Peter Hitchens: ‘The Rage Against God’

manicstreetpreacher is simply appalled.

I have not read Peter Hitchens’ addition to the host of “flea” responses to the New Atheism, The Rage Against God, but I heard him on the Saturday, 15 May 2010 edition of Premier Christian Radio’s Unbelievable? discussing the book with atheist scientific broadcaster and writer, Adam Rutherford.

Without giving a blow-by-blow account, what started off as a reasonable and balanced discussion on the pros and cons Christian versus secular morality swiftly descended into a demagogic point-scoring exercise by Hitchens on the questions of abortion and sex education.  I was most offended by Hitchens’ cheap emotional ploy of stating that abortion was murder and abortion clinics were comparable to the Nazi death camps.

Perhaps Hitchens should take a look at this picture…

…watch Sam Harris’ take on stem cell research from his lecture at Beyond Belief 2006

…read my blog and listen to the debate on Unbelievable? with former Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris on abortion aired a few months ago…

Abortion is a difficult issue and I struggle with it greatly.  Evan Harris did very well to convey the moral minefield of the topic and is a superb spokesman for humanists and secularists everywhere.  Abortion is hardly a wonderful thing that we need to be encouraging more of, but it is alas the least worst option.   Rather like democracy as a form of government, as Winston Churchill once said.


Paul Hill, a Christian minister who murdered an abortion clinic doctor in the USA, was far more evil than the doctor he killed could ever reasonably be considered.  Hill’s victim terminated foetuses at the request of their mothers.  Foetuses that could not feel pain like we can, who had no memories, no emotions, no wife, no children, no friends, no relatives to mourn them.  I admit that it is an awful choice to make, but I do so without hesitation.

…to realise how crudely simplistic his reasoning really is.  Such moral absolutist hysteria advances the quest for truth not one iota.

I am pro-choice because I believe that fertilised embryos do not feel pain, experience emotions or accrue memories like a living human being after birth until an advanced stage of gestation, if at all.  I’m not holding anything against foetuses as the Nazis regarded Jews as sub-human as Peter Hitchens argues, but THEY ARE NOT HUMAN BEINGS!

However, I would change my stance if convincing evidence were produced that contradicted  my impression of the sensory and emotional content of foetuses.  I wonder what evidence or argument would change Peter Hitchens’ stance on abortion and convince him that it was ethical?  I suspect none whatsoever; he has ruled it out a priori on religious grounds and no evidence or reasoning would change his mind.  I suppose that’s why they call it blind faith.

Debates are always subjective affairs and very often both sides claim victory.  But it was no small wonder that Peter Hitchens attempted to dissuade listeners from watching his debate against older, wiser and funnier brother, Christopher Hitchens, at The Hauenstein Center in April 2008 on the Iraq War and religion, because quite simply he was pulverised by his heretical elder sibling.  It was an embarrassment, frankly.  I don’t even support the Iraq War and I thought Hitch Snr made a better argument.  And as for Petee’s arguments in favour of God?  Let’s just say I won’t be spending my hard earned cash on his new book if this performance is anything to go by.

To conclude this post, I present the video of the full event.  Sit back and enjoy the slaughter.

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32 Responses to “Peter Hitchens: ‘The Rage Against God’”

  1. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    I have started a discussion thread on the Unbelievable? group page on Premier Community here.

  2. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    I was amazed that PH said that Christianity would the only effective weapon against the onset of radical Islam in Britain.

    Perhaps he had forgotten that the Archbishop of Canterbury not all that long ago suggested that Britain adopt certain aspects of Shaira law for Muslims in order to appease the fundamentalists.

    Let’s give him a terse reminder from his older brother, shall we?

  3. Dan K Says:

    I’ve only listened to the first video clip so far (off to bed now) but your instruction to, “Sit back and enjoy the slaughter” is so way off the mark as to be nothing more than wishful thinking!

