Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Was Hitchens a gentle cynic?

Hitchens certainly was a cynic. My immediate thought upon hearing of Hitchens death was that we can thank him for sharing his ardent distaste for and attack on fundamentalism in religion and the threat they pose on American democracy, yet his disdain of what were essentially idolatries (hypocrisies) inflicted on humanity by religion blinded his vision to see the noble religious experiences and traditions in history. His limited lens for viewing religion under a primary rubric of tribalism resulted in him missing crucial nuances and depth of religious faith. He did make some wonderful points worth contemplating. Some examples . . .

"The noble title of 'dissident' must be earned rather than claimed; it connotes sacrifice and risk rather than mere disagreement …"

"Do bear in mind that the cynics have a point, of a sort, when they speak of the 'professional naysayer'."

"To be in opposition is not to be a nihilist. And there is no decent or charted way of making a living at it. It is something you are, and not something you do." – Letters to a Young Contrarian, 2001

"The search for nirvana, like the search for utopia or the end of history or the classless society, is ultimately a futile and dangerous one. It involves, if it does not necessitate, the sleep of reason. There is no escape from anxiety and struggle." – Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays, 2004

A good text on Hitchens, Chris Hedges, I Don't believe in Atheists, Free Press, 2008 at Goodreads:

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