Hitchens vs. Hedges; Atheist vs. Believer Clash Ignites Audience

Cheers erupted when he called the Christian Right “the most frightening mass political movement in American history.”

Hitchens broke in, repeatedly overrunning Lilley, disdaining as “callow leftism” the “evil nonsense taught by Hedges … that Palestinian suicide bombers are driven by despair…. These are people in a state of exaltation [for] their mullahs and their filthy religion,” Hitchens raged, dismissing at once “any other explanation of Islamic jihad” besides a religious one, then likewise dismissing “anyone who eulogizes this evil wicked thing.” Boos shook the hall. But so did cheers. As Hitchens rocked back in his chair, it was clear from the clamor that a fair portion of the crowd supported him: maybe thirty percent, maybe forty. What trumps what, these days, in Berkeley?

Hedges likened Hitchens to The End of Faith (Norton, 2004, $24.95) author Sam Harris, condemning the “binary worldview” both men share. Taking up the jihad gauntlet, Hedges riposted that “the only route we have given these young kids is [that of] affirming themselves through death,” with its attendant promise of paradise and huge funeral processions. “Self-immolation is the only route they have,” he insisted, to wild and lasting applause. Hitchens eyed him, incredulous, across the coffee table strewn with water glasses and stacks of notes. “Who makes excuses for suicide-murderers?” Hitchens marveled. “Shame on you.” From the crowd came a shout: ” read more

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