Christopher Hitchens: “Anyone who believes that stuff is an idiot”

November 27, 2006 by  

In a meeting of the minds that didn’t take up all that much room, Hugh Hewitt was interviewing Christopher Hitchens and Hitchens went off on Harry Reid being Mormon:

CH: No, he’s a Smithite, for Heaven’s sake. I mean, he believes that some idiot found gold plates buried in the ground.

But it is religious bigotry to call that out. And do you make similar comments…

No, it’s not me who says he’s a Mormon. Excuse me, it’s he who says it.

HH: I know that, but I still think…

I say that anyone who believes that stuff is an idiot.

HH: I know you believe that, but isn’t it sort of randomly bigoted to bring that out and throw it onto the table?

CH: Not at all, no. It’s essential to point out…

HH: I disagree.

CH: Especially at a time when people are always saying it’s the Republican Party that’s run by religious crackpots and nutbags. And it’s very important to point out these people have a big foothold in the Democratic Party, too.

HH: I think that’s terribly religiously bigoted. I think that is up there with, like, saying about Jesse Jackson that he’s African-American in the course of commenting on him.

Well, I don’t really see how he could keep that a secret, how one could…

HH: Well, it’s not a secret that he’s a Mormon. It’s just sort of a random attack on a guy’s faith. I don’t like Reid at all, but…

CH: No, I think less of him because of the stupid cult of which he’s a member. I would say the same if he was a Scientologist.

Remember kids, there’s a reason people go off on Scientology and Mormonism and call them cults – it’s because they are recent enough for us to know how they got started.

Hitchens should be ashamed of himself for singling out Mormonism and apologize to all Mormons. All religions are cults, after all. To pick only on the Mormons is bad form.



34 Responses to “Christopher Hitchens: “Anyone who believes that stuff is an idiot””

  1. John R on November 29th, 2006 8:58 am

    Cult or religion? – the only difference is political power

  2. Bunt-Witherington on November 29th, 2006 9:18 am

    seems like you came to this topic with your own agenda…why are bloggist’s so quick to find the conversations which suit their own ends. You could probably call up any number of Hitchens quotations which show him to be a decent, moral, ethical, liberal person. Or a staunch neo-con backer. Or whatever. Another pointless piece of blogging.

  3. JMS on November 29th, 2006 9:25 am

    Well, you’re right. If you want to “do religion” without the organisation (and consequential clout), you’re a shaman.

    Higgins could think about his own speech a tad before spouting: It may be okay to say that only an idiot would let “particular” beliefs obfuscate obvious reality… but somehow I don’t think that was the point (rather, it was just an easy jab) and I don’t think he really cares one way or another. Whatever.

  4. William K. Wolfrum on November 29th, 2006 9:30 am

    You could probably call up any number of Hitchens quotations which show him to be a decent, moral, ethical, liberal person.

    Of course you could. You could also find quotes from Charles Manson or Gary Ridgeway that would make you feel comfortable with them watching your children if you wanted.


  5. matthew hughes on November 29th, 2006 9:36 am

    so i guess CH is not going to support Mit Romney? CH displays the all-to-typical bigotry so prevalent in todays body politic.

  6. Mark N. on November 29th, 2006 9:49 am

    As a “Mormon” myself, I can understand where Hitchens is coming from: there are local radio talk show hosts that, in the past, I’ve enjoyed listening to on a regular basis, but when they came out in favor of the war in Iraq, I ended up having to rethink the wisdom of listening to anyone who can possibly believe that the war in Iraq was ever going to be anything but a complete and utter disaster.

    Everyone has a “threshold of idiocy” that they can’t cross, and for Hitchens it apparently includes those who believe that an angel (former mortal being) might want to deliver an instructive history book to human beings. So be it.

  7. Darren7160 on November 29th, 2006 10:32 am

    What is lost in this is much more important underlying implications of beliefs such as these. I am not surprised that someone would get their panties in a bunch and think that it is “cherry picking” information to make someone look bad!

    The pandering to the religous right, the inability or desire to consider anything other than white anglo-saxon protestantism as being acceptable as a “culture” in America… Hell, the Catholics that band together with these fundamentalists will one day be on the short end of the stick when they are viewed as nonChristians. I know a woman here who really believes that the Catholics are not Christian!

    Many mormons have served honorably within our political and military system… serving their country. When I served we were asked our religous affiliation simply for our dog tags and which service to give us if killed. Period.

