Christopher Hitchens can be infuriating, wrong, and disgusting. And he can be brilliant Welcome to the upper echelons of humanity.
Here, find brilliance. Find one tough-minded enough to slog through the gelatin that so often passes for liberal thought and persevere all the way to progressive insight. Here find one who is willing enough to stand for what he believes to risk being infuriating, wrong, and disgusting. Would that we all were.
A recent blizzard of liberal columns has framed the debate over American Islam as if it were no more than the most recent stage in the glorious history of our religious tolerance. This phrasing of the question has the (presumably intentional) effect of marginalizing doubts and of lumping any doubters with the anti-Catholic Know-Nothings, the anti-Semites, and other bigots and shellbacks. So I pause to take part in a thought experiment, and to ask myself: Am I in favor of the untrammeled "free exercise of religion"?
No, I am not. . . .
The taming and domestication of religion is one of the unceasing chores of civilization. Those who pretend that we can skip this stage in the present case are deluding themselves and asking for trouble not just in the future but in the immediate present.
Let humble me merely pick up where he left off.
The Constitution and Bill of Rights are meant to address perennial problems: the rights of the individual versus the rights of the community; the roles and powers of the state versus the liberties and authorities of the people; the power of religion versus the power of the state; the meaning of liberty; the point of organized civil authority, and so on.
Hitchens here does a great service by pointing out that the courts have never granted American citizens an unrestricted right to exercise religion however we see fit, and by contextualizing the forthcoming decisions about Islam on our continenent in this way.
However, I stipulate that an even greater threat to our Constitution and Bill of Rights than Islam is extreme, fundamentalist Christianism. I have written a good deal about this. I will write more shortly. In the meantime, pay attention to the storms of religious fervor being gathered during this election season. PS: It's not about GLBT. It's about control of the government. Get it?