    – If you seriously believe Peter Hitchens was ‘slaughtered’ in the debate (and I am predisposed to side with Christopher Hitchens) then you can only be someone so in love with your own opinion that you are intolerant and incapable of entertaining any views other than your own – such is your distortion of what is plain for all to see in the clips. Which is: both men gave a good account of their viewpoints; neither was comprehensively ‘slaughtered’ by the other.

  4. Dan K Says:

    Okay, now seen all three video clips. And I am still of the opinion that Peter Hitchens held his own corner well.

    Possibly there are those who believe Peter Hitchens was ‘slaughtered’ in the exchanges. I do not and think that quite possibly some may have been swayed by Christopher Hitchens humorous responses. Humour not being a strong suite of those who hold religous beliefs such as Peter H.

    However, Peter Hitchens did have the audience laughing a couple of times in the second clip. As mentioned above I do side with the opinions and views of Christopher H over Peter H, but to dismiss Peter H’s views, opinions, and beliefs as having been ‘slaughtered’ when put under the microscope is a disservice to the man.

    I could listen/watch/read the both of them for hours on end quite easily without finding offence in the other – so thanks for conveniently providing easy links to them here on this blog.

  5. DJ Rodger Says:

    ‘I am pro-choice because I believe that fertilised embryos do not feel pain, experience emotions or accrue memories like a living human being after birth until an advanced stage of gestation’

    Hey MP, have a look at some of these articles if you get time. Are you making feeling pain a characteristic of being human and therefore being worthy of value? Does that mean you would consider people who suffer from the following as less human than you because they can’t feel pain or some forms of pain? Congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis (CIPA), Hereditary Sensory and Autonomic Neuropathy type-4, or HSAN type-4.

    What is it exactly that changes the value of the unborn foetus [Latin – Little one, describing A stage of HUMAN development] once its been born, could you elaborate please? You see I work in a maternity unit occasionally and see pre-term neonates all the time and they look exactly the same just smaller. Granted there lungs aren’t yet often developed enough for them to survive without aid but I don’t see how this would change anything. Since we have grown adults in the Intensive Care Units who can’t survive without our input, and we wouldn’t dare accuse them of not being human or valuable?

    No offence but I feel this is one of those subjects where many Atheists are inconsistent with the standards that use to arrive at their conclusions.

    Surely if the answer to any of these questions is yes the Foetus must be worthy of human rights just like the rest of us?

    1) “Is it human; that is, did it come from human beings?”
    2) “Is it a genetically unique individual?”
    3) “Is it alive and growing?”

    Let me know what you think.

    On the whole Nazi illustration, there are certain similarities although I think it would be unfair to push it too far.

    Both groups use terms to dehumanise there intended targets, Ie Untermensch.
    Both groups shy away from from too much detail, IE many, many people are simply not informed or ill informed of foetal development, a foetus is not just a cluster of cells etc…

    Click to access AEP04.7.28.PDF

    Click to access thepsychologist%5C0805hepp.pdf

    I thought it was an interesting discussion.

    Hope your well.

  6. Myles Says:

    Cheap shot mate using a picture of Peter holding a rifle to make him appear threatening and violent.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      I came across it in a Google Images search and could not resist.

      And I don’t think it’s any worse that P Hitchens calling abortion murder and equating clinics to Auschwitz.

      • Micaiah Says:

        Actually it is worse because you are trying to paint the man as evil only because he disagrees with your beliefs. Guess what evolution and the big bang are nothing more then theories that have yet to have real proof. People are not descended from monkeys. We are told that they found the link between man and monkey, but then why is there no fossil proof of this so called link. because there isn’t one. They tried this in the 70s when they found a tooth they all started saying that it was the missing link but it was then discovered that it was just a pigs tooth. They fool you by telling you there is proof of their theory when there is none. Then they tell you about the so called proof or link to which there has never been any such fossil proof to be found and until they have the fossil evidence they will keep telling that have proof when they don’t.

  7. TheTrueScotsman Says:

    For those posters who equate abortion with murder, do you do so simply on the grounds that all human life is equally inviolable?

