September 23, 2014

Christopher Hitchens - We are in need of a renewed Enlightenment

Benjamin Frankling, a pillar of the American Englightenment, by Gerald Scarfe, here
Christopher Hitchens said:
"Above all, we are in need of a renewed Enlightenment, which will base itself on the proposition that the proper study of mankind is man and woman. This Enlightenment will not need to depend, like its predecessors, on the heroic breakthroughs of a few gifted and exceptionally courageous people. It is within the compass of the average person. The study of literature and poetry, both for its own sake and for the eternal ethical questions with which it deals, can now easily depose the scrutiny of sacred texts that have been found to be corrupt and confected. The pursuit of unfettered scientific inquiry, and the availability of new findings to masses of people by electronic means, will revolutionize our concepts of research and development. Very importantly, the divorce between the sexual life and fear, and the sexual life and disease, and the sexual life and tyranny, can now at last be attempted, on the sole condition that we banish all religions from the discourse. And all this and more is, for the first time in our history, within the reach if not the grasp of everyone."
Jenni Russell (@jennirsl) wrote that there's nothing inevitable about the victory of enlightenment values. In an earlier post I wrote that Christopher Hitchens said that enlightenment principles need to be fought for and defended by every generation. Scottish historian Niall Ferguson (@nfergus) noted that "the greatest thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment were not nationalists but cosmopolitans".

In Northern Ireland, where tribal acrimony and antipathy govern all levels of public discourse these principles are exceptionally necessary. We need to move away from what David Hume called "the vulgar motive of national antipathy."

In a Letter to Lafayette Monticello in May 1817, Thomas Jefferson said:
"Ignorance and bigotry, like other insanities, are incapable of self-government."
I earlier wrote that we could say that sectarians are mentally and morally unwell. And so as Christopher Hitchens said, "condemnation of bigotry and superstition is not just a moral question but a matter of survival."

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