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Catholic Church humiliated by Hitchens and Fry

Catholic Church humiliated by Hitchens and Fry

 

PETER BRIETBART, a contributor to the Freethinker, and a student of politics and philosophy at the University of Sussex where he is chair of the Secular Society, was there to see the Church totally routed –and he grabbed the opportunity to interview CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS after the debate, organised by Intelligence Squared.

 

There are few experiences more pleasing than watching Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry utterly demolish their opponents in debate. Last night, in the Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, they squared up to MP Ann Widdecombe and Nigerian Archbishop Onaiyekan, who were tasked to defend the motion that:

The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world.

Oh, the humiliation!

The voting, according to The Telegraph‘s Andrew M Brown – who described the Archbishop as “particularly hopeless” – gives a good idea of how it went. Writes Brown:

Before the debate, for the motion: 678. Against: 1102. Don’t know: 346. This is how it changed after the debate: For: 268. Against: 1,876. Don’t know: 34. In other words, after hearing the speakers, the number of people in the audience who opposed the motion increased by 774. My friend Simon said it was the most decisive swing against a motion that he could remember.

One highlight included the lovely hostess Zeinab Badawi asking the Archbishop if Jesus actually said anything about homosexuality, and him replying “that’s not the point.”

Another was Fry’s noting that the Church is obsessed with sex. He makes the comparison with food, exclaiming that only two kinds of people are obsessed with food: the anorexic and the obese. In a religious context this boiled down either to celibacy or child abuse.

And to see Stephen Fry finally speak his mind on the topic of religion was a pure delight.

But the masterstroke, the coup de grace, came from Christopher Hitchens, whose breadth and depth of knowledge meant that the debate was no longer a mere discussion, but a devastating prosecution of the Catholic Church for crimes against humanity.

Within minutes of Hitchens’ opening, the full realisation of the evils of the Church became apparent to all but the most obstinate of believers. The institutionalised rape and torture of children; the teaching that condoms can cause AIDS; the historical atrocities; the endorsement of dictators; the justification of slavery; the subjugation of women; the suppression of enlightenment thinking; the torture and murder of heretic scientists and the bullying and hatred of homosexuals, were but a few of the issues covered. Hitchens suggested that the Archbishop should not have come here to debate, but to beg for forgiveness on behalf of his wicked organisation.

Ann Widdecombe MP and Archbishop Onaiyekan

Ann Widdecombe MP and Archbishop Onaiyekan

I could write more about the debate but I suspect you’ll be more interested in the interview with Christopher Hitchens.

I caught up with him after the momentous Fry/Hitchens victory, and he was visibly eager to speak to the Freethinker:

Peter Brietbart: It’s lovely to speak with you, thanks for the time.

Christopher Hitchens: It’s very nice of you to say so. By all means, ask away.

PB: How would you respond to the religious apologists who would say that the majority of religious activity is benign in nature?

CH: Well, I have a standard reply, I hope you don’t mind. I’ve evolved it over a lot of debates, and put it to a lot of religious believers and spokesmen, and I’ve never yet had a reply: Name for me a moral action or a moral statement ever made or committed or uttered by a believer, that a non-believer couldn’t have made.

No-one’s ever come up with one. Name for me now a wicked thing done or an evil thing said because of their religion – you’ve already thought of one.

There’s wickedness in print and in action, directly so with religion. Goodness can be found in the giving of yourself to other fellow creatures. And for it’s own sake, I should add, not so you’ll spread the word, sign up more people so you can keep on saying your number is a billion. That’s not a good motive for charity. So, although it’s a question one has to ask, I think it is a fatuous question.


PB: What would you say to those who level accusations of racism against those who criticise Islam? It’s an increasingly popular stance on the Left.

CH: Indeed. The creepy word “islamophobia” has been coined to give the idea, without actually saying so, that quarreling with Islam involves a dislike of Muslims -the majority of whom are darker skinned than I am. But that’s absurd because Islam promises to be a religion of universality. It at least does say that. Some religions aren’t accessible to all. Judaism for example. Well, you can convert, but it’s not quite the same.

