they won’t let him rest in peace

Not what you call turning the other cheek or noblesse oblige. Call it payback. A little spittle running down the lip after missing the non-existent urn. Or maybe the winds of bad faith blowing back in the face.  I hope it was holy water…

Father Raymond Souza perhaps couldn’t resist a bit of fire and brimstone before Christmas.It does make you wonder if in our post-modern age, Christianity has any semblance to its original form. According to Harold Bloom, it has little. Mr. Souza has trashed a fair number of individuals as well over the years, but perhaps from the loftier heights of religious authority, recourse to redemption and whatever else can be called forth, he gets a pass. The quotes he uses are jolted out of their context somewhat and I do recall Souza once referring to the child molesting issues as “a minor detail.” There is also the sentiment that Hitchens is being used as a scapegoat for a wider swath of individuals who are non-aligned, lapsed, gnostics, skeptics, and anyone who questions the orthodoxy of faith. In his own way, Souza is equally controversial.

I sense that what Souza is sniping at here centrally are the  gnostics; Hitchens with all his flaws is an easy hit, but gnosticism is elusive and nagging for the hard-core, like a bad rash that won’t disappear. The de-normatizing of religion, questioning absolute divinty and the assumption of righteousness and good intentions while embracing the kernel of the story is probably absolute anathema. Or maybe its the distinction between praying with the prophets such as Jesus and Mohammed and not praying to them as the institution insists which creates a form of object fetish.

Goldberg:I no longer think Hitch was really a man of the Right, chiefly because you can’t be a man of the Right and reflexively, perhaps even childishly, reject the label. I’m not inclined to sugarcoat my take on the man given how he could be absolutely cruel when spouting off about the deaths of others. He could be mean, pigheaded, and insensitive (though never dull!). He could also be generous and kind. He was a brilliant and gifted polemicist who sometimes took the easiest way out by going after his opponents’ weakest arguments rather than their strongest. He defied easy categorization while having a gift for categorizing others. He’ll be missed because he was so damn good at being Christopher Hitchens. Read More: image:

Commenting on Genesis 3:22, in which Yahweh says that once his creatures possess a knowledge of good and evil there’s not much to stop them from eating from the Tree of Life, Bloom deduces that Adam and Eve must have been mortal from the very first. They had, therefore, nowhere to fall from; their expulsion from paradise, as Kafka has mentioned, was merely a preventative measure. Although Adam and Eve suffer terribly in J, their story, Bloom says, is essentially a children’s tale with an unhappy ending. ( Mendelsohn )

Feynman, 1956:As a matter of fact, the conflict is doubly difficult in this metaphysical region. Firstly, the facts may be in conflict, but even if the facts were not in conflict, the attitude is different. The spirit of uncertainty in science is an attitude toward the metaphysical questions that is quite different from the certainty and faith that is demanded in religion. There is definitely a conflict, I believe – both in fact and in spirit – over the metaphysical aspects of religion. In my opinion, it is not possible for religion to find a set of metaphysical ideas which will be guaranteed not to get into conflicts with an ever‑advancing and always‑changing science which is going into an unknown. We don't know how to answer the questions; it is impossible to find an answer which someday will not be found to be wrong. The difficulty arises because science and religion are both trying to answer questions in the same realm here. Read More: image:

Christopher Hitchens is dead. By his own lights, he is utterly defunct, decomposing more rapidly than yesterday’s newspaper. I take a different view, and do sincerely pray for a merciful judgment. In the mean time, I trust that his soul, even now, is chagrined with the extravagant evasions that marked his death. My colleagues were enthusiastic contributors. Our editorial board praised his “courage” as a journalist and deemed him the “greatest columnist and essayist in the English-speaking world.” The estimable David Frum wrote that, “If moral clarity means hating cruelty and oppression, then Christopher Hitchens was above all things a man of moral clarity.”

Clarity he had. But hating cruelty? He was himself both hateful and cruel. Upon Bob Hope’s death, Hitchens wrote that he was a “fool, and nearly a clown.” When Ronald Reagan died, Hitchens called him a “stupid lizard,” “dumb as a stump” and “an obvious phony and loon.” On Mother Teresa: “The woman was a fanatic and a fundamentalist and a fraud, and millions of people are much worse off because of her life, and it’s a shame there is no hell for your bitch to go to.”…

…The sadness is that there is a hell for Hitch to go to. He was granted a long farewell, with the opportunity for reconsiderations and reconciliations with those he hated and those he hurt. He declined to take advantage of it. Mother Teresa is fine, and no doubt prays for her enemies, including that Hitchens would be delivered both from hell and the nihilistic oblivion, which he thought awaited him….

---Scientists don't talk about science anymore. Hundreds of people would pack lecture halls to listen to Feynman talk about QED, but now we brush him off with a mention of that crazy "Dick" Feynman and his psychadelic Feynman-diagram covered VW bus. We instead choose, like Dawkins and the rest, to use the grand name of Science to bludgeon honest philosophic inquiry. The point of science, the beating heart of science, is not to ridicule people into agreeing with atheism! The point of science is to discover truth, and they're mainly "local" truths, and they're often only empirical parameterizations of that truth. But we do

9;t like to talk about science, apparently. We'd rather talk about why God can't be an old white guy in a robe.--- Read More:

…“He was a virtuoso hater and his hatreds were redeemed, when they had to be, by the sheer relish with which they were expressed,” wrote Michael Ignatieff upon his death.

