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1of11 Christopher Hitchen in the Sydney Opera House 2009

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Thank you very much guys--um--we have had a very moving welcome to country earlier from Glen and--er-- I'm now moved to say that we are going to move quickly from the sacred to the profane. I've been reading Christopher Hitchin's work for many years now--I almost said religiously, but I thought better of that-- In the past decade I've been lucky enough to interview him, on many occasions, by satellite link from remote studios in various parts of the United States, and because we tend to do that live. For him, from where he is sitting, it usually turns out to be some ungodly hour, but, excuse another pun-- as we know, Mr. Hitchins is a rather ungodly person. Now with Christopher Hitchins being the sort of fellow that he is with the healthy appetites that he has, and frankly that we expect of him, he has on occasion come off the worse of wear, during the interviews, There was one particularly memorable occasion when he spent much of the interview doing a very amusing live commentary on the technical expertise of the sound man and the camera crew. That's when I knew that one of his hidden talents was for John Cleese impersonations. Now there is I suspect a very special Hitchins archive somewhere out there in some corner of youtube so let me know if you find it, will you? Well I have to say "Cometh the hour, cometh the man". because no matter how little sleep he's had, no matter what his state of occasional dishevelment is, no matter how incompetent the studio crew, Christopher Hitchins' always risen to the occasion. He's a man who must be heard, and who should be heard, and I may be somewhat biased here but I regard him as among a handful of public intellectuals in the world who have the capacity to really lead new public discourse, and the courage and the inclination to adopt contrarian positions and to defend them with great passion and with great subtlety. Moreover Christopher Hitchins is never to my knowledge ducked a debate, although many of his opponents have ducked debates with him, and having seen him in action up close, I frankly don't blame them. I met Christopher for the first time in New York on Sept the 11th, 2002 It was our job to sit together for a few hours and talk in front of a large camera, on a wind-swept building across from that ghastly hole in the ground where the World Trade Center and its surrounding buildings had one year before been amputated from the New York skyline by the action of a small group of Islamic terrorists. Now when I was asked by the ABC to go to New York and do the first anniversary broadcast, I had only one condition, and that is: I'll do it, if we can persuade Christopher Hitchins to join us. The reason for that was simple. Christopher had thought more deeply and more profoundly about September 11 and its implications that anyone I'd read or heard talking about it at that time and his own battles with islamic extremism dated back to the fatwa against his friend the writer Salman Rushdie. As you can see, consistent streams of thought about God and religion flowing through the book that he's here to talk about tonight-- the ideas that he is talking about tonight. The book is "God is not great-- How religion poisons everything". If you haven't read it, I can tell you that Islam is not the only nor even the primary target, This is not his satanic verses--Christopher is an equal opportunity and multi-faith debunker. So, if you're a Christian, Roman Catholic, Orthodox or otherwise; if you're a Hindu. if you're a religious Jew, if you're a Muslim, Buddhist, agnostic or even just an occasional visitor to a Shinto shrine, you can expect to be offended, or at least have your views challenged in ways you perhaps didn't expect. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the podium, journalist, writer, life-long contrarian and militant atheist, Christopher Hitchens! Thank you, er, your reverence, for that suspiciously terse, grudging introduction. Thank you ladies and gentlemen very much for coming. Thank you for laying on an evening of ?? to remind me of my English boyhood, in other ways to make me feel at home as I always do whenever I visit Sydney, which is--er--the only place I've so far visited where if you're staying in the neighbourhood I am staying you go for your daytime or it might be your nightime constitutional walk, and you wonder exactly how to get back. You stop someone, and say "Excuse me"--you find yourself saying, "er--am I headed for the Rocks?" a question I find I ask myself many a time-- and on many a midnight stroll-- and only in Sydney do they say, "Yeah, and no worries!" Good place for dangerous ideas, a chitchat, in other words. A risk-taking kind of a spot-- Rocks? No worries! Um-- I'm sorry for that reason, to--or partly for that reason--to have missed your Darkness at Dawn moment um, the other day--um, because a lot of my training in the apocalyptic came from the study of Australian letters. When I was a boy I was very fond of the writing of Neville Shute-- "A Town Like Alice", I particularly love--"In the Wet", "No Highway"--remember "No Highway"? Perhaps I giving away my age a bit, but of course, um, most I think most memorably, "On the Beach-- where the last people on earth, wait, in Australia, to see what kind of death is going to be brought to them on the prevailing winds. There were lots of ways, I now realise, tons of ways, in which Neville Shute couldn't write, but he could write about the inevitable. About the possibility of extinction--in other words, that nature might not know we were here. Um, a great challenge to our self-esteem, to our solipcism--that there could be a point in evolution where evolution that hadn't noticed we'd arrived, wouldn't even notice if we'd gone either. And beautifully done-- as somebody would have seen by Stanley Kubrik on the screen where as where as the inevitable gets nearer all the time the church decides its time for a moment of uplift and out comes the Salvation Army girls with their tambourines and their tins and the churches to open their doors and there's a big banner, saying "Repent--there is still time, brother" it reads. ... what's coming. It doesn't know its doing it-- Last attempt to fill up those empty spaces in the church And at the close, the streets are empty. It's a dusty, howling wilderness. But the banner --"There is still time..", "There is still time..." banner

Video Details

Duration: 10 minutes and 36 seconds
Country: Australia
Language: English
Views: 201
Posted by: paulthetranscriber on Nov 30, 2009

Talk by Christopher Hitchens on "Why Religion Poisons Everything" in 2009 at the Sydney Opera House, compered by Tony Jones with a Q&A session.

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