Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Blasphemy Debate

If you want to spend a truly remarkable 80 minutes in the company of great minds, debating a vital subject, then listen to the debate from the Hay Festival between Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry about incitement to religious hatred. It was recorded last month.

You can do other things while Real Player or similar plays it. Five minute download with broadband.

But learning to hold on to your faith in this company will stretch you. If it doesn't you aren't listening properly.

Oh, and about an hour in there is one of the best put-downs I have ever heard.

And two or three great jokes.

And a couple of remarkable rants.

Brilliantly chaired by Joan Bakewell.

I'll give it a few days before commenting to allow a few more to have listened.


Peter said...

Cheers for that, Steve; so engrossed was I that I am now deprived of sleep. Which is a good sign; I normally sleep easily. (Two sentences, two semi-colons. Get in.)

I enjoyed that rather a lot. Just a pity there was no alternative view offered. Fry seemed positively sympathetic to religion, compared with Hitchens, but was still somewhat extreme with his language. Neither seemed to have a true understanding of the breadth of doctrines within the church; Hitchens acknowledged it only for its divisive, oppressive and violent side-effects. I, probably like many on here, have very little in common with the kind of Christians they lambast; I don't believe in the same god that that Fry and Hitchens don't believe in. But I don't want to kill anyone about it.

There was a certain smugness about the whole thing that made me feel a little uneasy. Hitchens' implication that atheists are more evolved was a bit silly, and it concluded with this dreadful humanist back-slapping; it was disappointing to hear Fry indulge in that "we should believe in people, rather than God" twaddle, as if the two are somehow contradictory. Oh, and Hitchens frequently managed to be at once sycophantic and patronising.

That said, I think I have quite a bit in common with their ways of thinking. I have come across Christians with whom I have disagreed more vehemently. And of course, the instances of children getting bone cancer and so on should make us think and question and analyse. But these two never once made me feel as though I am wrong to believe what I do. As an insight into the minds of two highly intelligent atheists, it was great; but it failed to sow even the smallest seed of doubt in my small, unevolved, believing brain.

Blimey, I really shouldn't write at this time of night. Hope I've made sense. Thanks again for the pointer. And I remarked on your clerical collar on Sunday morning only because I hadn't seen you in one for ages. Didn't mean to sound in the least bit critical or anything. Particularly liked your pianism.

St said...

The debate was intersting for me becuause, as a debate on free speech, the two guys risked speaking freely.

Christopher Hitchens' point that although he hated Ian Paisley he must be allowed to say what he says for only then can people see him for what he really is; if he is silenced he may get more support.

If there are crazy extemist clerics out there they should be heard. Whatever their religion.

Peter said...

Of course, that as well, yes. I managed to miss the main point in my above post.

Am in various minds about 'freedom of speech'. Instinctively I think people should be able to say what the hell they want, but then of course we don't have absolute freedom of speech or expression, bound as we are by the laws of defamation and contempt of court. Which, unusually among journalists, I think are generally quite sensible.

But that's as far as the controls should go. Yes, let people have a go at religions and say stupid things. Just as long as everyone gets a say.

Martin said...

Ok, listened to the debate. I agree with the comments here more than the original post. I am not sure if debate is the right word for this either, as I didn't detect enough disagreement, with is surely at the heart of debate. Anyway, thanks for the link, it was interesting.