    Judging a person and their worth based upon their belief in a particular God, or lack of adherence to the accepted interpretation of Christ (see great schism between Orthodox and Roman Catholics… causing many Orthodox to call the Catholics the first protestants) creates a litmus test for service. What is the substance of Christ? His true nature? Human or devine? Are the three aspects of God separate or one?

    My God, we are trying to help create a democratic nation in Iraq where we can convince the Sunni that even thouh they are numerically the majority, they will be protected under the laws, theories and application of democracy… yet we want to denigrate and demonize a, fairly mainstream, church because their doctrine conflicts with someone else’s.

    The ironies are just incredible. Mainstream politicans will subvert the separation between chuch and state and claim that they are the rightous ones and their opponents aren’t. We create an office of Faith Based Initiateves and legislate it into our NCLB education law that give a government approval to a religous organization.

    Schools will have to determine in Cold Water Fl. if Scientology is a religion, Utah if the Church of LDS is a religion… what about Jim Jones and the People’s Temple, David Korsech and the Branch Dividian, or Heaven’s Gate?

    There is a reson why our found father’s did not want religion involved in our politics… and this is why. Good luck with trying to convince the Sunni’s to trust the Shiites… or the Shiites to not abuse their majority.

    I swear, something people in American make me so tired… it is like I tell my son… if you want to follow the logic of a Republican/Conservative take along bread crumbs to leave a trail.

  8. Charlie M. on November 29th, 2006 10:46 am

    Mark N.,

    I absolutely agree with your usage of the Iraq war as a litmus test for one’s credibility. With each day that passes, more people prove their inability to competently analyze issues.

    I think that only two questions are necessary to adequately judge a person’s analytical competence:
    1. How do you feel about the George W. Bush presidency and
    2. How has your opinion changed throughout his term?

    I would specifically focus on the person’s original opinions (using quotes when possible) and their ability (or inability) to see what was happening before their eyes as events unfolded (no-bid contracts, rising levels of violence, rampant corruption and incompetence, lie after lie after lie, 6 month deadline after 6 month deadline…).

    If the person accepts a period of “purgatory” to repent for their support of Bush, then they deserve credit. If that person is incapable of accepting any level of responsibility for their positions (the Joe Liebermans of the world), then they are immediately dismissed as irrelevant to future discussions, because they WILL make the same mistakes again in the future.

  9. Chuck Darwin on November 29th, 2006 10:49 am

    Although I have issues with Hitchens on many things, if you read the full interview with Hewitt, Hitchens goes on to announce his atheism and his dismissal of all religions as superstition. Hewitt, with his rather minimal brain capacity, appears to find it difficult to reconcile the fact that Hitchens can hold beliefs that mirror his own when it comes to foreign policy while simultaneously being an unapologetic child of the Age of Reason. Hitchens would obviously agree with you about the cult-like nature of all “faiths”.

  10. darrelplant on November 29th, 2006 10:54 am

    Of course, if you want to talk about people believing the word of “crackpots and nutbags”, I think that could easily apply to anyone who gives credence to Hewitt or Hitchens. You don’t need to have founded a religion to be a nutbag.

  11. K. Signal Eingang on November 29th, 2006 10:56 am

    While I wouldn’t want to defend his position, this is one of the reasons I like Hitchens – he’s a cynic and a curmudgeon and largely unafraid of offending people (which is different from going out of one’s way to do so – I wouldn’t lump him in with shock artists like Malkin or Coulter).

    As pundits go, I’d rather hear from an honest jackass with a mind of his own than some regurgitating network drone or unthinking fanatic.

  12. William K. Wolfrum on November 29th, 2006 10:59 am

    Chuck -

    Well, I can’t respect an atheist who’s unable to avoid partisanship in regards to his (lack of) beliefs. I lose respect for him because he’s unwilling to refer to Bush as a silly “Jesus Freak.”

    I’m just kidding. Seriously, it would be impossible for me to lose any more respect for Hitchens and his ilk.


  13. Julia Horvath on November 29th, 2006 11:07 am

    Hate to say it because CH is such an Arab-hating boob, but I’m very much with him on Mormons and pray that my fellow Americans have had enough of religious fundamentalism in all forms.

  14. Jackie on November 29th, 2006 11:40 am

    “All religions are cults, after all.”


