Field of Science

Hitchens at Pitzer on rum

I just came back from a dinner with and talk by Christopher Hitchens at Pitzer College. To me he is best known as author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, but he has also famously subjected himself to waterboarding, and the Santa Barbara makeover. He claims to know over 300 limericks, 5 of them clean.

The dinner was with a few invited students, at which the students had many very good questions, which I can't remember a single one of, because I didn't write them down. I do remember that he asked us what we would like him to talk about at the formal event later on. The choices were faith, the axis of evil (he has been to all three countries), Thomas Jefferson, and one or two more topics. There was agreement that faith would be the best choice. I concurred because it is on this issue that he is an influential public figure, and not on the other otherwise interesting points.

During dinner he was offered juice and water, to which he said he would not like some. He would like a strong drink, but he'll take water for hydration. He got a beer, but going over to the lecture hall a bottle of rum appeared, and he asked to have some in an anonymous cup. He was sipping on it during his talk.

His talk was followed by a long question session, and together they included many interesting matters. Here are a few of the points he made:

He believes women are prone to be superstitious because they are the child rearers. When you have already had two children die, you aren't going to take any chances with the third, so you'll do anything that is said to protect your child.

Asked if he would consider moderating his tone, which admittedly can be rather harsh at times, he answered "not for a second." However, later on he had the epiphany that while people often email him to tell him that his book made the difference to them coming out as an atheist, no one ever tells him that in person. "You ruined my evening," he exclaimed with a slight grin. The lesson would be that you can be rude and piss people off in writing, but don't do it to their faces, because that doesn't have the desired effect.

On the issue of gay marriage, he joked that the good thing about being homosexual is that you aren't supposed to marry.

Asked to recite a limerick, he asked if we wanted a dirty one. People said yes, but a woman behind me kept saying no. "No. No. No." No exclamation marks. I don't think she found it amusing at all, which I found highly amusing. He did a few, of which I only wrote down this one:

There once was a hooker from Q
who filled her pussy with glue.
She thought with a grin
if they'll pay to get in,
they'll probably pay to get out, too.

A lot of the questions regarded Hitchens' view on the Iraq War. He argues that it is a just war, a war to be proud of, and that we should all be thankful that the United States decided to intervene when Saddam Hussein refused to live up to the conditions that he was given after being driven out of Kuwait. Hitchens denies that George W. Bush has ever said that "God told me to invade." According to an article in The Independent, Bush has said
"I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.' And I did, and then God would tell me, 'George go and end the tyranny in Iraq,' and I did."

I personally don't care either way what Bush's reasons were. To me the important thing is the immense suffering that the war has caused. Depending on the source it is 655,000 Iraqis, or it is a little less than 100,000 civilians. Either way that is too high a cost to get rid of this dictator. However, I do admit that I don't really know anything of the political situation on the Middle East, before and after the invasion. I don't think that Saddam Hussein would have acquired nuclear weapons. Hitchens seems to think he would. And that he would have used them on the United States.

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