God Is [not] Great

This started out as a book review, but morphed into a full-scale rebuttal, not of every false claim by Hitchens (because he is somewhat repetitious), but certainly of a lot of them. Hitchens has 19 chapters:

Hitchens chapter: 1  2 3  4 5  6 7 8 9  10 11  12 13 14 15  16 17  18 19 My conclusion

P.97  Chapter seven is about Hitchens' personal dislike for the Old Testament. Because he comes at it with an a priori disbelief in God, he cannot imagine how something like this came to be, except by priests attempting to maintain their faltering hold on ignorant masses through invented fables. That's certainly what Hitchens is trying to do, maintain his faltering hold on ignorant masses (the atheists) through invented fables (this book). If there is a God Who knows what is going on at all times, then His choice of prophet to express God's will to the people is certainly not "random" as Hitchens claims. But if Hitchens only wanted to denigrate what might be found to be true and reliable, were he to give it the fair hearing he did not, then ridicule and condescending deprecation is as good as any other form of fable.

Part of that condescension consists in equating all religious texts, then finding contradictions between them, throw the whole lot of them out as false. That would be like my finding contradictions between Hitchens and Dawkins (which would not be hard) and using that as "proof" that all atheists are therefore wrong. It would be a true conclusion, in my opinion, but not for that reason. To show them all "wrong" I must show that each one differs from reality, as I do here with Hitchens independently of how he differs with Dawkins.

P.98  Whether the three "major" monotheistic faiths all consider the handing out of the Decalog to Moses on Sinai to be their "foundation story" I'm inclined to doubt, but I agree that looking at it is probably instructive -- provided you don't mess with the facts. Hitchens tells us "they do not appear as a neat list of ten orders and prohibitions," but he also does not tell us what they really are. I counted 13 "thou shalt"s in the list; elsewhere Moses says there are ten, so various people package them up differently. But Hitchens says nothing of this discrepancy, but mostly whines about the fact that God wants to be recognized as God -- which in fact He is. That's not unreasonable, except maybe to an atheist with his head in the sand.

P.99  I'm not sure what exactly is Hitchens' problem with "the sins of the fathers will be visited on their children even to the third and fourth generation." It is the nature of sin that innocent peoople get hurt, and this says that the effects can last for up to four generations. Some sins have bad effects that last much longer than  that, but atheism fortunately does not appear to be one of them. The (now former) atheistic Soviet Union imploded after three generations (about 70 years), and Cuba and China appear to be headed in the same direction. Most other atheist nations are much younger, and have not yet reached the point of self-destruction.

After dismissing the Sabbath law because it resembles what "a Babylonian or Assyrian emperor might have ordered" -- even more it resembles the contracts their precursor monarch, hundreds of years earlier, set up with their vassals (which helps to establish an early date for the Mosaic documents) -- Hitchens complains "it is surely insulting to the people of Moses to imagine that they had come this far under the impression that murder, adultery, theft, and perjury were permissible." Considering that most atheists and not a few religionists in the world today, more than 3000 years later, do actually think those kinds of things are permissible (except of course when it's happening to themselves), it seems to me very reasonable to say otherwise.

P.100  Hitchens seems to be having trouble reading through the dark glasses he puts on when looking at the Bible, such as "the pitiless teachings of the god of Moses, who never mentions human solidarity and compassion at all." Particularly in the context of Jesus' story of the Good Samaritan, which was explicitly an explanation of the Law of Moses in Leviticus 19, notably the Golden Rule in verse 18 "love your neighbor as yourself," but also verse 10, "Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien." If Hitchens thinks concern for foreigners and the poor is not "human solidarity and compassion," then perhaps he doesn't know what is.

"No society ever discovered has failed to protect itself from self-evident crimes like those supposedly stipulated at Mount Sinai." He's wearing his dark glasses again, because the USA, citizenship into which Hitchens chose to be naturalized, has failed and continues to fail to protect itself from murdering its unborn children, has no enforced laws at all against adultery, and winks at lies in public. President Clinton was let off the hook for actual perjury in court.