    If it is equally inviolable then the consequence of the murder of a human inside or outside of the womb cannot be differentiated. In law, murder is murder – the deliberate taking of life – and it carries a mandatory life sentence in the UK.

    The punishment, therefore, meted out by society for murderers should be consistent between the parent who strangles his or her 7 year old because they became a burden and for the pregnant woman who calmly and with malice aforethought concedes to an abortion of a 2 week old fetus because they could not cope with the prospect of raising a child alone.

    We should therefore pursue the mothers who allow their unborn child to be “murdered”, or those doctors who perform such operations with greater force of law than we would the rapist of a post-natal child.

    One cannot call it murder and then withdraw from the repercussions of that statement.

  8. An atheist against abortion Says:

    If somebody is in a coma or even simply unconscious after being hit on the head it would be fair to say that they can feel nothing. If you killed them, they’d simply not wake up and never know what you’d done. So can we kill anyone as long as they are in a state which can feel no pain, experience no emotion and unable to record memories at that moment in time? Your argument that abortion is o.k because the baby can feel no pain is a bad argument. The simplest medical test for whether somebody is alive is to see if they have a pulse, therefore doesn’t a foetus become living the moment its heart starts beating?

    I also think that you carry the burden of proof – before a demolition expert blows up a building they must be 100% certain that nobody is inside. If there is even a 1% chance that their action will kill a human life then they don’t do it. In the same way, if there’s even a small chance that the foetus is a human life then we should stay on the side of caution. Are you 100% certain that abortion isn’t killing babies?

    It also amuses me that you include videos of Christopher Hitchens who appears to be your hero however don’t forget, Christopher Hitchens is also against most cases of abortion.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      Thank you for your comment, Atheist against abortion. I note your disagreements and will certainly chew them over.

      Perhaps euthanasia is off-topic for this post, but I don’t think your comparison with a foetus and patient in a coma is valid. The latter could well recover from their injury, have memories and friends and relatives who love them and will miss them.

      Based on the evidence seen at I have at present, yes, I am 100% certain that a foetus is not a person. However, I am open to new evidence and may well change my mind in future on that score.

      Yes, C Hitch is my hero, and I actually agree with him in the loose acceptance of the concept of the “unborn child” and that abortion is a terrible thing and should be the last resort.

      But the in world we find ourselves in, I believe it is more important to give women the freedom of choice over their own bodies and reproductive systems.

      Having abortion, as bad as it is, is still better than having no abortion.

  9. An atheist against abortion Says:

    Thank you for your reply, Manic Street Preacher. I also don’t want to turn this into a discussion about Euthanasia – my example of a person in a coma was done on the assumption that they would make a full recovery. It seems to me that you’re putting yourself into a corner, surely the reason murder is wrong has little to do with upsetting the friends and relatives of the deceased. You don’t get a shorter prison sentence if the person you murdered doesn’t have any friends! So imagine this, suppose you stumble across an unconscious body lying in the street. You recognise them as a homeless person who you know as a fact has no friends or relatives. You have a choice, you could phone for an ambulance or you could say to yourself, “they’re unconscious and will never know if I leave them here to die, nor will anybody miss them.” What would be the most moral thing to do?

    Oh, and an unborn baby will grow up to have memories etc

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      The homeless person lying in a gutter has memories, senses, emotions and possibly people in the world who care about him or her. The foetus does not yet.

      Of course the most moral thing to do would be to call an ambulance for the homeless person (although you have not committed a crime by leaving them there).

      I agree that the most moral thing to do with the foetus is to carry it to full term, give birth to it and take care of it so that it will have a long and happy life.

      I just don’t belief that you are murdering it by aborting it in the womb because it is not yet a human being.

      • An atheist against abortion Says:

        If somebody is unconscious then they may have had memories, senses and emotions in the past (i.e. before they were hit by a car and knocked out) and they may regain them in the future. But at that point in time they are unconscious and therefore have no more awareness of what’s going on than an unborn baby does. You can speculate over whether they have friends who will miss them however all you’re doing is avoiding the question: is it o.k to kill somebody provided they are unconscious and have no friends?

