I boldly assert, in fact I think I know, that a lot of friendships and connections absolutely depend upon a sort of shared language, or slang. Not necessarily designed to exclude others, this can establish a certain comity and, even after a long absence, re-establish it in a second.
When I look back on what I did for the Left, I'm in a small way quite proud of some of it -- I only wish I'd done more.
But everybody agrees, somewhere in his heart, that there ought to be some connection between what you believe and how you behave, what you advocate for others and how you live yourself.
The unspoken agreement to concede the black community to the sway of the pulpit is itself a form of racist condescension.
What I do mind is the pitying glance, or the heavy sigh, that is deployed these days. I am not ready to be patronized, or condescended to, unless by someone of some eminence who has earned that right. And even then I regard it as a sign of weakness rather than strength.
Principles have a way of enduring, as do the few irreducible individuals who maintain allegiance to them.
I can claim copyright only in myself, and occasionally in those who are either dead or have written about the same events, or who have a decent expectation of anonymity, or who are such appalling public shits that they have forfeited their right to bitch.
I'm a member of no party. I have no ideology. I'm a rationalist. I do what I can in the international struggle between science and reason and the barbarism, superstition and stupidity that's all around us.
There is a division within the neo-conservative movement, which is, by the way, one of the tests of its authenticity as a tendency. I would say I was a supporter of Paul Wolfowitz.
If you've led a rather bohemian and rackety life, as I have, it's precisely the cancer that you'd expect to get. That's a bit of a yawn.
And it seems possible, moving to the psychological arena, that people can be better off believing in something than in nothing, however untrue that something may be.
As well as being a vulgar producer of her own spectacle, and an embarrassment to her family, Cindy Sheehan is at best a shifty fantasist.
Here's someone who says there's no such thing, it's all intelligent design. How sure am I of my own views? Don't take refuge in the false security of consensus, and the feeling that whatever you think you're bound to be okay, because you're in the safely moral majority.
I sympathize afresh with the mighty Voltaire who, when badgered on his deathbed and urged to renounce the devil, murmured that this was no time to be making enemies.
For me, to remember friendship is to recall those conversations that it seemed a sin to break off: the ones that made the sacrifice of the following day a trivial one.
Dogma in power does have a unique chilling ingredient not exhibited by power, however ghastly, wielded for its own traditional sake.
Terrorism works better as a tactic for dictatorships, or for would-be dictators, than for revolutionaries .
I learned that to be amusing was not to be frivolous and that language -- always the language -- was the magic key as much to prose as to poetry.
The deficit, then, is not the difference between what America spends and what America earns; it is, to a striking extent, the difference between what the rich owe and what the rich pay.
Very often the test of one's allegiance to a cause or to a people is precisely the willingness to stay the course when things are boring, to run the risk of repeating an old argument just one more time, or of going one more round with a hostile or (much worse) indifferent audience.
Revolution from above, in some states and cases, is ... often preferable to the status quo, or to no revolution at all.
And how easy it is to recognize the revenant shapes that the old unchanging enemies--racism, leader worship, superstition--assume when they reappear amongst us (often bodyguarded by their new apologists).
Ruthless and arrogant though power can appear, it is only ever held by mere mammals who excrete and yearn, and who suffer from insomnia and insecurity. These mammals are also necessarily vain in the extreme, and often wish to be liked almost as much as they desire to be feared.
Very often, people embarking on such guesswork make the vulgar assumption that the lower the motives, the more likely they are to be authentic.
It's normally agreed that the question 'How are you?' doesn't put you on your oath to give a full or honest answer.
One ought not to quarrel with the aim of impartiality. It is just that, as an objective, it is harder to attain than its advocates imagine.
What I used to say to people, when I was much more engagé myself, is that you can't be apolitical. It will come and get you. It's not that you shouldn't be neutral. It's that you won't be able to stay neutral.
In particular, it is absurd to hope to banish envy of other people's possessions or fortunes, if only because the spirit of envy can lead to emulation and ambition and have positive consequences.
The forces of piety have always and everywhere been the sworn enemy of the open mind and the open book.
