Acerbic political analyst Christopher Hitchens and former British prime minister Tony Blair debated in Canada last week whether or not religion was a general force for moral good. By voting of students at the debate, among other things, Hitch won a smackdown victory.
But, Josh Rosenau decided to engage in a little monkey-wrenching, asking how Hitch could talk about religion killing so many people when the Iraq war he still supports has done the same!
My own take on whether this was a blow below the belt or not?
First, the more snarky take.
Ohhh, what a smackdown! But, surely, Hitch has sent millions of $$$ to his drunkenness-beloved Kurds, has he not?
As for Iraq and Hitch's knowledge, the man had been a correspondent/reporter in the Middle East for more than a decade, if not more than two, before the invasion. It was his ego that led him to portray himself as a special defender of the Kurds; it was his willful ignorance, or overlooking, of the existence of large Kurd populations in Iran and Turkey that blinded him to problems of writing Iraqi Kurds a blank check for independence; and it was his self-righteousness, IMO, that blinded him to the idea that the US government under George W. Bush was the entity to successfully pull this off.
Shorter anti-Hitchens rant? He made his bed, he now gets to sleep in it.
Shorter anti-Hitchens rant 2? If you sleep with dogs, you may catch fleas.
Now, the more serious take.
Can moral stances, or actions with moral consequences, be judged rationally?
Well, basically nothing of importance in terms of human actions is 100 percent rational, but many actions appear to be largely rational. Or, at least, could have been largely rational, given that the actors had a certain degree of consciousness and a certain amount of empirical and/or analytical knowledge.
Both Hitchens' support for the Iraq war and, say, the papacy's opposition to condoms in all cases (before Benedict XVI re-read Moroni's golden plates and decided that penile gloves could be worn in cases of prostitution) are instances of actions that fall under this sphere of judgment.
While deaths due to the Iraq war may not be as high as condom-preventable AIDS deaths in Africa (to use an example Hitch cited from his debate with Blair), the order of magnitude is similar enough for a charge of moral equivalence to be raised rationally against Hitch.