Christopher Hitchens is one of the finest prose writers of his generation, not to mention learned, moral and brave. Though I’ve only met the man once, and that for only a handshake and some pleasantries at a party, I was genuinely sorry when I heard he was suffering from cancer. It’s a threat to one of our most worthwhile voices.
Now I disagree with Hitchens often enough, but the only time I think he’s just plain silly is when he starts in on his anti-God rants. It’s not that I think you can’t make good atheist arguments. You can, but he doesn’t. I suspect this is because he’s a believer-in-denial, but he insists that that’s not the case, so we’ll take him at his word.
Anyway, in September’s Atlantic, Hitchens has a typically graceful and informative review of a couple of books on anti-semitism in which he reflects on”the protean character of the world’s most ancient and tenacious prejudice.”
“Anti-Semitism has flourished without banking or capitalism (for which Jews were at one time blamed) and without Communism (for which they were also blamed). It has existed without Zionism (of which leading Jews were at one time the only critics) and without the state of Israel. There has even been anti-Semitism without Jews, in states like Malaysia whose political leaders are paranoid demagogues looking for a scapegoat. This is enough to demonstrate that anti-Semitism is not a mere prejudice like any other…”
But at the end of the piece, he just can’t help adding this:
The chief impetus of anti-Semitism remains theocratic, and in our epoch anti-Semitism has shifted from Christian to Muslim: a more searching inquiry into its origins and nature might begin by asking if faith is not the problem to begin with.
I don’t see the logic of this at all – nor even the truth of its premise. And, in fact, I personally believe the exact opposite is the case. I think the Jews’ chief crime against those who hate them is the book of Genesis, in which they discovered (not invented) the indelible sense of shame attendant on man’s recognition of the moral universe. That universe takes its inescapable authority from the goodness of its creator. And whether they are calling Jews Christ-killers (as in, “They did it, not us!”), or culture polluters (as in “Without them, we’d be free of religion.”) or the secret rulers of the world (“It’s not this God fellow at all – it’s them!”), it seems clear to me that the people who feel they hate Jews actually hate God. And they hate God because, in the light of his goodness, they hate themselves.