The final Commandment(s, depending on who's counting) against envy Hitchens considers misguided, "because the spirit of envy can lead to emulation and ambition and have positive consequences" -- which are unlikely to come up to the level of damage done when those envious thoughts turn into murder, adultery, and theft, as is far more likely. As Jesus later pointed out, your actions display your inner thoughts. "If god really wanted people to be free of such thoughts, he should have taken more care to invent a different species." In a sense God did. That's what the Atonement is all about. But God does not want robots, they are no fun. So you (and Hitchens and I and everybody else) get to choose whether we want to be Good People (with good thoughts and matching good actions) or not. Hitchens evidently chose not.

Hitchens objects to the fact that he sees nothing there in Moses against "slavery" without bothering to notice that this is not the kind of involuntary servitude that Muslims in Africa foisted off onto the Americas several hundred years ago (and is still practiced some places in Africa and Asia today), but a reasonable and equitable way for a person with financial  difficulties to pay off his creditors, and then go free (unless he chooses otherwise).

P.102  To discredit the historical accounts in the Torah, Hitchens turns to a fellow (in practice, if not in name) atheist and archeologist of the new but increasingly discredited "Biblical minimalist" school. Finkelstein is not as radical as the so-called "Copenhagen school" but he shares many of their prejudices against the Bible. Hitchens says "their conclusion is final," but it's not. For hundreds of years skeptics have announced the demise of Biblical authority based on this or that finding, only to quietly slither away a couple decades later when the Biblical account is upheld by better science, and some new criticism comes along in its place. No Biblical text has ever failed to outlive its critics. They cannot line their dates up with the Biblical accounts, but the archeological finds in Israel do match the Biblical accounts, including the various reported destructions. When you look at how they do their dating (pottery styles), it's no wonder they don't line up; some day those goofy methods will likely be replaced by something far more reliable and -- surprise! -- better matching the Bible.

So the Egyptian records don't mention the Exodus, so what? You can't really expect them to document the utter devastation of their economy and military by a bunch of foreigner slaves who got away with it. Especially considering they have no 2000 years of Christian history requiring the truth in their records. Well, there is one document, but opinions differ concerning the references in the "Admonitions of Ipuwer". Needless to say, Hitchens does not mention it. Most of Hitchens' complaints in this chapter are old ones and groundless. If these were legitimate concerns holding a seeker from embracing Christianity, I could go through them and show how they could be true and valid within what we presently know about that time. But they are just random objections that have been around for decades and answered longer than that.

P.107  "People attain impossible ages..." Impossible in modern times, because we do not understand how exactly the global Flood affected lifespans. The evidence for the Flood is there. "The ground is forever soaked with the blood of the innocent." Nobody is innocent, especially not the Canaanites. Their ground was already soaked with the blood of their child-sacrifices to Ba'al the god of commerce, just as it is again today in modern USA. Hitchens apparently did not approve of the child-sacrifice that is enshrined today into the law of our land and in the political platform of the party currently in power as I write this, but there it is, and it's evil.

"Moreover, the context is oppressively confined and local. None of these provincials, or their deity, seems to have any idea of a world beyond the desert, the flocks and the herds, and the imperatives of nomadic subsistence." Hitchens is not reading the same Bible I read. There is a whole chapter devoted to the heads of all the other nations of the world, nations far from the desert dunes of the Sinai peninsula. Most of the Old Testament is not about nomads at all, but people living in cities, and fighting off (or failing to fight off, and being conquered by) armies from hundreds of miles away. Of course they don't mention the Americas or Europe, but the accounts go as far east as Iran (Persia) and south to Ethiopia and north to Greece and west to Spain. What more could you want?