  15. annie on November 29th, 2006 11:47 am

    i don’t like CH so please i really do not want to be heard as defending him. but, i can perfectly understand his weirdness surrounding reids religion. i feell that way about most of them. sometimes i think believers have some gene i don’t. many times i have called out, OK JESUS if your listening, i’m ready. nothing happens. da. i just couldn’t very well call it a cult w/out giving it a stab. i can see the signs all around of miracles, and believe miracles occur.

    anyway, HH could have easily used an analogy of christian fanatics but he didn’t. he used jesse and race. not the same at all. the hypocricy of one cult being nuts and another not is the red flag here. HH is just as complict as hitchens. don’t lambast CH for being honest about how he sees mormons, lambast the HH for not cornering him into a corner by asking him about the immaculate conception. what about all those bloodthirsty oil grubbing christians, i want to hear CH chew them up and spit them out!

  16. Bushtit on November 29th, 2006 11:50 am

    As a “gentile” living in Utah (the only place in the world where you can be a Jew and gentile at the same time!) I agree with Hitchens, and I’m no fan of his. Mormonism IS a cult. It is a paternal authoritarian cult and their children are brain-washed from the time they are born . And it is nuts, why do men baptize the dead and then have them “sealed” to themselves? So they can be gods of their own worlds! If you want to know how authoritarian it is, look no further than their support for the republican party or the war, no matter how reprehensible. I’m not saying they are told how to vote, but there is this perception among them that they MUST vote republican They cannot look outside the box, for to do so is to hand themselves over to the devil. And there is NOT a huge chunk of mormons in the democratic party. Very, very few are and these people have the ability to look at issues in a different light. (see Darren, above.) They are given commandments and by God, they better obey, or else.

    Not only that, but the mormons want to run the country. It is their goal to have members in every part of government, including the US presidency. They have, over the years, tried to mainstream themselves to be more acceptable to outsiders. Is it working? You tell me.

    Want to know what a theocracy looks like? Live in Utah and you’ll get first hand experience.

  17. Jackass on November 29th, 2006 12:21 pm

    Uh, Mormons are freaks. Special, oh sorry, sacred underwear? Secret (sacred) Handshakes? Weird temple rituals? cookoo cookoo

  18. jamey on November 29th, 2006 12:43 pm

    Hilarious exposition on the founding of the Book of Mormon–and it doesn’t even take into account all the adultery and polygamy.

  19. Phxbuster on November 29th, 2006 12:46 pm

    Mormonism isn’t any more freakish than Christianity, i.e. believing that the earth is 6000 years old, that every living thing on this planet was killed in one gigantic flood very recently, and just read Leviticus and Deuteronomy sometime.

  20. intepid on November 29th, 2006 1:37 pm

    If you are an atheist (which I am) and don’t want to disrespect the majority of the people on this planet (which I don’t) the easiest way to be “tolerant” of their superstitions is to see them as a cultural baggage rather than a firm belief system (eg people go to church mainly because it is a tradition within their community, and only tacitly “believe”).

    When newer religions emerge *after* the Enlightenment, it’s very hard to be so forgiving. If you’re a mormon or a scientologist you can only be so because you actually believe in the bizarro dogma attached, hence people like Hitchens and myself (I do not actually like CH) really don’t see a problem with being openly critical. I too would question the decision making ability of anyone who strongly espouses a belief in anything supernatural.

  21. Jacob M on November 29th, 2006 2:01 pm

    There is only one difference between a cult and a religion. Religions have armies.

  22. Milo on November 29th, 2006 2:11 pm

    To infer that all religions are cults (very tempting to agree with) is to betray a bias towards western religions, which indeed seem to be cults – and imperial ones at that. Christianity, Mormonism and Islam are all active missionaries – at the poiont of a sword or a basket of bread as the case offers. How often doyou see Buddhist missionaries?
    I have to say that I can’t write Hitchens off. I enjoy reading his pieces in the Atlantic MOnthley and elsewhere, even when I think he’s being outrageously subjective – and trivial – in his arguments. He has a more-often-than-not interesting mind that at it’s worst day is still 5 orders of magnitude than anyone on Fox – especially Coulter who is just ego-tripping along.
    It does giveme pause, though, that the universally amiable Studs Terkel has declared Hitchens anathema. You have to be a serious asshole to merit Studs cutting you off.

  23. flint on November 29th, 2006 4:09 pm

    As an ex-LDS type I agree that their beliefs are weird, but no weirder than believing you are going to live forever ’cause someone was nailed to a tree 2000 years ago.

