In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review June 4, 2007 / 18 Sivan, 5766

Man or beast?

By Rabbi Avi Shafran

Printer Friendly Version

Email this article

Why Jerry Falwell drove Christopher Hitchens crazy

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | It is hardly surprising that one of the most outspoken evangelists of atheism would have less-than-kind words about a man who empowered religion in American politics. But writer Christopher Hitchens went even beyond his usual eloquent obnoxiousness by commencing his comments in Slate about the late Jerry Falwell by asserting that "the discovery" of the Baptist minister's "carcass" has significance mainly for "credulous idiot[s]."

The word chosen by the petulant writer to refer to Reverend Falwell's mortal remains is telling. As a self-declared and proud "antitheist" whose most recent book carries the subtitle "How Religion Poisons Everything," Hitchens has no reason to view human beings as different from animals in any essential way. It is a stance that can lead to things like Princeton ethicist Peter Singer's support for killing severely disabled babies and the unconscious elderly. As Professor Singer has explained: "The life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog or a chimpanzee." If antitheist Hitchens asserts some inherent human special-ness, he is not only insufferable but inconsistent.

Reverend Falwell, by contrast, made his reputation by forcing the American body politic to consider that the human sphere, by virtue of a Divine plan, is uniquely, meaningfully different from all else on earth. The idea that men and women possess a spark of the Divine, that our lives hold the promise of holiness, is the beta-point — after the alpha affirming G-d — of religious belief.

Which is why Falwell, who coaxed religious Americans to raise a voice they hadn't known they possessed, focused largely on issues that spoke to the holiness of human life. Like the preciousness of even its potential, and how the act able to create new human beings should be regarded as something more than a meaningless equivalent of its analogue in the animal world.

Predictably, such ideas make people like Hitchens crazy. The writer was rendered apoplectic by the reverend's daring to voice opposition to the societal sanctioning of feticide, or of intimate relationships considered immoral by traditional Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist believers alike. Hitchens decried the "puddl[ing]" of the reverend's "sausage-sized fingers into the intimate arrangements of people who had done no harm." Hitchens' hatred is so fervid it extends to Falwell's very digits.

Nor is the cantankerous Divinity-denier content to just damn the late reverend (so to speak; Hitchens, of course, denies any ultimate reward or punishment). He insists on smearing him, too, with the tar of anti-Semitism.

Associating the Moral Majority founder with an assortment of unsavory characters on the sole basis of their common commitment to Christian belief, Hitchens sneers that Falwell must have hated Jews. The tar, though, doesn't stick. I don't know what Falwell may have held in his heart of hearts, but a verdict of guilty on a charge of Jew-hatred needs something more than guilt by the remotest association.

Ah, though, Hitchens points out, Jews are "unsaved" in the reverend's theology.

Well, yes, some Christians' beliefs entail a rejection of Judaism. Jewish belief, no less, rejects Christianity (at least for Jews). Theological affirmations, however, need not bespeak animus.

It is odd, in any event, that an atheist would be so exercised by a Christian's belief about the spiritual merit, or lack thereof, of non-Christians. It certainly doesn't bother this Jewish believer (who, well, believes he knows better).

I am not oblivious to how religions can beget — and have begotten — hatred and violence. Nor am I certain that there is no future (or even present) for Christian Jew-hatred. There are, after all, rabidly anti-Semitic groups in the American heartland that claim a Christian mandate for their hatred. Nor, to be honest, can I help but wonder what prejudicial lusts might yet lurk in the heart of former president Jimmy Carter and other similarly myopic defenders of populations pledged to drive Jews into the Mediterranean.

But the vast majority of contemporary Christians — including even those like Falwell who believe Jews can get to heaven only by becoming Christians — do not menace members of the tribe these days; and I respect a Christian's right to his belief just as I wish that he or she respect mine to my own.

And so, while, as a believing Jew, I was not a Falwell-follower and was not always enamored of some of his pronouncements , he deserves credit not only for his support of Israel against her sworn enemies but for his determination, whatever else he may have said or believed, to call attention to the idea of the Divine.

Let us also recall some historical wages of Godlessness — like Stalin's "Great Purge" or Mao's massacres or the Cambodian killing fields. While religion can, and often is, misused, there is much to be said for a society pledged, however imperfectly, to the Divine, over one that regards human beings as nothing more than quickened carcasses.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment by clicking here.

JWR contributor Rabbi Avi Shafran is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America.


© 2007, Am echad