        You point out that I can legally walk past a dying person and ignore their need for help, I think the law is wrong here and that leaving somebody to die without even trying to save their life is as bad as having an abortion.

  10. manicstreetpreacher Says:


    No, it is not OK to kill that person because they are a human being.

    Perhaps turning off the life support machine if they are brain dead and there is no chance of resuscitating them is justified. Withdrawing treatment is not the same as euthanasia, but again slightly O/T.

  11. TheTrueScotsman Says:

    AAA – “You don’t get a shorter prison sentence if the person you murdered doesn’t have any friends”

    Would you therefore say that anyone who has an abortion or who performs or aids in an abortion should suffer the same punishments meted out by whatever society advocates as suitable for the murder of a seven year old child?

    You can argue the morality but lets see what the real-world consequences are. If abortion of a 2 week old pre-natal child is “murder” in the same sense as a callous parent disposing of a seven year old post-natal child – in both cases because they would be a financial and emotional burden – then would you treat the perpetrators the same? If not, why not?

    • An atheist against abortion Says:

      The law already takes into account the circumstances under which a murder was committed – i.e not all murderers spend the same amount of time in prison. So of course, factors such as the state of mind the woman was in when she had an abortion etc should be taken into account just as a judge would for any crime. But lets turn the question around: why should a woman who changes her mind about having a baby a few weeks before it’s born get helped by the state to kill it however a woman who changes her mind a few weeks after having it get arrested if she kills it? Are the actions so radically different that they warrant such a different response?

      • TheTrueScotsman Says:

        I’m not asking what the law takes into account now, nor am I saying the law does not or should not take into account the murderers state of mind.

        I’ve put forward a simple proposition based simply on your argument that killing a fetus is as morally reprehensible as killing a child. If you are comparing as equals the abortion of a 2-week old fetus (or a 24 week old or even one 2 weeks before term) as you do with the killing of a 7-year old child then do you therefore agree that legally there should be no difference in the repercussions?

        The law does not differentiate between the killing of a 1 year old, a 7 year old or a 16 year old, if the reason for killing them is equal. Should the law therefore treat the abortionist the same if the reason is the same no matter the age of the fetus?

        If not, why not?

      • An atheist against abortion Says:

        I think that somebody who has an abortion should get the same punishment (taking into account factors such as why they had the abortion) as somebody who murders their baby. Can you now provide an argument against why my view is wrong?

      • An atheist against abortion Says:

        Sorry, the last line should have read ‘Can you now provide an argument as to why my view is wrong?’

  12. TheTrueScotsman Says:

    AAA – thank you for that clarification. I am not saying you are wrong, your logic is sound. If killing a 2 week old fetus is the same as killing a seven year old child then the law should not discriminate on this fact.

    You admit that.

    An Abortion doctor is as abhorrent as the worst serial killer, people who take the morning-after-pill deserve longer sentences than a man who rapes a 7 year old child, and no fetus should die at our hands even if it saves the mother, after all killing you for your kidneys saves two people but we would not do so.

    We would clash over the premise, though, that killing a 2 week old fetus is no different from killing a 7 year old and I think – for whatever reason – most people would agree with this and I think you would too. We instinctively know that there is a difference in the way society treats individuals at life’s stages. Why is the killer of a child treated with greater opprobrium than an killer of an adult?

    At what point is the cut off, 1 fertilized cell before split? 2 cells? 1 hour old, 1week? It ultimately comes down to personal “feeling”. We are both exploring this argument from different ends, you are asking me to state the difference between an 8 month pre and post natal fetus and state what the difference is (I can’t) whereas I am asking you if you treat a cell-blob of a few microns as you would a living breathing child (you say you do).

    There is no cut-off, no clean dividing line, no easy answer. If you wish to treat a blob of cells as a human being and endow it with all the rights you would all other humans then good for you. Most of us chose not to and instinctively feel there is a difference. Where that difference is is down to an individual’s choice with 24 weeks being a reasonable cut off given out current state of knowledge.

