English-Speaking Atheists Lose Their Columnist Saint

I can’t say that I am particularly struck by the loss of Christopher Hitchens but its in the same way that I was not moved by the death of Steve Jobs. Like Jobs, Hitchens was something of a presentation of himself – not a bad thing in itself but it does distract from whether the output was as valuable as claimed. That being said, David Frum has an excellent memorial to the man in the National Post that captures bits of his appeal:

As the event broke up, a crowd of questioners formed around him. I created a diversion thinking it would help him escape for some needed rest. But Christopher declined the offer. He stood with them, as tired as I was, but ready to adjourn to a nearby bar and converse with total strangers till the bars closed. Hitchens was not one of those romantics who fetishized “dialogue.” Far from suffering fools gladly, he delighted in making fools suffer. When he heard that another friend, a professor, had a habit of seducing female students in his writing seminars, he shook his head pityingly. “It’s not worth it. Afterward, you have to read their short stories.”

Frum called him “a man of moral clarity.” I would have thought “amoral” or perhaps ethical was more the proper word. The man he most reminded me of was Mencken. Both had that sort of rhetorical skill that aligned well with their failure to actually meaningfully participate in anything that added to the public good. Both were keen observers and skilled reporters. The sort of person who can tell you what a poor job someone, anyone, yourself even has done but would not actually engage with the doing themselves. Both were famous drinkers.

I am sure that we benefit somewhat from these columnists, folk who can sharply report on the human condition. But they never really get to anything of value as to the why of it all. They have their own belief system which is immune to denting and judge all from that place on the orb with skill, charisma and something of an ultimate pointlessness. Humans already know life is hard and confused, that our leaders make many bad calls. Directing us to that obvious state of affairs, however insightfully or entertainingly, is not the stuff of heroes.

Japan: Where Faith And Beer Come Together

Jay has been lamenting the divide between Southern Baptists and their beer. You know, it was darn pesky of the Lord to hang around in taverns and make wine when you think of it. In addition to the work, however, of Rev. Taffy Davis in Macclesfield, England, Jay found one US pastor who has followed in the steps of the Big Guy and brought the word back to the tavern. Good stuff.

Interesting, then, it was for me to find out this sort of thing is happening under other faiths as well as this story from last month about Buddhist monks in Japan shows:

This is what you might call “Buddhism-lite” though. It is performance, not preaching. After their first session on the stage, which lasts about 20 minutes, they sit down with the audience for a drink and a chat. One of the monks gets a bag of balloons out of his pocket and starts sculpting balloon flowers for some of the older ladies sitting around the room. “Many Japanese don’t want to come to temple,” Hogen Natori says. He is standing behind the bar where he has lit up a cigarette as he chats with the drinkers. “They think Buddhism is very difficult, and deep and serious, but Buddhism is much more than that – exciting, funny even. I want to spread this kind of teaching.” He feels people are more receptive in a bar, when they are drinking and with friends.

Hmmm…that last bit makes it sound a bit like a pick up line: “Hey good looking – that’s quite the soul you have there.” The BBC has a short video of the monks in action at the Chippie Sound Music Bar in Tokyo. Be warned – having watched it, I am still not clear which beer goes best with “Ohmm”.