FRIEL: It's time for one of America's fastest growing game sensations. (Oh, this is going to be a bust.) It is "What If?" That's right, we're going to play an exciting episode of "What If?" here on Wretched Radio, the game where we create a scenario for some they would consider it to be fantastic and then we ask them, "What if it's true?" Tony, who's our first contestant today on "What If?"?
[TONY] VERKINNES: Todd, our first and last guest has been hailed as one the most brilliant journalists of our time, according to The London Observer. He's a contributing editor, ironically, for Vanity Fair. He was named one of top 100 public intellectuals by Foreign Policy and Britain's Prospect. He studied in Cambridge and Oxford and now he just hates God. He is the author of god is Not Great. He is Christopher Hitchens.
FRIEL: Wow, fancy that. Christopher thanks very much for being with us, sir.
FRIEL: Christopher we're going to have you play a game show today called "What If?" Are you game?
HITCHENS: Sounds alright.
FRIEL: Ok, here's what we've got for you, sir: We're going to play a game. I'm going to create some fantastic scenarios and then you tell me, sir, what your response would be if these things happened to be true. Ready to go?
FRIEL: Alright, here we go. Here's the first one now: I realize for you, sir, the author of god is Not Good that you don't believe in God but what if...
HITCHENS: god is Not Great, excuse me.
FRIEL: god is Not Great. What...
HITCHENS: Now in paperback in fine bookstores everywhere.
FRIEL: Mmmhmm. So what if God actually exists, sir, and what if He actually has provided everything for you? He's granted you life; He has given you health; He has given you food; He's given you the trees to write your screed against Him; He's provided you royalties; it all came from Him. What if that is true, sir? Would He not have been good to you?
HITCHENS: No, He wouldn't. Because if that were true it would mean that I had an eternal, supervising parent who would never die and let me get on with my life, never let me grow up, keep me under surveillance...
FRIEL: But you have, sir.
HITCHENS: ...and supervision every minute of my life...
FRIEL: But you have.
HITCHENS: ...and constantly ask me to be thanking and praising Him.
HITCHENS: I think it would be...
FRIEL: That wasn't part of the scenario.
HITCHENS: It would be like living in North Korea. I think it'd be a horrible outcome.
FRIEL: Well, I'm not sure that God is Kim Jong Il, but what if what I said is true...
HITCHENS: Well, ask Kim Jong Il, he has a different opinion.
FRIEL: Uh-huh. So, if that is the God who's made you and created you, He's allowed you to live your life. Shouldn't that be a sign of kindness to you?
HITCHENS: No. I don't want anyone's permission to live my life, thanks.
FRIEL: Alrighty. Well, it's not that you've been asked, or that you asked Him.
HITCHENS: I think it's servile that one is expected to constantly grovel as a result.
FRIEL: Alright. Christopher Hitchens, round two of "What If?" What if God exists? He's provided everything for you, He's kept you together by the power of His word. If that is truly God—if—do you believe that that God, if He's provided everything for you, has rights on your life?
HITCHENS: Why should He? What gives Him this right?
FRIEL: Because He owns you, He's created everything you, He's kept you alive.
HITCHENS: Well, I don't want to be owned. I don't want to be owned and I don't recognize anyone's right to own me. That's elementary.
FRIEL: Remember, we're playing a game of "What If?"
HITCHENS: I wrote my book exactly to teach people to emancipate themselves from the man-made slavery of religion and you're giving the perfect instance of what I mean. I don't acknowledge anyone's ownership of myself.
FRIEL: I know you don't acknowledge it but what if He is God...
HITCHENS: Suppose that I grant your premise about Him having made me and even treated me well, that still doesn't give anyone ownership rights.
FRIEL: Even if...
HITCHENS: Any more than I have these for my children.
FRIEL: Ok. So even though He keeps you alive, He causes you to breath, He provides you food and everything that is good...
HITCHENS: So you say.
FRIEL: He doesn't have any rights to tell you what to do? Nothing?
HITCHENS: Does that mean that people who are sick and poor and hungry are excused this obligation of thanking someone brokenly for owning them?
