Monday, March 14, 2011

Hitch, Harris and two rabbis

A few days ago I saw the debate between Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and the rabbis David Wolpe and Bradley Shavit Artson, available online here (via Why Evolution is True). The discussion topic was: "Is there an afterlife". It was very enjoyable in general, leaving aside the fact that the rabbis had to make several moves to get away with their faith :-)

What I always like is Hitchen's wit and humor to pose an old and known idea in a new and fresh way. Here's an example with the notion of death and the eternal. This is the best metaphor I've seen about death:

Someone tap you in the shoulder and tells you that the party is not over, but you have to leave, and it will continue without you.

Imagine that, you are having fun at a party and you wish it would never end and you don't think for a second about the idea of having to leave! And that's what is upsetting and unsettling about having to die. All this wonderful party will be going on without us and we won't come back to it again and won't even know how it ended up. As far as we know, that's what the facts tell us. So we better come to terms with them.

Then comes the idea of eternity offered by religion, humorously stated by Hitchens:

This party is 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.

That is the point that Hitchens raises about the totalitarian character of the religious point of view. One simply has no choice in the matter. I don't think you can have an honest good time under such conditions. I certainly could not. Could you?

In this regard, I just can't do something simply because someone claims to have to authority to tell me what to do. Either give me a good reason or forget about it!

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