PB: Rather more painful to join.

CH: Quite so. There’s always a special preachment. For a long time you couldn’t be black and be a Mormon, for example. In America you could, but you couldn’t be a deacon, and you didn’t really have a soul. That kind of thing. Islam, at least, doesn’t do that. So it’s pathetic to say that there’s any racial prejudice in criticism of Islam, as pathetic as it would be to ask Ann Widdecombe if she thought that being against Catholics meant being against Italians. Which, incidentally, at one point in America, it probably slightly was.

PB: Bush, we discover, told Jacques Chirac that the biblical demons of Gog and Magog were at work in Iraq. Have you heard about that? What are your thoughts?

CH: Yeah, I don’t believe Chirac. I don’t know what the truth of the matter may be, but I do know that Jacques Chirac is an untrustworthy scumbag. And anyway, that’s not the way Bush talks. I don’t believe the Palestinian guy who said that Bush told him that God told him to invade Iraq, either. Bush is a Methodist. What he’s said, and he’s said it often, is that once you’ve worked to a certain point, you can do no more – it’s in God’s hands. That’s fatalism. Actually he’d make a very good Muslim. And if he’d been born in Saudi Arabia, he would be one, just as he’d be a protestant if he was born on the right side of Belfast.

PB: Here’s another – a chance to be a little more witty.Voltaire once said that the religion of one age becomes the literary entertainment of the next. What do you predict for the future of religion?

CH: Yes, Voltaire is right, of course. But that doesn’t mean that the thing won’t keep on mutating. I mean, I do think we are mammals and primates. We are in some sense programmed to look for patterns, we’re easily scared, and we often put up with a crap theory over no theory at all. And we’re afraid of dying. And we’re only partly rational. Our pre-frontal lobes are too small, our adrenaline glands are too big, because we’re adapted to the savannah, from which we fled. So I think religion is not eradicable, but then, I wouldn’t want it to be eradicated.

I’d be sad, in a way, if it did die out, because it is human. But I think it can be domesticated in the same way as our violent tendencies. We have other anti-social or superstitious tendencies which we can, at least for a while, rid ourselves of. It’s the job of civilization to bring superstition under bounds and keep it there.

PB: If all writings from throughout human history were to be destroyed, and you could choose to save the writings of a single author, who would you choose, and why?

CH: That’s a very good question. Well, here’s what I would look for. I’d look for the author from which you could reconstruct the work of many, many other writers because of references, quotations, allusions that one is supposed to get.

PB: That’s a cunning answer. Very tactical.

CH: Yes, well, that would put Shakespeare very high, for example. From that there’s a great deal of Biblical stuff, classical, Italian renaissance, history, mythology … there’s a huge amount of other learning in it. I don’t think there’s any other writer of bodies of canon in that way. So from that we could work out quite a lot about what we were before, as a species. But for that reason, not because of it’s extraordinary beauty and wisdom. Otherwise it would be Darwin. It would have to be Darwin. His work, too, is full of great references, and teaches us a great deal about the natural world. He was a literary type.

PB: Ah, I had hoped you might say Darwin. That might just be my choice, too.

PB: Next, what can we do, as individuals or groups, to further the cause -if you can call it that- of reason and unbelief?

CH: Well, it may sound like a religious, or confessional answer, but you have to start with yourself. We all have to overcome our own irrationalities and superstitions first. That’s a lifetime of education, and it’s worth having. I try and do it everyday. I expose myself to other people’s opinions, writings and so forth, so that’s the main thing. Oh, and if you do well enough, you might just get asked your opinion.

The other thing is not to give anything the go-by. You have to get up and say no when someone suggests there should be a tax break for churches, or that the bishops should sit in the House of Lords, or anything like it. Oppose anything that trespasses on the secular line of the separation of church and state, because civilization begins where the separation of church and state begins. There are no exceptions to that in any country. So it’s in the general interest, as well as your own, that we patrol that line with great vigilance.

PB: It’s been a pleasure. Thank-you.

CH: You’re very welcome!