FRIEL: Well that isn't part of the game show. I'm just asking you. Let's play another round here...
HITCHENS: No, I'm sorry. I think the question may take the form of an answer.
FRIEL: Alright. So here's question number three of our little game show called "What If?" with our special guest Christopher Hitchens, the author of god is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, which is a, I hope, hyperbole, but even so...
HITCHENS: No, it isn't. Not if it postulates that I'm someone who's owned by someone else.
HITCHENS: That would ruin everything for me if it were true.
FRIEL: Ok. So ownership is a bad thing?
HITCHENS: Of people, yes.
FRIEL: Oh, ok.
HITCHENS: I know the Bible does call for slavery, as it calls for genocide, but that doesn't make it right.
FRIEL: Yeah, well it doesn't, but we're playing "What If?" If there is a...
HITCHENS: It might be for you, I don't know. You might take the Bible seriously for all I know.
FRIEL: Oh, I sure do. What if there's a judgement day, sir? Just what if—what if (I know, a crazy scenario for you)—but a day when God causes you to give an account for every thought, every word, every deed? How do you think you'd do on that day, sir?
HITCHENS: Well, I would ask by what right?
FRIEL: That's not the question. How would you do?
HITCHENS: If someone stops me and says, "I've got a few questions for you," I say, "Excuse me, I'm in a hurry. Who are you to be posing these questions?"
FRIEL: Well what if He's God and He made you and He has the right? What if—how would you...
HITCHENS: The question—the most ancient question is still, "Quo warranto" ("By what right?") This right can't just be assumed.
FRIEL: Alright, if it's true—remember, we're just playing a little fantasy game here...
HITCHENS: Yes, I understand. I'm telling you what my reaction would be.
FRIEL: Alright. For instance, if He ran you through the Ten Commandments, His standard of goodness and perfection, how do you think you'd measure up, sir?
HITCHENS: Well, on the initial burst, which are all about His jealousy and His envy and His self-esteem and how one has to respect that, nix on those, I don't care for those. I don't obey them and never have tried to, don't think anyone should, don't think anyone needs to.
FRIEL: So in other words...
HITCHENS: Same for the Sabbath, same for the Sabbath.
FRIEL: You haven't done well with that.
HITCHENS: Same for the Sabbath. I don't give a damn about the Sabbath.
HITCHENS: Murder, theft and perjury I know—thanks a lot—I know without being told that those are not kosher. Honor the father and the mother: rather depends on how they behave towards me and there's no commandment about taking care of your children. There's no prohibition of child abuse any more than there's any prohibition of slavery or genocide in the Ten Commandments. So I don't care about those either, particularly.
FRIEL: Have you made any graven images?
HITCHENS: Coveting, I think, is a good thing because it leads to emulation and innovation. It's a spur to do better, if you're jealous or envious of other people's property. However, I don't approve...
FRIEL: So, you've pretty much kept the Ten Commandments.
HITCHENS: Of course, it's wrong to take that property. It's not wrong to wish you had it yourself. And I don't, of course, approve of lumping in women with oxen and asses.
FRIEL: Alright. So, specifically sir, have you ever taken God's name in vain?
HITCHENS: I've never completely known—and this is only in the King James translation, which is the one I know best—quite what that means.
FRIEL: That you've used God's name in a low way. Instead of using a four-letter filth word, you use the name of God to express disgust.
HITCHENS: No, not in that way, no. I don't believe I have.
FRIEL: Really? "GD"? Nothing like that has ever flown out of your mouth?
HITCHENS: Not as a filth expression.
FRIEL: No, as a curse expression.
HITCHENS: Or not instead of a filth expression.
FRIEL: Dragging God's name through the mud. You've substituted His name with a swear word. Have you ever had God—did you ever put God first in your life, sir? Has He ever been number one for Christopher Hitchens?
HITCHENS: No, He's been nowhere for me, as He is, in point of fact.
FRIEL: So the first, second, and third Commandments you've broken. The Sabbath, you admitted to that. I'm sure you were naughty as a child, right?
