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Church Going

Christopher Hitchens and Al Sharpton A Debate God is Not Great The poem is one recommended by Christopher Hitchens in the Q&A

Philip Larkin

Once I am sure there's nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door thud shut.
Another church: matting, seats, and stone,
And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut
For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff
Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off
My cycle-clips in awkward reverence,
Move forward, run my hand around the font.
From where I stand, the roof looks almost new-
Cleaned or restored? Someone would know: I don't.
Mounting the lectern, I peruse a few
Hectoring large-scale verses, and pronounce
"Here endeth" much more loudly than I'd meant.
The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door
I sign the book, donate an Irish sixpence,
Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.

Yet stop I did: in fact I often do,
And always end much at a loss like this,
Wondering what to look for; wondering, too,
When churches fall completely out of use
What we shall turn them into, if we shall keep
A few cathedrals chronically on show,
Their parchment, plate, and pyx in locked cases,
And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.
Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?

Or, after dark, will dubious women come
To make their children touch a particular stone;
Pick simples for a cancer; or on some
Advised night see walking a dead one?
Power of some sort or other will go on
In games, in riddles, seemingly at random;
But superstition, like belief, must die,
And what remains when disbelief has gone?
Grass, weedy pavement, brambles, buttress, sky,

A shape less recognizable each week,
A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
Will be the last, the very last, to seek
This place for what it was; one of the crew
That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique,
Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff
Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?
Or will he be my representative,

Bored, uninformed, knowing the ghostly silt
Dispersed, yet tending to this cross of ground
Through suburb scrub because it held unspilt
So long and equably what since is found
Only in separation ?marriage, and birth,
And death, and thoughts of these ?for whom was built
This special shell? For, though I've no idea
What this accoutred frowsty barn is worth,
It pleases me to stand in silence here;

A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognised, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round




The thing I notice about this 'blog' is it's not so much a blog as it is just regurgitatating stuff you find elsewhere.

While the easy access to daily show clips is quite conveniant I seriously hope you don't consider yourself anything close to creative/original/a real journalist.

What a nasty, utterly unnecessary thing to say.

I for one, quite appreciate what takes to compile this blog. For me, Onegoodmove is an excellent source of info since the topics posted tend to be in line with my own personal interests. I can visit this site rather than spending lots of time each day seeking out all this content on my own. Thanks Norm.

If you don't like the site then don't visit it. I like the format Norm uses, his approach of not pushing his opinion on his visitors and letting the visitor interpret the content and discuss it instead of verbosely pontificating appeals to me.

It makes you wonder how befret of direction their lives must be that come here to say nay to that with which they disagree. To answer the question, no I don't consider myself a journalist, but rather a compiler of interesting links. I didn't know it was a requirement that one be a journalist to have a blog.

Finally, if you don't like it cancel your subscription. Do you need instructions?


Norm's Worm's-eye view of things is appreciated by some of us who believe intellectual "property" is to be used to amuse. Not to be locked away.

What composer has composed entirely with tones of his own devising*. Where is the artist who has painted with never seen colors (in-betweens on the spectrum don't count)? Where is the Ouroboros-snake that is only nourished by himself alone? Are all blogs to be blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah blogs? Besides, Norm pukes out his own opinions whenever he is so-inclined.

*Partch-ed in the desert wilderness?

This poem demonstrates a more evenhanded critique of religion than Hitchens'. For while Larkin's narrator is clearly ambivalent about the claims of the church, he also writes "Yet stop I did: in fact I often do". Furthermore, the poet affirms the value of "seriousness" - and though compulsions are perhaps misrobed as destinies, they are aspects of being that are not doomed to obsolescence (in Larkin's eyes at least).

The realities of death and mortality and our relation to them are eternal concerns for humanity: religion can (though rarely does) offer a "serious" ground for the creativity that these human facts demand.

This is my reading of the poem, obviously not the only one, and Sheliphone is an idiot.

This poem demonstrates a more evenhanded critique of religion than Hitchens'. For while Larkin's narrator is clearly ambivalent about the claims of the church, he also writes "Yet stop I did: in fact I often do". Furthermore, the poet affirms the value of "seriousness" - and though compulsions are perhaps misrobed as destinies, they are aspects of being that are not doomed to obsolescence (in Larkin's eyes at least).

