Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Jerry Falwell: Exploiting Religious Tolerance and Respect

When I heard that Jerry Falwell had died, I was thinking of the various critical things I had to say about him for the blog when I saw Christopher Hitchens (new book: God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.) on Anderson Cooper’s 360. Hitchens deserves a great deal of credit for having the courage to actually say these sorts of things on American television. It is indicative of the sad state of affairs in the U.S. that it makes us cringe to have someone say so many obviously true and critical things about someone who hid behind the protection of our respect for religion. Falwell’s example makes the case better than almost anyone else that our affection for religion has led us to turn our heads the other way and ignore almost anything as long as the author claims that they have religious motivations for perpetrating their crimes. Falwell represented everything that has gone wrong in our country concerning religious tolerance and religious idiocy.
COOPER: Author and outspoken atheist Christopher Hitchens is about as far from Jerry Falwell in his beliefs as one could get. Christian fundamentalists are a major target of his new book, "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything." He joins me now from Raleigh, North Carolina.

Christopher, I'm not sure if you believe in heaven, but, if you do, do you think Jerry Falwell is in it?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "VANITY FAIR": No. And I think it's a pity there isn't a hell for him to go to.

COOPER: What is it about him that brings up such vitriol?

HITCHENS: The empty life of this ugly little charlatan proves only one thing, that you can get away with the most extraordinary offenses to morality and to truth in this country if you will just get yourself called reverend. Who would, even at your network, have invited on such a little toad to tell us that the attacks of September the 11th were the result of our sinfulness and were God's punishment if they hadn't got some kind of clerical qualification?

People like that should be out in the street, shouting and hollering with a cardboard sign and selling pencils from a cup. The whole consideration of this -- of this horrible little person is offensive to very, very many of us who have some regard for truth and for morality, and who think that ethics do not require that lies be told to children by evil old men, that we're -- we're not told that people who believe like Falwell will be snatched up into heaven, where I'm glad to see he skipped the rapture, just found on the floor of his office, while the rest of us go to hell.

How dare they talk to children like this? How dare they raise money from credulous people on their huckster-like (INAUDIBLE) radio stations, and fly around in private jets, as he did, giggling and sniggering all the time at what he was getting away with?

Do you get an idea now of what I mean to say?
HITCHENS: How dare he say, for example, that the Antichrist is already present among us and is an adult male Jew, while, all the time, fawning on the worst elements in Israel, with his other hand pumping anti-Semitic innuendoes into American politics, along with his friends Robertson and Graham?

HITCHENS: ... encouraging -- encouraging -- encouraging the most extreme theocratic fanatics and maniacs on the West Bank and in Gaza not to give an inch of what he thought of was holy land to the people who already live there, undercutting and ruining every democratic and secularist in the Jewish state in the name of God?

HITCHENS: This is -- this is -- he's done us an enormous, enormous disservice by this sort of demagogy.

COOPER: What do you think it says about America that -- and politics in America, that he was so successful in mobilizing huge swathes of the country to come out and vote?

HITCHENS: I'm not certain at all that he did deserve this reputation. And I... COOPER: You don't think he does?

HITCHENS: Well, I'm not certain that he was a mobilizer. He certainly hoped to be one.

Well, the fact is that the country suffers, to a considerable extent, from paying too much, by way of compliment, to anyone who can describe themselves as a person of faith, Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, Chaucerian frauds, people who are simply pickpockets, who -- and frauds -- who prey on the gullible and...

COOPER: Do you believe he believed what he spoke?

HITCHENS: Of course not. He woke up every morning, as I say, pinching his chubby little flanks and thinking, I have got away with it again.

COOPER: You think he was a complete fraud, really?


COOPER: You don't believe that, I mean, in his reading of the Bible, you don't think he was sincere in his -- whether you agree or not with his reading of the Bible, you don't think he was sincere in what he spoke?

HITCHENS: No. I think he was a conscious charlatan and bully and fraud.

And I think, if he read the Bible at all -- and I would doubt that he could actually read any long book of -- at all -- that he did so only in the most hucksterish, as we say, Bible-pounding way.

I'm going to repeat what I said before about the Israeli question. It's very important. Jerry Falwell kept saying to his own crowd, yes, you have got to like the Jews, because they can make more money in 10 minutes than you can make in a lifetime. He was always full, as his friends Robertson and Graham are and were, of anti- Semitic innuendo.

Yet, in the most base and hypocritical way, he encouraged the worst elements among Jewry. He got Menachem Begin to give him the Jabotinsky Medal, celebrating an alliance between Christian fundamentalism and Jewish fanaticism that has ruined the chances for peace in the Middle East.

Lots of people are going to die and are already leading miserable lives because of the nonsense preached by this man, and because of the absurd way that we credit anyone who can say they're a person of faith.

Look, the president endangers us this way. He meets a KGB thug like Vladimir Putin, and, because he is wearing a crucifix around his neck, says, I'm dealing with a man of faith. He's a man of goodwill.

Look what Putin has done to American and European interests lately. What has the president said to take back this absurd remark? It's time to stop saying that, because someone preaches credulity and credulousness, and claims it as a matter of faith, that we should respect them.

The whole life of Falwell shows this is an actual danger to democracy, to culture, to civilization. That's what my book is all about. COOPER: The book is "God Is Not Great."

End of Transcript.

The only things that need to be added to Hitchens’ candid critique of Falwell are: Falwell devoted his entire life to promoting intolerance, ignorance, hatred, theocracy, and religious lunacy. He did what priests throughout history have done. He employed every dirty trick in the book on behalf of God—he lied, he distorted, he abused, he manipulated, he exploited, he misled and he victimized the poorest and least educated in order to satisfy his most personal petty ambitions to power and adulation. And he cleverly disguised all of it behind the protective banner of “faith,” always insuring that no matter how harmful his words and acts were, they would be sheltered from criticism and from any serious rational scrutiny because he was a “man of God,” and no one who is speaking for God could have any dark motives or actually do any harm to us, could they?


Anonymous said...

Great blog, MM. Hitchens is as honest and outspoken as they come, and so are you.


PS - I hope Falwell enjoys Nothingness. ;)

Jon said...

Right On Dr. M! It is a strange thing when people go to their grave fisting their greed and power as if it will go with them. I believe that many of these "reverends" like many priests (who molest children) do not believe what they pronounce. They are successful at taking a 10% tithe from the paychecks of people who cannot afford it. It is just as evil as the tobacco exec who lies about nicotine being an addictive drug. Old men should know that they cannot take their money with them. It is frustrating to observe shallow and apathetic people.