What’s That in Your Eye, Phil?

Hitchens certainly was busy while he was in the UK. Multiple talks at the Hay Festival, Start the Week, and finally Night Waves. Did I miss any? Did he also fill in for Melvyn Bragg on ‘In Our Time’ and do the weather report on ‘Today’? Did he open Parliament and drive the number 85 bus? Did he announce the trains at Victoria and carry a sandwich-board up and down Oxford Street and sell tickets for the Eye? Was he, like, everywhere, or only almost everywhere?

Whatever, he was on Night Waves, and it’s quite – no, very – interesting. But there’s an irritating bit near the end where Philip Dodd tells Hitchens with much emphasis that he has one enormous blind spot: religion. But he doesn’t do much of a job of explaining why Hitchens’ attitude to religion is a ‘blind spot.’ Maybe he thinks it’s so obvious it doesn’t need saying – but it isn’t. It needs saying clearly and spelling out, because as I’ve mentioned a time or two, it’s not obvious, why religion should be treated with deference or piety or respect or any of the cant.

But it’s not a huge surprise that Philip Dodd thinks it should be. He’s the one who hosted that annoying Night Waves with the ‘postmodernist theologian’ Philip Blond as well as Julian Baggini, Norman Levitt and A S Byatt in April. He’s the one who said ‘Maybe it’s time to call science’s bluff…[to Blond] Do you think science is overly revered at present?’ and the one who let Blond do way more than his share of the talking – who in fact let him dominate the discussion, do most of the talking, interrupt the other participants, and generally carry on as if he had the upper hand and the platform and the right to run the show. Kind of a put-up job, I call it. Kind of a ‘the fix is in’ situation. So he would think Hitchens has a ‘blind spot’ about religion, but I don’t think the clarity of his vision is much to boast of.

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