How ya doin'?' I always think, What kind of a question is that?, and I always reply, 'A bit early to tell.
I try to deny myself any illusions or delusions, and I think that this perhaps entitles me to try and deny the same to others, at least as long as they refuse to keep their fantasies to themselves.
There are times when it is conservative to be a revolutionary, when the world must be turned on its head in order to be stood on its feet.
I think the cultural task is to separate our impulses and needs and desires from the supernatural and, above all, from the superstitious.
Doubt, skepticism, innovation, and inquiry are the only means by which wonder, beauty, awe, and symmetry will be discovered.
Ronald Reagan said that he sought a Star Wars defense only in order to share the technology with the tyrants of the U.S.S.R.
I don't think there's any need to have essays advocating selfishness among human beings; I don't know what your impression has been, but some things require no further reinforcement.
I'm very depressed how in this country you can be told That's offensive as though those two words constitute an argument.
Evolution is, as well as smarter than we are, infinitely more callous and cruel, and also capricious.
Cluster bombs are perhaps not good in themselves, but when they are dropped on identifiable concentrations of Taliban troops, they do have a heartening effect.
The whole reason for the success of Dr. King's civil-rights movement was that it was not a movement for itself. The civil-rights movement understood very clearly, and stated very beautifully, that it was a question of humanism, not a sectarian movement at all.
Skepticism rather than credulity is the highest principle that the human intellect can use to ennoble our existence.
It is not that there are no certainties, it is that it is an absolute certainty that there are no certainties.
Philosophy begins where religion ends, just as by analogy chemistry begins where alchemy runs out, and astronomy takes the place of astrology.
Urging humans to be superhumans, on pain of death and torture, is the urging of terrible self-abasement at their repeated and inevitable failure to keep the rules.
The enduring rapture with magic and fable has always struck me as latently childish and somehow sexless (and thus also related to childlessness).
The gods that we've made are exactly the gods you'd expect to be made by a species that's about half a chromosome away from being chimpanzee.
The creation story is ridiculous garbage. And has given us a completely false picture of our origin as a species and the origins of the cosmos. If you want a good mythical story it would be the life of Socrates.
The noble title of dissident must be earned rather than claimed; it connotes sacrifice and risk rather than mere disagreement.
The role of dissident is not, and should not be, a claim of membership in a communion of saints. In other words, the more fallible the mammal, the truer the example.
If I was told to sacrifice something to prove my devotion to God, if I was told to do what all monotheists are told to do and admire the man who said 'Yes I'll gut my kid to show my love of God.'
The most educated person in the world now has to admit -- I shall not say confess -- that he or she knows less and less but at least knows less and less about more and more.
The dullest person, after all, has gleaned from mere observation that highly intelligent parents often produce offspring so stupid that they can barely breathe. (And, much more interesting from the eugenic point of view, that the opposite is also true.).
To reflect upon the event horizon is a great deal more awe-inspiring than a burning bush or a wooden statue that weeps or pees or bleeds.
So there's nothing more vulgar than the sound of someone saying, God Bless America, someone who doesn't really believe it, but he thinks it will make him look good to other people. I think it's the most nauseating spectacle.
God did not create man in his own image. Evidently, it was quite the other way about, which is the painless explanation for the profusion of gods and religions, and the fratricide both between and among faiths, that we see all about us and that has so retarded the development of civilization.
The mildest criticism of religion is also the most radical and the most devastating one. Religion is man-made.
There are days when I miss my old convictions as if they were an amputated limb. But in general I feel better, and no less radical, and you will feel better too, I guarantee, once you leave hold of the doctrinaire and allow your chainless mind to do its own thinking.
The governor of Texas, who, when asked if the Bible should also be taught in Spanish, replied that 'if English was good enough for Jesus, then it's good enough for me.
Religion is man-made. Even the men who made it cannot agree on what their prophets or redeemers or gurus actually said or did.
I have a strong constitution which has served me quite well, though if I hadn't had such a strong one I might have led a more healthy life perhaps.
We know that our life is essentially tragic. I'm absolutely not for handing over that very important department of our psyche to those who say, Why didn't you say so before? God has a plan for you in mind.