P.109  Hitchens tries to make out in the eighth chapter that "The 'New' Testament Exceeds the Evil of the 'Old' One." One cannot help but notice throughout this book, the subtle put-downs of people with a different faith than his own. That's not unique with Hitchens or the atheists (Christians and Muslims do it too), but it is disingenuous. The New Testament is indeed newer than the old one, and quotes are not needed to suggest that they were all composed at once or very recently, because those suppositions are both false. Even Hitchens would have to admit that the Old Testament is at least 2000 years old (the Dead Sea scrolls include whole books dating before Christ), and older than the New Testament, which its harshest critics date before 500AD (ignoring the fact that we have fragments of copies made less than 100 years after the events). Consistently refusing to capitalize "God" as if He were not a person like Jesus (which he does capitalize), but also not using any article or possessive (such as "their god" or "a god") is part of that disrespect. You can't really blame him, he has so little of substance to fill his book, it would be a tiny pamphlet if he only reported the facts honestly and respectfully. But as I said earlier, the purpose of the book is to confirm the faith of the faithful (atheists), not to make converts of the people he insults.

P.110  As an example of this kind of mendacity, we see Hitchens quoting a fellow atheist, the late Henry Louis Mencken who, with no formal education beyond high school (plus one correspondence course on writing), presumed to assert "that the New Testament... is a helter-skelter accumulation of more or less discordant documents, ...and that most of them... show unmistakable signs of having tampered with." Hitchens himself knew that there is no evidence of tampering, but he doesn't need to risk his own reputation when he quotes a long dead writer of some reknown, of whom few know his lack of qualification to offer such an opinion.

You know your debate opponent has exhausted his store of facts when he resorts to ad hominem attacks on his opponents, as Hitchens does to actor and producer Mel Gibson. Hitchens obviously had not seen The Passion of Christ, but relied instead on pre-release criticisms from other people who also had not seen it, to claim it is anti-Semitic. The film is less anti-Semitic than Hitchens himself is in this book. I saw the movie at least twice, and it mostly lays the blame for the death of Jesus on the Romans. But what does Hitchens care? He wants Jesus dead anyway. Charging anti-Semitism is a convenient way to dishonor somebody you don't like (in this case, a man of dubious faith), whether the charge is true or not. Mel Gibson did Christians a favor in producing this near-authentic film, and that rankled Hitchens -- probably especially because the guy made money on it, despite the (somewhat atheistic) industry predictions to the contrary.

P.111  "Mr. Gibson defended his filmic farrago as being based on the reports of 'eyewitnesses.' At the time, I thought it extraordinary that a multimillion-dollar hit could be openly based on such a patently fraudulent claim, but nobody seemed to turn a hair." That might be because it is true, not fraudulent, and a large majority of the American people (Hitchens obviously excepted) know that. He goes on, "Even Jewish authorities were largely silent," probably because they had seen the film that Hitchens obviously did not. I can't blame the guy, I wouldn't waste three hours watching a movie in a foreign language when I knew that the whole basis for it is (in my opinion) is "wrong." But I wouldn't repeat false criticisms of what I had not seen, without at least saying so. As a journalist, Hitchens should have known that is unethical.

Hitchens' biggest complaint against the New Testament is patently false. Of the gospels he says, "none of their multiple authors published anything until many decades after the Crucifixion." The documentary hypothesis he alludes to has been discredited in all scholarly circles except among the atheists, who of course have their own agenda. Luke cites government officials by their proper titles, which vary from region to region, and over time; a late author would not have had access to the correct information.

P.112  Take the Jesus birth account, which Luke carefully places during a census imposed by Caesar Augustus "when Quirinius was ruling over Syria." Some skeptics have mistaken the genetive absolute Greek participle 'hegemoneuontos' ("ruling") for the Latin title "Legate" (delegate or governor) but it's not a noun here and it's not spelled the same. The noun form 'hegemon' is used elsewhere in the gospels of Pilate and other governors. Unfortunately I don't have access to the proper documents to verify the correct Greek translation of the Latin title, but it appears that Quirinius was a high Roman official sent to the province for the census because the Jews were a troublesome lot and Quirinius knew how to handle problems, but he did not completely displace the appointed governor at that time. The Evangelists gave enough information so that their contemporaries would know when and how things happened, but did not give the kind of detail that modern historians are familiar with. This results in gaps sometimes filled by other Evangelists, giving the impression of contradiction when they are actually describing independent events.

