Hitchens incandescent, cont’d: the Hitchens-Blair debate (video)

Well worth a couple hours of your time:

Update: Re-watching bits and pieces of it, this particular section caught my attention, as I’ve been thinking about something a commenter recently said about the perceived deficiencies of materialism. Hitchens, a self-confessed materialist, has, I think, an apt reply (at around 1hr 24min):

[T]he sense that there’s something beyond the material, or if not beyond it, not entirely consistent materially with it, is, I think, a very important matter. What you could call the numinous or the transcendent, or at its best, I suppose, the ecstatic. I wouldn’t trust anyone in this hall who didn’t know what I was talking about. We know what we mean by it, when we think about certain kinds of music perhaps, certainly the relationship or the coincidence but sometimes very powerful between music and love. Landscape, certain kinds of artistic and creative work that appears not to have been done entirely by hand. Without this, we really would merely be primates. I think it’s very important to appreciate the finesse of that, and I think religion has done a very good job of enshrining it in music and in architecture, not so much in painting in my opinion. And I think it’s actually very important that we learn to distinguish the numinous in this way. I wrote a book about the Parthenon, I’ll mention it briefly. I couldn’t live without the Parthenon. I don’t believe any civilized person could. If it was to be destroyed, you’d feel something much worse than the destruction of the first temple had occurred, it seems to me. But—and we would have lost an enormous amount of besides by way of our knowledge of symmetry and grace and harmony. But I don’t care about the cult of Pallas Athena, it’s gone. And as far as I know it’s not to be missed. The Eleusinian mysteries have been demystified. The sacrifices, some of them human, that were made to those gods, are regrettable but have been blotted out and forgotten. And Athenian imperialism is also a thing of the past. What remains is the fantastic beauty and the faith that built it. The question is how to keep what is of value of this sort in art and in our own emotions and in our finer feelings the numinous, the transcendent, I will go as far as the ecstatic, and to distinguish it precisely from superstition and the supernatural which are designed to make us fearful and afraid and servile and which sometimes succeed only too well.

(via Young Freethought, which also has a fine analysis of the debate. The debate transcript here.)

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