Since it is obviously inconceivable that all religions can be right, the most reasonable conclusion is that they are all wrong.
The brilliant Schiller was wrong in his Joan of Arc when he said against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain. It is actually by means of the gods that we make our stupidity and gullibility into something ineffable.
Gullibility and credulity are considered undesireable qualities in every department of human life -- except religion ... Why are we praised by godly men for surrendering our 'godly gift' of reason when we cross their mental thresholds?
As is so often the case with pieces that appear in the 'Onion,' I honestly could not decide whether this was a clever hoax or not -- the arguments were almost exactly as stupid as the real thing.
People say, What's it like to be a minority of one, or a kick-bag for the Internet? It washes off me like jizz off a porn star's face.
Heroism breaks its heart, and idealism its back, on the intransigence of the credulous and the mediocre, manipulated by the cynical and the corrupt.
Karl Marx was rightest of all when he recommended continual doubt and self-criticism. Membership in the skeptical faction or tendency is not at all a soft option. The defense of science and reason is the great imperative of our time.
Religion makes kind people say unkind things: I must prove my faith, so mutilate the genitals of my children. They wouldn't do that if God didn't tell them to do so.
My own opinion is enough for me. And I claim the right to defend it against any consensus, any majority anywhere, any place, any time. And anyone who disagrees with this can pick a number, get in line and kiss my ass.
Anyone who can look me in the eye and say they prefer the story of Moses or Jesus or Mohammed to the life of Socrates is intellectually defective.
Only the liberals and soft-leftists persist in agonizing as they give their (actually unqualified) loyalty, in advance, to people who publicly spit on them. I don't know whether the masochist or the sadist commits the greater evil, but I do know that you can't have one without the other.
I leave it to the faithful to burn each other's churches and mosques and synagogues, which they can be always relied upon to do.
Religion attacks us in our deepest integrity by saying we wouldn't be able to make a moral decision without it.
He was so much the picture of different kinds of assimilation that it was almost a case of multiple personalities.
Would you have wished more, or fewer, anarchists around in the Thousand Year Reich or any of the other fantasies of hierarchy?
The friends of Galtieri, Saddam Hussein, Mullah Omar and Milosevic make unconvincing defenders of humanitarian values, and it can be seen that their inept and sometimes inane arguments lack either the principles or the seriousness that are required in such debates.
I'm not afraid of being dead, that's to say there's nothing to be afraid of. I won't know I'm dead, would be my strong conviction. And if I find that I'm alive in any way at all, that'll be a pleasant surprise. I quite like surprises.
Almost all religions from Buddhism to Islam feature either a humble prophet or a prince who comes to identify with the poor, but what is this if not populism? It is hardly a surprise if religions choose to address themselves first to the majority who are poor and bewildered and uneducated.
In my own not-all-that-humble opinion, duping the hicks is a degree or two worse than condescending to them.
Populists (and 'national socialists') look at the supposedly secret deals that run the world 'behind the scenes.' Child's play. Except that childishness is sinister in adults.
The first thing I can remember I ever wanted was to go to the United States. And for reasons that are as conventional as you can imagine: I wanted to know if it was really true that it was the land of opportunity, of democracy, and individual liberty.
What a country, and what a culture, when the liberals cry before they are hurt, and the reactionaries pose as brave nonconformists, while the radicals make a fetish of their own jokey irrelevance.
In our native terms, the ironic style is often compounded with the sardonic and the hard-boiled; even the effortlessly superior. But irony originates in the glance and the shrug of the loser, the outsider, the despised minority. It is a nuance that comes most effortlessly to the oppressed.
Part of the function of memory is to forget; the omni-retentive mind will break down and produce at best an idiot savant who can recite a telephone book, and at worst a person to whom every grudge and slight is as yesterday's.
Anyone whose major concern is the sanctity of human life is in effect, by leaving population growth unchecked, ensuring death by famine. Nature is pitiless, and if humans will not themselves limit population then they will have it done for them.
It's a big mistake to think that your own cause, or your own country, or your own side has God in its corner. For one thing, it commits the sin of pride.
