Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, two of the world’s most renowned atheists, sat down to talk about everything from God to politics in a special Christmas issue of Britain’s New Statesman.
Conducted before the Texas Freethought Convention earlier in October, where Hitchens was given the Freethinker of the Year award, the two friends met in private conversing about a variety of issues, resulting in a rare exclusive interview.
Hitchens currently suffers from stage IV esophageal cancer, of which he spoke about in detail recently on Vanity Fair, and seldom makes an appearance in public now.
Though extremely weakened in his health, the Statesman reported that the “God is Not Great” author still retained his “remarkable mental agility,” revealed through the discussions between the pair.
In an excerpt from the magazine, Dawkins, who guest edited the latest issue, told his friend, “One of my main beefs with religion is the way they label children as a ‘Catholic child’ or a “Muslim child.’ I’ve become a bit of a bore about it.”
“You must never be afraid of that charge, any more than stridency,” Hitchens responded. “If I was strident, it doesn’t matter – I was a jobbing hack, I bang my drum. You have a discipline in which you are very distinguished. You’ve educated a lot of people; nobody denies that, not even your worst enemies.”
“You see your discipline being attacked and defamed and attempts made to drive it out. Stridency is the least you should muster,” he added. “It’s the same of your colleagues that they don’t form ranks and say, ‘Listen, we’re going to defend our colleagues from these appalling and obfuscating elements.’”
Another issue Dawkins had with religion was the relationship between fascism and the Catholic Church. “The people who did Hitler’s dirty work were almost all religious,” he observed. “Can you talk about ... the relationship of Nazism with the Catholic Church?”
“I’m afraid that the SS’s relationship with the Catholic Church is something the church still has to deal with and does not deny,” Hitchens responded.
“The way I put it is this: if you’re writing about the history of the 1930s and the rise of totalitarianism, you can take out the word ‘fascist,’ if you want, for Italy, Portugal, Spain, Czechoslovakia and Austria and replace it with ‘extreme-right Catholic party.’ Almost all of those regimes were in place with the help of the Vatican and with understandings from the Holy See. It’s not denied. These understandings quite often persisted after the Second World War was over and extended to comparable regimes in Argentina and elsewhere.”
The one person Hitchens was completely against was the totalitarian, “on the left and on the right.”
“The totalitarian, to me, is the enemy – the one that’s absolute, the one that wants control over the inside of your head, not just your actions and your taxes. And the origins of that are theocratic, obviously. The beginning of that is the idea that there is a supreme leader, or infallible pope, or a chief rabbi, or whatever, who can ventriloquize the divine and tell us what to do.”
Clay Jones, professor of Christian apologetics at Biola University, rejected the atheist’s argument.
“According to Hitchens the origins of totalitarianism are ‘theocratic’? That’s just plain goofy,” he told The Christian Post.
“In the last 100 years the overwhelming majority of bloodshed has been at the hands of officially atheistic countries,” Jones shared. “The Black Book of Communism by Stephanie Courtois, et. al., reveals that a conservative estimate is that China murdered between six to ten million people and another 20 million ‘counter-revolutionaries’ died in camps. Some estimate that communist China’s communist government was responsible for 69 million deaths!”
“In the Soviet Union a conservative number is that 20 million people were killed. In Cambodia the Khmer Rouge killed around 1.7 million people out of a total population of five million!”
Jones also detailed more numbers from other countries around the world: Vietnam: 1 million deaths; North Korea: 2 million; Eastern Europe: 1 million, Latin America: 150,000; Africa: 1.7 million, and Afghanistan: 1.5 million.
“Add this up and it approaches 100,000,000 people killed by officially atheistic regimes! Certainly many people have killed in the name of religion but they also kill in the name of secularism and atheism,” he asserted.
“What we really need to understand is the Bible’s testimony about fallen humanity in Rom. 3:15-16: ‘Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways.’”
“It is true that many have murdered in the name of Christ but they have done so contrary to Jesus teachings, not because of them,” Jones concluded.
Jones formerly hosted Contend for Truth, a call-in nationally syndicated talk radio program. He was also the executive director of Simon Greenleaf University, now Trinity Law School, before becoming an associate professor at Biola University.
The complete interview between Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens can be seen in the Richard Dawkins Christmas Special edition of the New Statesman.