“God Is Not Great” represents little more than the disingenous posturings of a certified fraudmeister who has openly cavorted with the most reactionary elements of the Christian right. If Hitchens had any principles at all — if he truly feared the cultural and political consequences of the encroachment of religion into public life — he would have used his still-considerable influence to support organizations and causes that shore up the wall between church and state and which defend the rights of non-believers. Instead, Hitchens has done exactly the opposite.
In the Fall of 2005, Hitchens gladly accepted the invitation of the Family Research Council to speak before its Witherspoon Fellows. Hitchens subsequently regaled an audience of young Christian right cadres with excerpts from his book, “Thomas Jefferson: Author of America.” For attending Hitchens’ lecture and participating in several similar events, the FRC’s Witherspoon Fellows received academic credit for study at Pat Robertson’s Regent University, a school that has placed 150 of its graduates in Bush administration posts.
Presumably Hitchens was aware of the mission of the James Dobson-founded Family Research Council. How could such an intellectual giant be unaware of the FRC’s charge to “promote the Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free, and stable society?” How could Hitchens have missed the FRC’s many “Justice Sunday” rallies staged at mega-churches and telecast across America to advance the confirmation of George W. Bush’s most theocracy-minded judicial picks? (To my knowledge, these rallies occured well after happy hour). And how could Hitchens have been ignorant to the FRC’s vitriolic crusade to ban abortion and undermine gay rights?
Regarding FRC President Tony Perkins’ ties to white supremacists, I would like to paraphrase Scripture and say, forgive Hitchens for he knows not what the hell he is doing. My well-publicized report detailing how Perkins once purchased the phone bank list of former Klan leader David Duke for the price of $82,500 and how he headlined a 2001 fundraiser for the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens had only been out for a few months. Maybe Hitchens was too busy dancing with Wolfowitz to read it.
But there is no excuse for Hitchens’ hypocrisy. With the release of “God Is Not Great,” Hitchens owes his readers an explanation for his appearance at the Family Research Council, the nerve center of a theocratic movement determined to weaken the foundations of constitutional democracy. Hitchens must explain why he accepted the FRC’s invitation to speak and whether he was paid for his appearance.
We can surely have a thoughtful and respectful disagreement about the merits of the approach taken by his book and those written in a similar vein by Dawkins, et al., but surely all involved can agree that it harms the movement – however you circumscribe that movement – to be enabling Dobson and the theocratic wing of the religious right.
This might be forgivable had Snitchens contributed something of genuine value to our public discourse over the years. Had, for instance, his above-referenced biography of Jefferson not erroneously claimed the third president was (arguably) an atheist. Or had he not mocked the opponents of the Iraq occupation like this, in April 2003:
“No War on Iraq,” they said—and there wasn’t a war on Iraq. Indeed, there was barely a “war” at all. “No Blood for Oil,” they cried, and the oil wealth of Iraq has been duly rescued from attempted sabotage with scarcely a drop spilled. Of the nine oil wells set ablaze by the few desperadoes who obeyed the order, only one is still burning and the rest have been capped and doused without casualties. “Stop the War” was the call. And the “war” is indeed stopping. That’s not such a bad record.
In those halcyon days, all was sweetness and pie. The fact that many of the soldiers killed or wounded since then were trying to defend oil facilities or convoys bringing oil in while the oilfields recover from insurgent attacks is irrelevant to his analysis, as is the fact that the war, or whatever we call it, is very much a going concern in Iraq. After all, he’ll gladly explain that the problems besetting Iraq are really Saddam Hussein’s fault. Certainly they are not the fault of Paul Wolfowitz, who Hitchens will vigorously defends against charges of nepotism for negotiating his girlfriend’s excessive salary. As Blumenthal observes, Hitchens will hitch his star to any cause that will make him more clearly a “contrarian.” The flavor of this month is atheism, hence his latest provocation.
It’s nice work if you can get it, but it doesn’t make a compelling case for the moral or intellectual stature of the man or his opinions.