264. Progress (VII)
Christopher Hitchens was keen to note that God—particularly the Old Testament God—is cruel, capricious, racist, homophobic, war-like, and genocidal. He indicted this God with Hitchens’s own strict morality, itself derived from degenerated Christianity—from an idea that since Jesus was gentle and meek, so should the world be. Although Hitchens claimed that religion is infantile and childish, this was his own psychological projection: Hitchens was—actually appeared to be physically—a giant baby; his career was one long tantrum at reality.
As with many in his generation, he had a ridiculously inflated sense of self-importance and moral self-righteousness—although the generation itself was, to that point, the most nihilistic in human history. A similar solipsism can be seen in Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance; he claimed that the 1960s were the most tumultuous years in the century. The 1960s might have been the point in the century when people experienced maximum psychic dislocation—but the most tumultuous in general? In a century that had seen two world wars? This is solipsistic in the extreme, but statements like Pirsig’s explain why younger generations have considerable contempt for the Boomers.
Hitchens thought like a spoilt child: religion must mean that everything is perfect, there is no suffering or hate—just endless ice cream and daisies. I think, perhaps, he came to this view because by the time he grew up Christianity had long been hollowed out and had melded with a general Victorian sentiment that the world progressed in each generation; in utilitarian terms, we have more pleasure as the years go by. By the mid-20th century, the vicar thought the world progressed, just like everyone else; and, from the standard of progress, he looked very behind. Now, of course, the gentle world the Boomers grew up in was, as Nick Land would say, “hell-baked”: Britain was a peaceable country because the hangman had been busy for centuries—he winnowed out the worst in the gene pool.
When Christianity was presented as being vaguely nice in a progressive way, it fell short of its own standards; for the world is not vaguely nice, not afternoon tea with the vicar. The world is war. The world is what is described in the Old Testament: rape, tribal struggle, mass murder of tribes that oppose you, and brutal punishment for sexually deviant behaviour. It is also the New Testament: to bear witness to the truth of your heart, even if you are crucified for it. All these messages conform with Darwin’s evolution by natural selection, the science Hitchens claimed to defend: the bloody struggle to ensure your family and tribe survives—a ruthless struggle.
The childish Hitchens said the world should be ice cream, ice cream, and ice cream: his worldview amounted to the asinine proposal that we should all be nice to each other—except to religious people, who were, in his view, evil. He saw God as some lovely mother who always kisses your bruises better and always forgives you—and if God was not presented in that way, then God was evil and, further, not real. But God is a man; and men have hard rules, for the most part—and that is because the world is hard and men are interested in reality.
If you think God and the world are meant to be lovely and nice all the time you will be disappointed, angry, and morally outraged by what the world’s religions say—and by life itself. The “crimes” Hitchens charged that God had committed—“genocide”, “racism”—are what it takes to survive. Hitchens happily propagandised for his own holy war in Iraq, unconcerned that his lies killed hundreds of thousands; he was a hypocrite, he lived by war—as do we all—but claimed he was clean and pure as vanilla ice cream. Integrity means to accept reality: life is war—to love is to fight. God is great: he is awesome, the wave and the war.