For those of you who have not attended an Intelligence Squared debate, let me say that these events are very well organised, and are worthy of my highest recommendation.

68 Responses to “Catholic Church humiliated by Hitchens and Fry”

  1. Christopher White says:

    Who is going to be brave enough to host,or for that matter attend, a similar debate, when the subject is Islam; rather than the Catholic Church? Certainly not the BBC. It wouldn’t dare!

    ps. The result of the debate in question was welcome and expected.

  2. “Humiliated the Catholic Church”? Why did they find it necessary to do that? Doesn’t that church do it to itself often enough? That’s like kicking a dead horse when it’s down and decaying. It raises a lot of stink, but accomplishes nothing.

  3. magoo says:

    I love this, as a man who was indoctrinated into the catholic church as a child. Brot up by nuns and priests and had the (Good book)? rammed down my throat. I have a deep hatred for it and a want to see it gone for good and when i say good i mean for the good of all mankind.For you who don’t know the difference between racism and bigotry should go live in Glasgow for a time , you will soon understand the difference. long live free thinking.

  4. Tom Hamilton says:

    Speaking as a Catholic myself, I also thought that the Archbishop was pathetic and Anne bless her did what she could. You never can win an argument for the justification of religion, not completely and not in the kind of world we live in at present, in the West, ie a decadent and hedonistic one. Times have changed and attitudes hardened, very often with good justification (abuse of children and other historical matters). We have few great thinkers now, who are prepared to speak with courage and authority for the shamed church, CS Lewis would have done better and there are other great theologians who would have wiped the floor with Fry and co.
    People love celebrity, almost worship it. People are unwilling to see the shallow in things, provided it supports their own sinful life styles, how easy it is to do this ‘within the World’, how difficult to support what cannot be seen and what happened so long ago.
    The Archbishop should perhaps have stuck to the origins of the church, its roots in Christ, been honest about its shame and sinfullness. Look at Christs beginnings and how the majority scorned him and crucified him, how the disciples fled and let him down many times, the fathers of the church were also human and sinful.
    Mr Fry was most clever in his presentation but the one thing he said, that clinched my favour of Anne, was (in the Bible documentary that AW presented), to the effect ‘life is for enjoying to experience’ etc. I can’t remember exactly what he said but In my view this simply meant, we want to be able to do as we please, for pleasures sake, no rules no commandments other than some vague Greek philosophy dealing with basic respect for each other.
    Some blogs seem to charge AW with trying to force her beliefs on people, no sorry, she has made no show of trying to be neutral in her lanquage but honest as a Catholic in her beliefs, sorry if you do not like this. Some have suggested that her clear iritation of scholars, claiming that Moses did not even exist, was maddening, how dare she! Well, to be fair, I thought the rep, for the institute of Antiquities, was not being very neutral herself, there clearly are scholars who believe in the Moses tradition, just as there are highly respected scholars who believe in Christs resurrection. The subject just needs a huge amount of studying if you are to reach a valid conclusion, based on as much evidence as one can find. Faith is not evidence of course we all accept that, no point worrying over it.
    The joy of the secular body in seeing the Church apparently humbled in a TV debate smacks to me of ignorance and wishful thinking.
    The church has done a huge amount of good, as well as damage, the church is not made up of brain washed people but those who feel an intuitive and part historical connection with God through Christ, it is hugely supported and was, until recently it seems, a bigger group than Muslims, let alone Christians as a whole. These are not all mad people but free thinkers, quite at liberty to believe what the hell they like. The church gives comfort to the poor and helps the sick, it provides education, it provides faith and very probably in my opinion, salvation, for many. It provides the body in which to participate in the communion with Christ in his body and blood (the Eucharist, the repeating of what took place at the last supper, drink my blood and eat my body etc). Sorry folks,the central tenets of the church, not something any THINKER can really ignore. There is nothing whatsoever that is narrow minded about those who support the Catholic faith, indeed quite the opposite, it demands a great deal of thought and discipline.