  24. Xanthippas on November 29th, 2006 9:08 pm

    In a contest of such intellectual light-weights, it’s hard to know who you want to lose the most.

  25. adam on November 29th, 2006 10:00 pm

    Tell me you’re kidding. You’re suggesting that Hitchens ‘should be ashamed of himself’, and yet you state in so many words that the contested opinion is correct, by agreeing Mormonism is a cult.

    So what’s the problem, exactly? That he didn’t append ‘And so are all religions’ to the end of the sentence? Any cursory glance at Hitchens’ work would reveal that he is a critic off religion wholesale, and the religious impulse in people, and is not just ‘picking on one’. It just happened to be the one under discussion this time.

    So this is the height of intellectual dishonesty. Can you honestly tell me — honestly — that if Hitchens had called Bush or Santorum a member of a stupid cult, you’d be begging for an apology, because he ‘singled them out’?

    This is NOT what we on the left should be doing. Have some self-respect, for god’s sake.

  26. anonymous on November 29th, 2006 11:36 pm

    Nice to see that Mr. Hitchens can still say something that makes sense.

  27. William K. Wolfrum on November 30th, 2006 1:57 am


    So, let me get this straight. Bush takes the country down a road of insane Christian fundamentalism, and some I am intellectually dishonest because I’m sarcastic about Christopher Hitchens using Reid’s religion to attack him.

    All religions are cults, all cultists are foolish. They don’t care about my feelings on the subject, I don’t feel the ned to care about theirs. Nor am I much concerned about the feelings or strategies of you and “the left.”


  28. adam on November 30th, 2006 2:47 am

    “All religions are cults, all cultists are foolish. They don’t care about my feelings on the subject, I don’t feel the ned to care about theirs.”

    So explain why Hitchens should be ashamed of himself, then. There’s no logic to what you’re saying. You agree with him that religions are cultish. So the only thing left for him to be ashamed of is picking on a Democrat, not a Republican.

  29. William K. Wolfrum on November 30th, 2006 2:58 am


    One entry found for sarcasm.
    Main Entry: sar·casm
    Pronunciation: ‘sär-”ka-z&m
    Function: noun
    Etymology: French or Late Latin; French sarcasme, from Late Latin sarcasmos, from Greek sarkasmos, from sarkazein to tear flesh, bite the lips in rage, sneer, from sark-, sarx flesh; probably akin to Avestan thwar&s- to cut
    1 : a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain
    2 a : a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual b : the use or language of sarcasm


  30. DeWayne on November 30th, 2006 4:59 am

    Hitchens has long expressed an antipathy to religion in general so his comments about Mormons needs to be put in that larger context. If you really want to get him fuming and an audience frothing just ask him for comments about Mother Teresa. He wrote a wonderful little book entitled _The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in theory and practice_. Hitchens has long had a sensitive bullshit detector with regard to sanctimony.

  31. rickygee on November 30th, 2006 7:07 am

    DeWayne says: “Hitchens has long had a sensitive bullshit detector with regard to sanctimony.”

    Except when it comes to the cult of Bush and his crusaders. And I think (adam, I am lookin’ at you) some here have missed that as the obvious point WKW is making.

  32. Josh on December 4th, 2006 1:37 pm

    The thing that surprises me the most is the extreme amount of anti-mormonism that still exists. It seems that society will not accept you if you are racist or an anti-Semite but it is still socially ok to hate, judge, and persecute a Mormon. If Michael Richards would have made those same comments about a Mormon nobody would have thought twice. The most frustrating thing about that is just like any prejudice it is based on ignorance. Many people especially “Christians” (In quotes because the people I am referring to talk about Christ but don’t act like him) think they know and understand Mormonism but really all of their ‘knowledge’ is just their other prejudices rearranged. The same thing is true for all of the Atheists who think Mormons are crazy and cult like. Just because somebody doesn’t agree with your skewed view of the world doesn’t make them stupid. Everyone is entitled to their own skewed view. Conformity is stupid. People make fun of Mormons because they have rituals and wear special underwear but those same people wouldn’t dare make fun of the Jews for fear of being labeled antisemitic. Although the Jews also have special rituals and wear special clothes. Or the pope with his ‘funny’ hats and robes.

  33. Skip on December 14th, 2006 12:34 pm

    There is a lot of good info in this thread on how cults exercise mind control. When I say “cults” I include Xianity.

  34. Complex Agenda on July 28th, 2007 1:09 pm

    He has and does denounce all religions.

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