Is Coveting a Thought Crime?

For the most part, when commenting on national and international events, Chistopher Hitichins is a very bright guy – someone whom I actually agree with on many issues. But when he comments on religious issues, he becomes a complete blathering idiot and says wholly embarrassing things.

For example in one of his most recent interviews, Hitchens says this about the 10th commandment:

Coveting thy neighbor’s wife? “It’s terrible,” he said. “It’s a thought crime.”

Interstingly it’s a statement already being parroted by his atheist followers around the web. The commandant to which he is referring is of course this one in Exodus 20:17:

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

The reality Hitchens seems ignorant of, intentionally or otherwise, is that we all talk about the wrongness of attitudes and ideas, and try to discourage them. For example, one might tell a child, “It Is wrong to judge another person by the color of their skin”; in doing so, we are expressing the moral wrongness of racism. We do so because we know that having and cultivating such thoughts leads to wrong attitudes and actions – actions which have had profoundly tragic consequences in our history. Would Hitchens call such a directive the creation of a ‘thought crime’? Of course not.

In the same way, when we dwell on a desire for that which is our neighbors, his possessions or his relationships, it cultivates an attitude of greed, of bitterness, perhaps even a desire to take what our neighbor has – and this isn’t merely a thought crime, but that which fuels violence and hatred around the world. We become our attitudes – no wrong actions springs out of nowhere, but begins with a wrong idea or attitude we cultivate in our minds and hearts. Of course, these sorts of truths are the ones atheists seem to so easily miss, which is why Hitchens should stick to current events and avoid inane commentary on spiritual truths.

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