HITCHENS: I don't admit it.
FRIEL: Yeah, but you were naughty as a child, correct?
HITCHENS: It's not an admission—excuse me—it's not an admission, it's an assertion.
FRIEL: Did you parents ever get upset with you as a child, sir?
HITCHENS: I dare say they did.
FRIEL: Because you were naughty. So you broke that commandment.
HITCHENS: How do you know that's what it was for?
FRIEL: I'm just guessing you're like every other kid I've seen.
HITCHENS: That might not have made them upset.
FRIEL: Because you probably...
HITCHENS: It's rather pathetic to have children and then expect them not to be naughty, don't you think?
FRIEL: Well, I think that the expectation is that they should be good.
HITCHENS: I don't know, are you a father?
FRIEL: Yes, sir, I am. Sir, have you ever committed murder?
FRIEL: Have you ever been angry with somebody?
HITCHENS: Repeatedly and justifiably.
HITCHENS: Well, I should better say—I don't want to sound smug—justifiably and unjustifiably, fairly and unfairly, I have.
FRIEL: Because the Bible says that's murder of the heart.
HITCHENS: Anger is a very important—anger is an emotion without which the human species couldn't do. We're onto deadly sins now, are we not (commandments)?
FRIEL: Well, I would suggest that righteous anger is good. But if you've been unrighteously angry, then you have committed murder in your heart because God examines our thoughts and our intentions and our desires.
HITCHENS: Oh well, you should've just asked me if I've committed murder in my heart. I've certainly done that.
FRIEL: Ok, so you've broken the commandment of "Thou shall not murder." What about lusting, sir? Jesus warned that if you lust in your mind...
HITCHENS: All the time. All the time.
FRIEL: So you've broken the commandment of adultery, correct sir?
HITCHENS: None of your ****ing business.
FRIEL: Alrighty. What we've basically done is determine how you'd be doing on judgement day. It doesn't sound like you'd measure up at all to God's Ten Commandments.
HITCHENS: Who gives a ****?
FRIEL: Well, we're just playing a little game of "What If?"
HITCHENS: Yes, I'm playing it right along with you.
FRIEL: Alrighty. So what would God do with you, sir...
HITCHENS: I'm glad you think it's a game, by the way.
FRIEL: What would you do...
HITCHENS: I rather agree with you.
FRIEL: What would God do with you if He found you guilty of breaking His laws? Would He send you to heaven or hell, what if?
HITCHENS: Well not heaven, I hope.
FRIEL: So what would a just god do with somebody like you?
HITCHENS: An eternity of praise and groveling and thanksgiving would be my idea of hell.
FRIEL: So he'd send you to hell?
HITCHENS: I've no idea.
FRIEL: Alright. If it's true, if He judged you by the standard of the Ten Commandments, you'd be going to hell.
HITCHENS: If you believe in the God of the Old Testament, not, because there's no hell mentioned in the Old Testament. The punishment of the dead is not specified there, as I dare say you know. It's only with gentle Jesus, meek and mild, that the idea of eternal torture for minor transgressions is introduced.
FRIEL: So, speaking of Jesus...
HITCHENS: So I'm not sure you know quite what you're talking about.
FRIEL: So, speaking of Jesus. If, sir—remember, we're playing "What If?"...
HITCHENS: I haven't forgotten we're playing.
FRIEL: What if it's true that God exists? He came to this earth—Jesus Christ, the god man, the savior of souls—and he took the punishment that you deserved for breaking God's moral laws, He died on a cross for you, He rose from the dead and defeated death. Let's say that it's true, sir. He died knowing that you, Christopher Hitchens, would spend all of your calories and energy on fighting against Him but he died for you anyway.
FRIEL: Would that not be the single greatest act of kindness in the history of your life, if not in the world?
HITCHENS: No, it would not.
FRIEL: How come?
HITCHENS: Because if I'd had the power, or had actually been present, I would've done everything possible to prevent this human sacrifice from being enacted, whether the person concerned wanted it or not.