It's like observing that Hitchens admits in this book to being born in England, while other documents describe him as an American. This proves that the descriptions are all contradictory, and therefore we can safely conclude that there never was a historical Christopher Hitchens, and that all these documents were fabricated by reverent atheists "decades after he died." The fact is -- and I had to hunt around to find it, because his Wiki page did not say so when I looked -- Hitchens was naturalized as an American citizen less than a decade before he died. There is no "first-century Google" to find such facts as got left out of this Roman document or that Gospel, so as to reconcile the various accounts to the larger story. The alleged contradictions which Hitches mindlessly repeats from centuries of atheist nay-sayers before him, are almost all of this nature, where there is a plausible larger story consistent with all the narratives.

P.115  Hitchens is eager to remind us that the Hebrew "word translated as 'virgin,' namely almah, means only 'young woman.'" but neglects to point out that the Jewish scholars who translated their own Hebrew Scriptures into Greek two centuries before Christ chose to use the Greek word 'parthenos' which unmistakeably means only "virgin." Those Jews probably knew better what the word meant than modern atheists do. Matthew reasonably used their translation in quoting the Hebrew text.

P.116  If Hitchens were as familiar with the Bible as he seems to be with its critics, he would probably also know that Jesus mostly did not do magic tricks to impress his followers, and certainly refused to do them to impress his opponents. The Resurrection was a notable exception. Mentioning his own virgin birth would have been pointless and counter-productive, and brought unnecessary shame and harassment on his mother from the contemporary likes of Hitchens. In keeping with the Fourth Commandment, Jesus would not do such a thing, no matter how odd atheists today may claim to find it.

P.117  In his attempt to ridicule recent Roman Catholic dogmas related to the Virgin Mary, Hitchens betrays his ignorance, referring to "the frantic early church councils that decided which gospels were 'synoptic' and which were 'apocryphal.'" No councils ever decided "which gospels were 'synoptic'" because the word merely means "similar" and refers to the similarities between Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The early church councils considered the available writings, and based on known Apostolic authority and existing approval in the churches, decided on the 27 books of the New Testament as "canonical" (fitting the Rule of faith), and rejected those that most of the Christian churches had already rejected as heretical -- the Greek word means "divisive" but Hitchens wouldn't know that because he did not seek out the original documents. Some journalist he was.

P.118  C.S.Lewis is an apostate atheist "carried kicking and screaming over the threshold of faith" into Christianity, so it is important to Hitchens to try to discredit him if at all possible. He quotes extensively from Lewis' "Liar, Lunatic, or Lord" trichotomy, and attempts to place Jesus in the second category by casting Jesus among the "many deranged prophets roaming Palestine at that time." Atheists may like to believe that, but hardly anyone else does, which is exactly why the Lewis trichotomy is so compelling.

P.120  Still referring to C.S.Lewis, Hitchens admits, "Either the gospels are in some sense literal truth, or the whole thing is essentially a fraud," but he prefers to believe the fraud story. The evidence favors the literal truth version, which is why Lewis abandonned atheism, and why Hitchens found it important to publish this book. If the evidence went the other way, the book would be unnecessary.

I guess the two poster children for the Christianity vs atheism debate are C.S.Lewis and Bart Ehrman, both crossovers, but in opposite directions. It turns out there are a lot of former atheists among the Christians, not so many the other way -- at least not willing to tell us about it. Given the relative proportions, you might expect the numbers reversed -- especially if the atheists had truth on their side, but not so. Anyway, Hitchens mentions both, and gleefully gives credit for Ehrman's deconversion to the story of the woman taken in adultery, that it's not in the earliest texts of John. Nobody believes these twelve verses were in John's original manuscript, but many people consider them "probably true" no matter who recorded them. I have never met Ehrman, but I have a hard time believing "he was astonished to find [this out]" or that it's the real reason for his loss of faith, because virtually every modern translation mentions the problem in their footnotes; was Ehrman so ignorant as a Christian? There are numerous textual variants, where we are unsure about what the actual original text was, but no major Christian doctrines depend on them. People who do know Ehrman personally quote him as admitting that fact, despite his public fanfare about the variants.

