Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Hannukah: Festival of Backwardsness?

I came upon this slate article indirectly from a frequent, yet anonymous commenter of this blog (sorry if it annoys you that I'm blogging on this, but it was just too extreme to let slip, and I'm in finals and therefore easily distracted). All I have to say is whoa. That is quite a strongly worded piece directed against Hannukah. Ah the joys of journalism and the internet, where one does not need to cite sources or hold a reasonable respect for the subject of one's inquiry (though in all fairness there are plenty of academics who do the same thing but with bigger words). I'm not saying the history is not generally correct. Though my historical knowledge of this subject comes from a freshman class I mostly slept through, I believe the general facts is somewhere in the reasonable range of the truth (obviously feel free to correct me). But the tone is, well lets just say, not really compatible with our societies generally p.c. pluralism.

Before I continue I should note that the article was written by Christopher Hitchens, and he is definitely not a man who shies away from controversy to say the least. But irregardless, it does raise some interesting questions for us..

If I can guess correctly, our readers are probably thinking one (or many many) of these opinions (hows that for precision?):
1. This is (insert adjective) anti-semitism
2. This is (insert adjective) secularism primarily, but also anti-semitic
2b. This is secularism, but walks a fine line between secularism and anti-semitism
2c. This is secularism, not anti-semitism
3. This is correct, but seriously this author must have (insert non-sexist noun)
4. other (who is Zie to tell me what to think?)

Crazy right? Personally, I think there are ways to say something like this that seek to elucidate the facts and not merely anger a community. History can be told from an unlimited number of viewpoints with an unlimited number of agendas. Almost every year I come upon numerous articles that discuss Christmas as a commercial holiday lacking any actual religious meaning or historical fact. However, I do not know if I have ever read someone saying that Jesus represented backwards ideas and therefore to celebrate his birth is to deny enlightened thinking. hmm..

when did we stop appreciating a good metaphor?? Literalists make me seriously angry! Really takes some of the beauty out of life eh? Try reading Shakespeare literally... really doesn't make much sense. end of digression.

So, what do y'all think?


Anonymous said...

"However, I do not know if I have ever read someone saying that Jesus represented backwards ideas and therefore to celebrate his birth is to deny enlightened thinking."

From Leiter Reports:
The "Readings" section of this month's Harper's magazine features an excerpt from 'Divine evil', a posthumous article by David Lewis, prepared from the Nachlass by Philip Kitcher.

The central premise of the argument is that -- since he damns the insubordinate to eternal torture -- the god of Christianity is far more evil than any earthly dictator. Worshiping such a god is thus far more evil than admiring, say, Hitler. Unfortunately, those who admire certain Christians, when admirable -- eg Mother Theresa -- also acquire a bit of evil vicariously; and so on. "Leaving aside those who find nothing admirable in humanity, everyone will be tainted with divine evil".


Zie said...

I stand corrected. nice. thanks TR

Harley said...

I once used "irregardless" ironically in a paper for Burt Visotzky once. He was displeased. Particularly when I sent him the OED entry on it.

That's my two cents.

As for Hitchens, he's got the history right, but, once again, drowns his point in vitriol, rendering it generally unreadable, even for those of us amenable to his basic point about fundamentalism.

Sherbs said...

I am one who adores criticizing traditions, stories, myths and the Bible, but this time, it's just a little out of left field. I mean, c'mon. Now I don't this is anti-Semitic, but it is just stupid and a ridiculous argument. What's next, the Bible was written by the Hellenistic Jews? The facts are sort of correct - The Greeks weer terribly religious and not just philosophical. Plus, yes, this is a semi made up holiday that is often mistaken for an important one, but if he really wants to nit pick, try Sukkot. It's 1000% pagan and the sexual symbols are so overt.

I think the moral of the story is that Christopher Hitchens is the Atheist Ann Coulter when it comes to these things.

Zie said...

Harley you are a nerd. I find 'irregardless' to be a valid and useful word in informal writing, such as blog posts done in the wee hours of the morning. Plus I would like to come out against the double negative rule. the negative of the negative still means the positive, with a circular twist. i like it. good emphasis, plus it displays my inner disregard for this debate in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Hitchens' rants on religion are almost like pornography for me. While I can't say they are the most sober-minded analyses, they are still better than most mindless platitudes commending religious toleration, and I will continue to read them despite their relative paucity of intellectual substance.

-The Rooster

For an even better one, read CH's take on Mitt Romney: http://www.slate.com/id/2179404/

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