There is a limit to the success of conservative populism and the exploitation of little guy or silent majority rhetoric, and it is very often reached because of the emaciated, corrupted personalities of the demagogues themselves.
I can never quite decide whether the anti-Columbus movement is merely risible or faintly sinister. It is sinister, though, because it is an ignorant celebration of stasis and backwardness, with an unpleasant tinge of self-hatred.
Many religions now come before us with ingratiating smirks and outspread hands, like an unctuous merchant in a bazaar. They offer consolation and solidarity and uplift, competing as they do in a marketplace. But we have a right to remember how barbarically they behaved when they were strong and were making an offer that people could not refuse. And if we chance to forget what that must have been like, we have only to look at those states and societies where the clergy still has the power to dictate its own terms. The pathetic vestiges of this can still be seen, in modern societies, in the efforts made by religion to secure control over education, or to exempt itself from tax, or to pass laws forbidding people to insult its omnipotent and omniscient deity, or even his prophet.
Thus, though I dislike to differ with such a great man, Voltaire was simply ludicrous when he said that if god did not exist it would be necessary to invent him. The human invention of god is the problem to begin with.
Suppose there were groups of secularists at hospitals who went round the terminally ill and urged them to adopt atheism: 'Don't be a mug all your life. Make your last days the best ones. People might suppose this was in poor taste.
We owe a huge debt to Galileo for emancipating us all from the stupid belief in an Earth-centered or man-centered (let alone God-centered) system. He quite literally taught us our place and allowed us to go on to make extraordinary advances in knowledge.
Friends call me Hitch. Maybe it can be turned into a 900-phone number. People would pay to talk to me.
A sort of moral blackmail is exerted from both poles. The underclass, one gathers, should be dulled with charity and welfare provision lest it turn nasty. The upper class must likewise be conciliated by vast handouts, lest it lose the incentive to go on generating wealth.
I'm very happy by myself -- I'm lucky in that way -- if I've got enough to read and something to write about and a bit of alcohol for me to add an edge, not to dull it.
Flaubert was right when he said that our use of language is like a cracked kettle on which we bang out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we need to move the very stars to pity.
Here we are then, I was thinking, in a war to the finish between everything I love and everything I hate. Fine. We will win and they will lose. A pity that we let them pick the time and place of the challenge, but we can and we will make up for that.
The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species.
Bad as political fiction can be, there is always a politician prepared to make it look artistic by comparison.
In the ordinary moral universe, the good will do the best they can, the worst will do the worst they can, but if you want to make good people do wicked things, you'll need religion.
One of my first reservations about Zionism was and is that, semiconsciously at least, it grants the anti-Semite's first premise about the abnormality of the Jew.
Martin is your best friend, isn't he?' a sweet and well-intentioned girl once said when both of us were present: it was the only time I ever felt awkward about this precious idea, which seemed somehow to risk diminishment if it were uttered aloud.
The transformation of part of the northern part of this continent into America inaugurated a nearly boundless epoch of opportunity and innovation, and thus deserves to be celebrated with great vim and gusto, with or without the participation of those who wish they had never been born.
Jesus makes large claims for his heavenly father but never mentions that his mother is or was a virgin, and is repeatedly very rude and coarse to her when she makes an appearance.
By the way, if you knew how you sounded when you hissed, you wouldn't do it: you sound like such berks when you do that.
To be in opposition is not to be a nihilist. And there is no decent or charted way of making a living at it. It is something you are, and not something you do.
He is in many ways quite a right-wing isolationist. It's because some people are naïve enough to confuse this with anti-imperialism that they think of him as being rather more to the left than he really is.
I respect those who say that the United States should simply withdraw from the Middle East, but I don't respect them for anything but their honesty.
The pornography of tough-mindedness, covert action, and preparedness for peace through strength has had a predictably hypnotic effect on the legislative branch, turning it from legal watchdog to lapdog.
I don't think the soul is immortal, or at least not immortal in individuals, but it may be immortal as an aspect of the human personality because when I talk about what literature nourishes, it would be silly of me or reductionist to say that it nourishes the brain.
