Radar interviews Christopher Hitchens on his new book God Is Not Great. Some snippets:
The two leading public intellectuals of the American Right in the last two, three decades are Ayn Rand and Leo Strauss. Ayn Rand raised a huge number of free market concerns and was a libertarian, and Leo Strauss is well known to be the philosopher of what is now stupidly called neo-conservatism. Both had contempt for religion. Their attitudes toward it was the same as mine: that it's a silly man-made illusion.
On the Democratic side, almost all their heroes are religious. Martin Luther King. The Kennedys. People like that. The left is saturated with the religious. A lot of my book is an attack on liberal religious illusions….
[A] Quaker is not a jihadist. Quakers don't preach anything evil. But they preach non-resistance to evil, however, which I think is an evil notion, but it's not the same as putting a bomb in a girl's school in Belgium. The surrender of reason to faith is what leads to those bombs going off in Belgium, so I'm opposed to any of those surrenders….
Everything we [atheists] believe in depends on everything being open to doubt and experiment. If we hold those views very strongly and say that we don't think any other views are valid-a view that isn't in favor of free inquiry and skepticism-that doesn't make us dogmatic. Our belief is in objective scrutiny and evidence-including our own….
We can't have a state without religion. You cannot prevent people from worshipping in their own way. But I think society could, through its education system and the examples of its politicians, gently suggest that reading Jefferson or Voltaire or Paine wouldn't be harmful to you.
I'm a confirmed "apatheist" who can't really get riled up one way or another about issues of faith (issues of religiously or ideologically fueled violence and inhumanity are very different matters).
I think that religion can be a force for great good; if nothing else, the Baptist thinker Roger Williams is one of the great architects of the secular state, which is something really great. And there seems to me little question that while religious fanatics are clearly a serious global problem, most of the great state evils (at least in the 20th century) sprung from ideologies that were avowedly secular. So I think there might well be a root-level problem here–about all attempts to constrain individuals via coercive power–that's going unaddressed.
In any case, I look forward to reading Hitchens' book, which I'm sure presents a lucid and entertaining case for telling G-d to go to hell.
I am left wondering, though, are we not reading Jefferson and Voltaire as much as any two figures in our schools?
Hitchens interviewed (2001) by Reason here (in which, among other things, he explains why he's no longer a socialist and expresses lurve for Margaret Thatcher).
Hitchens participates in a 2003 Reason forum on foreign policy here (in which he, Ron Bailey, and others address the question of whether democracy can be spread at gunpoint).
Update: New York magazine interviews Hitchens (and supplies photo up top), who outs Karl Rove as an unbeliever, discusses praying (unsuccessfully) for an erection, and says this about the war in Iraq: "When it does become the property of historians rather than propagandists and journalists, it'll become plainer than it is to most people now that it was just."