FRIEL: But let's just say it happened.
HITCHENS: It's barbaric. No one has the right or the duty to immolate themselves for me. I don't want it, I didn't ask for it, and I'm not bound by it.
FRIEL: Yeah. That's not the question, though. If it happened...
HITCHENS: That's my answer.
FRIEL: Would it not be an act of kindness?
HITCHENS: No. It would be an act of extreme arrogance.
FRIEL: That God died for you, a sinner?
HITCHENS: It would be an act of extreme presumption saying, "What I'm doing now binds someone who hasn't yet been born." Takes away my free will, takes away my autonomy, gives me no choice in the matter. I've been told, "I'm sorry, it's too bad. The sacrifice has already been made. You're committed." What is this but a very, very crude form of tyranny and intimidation?
FRIEL: Yeah. Well it seems like you have the right to reject it, you've done a fine job to date. So if it's true, sir, can't you at least admit, 'Yes, that would've been an act of kindness, I just don't believe that it happened"?
HITCHENS: No, I've thought about is quite a lot.
FRIEL: You can't give that up?
HITCHENS: I have quite a long discussion of this in my book. You're not trying anything on me that's original or all that daring or playful. I make that assumption and examine it in my book. I say, "Here's what my reaction is to this offer." Please look it up and please encourage your listeners to do likewise.
FRIEL: But sir, we're playing a little fantasy game.
HITCHENS: I understand perfectly. I'm not as slow on the uptake as you seem to suppose. How many times do I have to tell you: I make the assumption along with you and I give you my response to it. No, I don't think it would be an act of kindness.
FRIEL: Alright. What if...
HITCHENS: I think it's a tyrannical act.
FRIEL: It's a tyrannical act that somebody sacrificed his life for you?
HITCHENS: But according to you He didn't. Because He was seen alive very shortly after these supposed events.
FRIEL: That'd be the resurrection from the dead.
HITCHENS: So which is it going to be, did He die or what?
FRIEL: Yeah, He did and rose from the dead. It's called Easter, been celebrated for a couple thousand years.
HITCHENS: To no effect.
FRIEL: Ok, I'm sure that it hasn't affected anyone.
HITCHENS: He was supposed to come back in the lifetime of His listeners. That was a direct promise.
FRIEL: It depends on your understanding of eschatology. Sir, let me play another round of "What If?" before we close our time together with Christopher Hitchens.
HITCHENS: Very well.
FRIEL: What if the Bible is accurate? Sir, I want to share a quote with you from the Bible. Alright, sir? "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who, by their unrighteousness, suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, His eternal power, and divine nature have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made so that they," slash you, "are without excuse." Does that sound like you, sir?
HITCHENS: No, it sounds like Saint Paul.
FRIEL: Right, but does it sound like he's describing you in Romans I?
FRIEL: You're not suppressing the obvious truth, that there's a creator because you, sir, prefer to live your own autonomous way?
HITCHENS: No, I prefer Saint Paul when—Saint Paul is nearer to the mark when he talks about the evidence of things not seen and when he admits that most of this is supposition and the things he claiming to know cannot be known by anyone.
FRIEL: So, sir, you're familiar with the "Prince of Preachers" Charles Spurgeon, correct?
FRIEL: You've never heard of Charles Spurgeon?
HITCHENS: I've heard the name. I can't say I'm familiar.
FRIEL: Ah, the "Prince of Preachers." He said, regarding a fellow like you, somebody who fights and wars against God, typically, if you want to know the reason why just follow him home. Sir, is it possible that the reason you rage so much against God is because you just want to live your own autonomous way, living any way that you want to, any lifestyle that you prefer without being accountable to your creator?
HITCHENS: I think that's highly probable, yes.
FRIEL: Alright, excellent. Sir, we appreciate your time. The book is called god is Not Great: How Religions Poisons Absolutely 100% Everything. Sir, we're grateful for your time. Thanks for playing our little game.
HITCHENS: Any time.
FRIEL: Goodbye, sir. "What If?" This is Wretched Radio.