    To counter the old chestnut about Christ not saying anything specifically about practising homosexuality, the stuff below is taken from a Biblical scholars site. One of the reasons so many use the hypocracy line against the church, to excuse their own perversions. The law stands however, Widdecombe is right:

    Question: “Is there any place in the New Testament where Jesus actually condemned homosexuality? If so, I have not been able to find it. …It seems to me that if the Savior didn’t say it was wrong, then neither should we.”

    Answer: While it is true that there is no NT record of where Jesus explicitly stated that homosexuality is wrong, He did in fact condemn the behavior. A careful study of the Bible will bear this out. Please read the following Bible passages and then consider the questions which follow:

    1. And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ “and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’” (Matt. 19:4.)

    Questions: What did Jesus say about God’s creative work? Did He make Adam and Joseph? Did He create male and male, or did He create male and female? According to this passage, what has been God’s plan for sexual union [one flesh] since the beginning of time? Was His plan for a male partner to be joined to another male partner, or was it for a husband to be united to his wife? According to this passage, is a man to cleave to his male partner, or to his spouse?

    Consider: Since Jesus approved of His Father’s plan [i.e., one man, one woman, one flesh,] could we correctly say that Jesus condemned homosexuality?

    2. “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:46-47.)

    Questions: What law was Jesus born under? What law did He live under? Answer: The Law of Moses (cf. Gal. 4:4.) Did Jesus endorse and follow the Law of Moses? What did the Law of Moses say about homosexuality? (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Deut. 23:17.)

    Consider: Since Jesus was born and lived under the Law of Moses, and since He endorsed the Law of Moses, and since the Law of Moses explicitly condemned homosexuality, then could we correctly say that Jesus also condemned it?

    Not so simple eh!? So easy to use the sins of the church to justify the washing of ones hands of any responsibility for ones salvation, Christ was refering to the sins of ALL (church included), when he asks that only those without sin throw the first stone. The church would do well to remember this and has lost much support for its actions at various times in history, the law however, to my mind, remains intact and the apostolic church with all its imperfections is for me Christs body on earth. It has come a long way and must not become a victim of its own human frailty.

  5. James Byrne says:

    No wonder Stephen Fry rants against Catholicism, the Roman Catholic church regards homosexuality as a mortal sin.

  6. Gillian Gardner says:

    Tom sounds very learned in his bible study. However, back when Jesus lived, fishermen etc were not educated men, and so could not read and write. The Gospels were actually written many years later after being passed on by word of mouth. So in all accuracy…No man can possibly know what Jesus said or didn’t say. If Jesus came today to rectify that small problem (the secone coming) he would be locked up as a schizophrenic. Religion ran it’s course and was initially a crutch for people to lean on, from sun worshippers, druids etc, civilization has it’s laws from the supposed ten commandments (Jewish courtesy of Moses) and now it’s time to leave religion where it belongs….in the past! Oh yes….and about homosexuality, it exists not only in the human race, look at all the other fauna around you. e.g. seahorses and penguins.

  7. Tom Hamilton says:

    Gillian,if I am learned (i’m not), you are the epitome of ignorance, do some research please, what you are saying is total nonsense.

    Luke, the writer of the Acts (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1, Paul also wrote,an educated Roman, who once persecuted the Christians. We have his letters for example, about 40/60 AD i think. Luke was an educated Doctor but who did not witness the ministry of Christ, he was a companion to Paul for a while. He would have met Peter the apostle.

    (Taken out of convenience from the web) * Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch, makes indirect references to the Gospel of Matthew as early as AD 110.
    * Polycarp, a famous early church leader, quotes Acts (as well as several other New Testament books) in a letter dated to about A.D. 110. If Luke and Acts are a two-volume set written by the same author (and most conservative scholars and many moderate scholars believe this), then this puts the Gospel of Luke earlier than A.D. 110.
    * A papyrus fragment of the Gospel of John (containing portions of John 18) has been dated to between A.D. 110 and 160, thus confirming (beyond all doubt) that John was written no later than A.D. 160.

    http://y-jesus.com/bornid_1.php

    Re the fauna etc We are Humans and as such (unless you do not believe in the spirit, in which case not point arguing further really) above the animal. Humans in so many ways, have tried to rise above the purely animal in us. Christians believe in a fallen state, we are not as we should be, ie the world is not perfect and we are tasked to attempt to be perfect.