    To me there are several things that need to be taken into account.
    1. the viability of the baby that it can survive outside of the womb with some chance of life.
    2. the danger of serious repercussions to to the mother’s health or long-term well being.
    3. the prognosis of long-term development for the child if remaining in-situ.
    4. the desire for the mother to carry the child to term and the chances of a stable and loving home.

    There are others and none of these reasons are alone sufficient to warrant abortion but they are pieces in a jigsaw that together can make a picture of the necessity for abortion as a least-worst option. Ultimately it is the mother’s decision and she should take the choice with the best knowledge possible.

  13. An atheist against abortion Says:

    Thanks for your response, true Scotsman. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, my criteria for whether something is alive is by asking if it’s heart is beating (a standard test used by doctors to see if somebody is alive)

    I think it’s unfair to use the 1% of abortions where the mother’s life is at risk etc to get the other 99% through the door. I believe that murder is wrong but this doesn’t stop me agreeing that exceptions can be made for the soldier in a just war. Or take classic moral problems such as imagining four people on a plane which is about to crash with only three parachutes on board – what would you do? So when I come across similar circumstances with abortion (e.g where the mothers’ life is at risk) I can appreciate the dilemma without conceding my belief that abortion is wrong.

    At the moment the laws on abortion don’t even distinguish over whether the baby is in or out of the womb (i.e the cut off point is before the baby is born, assuming the baby wasn’t born prematurely) Why not go along with the philosopher Peter Singer who argues that the mother should be allowed to ‘abort’ her baby up to several months after it has been born. After all, you claim that it’s ultimately the mother’s decision.

  14. Michael Baldwin Says:

    MSP, you repeatedly said that the fetus is “not a human being”. You said this in your post as well as numerous times in your comments. I am afraid you are simply mistaken and I feel, no offense, that you really haven’t even looked at the most basic articles or books on this issue and it’s really showing.

    The fetus is clearly living matter, that much is not really in question (unless you want to raise it?). However, what IS it? That is ultimately what the whole abortion issue comes down to. All the questions about rape, incest, choice etc all basically boil down to whether the fetus deserves human rights or not.

    So, clearly it’s living from conception. However, that doesn’t prove that it is human. The law of biogenesis, though, says that everything recreates after its own kind. The fetus’ parents are human and therefore the fetus has the nature of a human. The fetus possesses HUMAN DNA right from conception, but also a completely unique genome from its parents. This genetic code is a complete set from conception and is sufficient for everything right up until full adulthood and remains the same for that whole time.

    So the fetus is clearly a human being on three counts: law of biogenesis, having human genetic composition as well as having a completely unique set of DNA.

    So not only is it clearly human, but it is a UNIQUE human too.
    The only reason that you discriminate against it and justify killing it is ultimately based on four things; size, level of development, environment and degree of dependence. If you want to maintain discriminating against the fetus for any of these reasons then I would be happy to carry on discussing it with you, but here a very short article to read about it first

    Biology has simply shown beyond doubt that the fetus is a unique human being from conception and there really is no way of arguing with this. What some pro-abortionists do though is now to say, “OK fine so the fetus is a human being, but not all human beings are PERSONS you know!” You seem to be making this argument, and as far as I can see the criteria that you’ve decided on is sentience, ie the ability to feel pain and pleasure. You also mention memories, emotions etc, so you clearly aren’t settled on sentience.
    A 4 month old baby also doesn’t have memories, it also doesn’t have rationality etc etc, so is it ok to also kill a 4 month old baby? Be careful with your answer to that question.

    If you want to settle on sentience as your criteria, then that’s fine and I’d be happy to discuss with you whether that criteria is sufficient. It seems quite an arbitrary one to me, to be honest, why not consciousness, why not rationality, why not language, why not viability etc? Ultimately, you’ve made an arbitrary choice on how YOU decide between whether someone is a person or not.

    On a side not, it deserves a mention that Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not for PERSONS but for HUMANS, which clearly the fetus is. Since it is a human being, doesn’t the fetus deserve the most basic human right, that is, the right to even LIVE??

