The infrastructure and content of the transcriptions have taken hundreds of hours by one person. Keep the creativity flowing by buying me a coffee.

The infrastructure and content of the transcriptions have taken hundreds of hours by one person. Keep the creativity flowing by buying me a coffee.

Rob Eshman:

Christopher, what’s wrong with that? If a belief in the afterlife helps one, as Brad said, deal with the inevitability of death, maybe this is a good thing.

Christopher Hitchens:

Well then, anything that made you feel better to be okay, which, I’m sorry to say, I think is the contemptible point. Here’s the problem with the afterlife fantasy, it’s the same as religion in general.

Oh, if you can’t hear, I hope it’s not my fault. Alright, how’s that, okay?

Not to duck the opening question, give myself a chance to repeat my answer. That would mean that anything that made you feel good or better was fine, which I think is a contemptible position, I’m sorry to say, and it would be as good as drugs, for example. And I don’t believe, in fact, Marx never said that religion is just an opiate, but religion and the afterlife fantasy have these things in common. First, they’re man-made, that’s very important. They represent claims by humans to be able to interpret the divine and to give themselves power by doing so.

We admit we don’t know, that’s because we can’t know. So the people who have to leave the island right away are those who say they do, who for centuries have tyrannized and still do millions of human beings by claiming to hold the keys of heaven and hell. Ladies, my second point, religion is totalitarian in its practice and its theory. It claims to know things it can’t know, only claims to have powers it cannot have. It says if you make the right propitiations and the right donations, you may get paradise. And if you don’t, you may get an eternity of pain that includes, by the way, the souls of unbaptized children, of the millions who Sam mentioned.

Then this, I’m afraid to say, as you’d expect from the man-made argument of fraud, St. Peter’s in Rome was built on the sale of indulgences, that’s to say, in return for cash, the promise of a remission of sin and good time in hell or purgatory. There are chantries, actually quite beautiful ones still all over Europe, still working, prayers being said for the repose and remission of souls. Pope Benedict, the most reactionary prelate for a considerable time to lead the church, is trying to restore the idea of remission of sin in exchange for donations or other in-kind operations.

This, I’m sorry if it sounds unduly functionalist, but until we’ve dealt with these questions, we can’t have a serious discussion. Now there’s also, I think, a real problem about anything that’s eternal. I should pull it closer to this. It will happen to all of us that at some point you’ll get tapped on the shoulder and told not just that the party’s over, but slightly worse, the party’s going on but you have to leave, and it’s going on without you. That’s the reflection I think that most upsets people about their demise. Alright then, yes, because it might make us feel better, let’s pretend the opposite instead. You’ll get tapped on the shoulder and, guess what, this party’s going on forever and you can’t leave. You’ve got to stay, the boss says so, and he also insists that you have a good time. I’ve read about David’s father, I had a bad time when my own father passed on, but the father proposed by monotheism is the father who doesn’t die, who reassures his children, “Don’t worry, I’ll never leave you, you’ll never see the end of me, you’ll never get the chance to feel sorry, I’m always there.”

I’m the absolute ultimate in dictatorship, and in my courts, there’s no appeal. Do you really think that this would cheer up anyone of sentience or humanity or capable of feeling of irony?

I submit it’s out of the question.

David Wolpe:

I just want to say, I was completely with you until the end when you got silly on us. And the reason I say that is because you speak about God in the same way that you would speak about a human dictator, as though they were equivalent.

Christopher Hitchens:

No, no, no, much worse.

David Wolpe:

But it’s only worse because of the eternity of it?

Christopher Hitchens:

No, it’s the absolutism of it, the lack of any appeal.

David Wople:

Except that that’s not at all what any tradition envisions. And even if it did envision it, as you and I would both agree, the envisioning of traditions of what a god would be are very limited and partial. And so if you want to make it, yes, that it’s North Korea forever, then I would say you’re belittling the notion of what it means to have a god. You’re belittling the notion of what it means to have eternity, in if not bliss, at least reasonable happiness. And it’s true that you lose everything in this world, but also it’s not at all the case, and you know that it’s not the case, that the notion of the afterlife invariably leads to neglect of what is important in this world. Sometimes, in fact, it does the exact opposite. You can take large swathes of belief.

You mentioned Marx communism, for example, which repudiated the idea of the afterlife and therefore thought you have to create utopia here, and it led to horrendous misdeeds throughout the 20th century. So the belief in the afterlife can be totalitarian and terrible, but so can the idea that there’s nothing after this world and therefore you have to perfect human beings here. It can work both ways.

Rob Eshman:

I wanted to ask you, Christopher, do you really believe that dead is dead? You don’t believe in any kind of consciousness going after death. You don’t believe in dead. All dead.

Christopher Hitchens:

Okay, the survival of consciousness independent of the brain, which Sam knows more about than I, we’re getting better equated, which is quite different from the belief in a mandated path by which you can follow or not, further leading to reward and punishment. It’s completely different. It’s different in the same way as say spiritualism was, which was really religion but was a very strong fraudulent movement that not coincidentally flourished after the First World War in the hope of putting people in touch with deceased relatives and so forth.

Not one single interesting thing ever got said from the other side, fascinating table burnings from the beyond, but millions of people pitifully paid attention to it. I guess my answer has to depend on David’s point about stuff. We actually owe a great deal more than we ever did than any of our predecessors did about what stuff we’re made of. We know that our DNA gives us enormous amounts in common with other animals, huge amounts. We know that stars had to die, Larry Krauss makes this point very well in his lectures on physics. Stars had to die one every second, blew up that is still blowing up since the Big Bang.

We’re made, if you want to call it pretty, from stardust … or nuclear waste, depending on your analysis. But there’s absolutely no reason to think those molecules will be worth reassembling, that they would say “well, we join as duty animals” and has done the other species we didn’t know about to listen leave the other human tribes, the Cro-Magnons, the Neanderthals, the ones that aren’t even mentioned in any holy book really died out about 20,000 years ago. Who has heaven and hell for them? It’s as likely for us as it is, I think, for any other dog, whale, or bacteria, well, and they’re more than that.

continue reading

Related Posts

  • 5331 words26.7 min read

    A thought-provoking speech and debate sequence that delves into the merits and drawbacks of religious belief through a philosophical and ethical lens. Christopher, using sharp wit and critical reasoning, challenges the audience to reconsider the foundations of faith and the implications of divine design. He draws on historical examples, scientific insights, and theological critique to argue against the rationality of faith and the moral implications of religious dogma.

  • 7230 words36.2 min read

    If you make the assumption that we are bodies, not just have bodies, then there isn't any mystery that remains to be explained about why a bleed in your brain will make you behave as if you weren't human anymore, unable to speak or think. The explanation is quite straightforward.

  • 2659 words13.3 min read

    Christopher Hitchens challenges the audience with a provocative assertion about the dangerous liaisons between religious extremism and political power. Highlighting a shocking instance, he describes how a revered religious leader has openly embraced neo-fascists, denying historical genocides while sanctioning ancient myths as truths.