Everyone agrees that Mother Theresa was an irreproachable, wonderful human being.  Right?  Wrong, according to Christopher Hitchens. InThe Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, he argues she took money from disgraced banker Charles Keating, even writing a letter of support for him to the judge at his trial.  He claims she did not adequately take care of the sick at her hospital in Calcutta and baptized them while they were too weak to protest.

Everyone agrees that Mahatma Gandhi was a visionary who drove the British out of India by peaceful means.  Right? Wrong, according to Christopher Hitchens.  As far as I can make out, he thinks that Gandhi’s embrace of Hinduism drove out the Muslims and led to partition.

There are two common themes here.  First, a burning desire to contradict the conventional wisdom.  Second, a dislike of religion and a denial that it might might ever lead to decent behavior.  The first impulse and presumably the 9/11 attacks led him to side with Cheney et al. in the waterboarding debate.  But Hitchens, unlike Sean Hannity thus far, put his views on the line by allowing himself to be subjected to waterboarding.  This experience (a disturbing video is available) led him to reject waterboarding and to change his mind.   Obama recently quoted Churchill in a speech about torture and Hitchens expands on Obama’s comments in a recent Slate article.  He quotes a certain Captain Robin Stephens who dealt with Nazi spies::

“Violence is taboo, for not only does it produce answers to please, but it lowers the standard of information…There is no room for a percentage assessment of reliability. If information is correct, it is accepted and recorded; if it is doubtful, it should be rejected in toto.”

Glad the Captain is on board with my earlier post.  And Hitchens, while a difficult man to agree with on all topics, has some new information to throw into the debate (he recommends a book from which he got this quote for instance) and is always interesting to read.  And he can change his mind as he receives new data, a refreshing phenomenon.