There is some relationship between the hunger for truth and the search for the right words. This struggle may be ultimately indefinable and even undecidable, but one damn well knows it when one sees it.
A virgin can conceive. A dead body can walk again. Your leprosy can be cured. The blind can see. Nonsense. It's not moral to lie to children. It's not moral to lie to ignorant, uneducated people and tell them that if they only would believe nonsense, they can be saved. It's immoral.
We are unlikely to cease making gods or inventing ceremonies to please them for as long as we are afraid of death, or of the dark, and for as long as we persist in self-centeredness. That could be a lengthy stretch of time.
Orwell was interested above all not in the rationalizations of the dominant, but in the excuses and whimperings of the submissive.
Orwell's very ordinariness is the sterling guarantee that we need no saintly representative consciences. We would do better to make sterner use of our own.
There is no such thing as closure, and it wouldn't be worth having if it were available, because all it would mean is that something that was quite an important part of you had gone numb.
It Obama's Nobel peace prize would be like giving someone an Oscar in the hope that it would encourage them to make a decent motion picture.
I would say that if you don't believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you're really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.
This huge and terrible industry the slave trade was blessed by all churches and for a long time aroused absolutely no religious protest... In the eighteenth century, a few dissenting Mennonites and Quakers in America began to call for abolition, as did some freethinkers like Thomas Paine.
There is a noticeable element of the pathological in some current leftist critiques, which I tend to attribute to feelings of guilt allied to feelings of impotence. Not an attractive combination, because it results in self-hatred.
When I am at home, I never go near the synagogue unless, say, there is a bar or bat mitzvah involving the children of friends. But when I am traveling, in a country where Jewish life is scarce or endangered, I often make a visit to the shul.
Millions of people die every day. Everyone's got to go sometime.
Millions of people die every day. Everyone's got to go sometime. I've came by this particular tumor honestly. If you smoke, which I did for many years very heavily with occasional interruption, and if you use alcohol, you make yourself a candidate for it in your sixties.
Unlike other countries, it was founded on written proclamations. America is an ideal as well as a republic. Its documents are open to revisions. They're works in progress. There's an invitation to participate.
The secular state is the guarantee of religious pluralism. This apparent paradox, again, is the simplest and most elegant of political truths.
There is no conceit equal to false modesty, and there is no politics like antipolitics, just as there is no worldliness compare with ostentatious antimaterialism.
Jesus, it is true, shows no personal interest in gain, but he does speak of treasure in heaven and even of mansions as an inducement to follow him. Is it not further true that all religions down the ages have shown a keen interest in the amassment of material goods in the real world?
I'm an atheist. I'm not neutral about religion, I'm hostile to it. I think it is a positively bad idea, not just a false one. And I mean not just organized religion, but religious belief itself.
I have been taunting the Reaper into taking a free scythe in my direction and have now succumbed to something so predictable and banal that it bores even me.
Islam is at once the most and the least interesting of the world's monotheisms. It builds upon its primitive Jewish and Christian predecessors, selecting a chunk here and a shard there, and thus if these fall, it partly falls also.
Control over the production and distribution of oil is the decisive factor in defining who rules whom in the Middle East.
Bloomberg does not support the measure to silence the useless and maddening car alarm: he would rather impose himself on people than on mechanical devices.
To take a side against Rushdie, or to be neutral and evasive about him in the name of some vaguely sensitive ecumenical conscience, is to stand against those who try to incubate a Reformation in the Muslim world.
Only a humorless tyrant could want a perpetual chanting of praises that, one has no choice but to assume, would be the innate virtues and splendors furnished him by his creator, infinite regression, drowned in praise!
My political life has been informed by the view that if there was any truth to religion there wouldn't really be any need for politics.
Today I want to puke when I hear the word 'radical' applied so slothfully and stupidly to Islamist murderers; the most plainly reactionary people in the world.
So far, I have decided to take whatever my disease can throw at me, and to stay combative even while taking the measure of my inevitable decline. I repeat, this is no more than what a healthy person has to do in slower motion.
The diet book is one of those fool-and-money separation devices that seems, like roulette or slot machines, never to lose its power.