Excerpts:

Christopher Hitchens: I absolutely do not believe any of the figures that say 85% of Americans are religious. It certainly isn’t 85, suppose it to be 70, within that figure is concealed a gigantic well of doubt and disagreement of uncertainty. Since I go almost every week to the various religious institutions and congregations, mainly of Christians but often of Liberal Jews, in particular. It’s impossible to quantify, but you never meet someone that comes up to you and says, “Yes, I firmly believe that having attested to the real presence of Christ in Mass, I have access to a future state that is denied to you.” You never get it that. In fact, if you can’t win 10 bucks by asking a Catholic if they know the difference between the Virgin birth and The Immaculate Conception, you aren’t trying.

[Laughter]

They very seldom know even their own theology.

I never cease to be astounded by people in the Americas say, “Oh well, I used to be a Baptist but then I became a…” Do they know what they’re saying? People used to lay their lives on this difference. What could be more secular then?

Often I find liberal Christianity the most suspicious. The people who organized the march on Washington, completely forgotten now, no school child knows the name of Philip Randolph one of the great African Americans or Baynard Rustin. Forgotten them totally because it’s a complete article believed among White Americans that Black Americans love them some pulpits. Give them a preacher that’s what they want. And any preacher that can coin a phrase is immediately baptized by the liberal press as the next Martin Luther King. And a very crude line of descent, from Jesse Jackson who is half, half genuine to abject frauds like Al Sharpton and Mr. Obama’s recent Chaplain in Chicago – demigods, big mouths, time-wasters, money-suckers, which I think has been a terrible disgrace to the history of American forbearance. If African-Americans had stayed with Philip Randolph and Baynard Rustin they would’ve done much better for themselves and for us. I think the most trite thing of all is liberation theology, I think liberation from theology is what people need.

What’s most trite to me the most about liberal Christianity is that they are absolutely solid when you ask them to criticize Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell or Oral Roberts. They can fight light tigers. They’re completely silent on the fight against really major, aggressive cruel on the side of bureaucracy for Islam, they won’t take it on.

Tom Krattenmaker: I think you have your finger on something, but I think you might overstate it a bit.

Hitchens: No.

[Laughter]

Marcus Borg: I mean this is what he does, Tom.

Krattenmaker: Silly me.

Hitchens: I don’t think I exaggerate by much to be honest with you, in fact. There’s a terrible capitulation to relativism at this point by liberal Christians. They don’t want to fight Jihad.

Krattenmaker: I’m probably a little but guilty of that myself. My editor at USA Today sometimes has chided me, ‘Why are you so afraid to say anything critical of Muslims?’

Leslie Zukor: Are you?

Krattenmaker: In my column you will say I plainly condemn any act of violence including and I’ve pinned it to Islam when it indeed has been the case. But I think there is a political correctness that’s a problem, but I do know of many liberal Christians who do condemn any act of violence and misdeed done in the name of religion, whatever the religion is.

Hitchens: There’s nothing to the condemnation, they really are ambiguous they’re making it to anyone who fights against it.

Krattenmaker: They won’t criticize Islam they will claim that the people acting are out of sync with Islam and that they’re misappropriating Islam for something that’s political or cultural. And I’m guilty of that myself, I tend to let religion off the hook.

Borg: I mean yes and no. You don’t completely let religion off the hook. I mean I’m with you on this. There is such a bias against Islam in American culture, including within at least 50% of American Christians, maybe more, who think Christianity is the only way of salvation.

Hitchens: That’s what we have in common.

Borg: Exactly. And so I think there’s good reason not to indict Islam in some blanket kind of way.

Kambiz GhaneaBassiri: Some of it is just good judgment. A lot of people don’t really understand Islam. Take the Iranian Revolution. When it happened it was a Fundamentalist revolution, because look at anyone writing about the Iranian Revolution right now, they rightfully explain it not as a fundamentalist revolution but as a product of liberation theology. Khomeini’s idea of Fundamentalists was radically different from Shia theology that existed.

One of the things that’s happened since 911 is that public discourse about Islam has improved tremendously. But I guess I wouldn’t see it as the letting it off the hook, it’s not what it seems to be some of it seems to be right in some ways.