For many of Hitchens’ fellow journalists, the virtuosity of his brilliant writing and bracing conversation earned him a pass on the hatred. But hatred it remained. His commercial genius was to harbour hatreds sufficiently vast and varied that a lucrative constituency could be found to relish all of them.

In the first of his elegant essays about the ravages of his terminal cancer, he wrote about the consequences of his abbreviated future: “Will I really not live to see my children married? To read — if not indeed write — the obituaries of elderly villains like Henry Kissinger and Joseph Ratzinger?” The Scriptures in which Hitchens did not believe say that love is stronger than death. Maybe he thought hatred was, too.

He desired to live that he might trash the freshly dead. It was habitual for him, most intensely manifest when he accepted an astonishingly ill-conceived invitation from ABC to provide commentary for Mother Teresa’s funeral broadcast, using the occasion to heap abuse upon her as she was being laid to rest. It was a vile, vicious and typical performance. Is it truly possible that the “relish” with which he did, so redeemed it in the eyes of his literary friends?…

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…Almost every gushing remembrance mentioned his legendary drinking and dinner-table rhetoric. That he could write better drunk than the rest of us sober is impressive in its own way, but the sheer awe of his drinking prowess is puzzling. Perhaps if I had gone drinking with him, I too would have been bewitched. Or perhaps not, given that I spend much of my time around university students, so I am rather less impressed than most adults by ostentatious alcoholic excess.

“Mercifully, too, I now can’t summon the memory of how I felt during those lacerating days and nights,” Hitchens wrote for the January 2012 issue of Vanity Fair, recalling the horrors of cancer and its treatment. Yet the lacerations inflicted by his writing do remain, and are remembered. The remedy is mercy. Hitchens was disinclined to show it, let alone ask for it. Yet the hope remains that he knows it now…. Read More:


Based on Rosenberg’s translation, Yahweh bears little resemblance to the God we usually imagine. And this is not just in J. The God of Genesis and Exodus does strike us as “mythological,” especially compared to the unseen God of the New Testament. God walks the earth, talks in person to Adam, Noah, Abram, Moses, etc.. Both the serpent and Balaam’s can ass talk. Genesis does seem like the “sophisticated children’s literature” Bloom calls it.

Bloom’s interpretation is that the Book of J is not primarily “religious” writing, and that the Yahweh depicted in it says more about humanity and its limitations than the nature of the divine, whatever that is. Also, Yahweh doesn’t seem to have much in the way of “normative” concerns, especially considering that the Ten Commandments of The Bible do not appear in J. These points are Bloom’s primary agenda. …Read More:

…closing up Noah’s ark with his own hands, allowing Sarah’s insolence when she doubts she will bear a child, haggling with Abram over the number of good people it would require for Yahweh to not destroy Sodom; allowing his blessing to be “stolen” a few times by the cunning Jacob, who wrestles with either Yahweh himself or one of the Elohim (“angels”) to re-earn it; attempting to murder Moses, his own recently chosen prophet; leading the Israelites in the wilderness for little apparent reason; and not allowing his reluctant chosen prophet to even see the Promised Land (another instance of Yahweh’s thwartations). ( ibid. )
Feynman:I claim that whether you want something to happen or not – what value there is in the result, and how you judge the value of the result (which is the other end of the question: Should I do this?) – must lie outside of science because it is not a question that you can answer only by knowing what happens; you still have to judge what happens – in a moral way. So, for this theoretical reason I think that there is a complete consistency between the moral view – or the ethical aspect of religion – and scientific information.

Turning to the third aspect of religion – the inspirational aspect – brings me to the central question that I would like to present to this imaginary panel. The source of inspiration today – for strength and for comfort – in any religion is very closely knit with the metaphysical aspect; that is, the inspiration comes from working for God, for obeying his will, feeling one with God. Emotional ties to the moral code – based in this manner – begin to be severely weakened when doubt, even a small amount of doubt, is expressed as to the existence of God; so when the belief in God becomes uncertain, this particular method of obtaining inspiration fails.

I don’t know the answer to this central problem – the problem of maintaining the real value of religion, as a source of strength and of courage to most men, while, at the same time, not requiring an absolute faith in the metaphysical aspects. Read More:

…These two heritages are logically, thoroughly consistent. But logic is not all; one needs one’s heart to follow an idea. If people are going back to religion, what are they going back to? Is the modern church a place to give comfort to a man who doubts God‑more, one who disbelieves in God? Is the modern church a place to give comfort and encouragement to the value of such doubts? So far, have we not drawn strength and comfort to maintain the one or the other of these consistent heritages in a way which attacks the values of the other? Is this unavoidable? How can we draw inspiration to support these two pillars of western civilization so that they may stand together in full vigor, mutually unafraid? Is this not the central problem of our time?… ( ibid.)

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