That long-winded charlatan, Deepak Chopra, has scribbled up a whiny criticism of Hitchens’ address in absentia to the American Atheists. Hitchens wrote a wonderful, brave, and inspiring exposition on his mortality, and urged everyone to keep up the gallant fight; Chopra carps and squirms, trying to find an excuse to reject Hitchens’ argument. He fails pathetically.
This was a tough one to address thoroughly, because every sentence, practically every phrase in Chopra’s essay is foolish and wrong, so I’ve instead taken the path of annotating the central chunk of Chopra’s chunder. My comments are in red; Chopra’s are in Comic Sans, of course.
By making belief in God their enemy, atheists deprive themselves of what spirituality is really about: a process of inner growth. [What does that mean, “inner growth”? Believing in ghosts or gods or cosmic intelligences does not make one wise, there is no entailment of knowledge or deeper understanding — chasing imaginary entities does not make one grow in any way but foolishness.] There are wisdom traditions around the world that do not use the word God (e.g., Buddhism, Vedanta) or advocate religious worship in the conventional sense. [So? People like Hitchens or Dawkins or myself don’t give a bloody goddamn about which particular and peculiar brand of superstition one follows — we’re concerned about recognizing freaking reality.] Countless people [Does that matter? Are we voting on truth now?] have seen through the faults of organized religion and turned instead to their own spiritual journey. [“Spiritual journey” is one of those New Age phrases that means nothing: it means not going anywhere, not learning anything new, only wallowing in one’s preconceptions and justifying it with bafflegab about “spirituality”, which is also undefinable and unmeasurable and utterly useless.] Hitchens and other atheists stand at the door to that journey and slam it shut, [Wrong. We stand at the door to real knowledge, and tell people to come this way, don’t take the path into ignorance] assuring all who approach that to seek God, the soul, or higher reality is a fool’s errand. How do they know? [Turn that question around. How do the priests and spiritual con-artists know? We reject them precisely because we’ve asked how a Pope or a Chopra or the local holy god-botherer knows…and it’s painfully apparent that they don’t know, and they can’t rationally justify their hokum, and they can’t even provide the barest tinge of evidence for gods or spirits.] It’s not as if they have inquired deeply into the great saints and sages who have successfully traveled such a journey. [Every single one of those saints and sages lived lives of squalor or opulence, and died at the end, just like every other man. We’ve had millennia of so-called saints making pronouncements about the nature of the universe, and they’ve all been wrong, and they’ve made no difference to humanity, other than inspiring a few wars, or sucking up the wealth of society that they then dispense at their whim. Show me a saint, I’ll show you a sanctimonious parasite.] Hitchens dismisses every spiritual person out of hand, which means that he dismisses William Blake (the source of his phrase, “mind-forged manacles,” which Blake applied to modern industrial life, not religion) in the same breath that he dismisses Bible Belt preachers. [No. He dismisses the faulty thinking of every ‘spiritual’ person, not the person in their entirety. I can admire William Blake for his poetry and detest that he wasted some portion of his life in nebulous nonsense; I can similarly appreciate Newton’s physics while laughing at his quaint religiosity.]
By discounting the whole notion of spiritual awakening, atheists make a claim to false knowledge. [Again, completely wrong. Scientists and atheists have set reasonable standards for evaluating truth, and like to point out that the claims of religion not only fail to meet that bar, but also are contradictory, both within and between the different mythologies. We know the multitudes of bizarre spiritualities can’t all be true, and given that they won’t even try to justify their beliefs with evidence, we may righteously discard them all until they make an effort to show that they actually possess some tiny fragment of truth.] They haven’t walked the walk, yet somehow they know, with dead certainty, that Buddha, Socrates, Plato, Jesus, Confucius, Zoroaster, Saint Paul, Rumi, Kabir, the Prophet Muhammad, Rabindranath Tagore, and countless others aren’t just wrong; they are stupid and blinkered compared to any everyday atheist today. [You know, that’s just plain lying. I know many quite ordinary theists — we don’t have to dig up the dusty corpses of Jesus or Mohammed to make this point — who are quite intelligent. But intelligence does not equate to infallibility, especially when you’re brought up in a culture that proselytizes for delusions from the day of your birth onwards.] I have my doubts. The atheists I’ve met went through a period of personal disillusion with religion, and on that basis alone they became atheists. [Not me. I became an atheist because I became aware of the power of science…then came the disillusionment when I discovered that religion promoted counterfactuals.] Could anything be more subjective for a crowd that decries subjectivity? [How odd. That we objectively evaluated the extravagant claims of religion (and quacks like Chopra) and found them wanting does not in any way that atheists made a subjective decision to disbelieve.] Could anything be more idiosyncratic for a group that claims to represent universal reason? [That we used reason and evidence to arrive at our conclusions would only appear idiosyncratic to a loon.]
As with any time I have to deal with that quack Deepak Chopra, now I have to go wash my hands. They feel slimy every time I write about him.