It seems like a likely date for the beginning of the war was the day that Christopher Hitchens’ book, god is not great: How religion spoils everything (see our review) was published. The actual battling began 11 July 2007, when Christopher Hitchens gave two hours of his time to Michael Medved on the latter’s radio talk show. If there ever has been a war without end, this is it.
Radio talk show host Michael Medved, to my appraisal, stands as a wonderful example of just what religion can do to people. Medved does not embody all of it, but he does illustrate some patho-religious processes well.
I hasten to state that I do not know Medved personally, nor have I ever met him. My judgments come from my listening now and then to his radio program and reading some of his articles.
Medved is a self-proclaimed “conservative,” a self-proclaimed “traditional Jew,” and has been formally trained as a lawyer. He exhibits a legalistic, adversarial style, which is directed toward besting his callers and interviewees, as though he is in competition with them. For religious fellow travelers, however, he is quite benignly gracious.
He can often be rational; however, in certain topical areas, he becomes emotional and irrational, even hostile. Religion is one of his “hot button” areas. Critics of religion stimulate his emotion-dominated responses and drive him to beat them down with adversarial, pseudo-logical, verbal battering. When he encounters an opponent who is his equal or his better, he treats him deferentially, but then attacks him when that opponent has left the air.
Hitchens masochistically endured two-hours of Medved, and he was in every way more intellectual, better educated, erudite, and more articulate than Medved. The next day, Medved spent an hour attacking Hitchens on the air and began a set of attack articles published on Townhall (Hitchens vs God on 11 July 2007 and Beethoven Answers Hitchens on 13 July 2007).
Medved’s gimmick is to clothe his emotions in the language of logic and try to spin his opponents dizzy. We used to say about this type of approach, “baffling with bullshit.” He uses his cognitive capacities to defend his religiosity at all costs, massaging “evidence” and “proof” fit his emotional agenda. His is an unsystematized mind, judging from the mishmash he speaks and writes about religion. He tries to make you, the opponent, doubt yourself by blowing a fog of arguments that appear logical, until your mind succumbs to one of his pseudo-logical, “lawyerly” barrages. He “wins,” so to speak, by making you stumble. If you do not stumble, he will cut you off the air, and then deny that is what he does.
His object is to retain the supremacy of the premise “Religion is good.” Actually, it comes across from him as the ultimate good. As he wrote in his attack on Hitchens of 11 July: “…religion…represents the elixir of life.”
That Medved is Jewish is irrelevant. His religious mental set is just as closed as any Muslim’s. Typical of the hyper-religious adult, Medved’s mind is set in casehardened concrete. He is truly “over the hill,” in that he could not change even if he wanted to because he has made a lifetime of putting all his chips on religion. To change in any way, again like Muslims, would be to admit that all he has banked on is for naught. All dedicated religionists will stay with the sinking ship and ride it to the bottom rather than abandoning the irrationality of their religion.
On his broadcast of 12 July 2007, he stated that his religion in no way precludes him from reason. He sees no problem holding religion and reason together in one harmonious whole. He sees no conflict between something (religion) that claims truth in the absence of evidence and proof, and reason which requires it. He can, for example, “believe in” atoms, even though he cannot see them. Religion vs atoms: which one has the support of evidence? Oh, never mind. To the very religious, holding any number of mutually exclusive contradictions in a “harmonious whole” is “No problemo.” One can do that either when one is abysmally ignorant or is working a non-rational agenda.
Medved is also very big on the most primitive of egregious fallacies: You cannot prove or disprove the existence of God. Let us say to Medved and others who “think” like this: You are right. No one can disprove the existence of God. No one, in fact, can “prove a negative,’ which means to prove something in the absence of evidence. Nor can they disprove the existence of pink elephants, Zeus, alien abductions, or that nothing is the same as something. Only that which exists can stand any possibility of being proved—because, if it exists, there is evidence for its existence, and that evidence can be tested by human minds.