The realities of death and mortality and our relation to them are eternal concerns for humanity: religion can (though rarely does) offer a "serious" ground for the creativity that these human facts demand.

This is my reading of the poem, obviously not the only one, Sheliphone is an idiot, and nice Harry ref, one evil axis.


I love that poem - he's so apathetic to religion, which makes it so easy to see it from a neutral point of view. This poem was actually a fairly major step between my Christianity and my atheism.

It makes me wonder if neutrality is a better stance from which to approach Christians with regard to education than atheism.

This is typical of the jesus freaks, "This poem demonstrates a more evenhanded critique of religion than Hitchens'"

What is an "evenhanded" critique of an ignorant moronic superstition? Let's be "evenhanded" with the flat-earthers. Finally, there is no difference between someone who believes in Jesus and someone who believes the earth is flat.

Stupid is stupid. Xianity is stupid. What is even more stupid is for Americans of African descent like "Reverend" Al Sharpton to believe in the xian superstition.

Xianity is the belief system of the slave traders and the slave owners. Why would the victims adopt such pure BS?

No African-American should be a xian. What is it, some sort of Stockholm Syndrome?

As Sharpton is apparently not stupid, you can only assume that he is in it for the money.

I don't know if Sheliphone is a lurker (they certainly seemed pretty quick off the mark with their first comment).

In an effort to balance that nonconstructive comment with a positive one, I thought I should pop in as a fellow lurker, but one that loves this Blog.

I run a couple of small online properties and am involved in print publishing to a small degree. I know exactly how much work goes into producing regular content.

Thank you Norm - I really appreciate what you do here, especially as we only get the weekly digest of the Daily Show here in NZ.

I'm sure you don't need a pep-talk from the other side of the world to know you're doing good :)

Hey Bernarda:

No Jesus Freak here. I'm actually not religious. I just wouldn't characterize all religious traditions as "ignorant moronic superstitions".

Why is it that all one has to do to be labeled a "Jesus Freak" is suggest that religion is not responsible solely for evil and stupidity? And why is monetary gain the only explanation you would consider for Sharpton's faith, and not some more personal reason - say the influence of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?

christian propaganda is powerful. The American Indians used to have their own myths, but the European colonialists managed to convince many Native Americans that their myths were wrong and the European myths based upon the Bible were the truth, the light and the way, blah blah blah..

No American Indian should be a Christian either, considering that it is the damned xians who told these native peoples that their customs were evil, and considering that it was the damned xians who killed most of the native peoples to the extent that they are just some forgotten and despised minority these days, used as only as mascots and despised because they don't want to be just a mascot used for the use of some xian conservative frat boys and girls.

I just finished listening to the debate; most of it unfortunately consisted of them arguing past one another: Sharpton's recurring point was ludicrous (in essence "because you called the book 'God is Not Great' therefore the only thing we can argue about is God, and not religion or religious books, or even a specific God", even though Hitchens talks about all of that inside that blazing yellow cover); Hitchens did well enough, but he could have really slammed the "where did morality come from if not from God?" question out of the park. Dawkins certainly would have, pointing to the evolutionary benefits morality, as well as proto-morality exhibited among primates. Hitchens throughout the entire debate seemed more intent on dazzling the audience with his knowledge of long-dead literary figures and texts than on making a compelling point.

I would have also liked Hitchens to push Sharpton on the point that statistically it's incredibly unlikely that assuming there is a god, s/he's the one Al is worshiping. What about the innumerable other gods that have competing, if not contradictory, claims as to how to live one's life?

Lastly, I think Sharpton's argument that his faith in a God stems exclusively from personal experience should have been attacked more forcefully than simply "in that case, then keep it to yourself." The human mind is a very easily-tricked organ, be it from too much ice cream eaten right before bed, or a tablet of LSD. To come to such a profound conclusion based on little more than a personal "feeling" is irresponsible.

But then again, let's be honest. I'd wager a better explanation for Sharpton's faith is the fact that his father was a Reverend, and he had toured with gospel singers as a child. "God" is a result of humans, Al, not the other way around.

have we forgotten and forgiven Hitchens' delusional support for all things Bushy circa 2003 Norm? Personally, I don't think I'm ready yet, but it's your blog and your progative how to embrace that embattled dickweed.

