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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Confession From Pygmy Land

Just finished Christopher Hitchens 2007 book "god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything". An old friend recommended it to me after reading a statement about "Eastern teachings" in my June 9 post on authenticity. The title of the book alone will likely prevent those who would be most incensed from ever reading it. But I was riveted as Hitchens dissected the big three (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) and slaughtered numerous sacred cows: Mother Theresa and Joseph Smith from the West; Mahatma Gandhi & the Dalai Lama from the East. Now for the really sacrilegious part, although Hitchens would scoff at that word while I'm guessing a devout reader will be (appropriately) appalled: I got de-railed when Hitchens referred to himself as a "pygmy" (in the intellectual sense ) on page 151.

My secular humanist voice cried - How could someone with Hitchens' exceptional intelligence be so glib? Though calling himself a pygmy might have been a throwaway line, I detected no irony or false humility. I also believe I read it with proper context. Surely Hitchens knows his intelligence puts him off the bell curve. My blog is accurately named reflections from the bell curve. Again, no irony or false humility from me either. If someone as smart and un-ironic as Hitchens refers to himself as a pygmy (even if it's just a throwaway line), there is trouble in pygmy land for me.

How about the things this book said that should have outraged  me you ask? I'm a sinner. Surely I'm being overly sensitive and reading too much into a single simple word you claim? Guilty as only a lapsed Catholic can be. But, when I read a book by someone I know is smarter than me, I don't want that person to call himself a pygmy even in a half-hearted way. Call this a confession from pygmy land.     

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