P.121  Although no reputable Christian theologian builds any theology on problem texts, Hitchens seems eager to blame us for having done so with this text. "If only non-sinners have the right to punish," he asks, "how could an imperfect society ever determine how to prosecute offenders?" Jesus never denied the right of duly constituted government officials to exercise their authority, but such people don't come to an itinerant preacher for final judgment. This is not a matter of prosecuting crime, but trying to do a Hitchens thing to Jesus, and Jesus effectively parried their thrust. From what I hear, Hitchens often suffered the same calamity in his debates. "What authority did Jesus have to 'forgive?'" Hitchens did not read the text very carefully, there is nothing about forgiveness here. However, Jesus did answer exactly that question, in another gospel. "Is Christianity, then, sheer sexual permissiveness?" Hitchens himself repeatedly complains that it is not, and Jesus certainly does not teach that foolish idea here: he told the woman to "stop sinning." How permissive is that?

P.123  One of the major faults of this book is that Hitchens tries to blame "religion" (meaning true Christianity) for the moral flaws of "religion" (meaning Islam), while letting his own religion (atheism) off free. Judging from the details in chapter nine, it would look like Hitchens knows a lot more about Islam than I do; on the other hand, judging from the errors in the previous chapters, I would guess that he knows a lot less. I'm not really in a position to critique his criticism of Islam the way I can (and did) show that his whines about Christianity are completely wrong-headed. Only that per capita, atheism and atheists have done far more harm in the world than even the Muslims, who are truly some of the most evil of the religions out there. It isn't "religion [that] poisons everything" but atheism and Islam do. When a Buddhist disagrees with somebody, he sets himself on fire. When a Hindu has a difference of opinion, it doesn't really matter, because there are gods enough to go around. The Catholics probably excepted, especially when they were not permitted to read or know what their own faith taught, the good Christian will invite you to repent, but we ultimately trust God to do whatever needs doing about your soul: one of the famous Old Testament judges even adopted a name that meant "Let the god(s) fight their own battles." But if a Muslim gets his pants in a knot, he kills everyone in sight, often including himself. The atheists generally have no afterlife to look forward to, so they only kill people when they are in positions of power, like Stalin or Hitler, but they kill millions, more than all the other religions put together. Of course there are always dissident militants among the Buddhists and the Hindus and the Christians, who behave like the Muslims or the atheists and kill their opponents, but they are violating their own teachings when they do so.

P.126  It's not often I agree with Hitchens, but he feels "entitled to conclude that the apparent unity and confidence of the [Muslim] faith is a mask for a very deep and probably justifiable insecurity." The way I said it in my blog last year, "The Muslims themselves are ashamed of their prophet and their god. They do not believe their god can do any of the mighty acts we Christians depend on the Christian God to do." Of course saying so in front of a devout Muslim would probably provoke a cowardly act of evil behavior, which the Christian God teaches us not to do, and which Hitchens (without any evidence, and falsely) denies that atheists would do.

P.137  I don't know who he has in mind, but Hitchens claims "there is a 'soft' consensus among almost all the religions that, because of the supposed duty of respect that we owe the faithful, this is the very time to allow Islam to assert its claims at their own face value." I don't know any Christians willing to offer that kind of respect to Muslims, but as I said, we do allow other people the opportunity to make their own faith choices. That's why Hitchens can get away with writing a book like this nonsense. There are no open atheists in Muslim countries, only in Christian and post-Christian countries.