Am I the only one who thinks Hitchens is a whore to any topic of signigicance that is being discussed on the world stage? I just cannot put up with this FOX-trotting ass anymore who sold his soul long time ago.

Of course this blog shows content found elsewhere on the web - and it does so in a way that is consistently interesting and thought provoking. I do hope, Sheliphone, that you don't consider yourself to be intelligent/insightful/worth anyone's time.

I just wanted to voice appreciation for the Blog. Poo Poo on the naysayers...

I love this blog ... and agree entirely with the post that defended it in terms of intellectual property.

Also, Larkin is one of my favorite poets. So huzzah for that.

have we forgotten and forgiven Hitchens' delusional support for all things Bushy circa 2003 Norm?

Have we forgotten, no, have we forgiven him, I don't know what that means in this context. Do I still disagree with him on Iraq, certainly. I don't understand this single issue mentality. A good argument is a good argument regardless of the source.

That was very well put Norm, although I am going to disagree with everything you say because you smoked pot back in high school.

This is an excellent blog. I don't agree with everything Norm posts, but I don't have to, since I'm a rational person, capable of judging a opinion based on its own merit, rather than on a prejudice against the person who expressed it.

Speaking of which, why the hell is Christopher Hitchen's stance on Iraq getting dragged into every single goddamn thread on religion? It is so eerily, and sickly similar to the conservative mantra of "...but, but, but -- Bill Clinton got a blowjob!"

That was very well put Norm, although I am going to disagree with everything you say because you smoked pot back in high school.

The hell I did, I waited until at was at the University of Utah. I gave it up after a poker game where the only way we knew who was dealing was to look and see who had the cards in his hand, and then count the cards to see where exactly he quit dealing. The rules were constantly reviewed, who was to deal next. Well you get the idea. It ended only when everyone wandered off.

I really can't stand Hitchens anymore. And, I think he wrote this book just so he can be associated with the "fiscal Republicans" (you know - the William F. Buckley type) and not the Dobsons whose @sses they've been kissing in order to lower taxes.

Ha - and he despises Democrats.

I like to think that what sets most liberals apart from the majority of conservatives is their ability to acknowledge that there is more than one side to every argument. Conservatives tend to only reply with yes or no answers to complex issues. On the other hand, liberals tend to be intelligent and thoughtful enough to realize that the answers are not always that simple. Unfortunately, this can be perceived as "flip-floppy" like we saw with John Kerry's miserable presidential bid. Nonetheless, when someone like Christopher Hitchens says something intelligent and worthwhile, we should acknowledge and praise those words, the same as we do for all good ideas. I disagree with Hitchens on a lot of issues. I also disagree with Bill Maher from time to time. That doesn't mean that I can't 100% support either one of their viewpoints on other topics of discussion. The world we live in is not binary. No one is going to be correct 100% of the time (aside from the almighty "god appointed" George W. Bush, of course).


I have heard a number of Al Sharpton sermons and even political speeches in which he quotes from the bible with alarming regularity. Using those quotes to lend godly credence to his point of view. Yet in this debate he made a huge pretense, (and pretense is the correct word for it) of just knowing there is a god and his personal beliefs, which he made a career of popularizing have nothing to do with the book or the history of his Christian beliefs.

So the real Al Sharpton didn't show up, instead he brought the version he thought would best survive a public debate with Hitchens. Yet an other demonstration of the unchanging 'truth' and power of god.

Sharpton sounded like a real politician though, disassociating from the bible, which he usually loves to quote, presenting a false version of himself, and repeated attempts to belittle his opponents' views with remarks about his penis and personal life.

I found Sharpton to be cowardly and disingenuous, in the extreme.

The first time I heard of Hitchens was his speech in Canada that was posted here, on the free speech issue. So I don't understand the animosity held for him before now. I do appreciate him speaking about such things as religions distaste for the birth-canal, and genetalia, and he brings a different viewpoint to why religion is bad from the normal richard dawkins "it just isn't logical".

I only read Norm's blog because it isn't 1000 words followed by a link. (or links scattered every 3 words). I don't need to hear Norm wax extatic on the link he found, the fact that he's posting it explains it enough, and the links he posts are some of the best.


This thing about norms' blog is silly. There aren't any rules that say you are supposed to be a writer interested creating every bit of yur own content. That's just dumb.