Publicly proclaiming "You can't disprove the existence of God" should be a major embarrassment to whoever makes such a claim. It exposes an ignorance that presumably none would want exposed. That many people "believe" this claim does not make it true. Yes, "50 million Frenchmen," so to speak, can be wrong! Aristotle, the father of logic, in the 4th century B.C.E., showed once and for all time that no one can prove a negative, and that it is absurd (and embarrassing) to try.
I can claim that my neighbor rapes old women in nursing homes, and tell him that he cannot prove he does not. However, it is not his job to prove it. I did the asserting, and the onus of proof is on me as it is on every person who asserts that God exists. To paraphrase Jerry McGuire, “Show me the evidence.” No evidence means no proof, and no evidence of any kind means no existence. Religionists retreat into faith at this point, but that is so irrational that we can safely leave that arena to the religionists and the psychotics.
Medved seems to think that he sliced, diced, spindled, and mutilated Christopher Hitchens on his radio program. In his follow-up article, he reiterated his five self-declaredly unassailable arguments, which he thinks defeated Hitchens ignominiously. The first followed this set of propositions: Hitchens is a naturalized American; America is the most religious country on earth; Hitchens claims that religion poisons everything; America is proof that religion does not poison everything because it has not only not been poisoned by religion, but religion has “produced” America.
The only two correct statements are: Hitchens is a naturalized American (which he verified on air), and Hitchens claims that religion poisons everything (the subject of his almost 300 page book. All the other statements are just "snake oil." (America's alleged hyperreligiosity is from polling "data"--caveat emptor). Most morally contemptible, however, is Medved’s assertion that religion “produced” America. I cannot recall the last time I ever heard Medved acknowledge the existence of the Enlightenment or Aristotle.
In his next argument, Medved condemns Hitchens for lumping all religions together as “poison.” Medved asserts that such lumping soft-pedals “Islamo-Nazism,” and he wants total condemnation of it, while giving Christianity and Judaism gold stars.
Hitchens is right to equate the “Abrahamic” religions as equivalent. However, Hitchens’ lack of philosophical thinking costs him this argument. Had he taken this argument to the philosophical roots, he would have made the point well. He allowed Medved to use the extremely evil behavior of Islamists compared to Christians and Jews to obscure the roots. Of course, Islam behaves in an actively more evil way than do Christianity and Judaism. There are explanations for this that Hitchens does not employ and which Medved avoids or does not know.
At root, however, the Abrahamic religions hold exactly the same principles. Islam, unmitigated by the pagan Greeks and Romans, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the Constitution of the United States of America, which express its UNDILUTED ROOT PRINCIPLES to the fullest. In fact, Islam is the very fundamental meaning of religion taken to the logical extreme, unmitigated by the concepts of rights, separation of state and religion, and the pro-reason principles of the Enlightenment: That is the poison of religion.
Medved “pabulumizes” his way through the next argument against Hitchens by proclaiming some self-evident “religious impulse” pervasive amongst all peoples, and why a “strong faith can make people healthier, happier and more productive, or at least healthier and longer-lived.” No one master irrelevancy better than Medved. His argument is all but unintelligible and is far more specious than anything he alleges of Hitchens. It stinks too much to bother with—well, except (1) that hope has a positive effect, and (2) the “placebo effect.”
In his fourth "argument," Medved attacks Hitchens’ claim that mankind needs the ethical guidance of literary art and its giants, not religion. Medved launches into the ethical foibles and the religious influences on the literary giant authors mentioned by Hitchens.
Again, Medved senses a weakness in Hitchens’ argument and goes for it, albeit ineptly. Hitchens is indeed weak here. His lack of an explicit, non-contradictory, and comprehensive philosophy undercuts not only this argument for ethics-by-literature but his entire book as well. Medved licks his chops on this and acts like he has left Hitchens bleeding terminally with a big religious spear in his side. A blow, yes, but, a coup de grace, no, it is not. Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky are NOT proper ethical models, nor are they spokespersons for a proper system of ethics.
