In his latest Slate dispatch, Christopher Hitchens (in a departure from his pre-election shrug) comes out swinging for George W. Bush. He begins by taking "strong exception" to the charge that one must be a "God-bothering, pulpit-pounding Armageddon-artist, enslaved by ancient texts and prophecies and committed to theocratic rule" to have backed Bush in this go-round.
He takes a swipe at Gary Wills for the historian's "the Enlightenment is falling" piece in the New York Times. Wills, says Hitchens, "who makes at least one of his many livings by being an Augustinian Roman Catholic," should go and contemplate how much hypocrisy one can fit on the head of a pin.
The setup: "As far as I know, all religions and all churches are equally demented in their belief in divine intervention, in divine intercession, or even the existence of the divine in the first place."
Having asserted his atheist credentials, Hitchens explains that "not all faiths are equally demented in the same way or at the same time." Islam is clearly the greater of two evils. Its more virulent strains are "explicitly totalitarian and wedded to a cult of death." He sees the murder of Theo Van Gogh as "only a warning of what is coming in Madrid, London, Rome, and Paris, let alone Baghdad and Basra."
One political faction in the U.S. makes excuses "for the religious fanaticism that immediately menaces us in the here and now." And that faction, Hitchens is "sorry and furious to say, is the left." "A gallery of psuedointellectuals [Isn't he taking this faux Orwell thing too far? -- ed.] have been willing to represent the worst face of Islam as the voice of the oppressed."
While George Bush may be "subjectively Christian," Hitchens argues that "he -- and the U.S. armed forces -- have objectively done more for secularism than the whole of the American agnostic community combined and doubled." You see, smashing the Taliban, disrupting al Qaeda, and confronting the "theocratic saboteurs" of Iraq all give a huge boost to "non-fundamentalist forces in many countries."
If liberal secularism is framed as an objection to this project, says Hitchens, "I'll take a modest, God-fearing, deer-hunting Baptist from Kentucky every time, as long as he didn't want to impose his principles on me (which our Constitution forbids him to do so)."
GetReligion readers will no doubt have some thoughts and questions about this. Here are a few of mine:
1) Iraq under Saddam Hussein was an essentially secular, if brutal, regime. Now Islam will likely play a large part in the nation's government. It might be the sort of moderate Islam that Hitchens can live with but at this point I'd bet against it. If I am correct -- and I hope I'm not -- then Hitchens may have to rethink his support for the war in Iraq.
2) Hitchens is nominally pro-life. How much of a role does this play in his ability to shrug off many criticisms of American religious conservatives?
3) On a tangentially related note, for the mother of all overreactions to what's being called Jesusland, click here, if you dare.