  8. Tom Hamilton says:

    PB: How would you respond to the religious apologists who would say that the majority of religious activity is benign in nature?

    CH: Well, I have a standard reply, I hope you don’t mind. I’ve evolved it over a lot of debates, and put it to a lot of religious believers and spokesmen, and I’ve never yet had a reply: Name for me a moral action or a moral statement ever made or committed or uttered by a believer, that a non-believer couldn’t have made.

    No-one’s ever come up with one. Name for me now a wicked thing done or an evil thing said because of their religion – you’ve already thought of one.

    There’s wickedness in print and in action, directly so with religion. Goodness can be found in the giving of yourself to other fellow creatures. And for it’s own sake, I should add, not so you’ll spread the word, sign up more people so you can keep on saying your number is a billion. That’s not a good motive for charity. So, although it’s a question one has to ask, I think it is a fatuous question.’

    My answer would be, what a fatuous answer! There can be no better motive for charity than to please God. The fact he does not believe in God means his efforts at doing good to his fellow creatures becomes utterly worthless. What is the point? He is a product of a primordial soup, why bother to do good deeds!?

  9. Tom Hamilton says:

    PB: What would you say to those who level accusations of racism against those who criticise Islam? It’s an increasingly popular stance on the Left.

    CH: Indeed. The creepy word “islamophobia” has been coined to give the idea, without actually saying so, that quarreling with Islam involves a dislike of Muslims –the majority of whom are darker skinned than I am. But that’s absurd because Islam promises to be a religion of universality. It at least does say that. Some religions aren’t accessible to all. Judaism for example. Well, you can convert, but it’s not quite the same.
    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    This chap is really full of drivel! Apart from his first sentence, which I agree with.
    A religion of Universality? Doesn’t really mean anything at all, any religion is such, ie open to converts. It is certainly not a benign religion, never has been! Atheism is a universal religion but one still needs to convert.

  10. Tom Hamilton says:

    CH ‘…It’s the job of civilization to bring superstition under bounds and keep it there.’

    I agree, but I would not leave it to people like CH to decide what was superstition! The life of Christ is not something to sneer at as superstitious, cleverer minds than CH (not hard to find)would never consider Christ or the theologians of the Church as superstitious.

    He is so generous in allowing religion to survive, being a rather endearing human trait, how sweet of him!

  11. Tom Hamilton says:

    CH …Yes, well, that would put Shakespeare very high, for example. From that there’s a great deal of Biblical stuff, classical, Italian renaissance, history, mythology … there’s a huge amount of other learning in it. I don’t think there’s any other writer of bodies of canon in that way. So from that we could work out quite a lot about what we were before, as a species. But for that reason, not because of it’s extraordinary beauty and wisdom. Otherwise it would be Darwin. It would have to be Darwin. His work, too, is full of great references, and teaches us a great deal about the natural world. He was a literary type.
    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
    …Not into superstitious crap but quite likes mythology, not very consistent methinks. He studiously avoids mentioning the Bible, a little too superstitious for you? Not quite myth enough? Darwin was of course highly religious with a hope and innocence in childhood that does not seem to have followed him to the grave, he died it seems in abject horror and fear, all hope gone. There are rumours but not strong ones, that he recanted his theories.
    One does not need Darwin to be in awe of nature and (I believe) intelligent design. The denial however, of centuries of myth, folklore, history and tradition in the Bible and the relief and forgiving love of the later Christ figure (largely eradicating the hardness of the old), is to my mind utterly narrow minded and even foolish. Christ was a fool? the Messiah? Did he even exist? Darwin had no doubts that Christ existed but seemed to doubt his eternal message. He was not sure, that seems clear to me. He went to the grave doubting. Darwin was a brave and brilliant man and had an OPEN mind. His discovery of evolution in no way shuts out the light of the church (itself evolving if you like).

