International columnist and atheist advocate Christopher Hitchens has a new syndicated column in Slate, which also ran in my local Las Vegas Review Journal today. As always, his writing is passionate, clever, and lucid. And, also like much of his writing, it is very, very wrong.
Now, I actually agree with his ultimate thesis: that the freedom of religion, like freedom of speech, is not an absolute: speech is limited by not being able to yell, “Fire!” in a crowded theater, and religion is limited by, for example, not being able to deny emergency medical care to children (one example that Hitchens uses). Hitchens discusses this to make his main point in the article: that Islam, as it comes into increased contact with the West, must reform some of its aspects, such as its hostility to criticism. If it doesn’t happen voluntarily, Hitchens implies (referring to the first half of the article), it must be done by force.
Well, sure, this is an important conversation to have now, and many others have already said as much. The general agreement that as new cultures increasingly interact, there must be adaptation, is so common, in fact, that one wonders why Hitch feels compelled to repeat it. It’s not like him to be unoriginal.
But the first half of the article is where he shines, and where his heart clearly is. This article is just a platform for him to do his favorite thing in the world: bash religion.
However, Hitch reveals his own lazy prejudices when he does this: his evidence and arguments against religion are sloppy, to say the least.
Consider the religion that takes more heat in the article than any other, even Islam itself: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Yes, Hitch has some opinions about the Mormons. Continue reading