P.140  Although miracles are theoretically possible with any supernatural deity, they are an essential component of only one faith system, Christianity, because it based on an actual supernatural deity. For the same reason -- along with the fact that every other religion has no god able to fend for itself, so their adherents need to eliminate the competition themselves, with the obvious result that atheists are permitted to exist only in their own and Christian-dominated cultures -- atheists are at particular pains to discredit the Christian miracles. They have two weapons at hand, the supposition of primitive credulity, and the supposition of primitive ignorance, the latter an idea most clearly explained by sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke, that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." The atheists then go on to refer to the prediction of eclipses and some trick involving the flood stage of the Mekong and Bassac rivers in ancient Cambodia, as if these analogies explained away the violations of physics in the Christian miracles. Technology does not violate physics.

As for credulity, Hitchens claims that "Faith discredits itself by proving to be insufficient to satisfy the faithful," which is based on the common supposition that faith is believing what you know is false (or at least believing something contrary to the evidence). That's the kind of faith Hitchens and his fellow atheists have in the Darwinistic underpinnings of their own religion. Maybe they believe they have evidence, but that's because the Darwinist priests (themselves also atheists attempting to rescue their religion from the hard facts of science) lie about the evidence; when you go looking for it as hard as Hitchens has been looking for flaws in other religions, there isn't any scientific support for it. Good Christian faith is believing more than you have evidence for because so much of it is supported by good evidence. The readers of the Bible are reminded over and over to verify the claims -- not with the intent of discrediting them, as Hitchens has done, but honestly, to see which interpretation best fits the facts.

In a brief mention "of Muhammad's 'night flight' to Jerusalem," Hitchens unnecessarily "make[s] the obvious riposte that horses cannot and do not fly." It would not be a "miracle" if horses naturally did fly. That's the essentially the same mistake David Hume made in arguing against miracles: our uniform experience and/or the laws of physics are not a disproof of miracles, only an invitation to examine the evidence very carefully -- which advice Hitchens himself is eager to give (p.143), in the common atheist rejoinder, "Exceptional claims demand exceptional evidence." Hitchens spends most of the chapter dealing with Christian miracles, both real and claimed.

P.142  Bart Ehrman shows his face again, with the claimed astonishment "that the account of Jesus's resurrection in the Gospel of Mark was only added many years later." Again, all modern translations note that the last few verses of Mark are not in the two earliest manuscripts. Ehrman is not so foolish to be surprised to find it out only after he started studying the Greek texts. Furthermore, there is still a clear statement of Jesus' resurrection in the undisputed part of Mark (as well as in the other three gospels and several other New Testament books, some probably published earlier than Mark). As with the John 8 text previously mentioned, I suspect the truth is that Ehrman put as much anti-Christian spin on the problem as he could without risking his scholarly reputation, and then Hitchens (with no such constraints) finished twisting it to sound as bad as possible, which incidentally made the statement false as it appears in his book (while laying the blame for it on Ehrman). Second-hand reporting is like that, which is it is disallowed in American courts, and why PhD-quality research is required to rely only on primary documents, and why I insist that evidence supporting Darwinism must come directly from the scientists doing that particular research. Non-experts can twist the reports to imply something totally counter-factual without even knowing it.

Take for example, Hitchens' claim that resurrection in the New Testament "could be done in an almost commonplace way. Jesus managed it twice in other people's cases." What malarky! What ignorance! Jesus did it three times, and they got mentioned precisely because they were not commonplace. As a journalist, Hitchens should know that. The point in all four resurrections is that Jesus alone was the source of the miracle, and that point was not lost on Hitchens. "Nobody seems to have thought it worthwhile to interview either survivor to ask about their extraordinary experiences," because they were not writing for atheists like Hitchens, and anybody could go ask the survivors themselves, at least at the time the gospels were written. That's the point. If the evangelists were writing hundreds of years later, as Hitchens claims to assume, their narrative would have been much different.