Medved’s last big "argument" against Hitchens concerns—and please sit down before reading this—Hitchens’ allegedly ad hominem attacks on Jerry Falwell the day of Falwell’s death. No, not the existence of God, the central argument sustaining religion, but some allegedly crude remarks about Jerry Falwell. To Medved, obviously, someone’s death makes that person immune from criticism; or does such apply just to religious figures who die? Medved is very big on “making nice” as some cardinal principle of religions. Many of the religious hold such a notion, and they go mystically “ballistic” beatifying when one of them dies. OK. If that is what they want to do, then do it. Just don’t claim metaphysical status for their feelings, however. Whether Falwell’s survivors were aware of allegedly intemperate remarks by Christopher Hitchens is unknown, and the entire issue is totally irrelevant to anything. However, Medved uses such to shore up the validity of religion. Go figure.
Medved goes into even deeper intellectual levels to shore up religion. How? Sit down for this also, please. The “…faithful contribute to charity and volunteer their time to compassionate causes with far greater consistency and generosity than their secular colleagues.” Were this even true, so what? At best, this is more baffling with bullshit. Only the religious and the secular collectivists of the Left use “charity” as a weapon like this. Why they do this is to play the minds of the susceptible with “kindness” assertions as belonging fundamentally, universally, and exclusively (almost) to religion.
Medved is very easily threatened by anti-religion presentations and their presenters. As of 13 July 2007, he was still ricocheting in print with further attacks on Hitchens. In his 11 July article, he referred to Hitchens’ book as “…a maddening combination of stimulation and sloppiness, erudition and ignorance, provocation and puerility.” Here are some of his other darts thrown at Hitchens: “sly distortions and grotesque errors…author’s carelessness and arrogance…primitive and juvenile characterization of religious belief…shoddy scholarship and clumsy mischaracterizations…” Oh, the superciliousness of it all!
One might ask of Michael Medved, if your religion is so all-fired good, wonderful, and superior, why do you decompensate over the anti-religious? The answer, which you will never hear from any of the Medved types, is that assertions such as god does not exist scare the “holy hell” out of them. The apparent security of their sanctimonious positions, so well typified by Jerry Falwell, for example, is just that: appearance. Obviously, the religious sense high vulnerability of their religious belief systems, and they go to extraordinary lengths to mask these to themselves and to others.
Medved may well have another element in his animus against Hitchens. Hitchens made him lose face on air, and that really got to Medved. Medved accused Hitchens of an instance of using Nazi website sources. Hitchens immediately demanded full retraction on air, or he threatened to terminate the interview immediately. Medved immediately retracted. For a man so obviously enamored with himself as Medved is, this was a narcissistic injury. However, it was self-inflicted. I suspect that he will be virulently anti-Hitchens henceforth.
Medved seem to thrive on the ignorance of his audience. He should stay clear of first class opponents such as Christopher Hitchens, unless he takes religious masochistic altruism literally, and just loves getting the hell kicked out of himself in public.
Once people buy into an irrational system of ideas, emotions, behaviors, social customs, and the like, they engage in war with reality. Nothing about religion has any credence in terms of reality, and religionists have to fight awareness of that all the time. They build vast character armors to shore up their bad ideas from contamination by reality. They spend their lives virulently opposed to anyone who tries to uphold reality over their unreality. They go “over the hill” and can never come back. Their “arguments” become more and more involved to try to knock down realists and to keep themselves faithful.
An illustration of that special religious mindset comes from a talk a philosopher gave. He taught in a small college in a rather religious rural setting. In the course of his teaching rational philosophy, he exposed religion for what it is. One student tried to take this exposition home to discuss with her husband, but he demanded her silence. He wanted his faith, and he denied anything threatening it coming into his mind. From this primitive level man to Medved and on to professional religionists, they all must erect defenses against reality.
Christopher Hitchens did not demolish religion with god is not great; he lacked some of the proper arguments to complete the job. He did, however, knock religion for one hell of a loop, and it will be on the mat for some time to come. However, listening to and reading Hitchens compared to all the religious apologists is like encountering ice-cold water in the middle of the desert.
One can learn a lot by watching the religionists squirm. If they did not feel the threat, they would be unfazed. Despite their best efforts, they are like the dikes of New Orleans, which held to a point, but only to a point.