McWhorter on some futuristic fellow in a unitard a hundred years from now

“On religion, I am also bemused by Christopher Hitchens’s “God Is Not Great.” It is currently near the top of the Times’ best seller list, but in the end, what could this and the books of its ilk written lately by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett change?

Mr. Hitchens’s book is, unsurprisingly, great writing. But the number of people who will contact Mr. Hitchens thanking him for writing about the logical error in the religious faith they were raised in and trying to convince them to become atheists will be very, very small. People do not give up their religious faith on the basis of suasion. The faith is, by definition, beyond the reach of logic.

So for all of its entertainment value, how could the book affect the world beyond that? There have long been prominent religious skeptics. In the Gilded Age, orator Robert Ingersoll was titillating audiences declaring, “toilers are paid with the lash, babes are sold, the innocent stand on scaffolds, and the heroic perish in flames” and “yet we are told that it is our duty to love this God.” Yet, these days, religion is on the rise in America. Ingersoll changed nothing.

From what I see, the effects of books like “God Is Not Great” will be to make nonbelievers feel more confident in expressing their views. But they will not convert believers, which means that these anti-God books will serve mainly to elevate the rancor in our public discussion.

These books will certainly stand as evidence for human beings’ capacity for reason.”


  1. That’s not what she said, you nitwit!

  2. Rufus McCain says

    She didn’t say, “toilers are paid with the lash, babes are sold, the innocent stand on scaffolds, and the heroic perish in flames”?

  3. Quin Finnegan says

    Who are you calling a nitwit, M. Anonymous? And McWhorter refers to a Robert Ingersoll as the author of said comment, so why do you say “she”? Perhaps you are thinking of Gilda Radner, who said: I always wanted a happy ending… Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.Not exactly atheistic, although I doubt it’d get the imprimature.

    Gilda also said I base my fashion taste on what doesn’t itch., and I have to say, that sounds pretty unarguable to me. I think she’s got you there.

  4. Actually, I responded to the wrong article. My response should have been in reference to the article about Hilary. Yes, I must admit, that I am often guilty of nitwiticism myself, this time mechanically. But, getting back to Hilary, whether you love her or hate her, if you are reasonable, you must admit that what she said was was distorted. As a long time political independent, I strongly object to such distortions.

  5. Rufus McCain says

    I thought the topic of McWhorter’s piece was exactly that — how the statement was distorted by the mechanizations of (a) racial hypersensitivity and (b)cynical hardball politicking.

  6. Quin Finnegan says

    That’s okay, Anonymous, I can sometime be an immature nitwit as well – just look at the way I spelled “imprimatur”.

    I didn’t actually see Hilary’s interview or read the transcript, but I do think McWhorter makes an excellent point about the linguistic straitjacket that PC puts on public and now private discussions. This creates serious distortions of its own.

    Lucky that we have quotations from Gilda, who said, Adopted kids are such a pain – you have to teach them how to look like you.

    More to the point, Ms. Radner also said, I’d much rather be a woman than a man. Women can cry, they can wear cute clothes, and they’re the first to be rescued off sinking ships. Unless that woman was Hilary – safe to say we’d both let that bitch drown, maybe even smack her with an oar. Right, Anonymous?

  7. Rufus McCain says

    This conversation got off track somewhere along the way. Or maybe it never got on track. Let’s get back to this fellow in the unitard. What’s that all about?

  8. Quin Finnegan says

    I apologize for calling Hilary a bitch and threatening her with an oar.

    Gilda for President!!

    Yeah, what about that guy in the unitard? What is that all about?

  9. Rufus McCain says

    This might be relevant to the discussion, from today’s Jaqueline Bigar horoscope:

    Scorpio ***** Others seem to come out of the woodwork. Keep communication flowing. Processing as a group draws some very strong reactions. Don’t take a comment personally. Much more might be going on than you are aware of. Tonight: Let someone else take the lead.

  10. Well—I’ll have to call myself the bigger nitwit. I will confess to not actually reading the McW. article and jumping to the conlusion, while jumping in and out of your site (a quick diversion from piles of 1099s to get out and such), that some serious nonsense was going on here, and that I, from my lofty position on top of above piles, had to quickly comment. McW., I find now, actually made good sense—a lot more sense than these “nitwitty” government forms I’m buried in at the moment.

Speak Your Mind