Christopher Hitchens is speaking tonight in Portland, Oregon, and as an appetizer before the main course, he did an interview with Unitarian minister Marilyn Sewell. There’s audio available as well as a transcript.
There are some great excerpts from the interview, made even better by the idea that it’s not a “traditional” Christian who is taking on Hitchens, She’s very liberal and agrees with him on quite a bit:
Sewell: The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make and distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?
Hitchens: 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.
Hitchens: …can you name me a single moral action performed or moral statement uttered by a person of faith that couldn’t be just as well pronounced or undertaken by a civilian?
Sewell: You’re absolutely right. However religion does inspire some people. You claim in the subtitle of your book that “religion poisons everything,” but what about people like the Berrigan brothers, the Catholic priests who were jailed over and over again for their radical protesting of the Vietnam War? Or Bishop Romero, the nuns and priests who gave their lives supporting…
Hitchens: They’re all covered by the challenge I just presented to you. I know many people who…
Sewell: Yeah, but these people claim to be motivated and sustained by their faith. Do you deny that?
Hitchens: I don’t claim. I don’t deny it. I just don’t respect. If someone says I’m doing this out of faith, I say, Why don’t you do it out of conviction…
(Thanks to Helen for the link!)