P.143  Hitchens "spent much of my life as a correspondent and long ago became used to reading firsthand accounts of the very same events I had witnessed, written by people I otherwise trusted, which did not accord with my own." I can imagine how that might be: Five people show up in court to testify about an event at a certain street corner. Two said the traffic light was green, and three said it was red, but they all agreed it was the corner of First and Main. Obvious contradiction? Not when you investigate further, and learn that traffic lights can be either green or red (at slightly different times, only seconds apart), or both red and green at the same time (in different directions). You and I know that, so we do not throw out all five witnesses as "contradictory and unreliable." We are not so knowledgeable about the first-century "traffic lights" (or whatever common knowledge) that the original readers would have known, but was so common and obvious that nobody thought to write it down for posterity.

P.144  He goes on to criticize "stories in print under my own name which were not recognizable to me once the sub-editors had finished with them." I already said something about the nature of second-hand information. The Gnostic writings of later centuries were that kind of retelling, but the original New Testament books were considered important enough that people made copies, without retelling things in their own words. They did that too, but under their own names; we call those re-writers "the Church Fathers" and they do have their own names.

P.145  Hitchens proudly reports being invited to the Vatican to testify against the beatification of an Albanian nun known as Mother Teresa, which process apparently requires her to have performed some miracle. Whether she actually did so or not I cannot say, but Hitchens successfully debunks two candidate stories. Big whoop-de-doo. People get well. Kodak from time to time made faster film. Some people get over-eager, about the same way Hitchens does with his atheism. You need to actually listen to the opposition. I actually pay attention to what Hitchens wrote in his book, and it can be debunked at least as easily as the modern "miracles" he ridicules.

P.150  The sword cuts both ways, as Hitchens admits: "It takes a certain 'leap' of another kind to find oneself asserting that all religion is made up by ordinary mammals and has no secret or mystery to it." Certainly not mammals like dogs and cats and cows and mice, but Hitchens never was much of a stickler for getting his facts right. And I agree, there is not much secret or mystery to the Christian faith, it's all there in a book translated into the language Hitchens reads and understands. He even seems to have read a few pages of it. And while it may be true of most religions -- including Hitchens' own atheism -- it certainly takes a rather large leap of blind faith to make that claim of all religions, including religions he has not yet examined very carefully, nor even known about.

P.153  The parallel between Hitchens' own faith and those he so glibly criticizes is never more evident than the last three pages of this chapter, where Hitchens abandons his discussion of miracles (the nominal topic of the chapter) to discuss his own previous belief system, apparently with the hope that his own "testimony" (that's a Christian fundamantalist term, not Hitchens') about abandonning his old Marxist faith and adopting a new dogma admittedly not all that different but without the label, with the fervent hope that the reader "will feel better too, I guarantee, once you leave hold of the doctrinaire and  allow your chainless mind to do its own thinking." Not that Hitchens ever left hold of any "doctrinaire" to do his own thinking, but if he felt better about his new religion when he wrote that, I guess that's worth something. Perhaps not much in the light of eternity, but it got him a few dollars in book royalties for the last four years of his life, and for his heirs to squabble over after he left it. Does he feel better now? I don't think so.

Feeling good about oneself seems to be an important part of religion (explicitly including atheism here) for Hitchens as well as for most of the Christians I know, and I suppose that may be true of the other religions, but it's not what they teach (not even the atheists) -- if you believe Hitchens (in the first chapter), the Christians don't teach it either, at least not to him as a child -- and feeling good about myself is certainly not why I'm a Christian. I care about what's true, and if the atheists had better arguments about what is really true than the Christians do, I'd be a lot more comfortable joining the rest of the technologists in their atheism. But the strongest arguments the atheists can bring to bear against the Christians is that they often violate their own teachings. It's the teachings that carry truth (or not), not whether people can follow them. Fortunately, the atheists also mostly violate their own teachings, at least until they get into positions of power. That's why almost all countries (except Islamic) are generally better places to live than explicitly atheist countries. The human heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Christianity offers a positive external correction for that, but the atheists have nothing but "wish-thinking" to deal with it. In this book Hitchens does a lot of "wish-thinking" (his word, but always applied to other religions).

Prev  << 1 2  3  4 5  >>  Next

Minor corrections added 2012 December 31