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The Voices of Atheism: What Christopher Hitchens Had to Say About the Death of Jerry Falwell

christopher hitchens
Christopher Hitchens

This is the latest installment in The Voices of Atheism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. Know of a good video that espouses atheism/agnosticism or challenges the claims of the Abrahamic religions? Please email me the name of the video or a link to it. I believe this series will be an excellent addition to The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Here’s what Christopher Hitchens had to say in a Slate article about Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher Jerry Falwell the day after his death on May 15, 2007:

The discovery of the carcass of Jerry Falwell on the floor of an obscure office in Virginia has almost zero significance, except perhaps for two categories of the species labeled “credulous idiot.” The first such category consists of those who expected Falwell (and themselves) to be bodily raptured out of the biosphere and assumed into the heavens, leaving pilotless planes and driverless trucks and taxis to crash with their innocent victims as collateral damage. This group is so stupid and uncultured that it may perhaps be forgiven. It is so far “left behind” that almost its only pleasure is to gloat at the idea of others being abandoned in the same condition.

The second such category is of slightly more importance, because it consists of the editors, producers, publicists, and a host of other media riffraff who allowed Falwell to prove, almost every week, that there is no vileness that cannot be freely uttered by a man whose name is prefaced with the word Reverend. Try this: Call a TV station and tell them that you know the Antichrist is already on earth and is an adult Jewish male. See how far you get. Then try the same thing and add that you are the Rev. Jim-Bob Vermin. “Why, Reverend, come right on the show!” What a fool Don Imus was. If he had paid the paltry few bucks to make himself a certified clergyman, he could be jeering and sneering to the present hour.


Falwell went much further than his mad 1999 assertion about the Jewish Antichrist. In the time immediately following the assault by religious fascism on American civil society in September 2001, he used his regular indulgence on the airwaves to commit treason. Entirely exculpating the suicide-murderers, he asserted that their acts were a divine punishment of the United States. Again, I ask you to imagine how such a person would be treated if he were not supposedly a man of faith.


Like many fanatical preachers, Falwell was especially disgusting in exuding an almost sexless personality while railing from dawn to dusk about the sex lives of others. His obsession with homosexuality was on a par with his lip-smacking evocations of hellfire. From his wobbly base of opportunist fund raising and degree-mill money-spinning in Lynchburg, Va., he set out to puddle his sausage-sized fingers into the intimate arrangements of people who had done no harm. Men of this type, if they cannot persuade enough foolish people to part with their savings, usually end up raving on the street and waving placards about the coming day of judgment. But Falwell, improving on the other Chaucerian frauds from Oral Roberts to Jim Bakker to Ted Haggard, not only had a TV show of his own but was also regularly invited onto mainstream ones.


The evil that he did will live after him. This is not just because of the wickedness that he actually preached, but because of the hole that he made in the “wall of separation” that ought to divide religion from politics. In his dingy racist past, Falwell attacked those churchmen who mixed the two worlds of faith and politics and called for civil rights. Then he realized that two could play at this game and learned to play it himself. Then he won the Republican Party over to the idea of religious voters and faith-based fund raising. And now, by example at least, he has inspired emulation in many Democrats and liberals who would like to borrow the formula. His place on the cable shows will be amply filled by Al Sharpton: another person who can get away with anything under the rubric of Reverend. It’s a shame that there is no hell for Falwell to go to, and it’s extraordinary that not even such a scandalous career is enough to shake our dumb addiction to the “faith-based.

— Christopher Hitchens, Slate, Faith-Based Fraud:Jerry Falwell’s foul rantings prove you can get away with anything if you have “Reverend” in front of your name, May 16, 2007

Here’s a video of Hitchens explaining his view of Falwell to CNN host Anderson Cooper. Priceless. I mean priceless! 🙂

Video Link

HT: Wondering Eagle

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Series Navigation<< The Voices of Atheism: Ron Reagan: Not Afraid of Burning in HellThe Voices of Atheism: Sam Harris and the Immorality of the Christian God >>


  1. Avatar

    I appreciate the things Hitchens said. I’m just not thrilled that he was a supporter for the war in Iraq. However, I think I’ve finally figured out that there is no one who is perfect and doesn’t fall short in some way. Something about being human, I suppose. 😉

  2. Avatar
    Yulya. Sevelova

    I hadn’t thought of Hitchens in a while now. Wonder what he would make of Jr. In the doghouse for pantsless pics with a woman he didn’t marry. Maybe Hitchens thought the war would wipe out the sectarian who rule and ruin Iraq. I think now and again of Arab Spring in 2011 and what could have happened if us and world leaders helped the protesters at that time.

  3. Avatar
    Charles S. Oaxpatu

    As a Christian, I did not share Christopher’s atheist perspective. However, I did find him to be an interesting man with whom I could have been friends, and he would have been a wonderful hiking and camping companion. He could have no doubt told very interesting, fun, engaging, and entertaining stories around a late night campfire. I almost wholly agree with his assessment of the late Reverend Falwell. It is a shame he did not live long enough to offer some pithy comments on Jerry Falwell, Jr.—who seems to me to be the classic, rebel “preacher’s kid” just like that living piece of shit named Franklin Graham.

    I guess a typical fundie would admonish me to show great personal reverence for every person in this world who ever claimed to be a Christian—particularly preachers. But hey, it would be dishonest for me to do anything else but call them the way I honestly see them. And yes, I too am not the most pleasantly fragranced Christian flower who ever lived. No one is in this world. I wonder what Jesus would have said to Jerry Falwell, Jerry Falwell, Jr., and Franklin Graham. I bet he too would have enjoyed a hike and campfire sit with Christopher Hitchens. I bet he would have had more in common overall with Hitchens than with those three preachers.

    • Avatar
      Charles S. Oaxpatu

      P.S. Yes, In know Falwell, Jr. is not a preacher per se——and does not claim to be——but he nonetheless tries to feign being something like a preacher because of his relationship with that institution of lower-learning known as Liberty University. I one told a graduate Liberty University, a person with an M.A. degree in English from there, that I would never hire a student who graduated from that university with any kind of degree, and I meant it—not because of its religious affiliation—but because I do not trust educations that come out of places like that.

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