Home » Christopher Hitchens Discusses His Book ‘God Is Not Great’ at Authors@Google Series (Transcript)

Christopher Hitchens Discusses His Book ‘God Is Not Great’ at Authors@Google Series (Transcript)

To stay with the literature if you don’t mind. The King James version of the bible, the King James translation, referred to in the New York Times recently as the St. James translation, is itself a great work of literature and one couldn’t be without it, if you don’t understand the beauty of that liturgy, there’s a lot of Shakespeare and of Milton and Blake you wouldn’t get, you wouldn’t know what was going on. So it’s part of literacy to know it. I once wrote a book about the Parthenon, very important building for western civilization, great deal to be learned from it and from, by its beauty and by its symmetry and by its extraordinary architecture and sculpture. But I no longer care about the culture of Pallas Athena and I don’t care about the mystical ceremonies, some of them involving animal sacrifice and possibly human, that were conducted on the road from Eleusis. And I don’t have to care about Athenian imperialism and what it did to the Greek colonies in the rest of the Mediterranean.

I can just appreciate the building and some — and know about the philosophical context and the plays of Sophocles and all the other things that were going on at the same time without any reference to their gods. So I propose that what culture largely means to us now is how to deal with civilizational art and great creativity in a post-supernatural era. In other words, how to keep all of that that’s of value without having to care about the culture of Pallas Athena for example or to be forced to bear in mind that say, St. Peter’s in Rome, actually not I think that impressive a building, was built by special set of indulgences, I mean that’s how the money for it was raised. We can consider that independently now. We can value this building without knowing that. Though I always find it’s somewhat hard to forget.

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Audience: Right. Okay. I was just curious, I mean I wanted to seek more towards how all these things in art and music and creativity are often relayed between individuals as being spiritual or something along that nature whether or not the actual topic.

Christopher Hitchens: I wanted to say a bit more of this when I was speaking first. I think that the human need for the transcendent, for the spiritual is undeniable but that’s not the supernatural. It’s very important to understand. The feeling that people get out of landscape and music, or landscape and music in combination. The feeling of war and love at the same time has had extraordinary consequences for many people, or one or other on their own. These are the things we can’t do without but there’s no reason to attribute them to the supernatural. You’re not glimpsing anything but nature from that.

Audience: Hi. So it turns out if you follow the money trail back for a lot of these things, this whole creationism, teaching creationism idea, you’ll eventually find political organizations that are trying to energize a base, right, these bases…

Christopher Hitchens: Yes.

Audience: What they’d like to do is to get these people to feel like they’re being attacked. And in lot of the discussions we have in your presentation, there’s a fine line between attacking people versus attacking ideas, right? What do you do to kind of ensure that you’re not going after people and not making people feel like you’re telling them that they’re idiots for example? All right. How do you make that separation?

Christopher Hitchens: Well, I think my answer’s been anticipated perhaps. If someone tells me that I’ve hurt their feelings I’m still waiting to hear what your point is. I’m very depressed that in this country you can be told that’s offensive as if those two words constitute an argument or comment, not to me they don’t, and I’m not running for anything. So, I didn’t have to pretend to like people when I don’t.

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Speaker: Oh, thank you so much for speaking. I think we’re going to have a book signing right outside over here. So, if everyone got their copy of the book, thank you very much for coming.

Christopher Hitchens: How very nice of you.


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