Norm has a very interesting editorial style, which IS the personal content of the blog and is what attracts so many readers. That and the fact that we get to squabble with each other. That's a big plus.:)

I used to keep a blog and was quite proud of having created my own content. But I'm an opinionated writer. When I was doing the political and sceptical articles, I went to Norm for ideas and info assistance on more than one occasion. Norm and his bog are a resource to the community, literally donated by Norm. From his mind, his editorial savy, is keen eye for CLUES in the media.

So the criticism regarding content is trite and frankly meaningless.

What the original poster is saying is simply "I don't like your style. You should do it the way I like."

Like norm said, cancel yer bleedin' subscription but don't forget to fill the perscription.

sheliphone: Why so mean? State your grievances so that they can be addressed.

I would like to respond to the critique of OGM, want to pile with the rest, but I will post to the daily links. This page is for responses to the poem.


It is also about the debate with Hitchens and Sharpton.

I read the comments after mine and gotta say - I HAVE been reading and listening to Hitchens for a long time - he was my favorite writer in Vanity Fair in the 90's which doesn't mean I always agreed with him - nor would I expect to. But, I listened to this very smart man argue for the war in Iraq in the most know-it-all, dismissive manner. There were so many flags - we were going to war because of WMD (as one of the neo-cons said, because that was the reason they thought could get the most traction) yet we were ignoring the UN weapons inspectors who said, if you know where the weapons are (which we said we did) please tell us so we can narrow down our search but we weren't interested in waiting, and we squandered the worldwide good will we had gained from 9/11 by dealing with the UN and other countries in the most arrogant manner possible (any CEO I've worked with would've been fired for behaving in a way so unprofitable to attaining the goal) - so many things were scary. But Hitchens KNEW it was the right thing to do because he knew people there and he dismissed any concerns against it derisively. He continues to this day to never carry on a truthful debate on reasons the Democrats he so despises could be against it, he can never admit he made an error in judgment --- and, he is too smart not to be aware of the scandals and lies out there. I believe the most important thing to him is that he doesn't want to be wrong.

Well, you listen to enough of his arguments where you're yelling at the computer but --- what about this or that? You listen to enough of his side-stepping, unwarranted insults and other useless rhetoric and, even as a liberal with a very open mind, you kind of lose interest. It's too bad because I think he has one of the most melodious voices out there.

But I do love Philip Larkin.

And Norm's blog is great - through his many links, I've found so many things I probably never would've stumbled into otherwise - things you just don't see up on the other blogs I frequent.


Gravitas, grave, facing death is something the Prometheus erectus fire-lovers did so well, also they probably were the first in history to light up. However you personally feel about baking or smoking the infamous weed, there is no doubt that the war on drugs is one of the pillars in the neo-feudal hyperfascism in IO easy steps of our Dear Leaders, along with the War on Napster and the War on Certain-forms-of-beyond-the-pale-pornography. The RICO statutes are used to make even thinking about legalizing anything, seeing, hearing any "evil," a CONSPIRACY, if the authorities deem it necessary to act, you are a non-person, a tiny step above the wost-of-the-worst, deserving of whatever they decide to do about you.

Pot according to not a few helped usher in the renascence, the antipopes in Avignon were amusing themselves and their court with plethora of smoking (fumeaux) songs a hundred years before Columbus discovered the Tobaccoful New World. What do you think were they smoking?

It's time we declared war on the war on drugs. It is, should be, a medical, psychological health matter, not an excuse for more fascism.

And it's time we forgive Norm for his many sins, sins of ommision, commission, and, undoubtedly, emission. God knows, Jesus never will (He's History).

"This special shell? For, though I've no idea What this accoutred frowsty barn"

"randy for antique, Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff"


OK, how about:

"The image morning gave Of more and ever more, As some vast seven-piled wave, Mane-flinging, manifold, Streams at an endless shore."

              P.L., The Dancer.


OK?, beats a pair of ragged clues scuttling across an asphalt parking lot in Salt Lake suburbs or whatever.

It is such an honor to be Norm-al again. Onegoodmove is run by possibly the humanest humanist "in secula seculorum". Or as I would have had it before "in webula webulorum" says the spider to the.... That I thought you were a bot seems like a paranoid now delusion, ludicrous by definition.


Oh, well. How 'bout a backward glance/mask?:

Shel(i)phone, no flesh.



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