Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Is Hitchens a Catholic?

Christopher Hitchens – or someone close to him – has kindly sent me via his public email a link to a piece he wrote for Slate on Sept 18. It’s called Papal Bull: Joseph Ratzinger’s Latest Offence. I assume this is his response to the post below in which I say he’s now in bed with the Pope (at least on the subject of Islam).

I had read the piece at the time of publication but I’m always happy to re-read Hitchens. He may put his name to nonsense periodically but he writes so well that one can turn the experience into an education. I’m not proud. Anger – or disgust – is his natural condition; he writes with orgasmic, even brutal, zest when he arraigns the enemy before him. The clement mood inclines him to prolixity and scholarly didacticism – though his learned essay on the history of the blowjob (in Vanity Fair earlier this year) is a masterly exercise in (so-to-speak) tongue-in-cheek erudition.

Papal Bull sensibly throttles the Pope for being rude about Islam. So, in emailing me the piece, I take this to mean that Hitchens does not see himself in bed with the Pontiff. A silly notion! But Papal Bull only establishes one thing: Hitchens is not in bed with the Pope willingly.

I’ll keep it brief: in the broad brush world of public perception, Hitchens is no better than the Pope in his splenetic attacks on Islam. At this level of perception, hostility is hostility is hostility. Forget the pretty prose that attempts to draw fine distinctions between “irrational” faith and “rational” reason: both are dangerous in the wrong minds. Both claim the moral high ground. And Hitchens’ support of the Iraq invasion – and glib dismissal of reports of 665,000 Iraqi dead – only adds to a sense that he himself is on some sort of crusade to root out or undermine “Islamic theocracies”. His silence in VF on Fallaci’s outrageous assaults on Muslims is most telling.

Is Hitchens a Catholic? No, but he may as well be.

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