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      Thank you for your comments, Michael, and for the link to the paper. All very thought provoking.

      I respect your arguments and I am pleased to read that they are couched in actual science, as opposed to hysterical, pseudo-spiritual ravings like many religionists.

      With the exception of that point about killing a four month old child, that is. For the avoidance of doubt, the answer from me is an emphatic “no”.

      However, I do not agree with the rebuttal to the “Cumulative Case” to which you link. I think that taken together, the arguments over sentience, rationality, emotions, senses, memories and importantly friends and relations who care who them and would be affected by their “death” rules out foetuses as people “human” or “people” or whatever term who wish to attach to them to imply that they are “alive”.

  15. john twinem Says:

    Just heard Peter Hitchens on our national broadcaster, CBC, and when I looked him up, came to your site. An interesting read; felt it necessary though to respond to your comment “I would change my stance if convincing evidence was produced that contradicted my impression of the sensory and emotional content of foetuses.” A few years ago, a film maker–I believe it was Franky Schaeffer V–produced a documentary called “The Silent Scream”, in which a foetus was filmed responding in agony to its own abortion. That film was enough to convince Dr. Bernard Nathanson, the founder of the U.S. “National Abortion Rights Action League”, to walk away from performing abortions himself, and to become a champion of the pro-life cause. His decision was, of course, based on the overwhelmingly graphic evidence for the “sensory content of foetuses”. Not sure about the U.K., but here in North America, every effort is made to censor that evidence and keep it out of the public discourse.

  16. TJ Says:

    Like every mortal born Hitchens will soon pass on and learn of the officiouness of his pronouncements during his brief sojourn here among the living. Of course those of us who remain among the living will never hear from him again so we will not learn of his punishments or rewards for his presence on the planet.

  17. Myles Says:

    And in coming back to this blog, I see, yet again, that tiresome picture of the Egg and the Acorn. “This is not a chicken and this is not a tree”. Completely correct in that the picture of the egg is of an unfertilized embryo that could never result in a chick and the acorn is not planted in soil and so will not grow into a tree. A human gamete, however, is fertilised and growing and without human intervention then a child will be the result in 9 months. One simply cannot compare a developing human to an egg I could have had for breakfast or an acorn I see on a forest floor. If you disagree with Peter Hitchens to such a degree then I would recommend that you debate him on a show like “unbelievable?” (which I believe has had both of you as guests a few times before). I think you would find him a lot more challenging than others such as David Robertson. A scary thought as David seemed to intellectually knock seven bells out of you during your last encounter.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      Like all religious apologists from David Robertson, to Alister McGrath to William Lane Craig, you seem to have studied hard during the Ad Hominem module on your theology course.

      The few points David Robertson scored against me were mainly due to his selective quotation of opinions and facts that I verified as such after the debate and to which he has never provided a satisfactory response, satisfactory or otherwise.

      Such as what the Pope actually said about condom use in Africa. Or how Hitler’s former PA goes to say in the very next sentence of her book after chiding her boss on not being a member of a church and being a Darwinist how she has a very vague recollection of events.

      All of the points Peter Hitchens scored in the debate against Adam Rutherford were due to cheap appeals to emotion, talking over his opponent and purporting to take the moral high ground.

      Like Dawkins, I would not sully my hands sharing a platform with the likes of Craig and Peter Hitchens. I would not want to assist them in their drive for self-promotion.

      • myles Says:

        Self-promotion? Dawkins has the nerve to accuse others of self-promotion despite the fact that he has made a fortune on writing about something that he doesn’t even believe in and has appeared in numerous television programmes on the same subject. When was the last time you saw Peter Hitchens or Craig on TV? Hell, Dawkins has even appeared on Doctor Who for no discernable reason save the delight of that awful writer Russel T Davies. It appears that this whoring himself for attention has backfired considering the recent Craig debate controversy. Imho, Dawkins isn’t doing it because he knows if he loses, due to Craig’s considerable rhetoric and debating skill, then that’s his reputation as a champion for atheism ruined.

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