stupidity and ignorance is a blessing. He brought forth a fresh form of scepticism that everyone should adopt. Skepticism is incredibly important and he emphasized this. Without scepticism, minds are ripe for moulding.

    I like Christopher’s raw form especially on live nation-wide television. He does not pander to the masses and says what he truly thinks. This is to be admired.

    I am going to be incredibly sad, whenever the time may be, when Christopher wont be around. Christopher is one of the very few writers I actually care about.




    1 May 2011 at 11:55 pm

  4. Such wonderful prose and a set of delightfully sane comments as content, who could wish for a better example of what humans can aspire to?


    2 May 2011 at 5:55 am

  5. When Mr. Hitchens writes, “It is our innate solidarity, and not some despotism of the sky, which is the source of our morality and our decency,” what morality is he referring to? History and experience are rather clear indicators that not everyone shares the same moral inclinations. So…who’s right? What person determines the morality of the human race, because the human race is not united in an unanimous “we”.

    To his other points, that religion stifles scientific inquiry and that atheism is courageous, I wonder what he makes of almost all the great scientific developments having been advanced by Christians and Theists. Moreover, from his debate with Dr. William Lane Craig, it appears science shows better evidence that there IS a God than that there isn’t. You can watch the debate here:


    2 May 2011 at 9:06 am

  6. Don’t you find quite a bit of convergence in moral teachings? I think all societies, whether religious or not, tend to converge on a core of moral teachings, generally deriving (from experience and thought about that experience) something very like the idea that one should treat other people with respect and as one would want to be treated. Precepts against theft, murder, and the like arise in all groups living together, don’t they?

    Usually, of course, morality starts with a morality only concerned about our own kinsmen and tribe—others don’t require moral treatment. But over time, as has been documented in many studies, the range is extended to others and, ultimately, to all.

    Are you unaware of how religions have come out strongly against certain scientific findings? One thinks immediately of Galileo, of course, but even today it is religion that fights against the theory of evolution, and many who argue against climate change do so on religious grounds, not scientific grounds. (Others, of course, argue on economic grounds: “Let’s deny the science because it would cost my company money” — that sort of thiing.)

    It’s nice to view religion as a progressive force, which it has been from time to time. But any honest person must also recognize that religion has also been an oppressive force that resists any change, including change for the better. (Religious groups even now fight stem-cell research.)

    Of course many scientific discoveries were made by religious people. Also, many by non-believers, as you know.


    2 May 2011 at 10:13 am

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