  12. Tom Hamilton says:

    PB: Next, what can we do, as individuals or groups, to further the cause -if you can call it that- of reason and unbelief?

    CH: Well, it may sound like a religious, or confessional answer, but you have to start with yourself. We all have to overcome our own irrationalities and superstitions first. That’s a lifetime of education, and it’s worth having. I try and do it everyday. I expose myself to other people’s opinions, writings and so forth, so that’s the main thing. Oh, and if you do well enough, you might just get asked your opinion.

    The other thing is not to give anything the go-by. You have to get up and say no when someone suggests there should be a tax break for churches, or that the bishops should sit in the House of Lords, or anything like it. Oppose anything that trespasses on the secular line of the separation of church and state, because civilization begins where the separation of church and state begins. There are no exceptions to that in any country. So it’s in the general interest, as well as your own, that we patrol that line with great vigilance.
    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    A free thinker, cool, good for you matey. As for tax breaks for the church, why not? They collect a great deal of money for charity and they provide a moral frame work for society. Atheists etc do not have the same need to behave. They are primates (look how they behave), they are chemical robots, they do not fear a God, they do not recognise love for anything, other than a survival tool, a clever little twist of nature to assist us in surviving as a species but once you know this, once you have evolved to realise you real potential at freedom – Hey! Once you realise this, you do not need to stay with your family any longer for example! You can what the hell you like! F–k who you like, murder who you like, install any totalitarian regime that you like; be a dictator because, after all CH knows best!

  13. I have never heard anyone so wrong about so much as Tom Hamilton. Truly, I am awed.

    brb, doing murder.

  14. Tom Hamilton says:

    Mr Brietbart, hello! Please do engage and explain?

  15. Lauryn says:

    It’s nice to see that they are finally getting somewhere with all of these debates.

    I’ve been reading The Freethinker for nearly a year now, and every time I hear about these type of debates I wish I lived in Europe so I could attend them. Go Chris Hitchens!!

  16. paul says:

    Pretend Debat:

    It is so easy for the media to bring in an apostate “Catholic archbishop” to make the case for the demonic atheism of Hitchens and Fry seem more palatable. Hitchens and Fry are believers in atheistic enlightenment and they forget to tell people at the debate that demonic atheism (communism, fascism) are responsible for the deaths of at least 65 million in Russia and 100 million in World War II. Not to mention that demonic atheism is responsible for over 200 +million murdered babies in and around the world since 1973 through abortion and China’s one child policy and India’s infanticide of little baby girls.
    In Fry’s (an anti-christ) speech he commits every sacrilege and blasphemy against the church a reprobate is capable (so intellectually dishonest and morally bankrupt an eight year catholic would have no problem refuting) of. I don’t know what was more blasphemous though, the infamous rantings of an antichrist or the Novus ordo bishop and a nun clapping (scandalous) for him when he was done. This is standard fare now in all types of media: Have scumbags, Hitchens and Fry. debate an apostate from the Catholic Faith, the “archbishop” (not a Catholic archbishop), who in no way represents the Catholic Faith or its teachings. In the pretend debate they bring in a total apostate and heretic novus ordo “catholic bishop”, have them supposedly represent the catholic church, and since they aren’t catholic anyway, Jesus Christ and the church are incessantly portrayed in the worst possible light both by the attacker and the “defender”. Mr. Fry happens to be an extreme anti christ figure so his portion is as vile an attack as I have ever seen.

    Mr. Fry is a homosexual reprobate and he gives that away numerous times when he says how upset he is because the true catholic church teaches against his unnatural and perveted homosexual lifestyle. He certainly has a bone to pick but a true Catholic, would have destroyed his intellectually deficient argumentation.
    Paul R,

  17. Jagan Mohan says:

    Quote: PB: Here’s another – a chance to be a little more witty.Voltaire once said that the religion of one age becomes the literary entertainment of the next. What do you predict for the future of religion?
    CH: Yes, Voltaire is right, of course.

    Was that Voltaire or Emerson?