Christopher Hitchens, as we all well know, is a thorn in the side of those who believe in God. He’s become famous, and wealthy I am sure, writing and arguing against belief in God. His best seller, “God is Not Great,” had a subtitle that is typical of his bombastic hyperbole, “How Religion Poisons Everything.”
Really? Everything? In his more lucid moments you have to believe he knows a lot of good has been done in the name of religion, but in his opinion the bad outweighs the good. But that wouldn’t sell a lot of books.
As most also know at this point, Hitchens has a nasty form of cancer. Some who believe in God (I don’t use the term “believer,” because that word used in this context assumes it is only the religious who have to “believe,” when in fact all people regardless of their religious persuasion live by faith) think so imminently facing his mortality he might very well reconsider his vehement atheism. Not a chance.
What intrigues me, though, about a person like Hitchens, and others like him, is how utterly they reject the idea of God because he, or she, seems completely and totally implausible to them. They don’t believe in God because they can’t believe in God. The notion that the opposite could be true for the theist, that we believe in God because we have to believe in God, never seems to occur to them. In a recent interview this mentality is on full display:
In America it’s been suggested by some religious types that his condition could prompt a revision of his atheism. It’s not a hypothesis to which he grants much respect.
“So now I know that there’s another life in my body that can’t outlive me but can kill me, it’s the perfect moment to gratefully acknowledge that I’m a product of a cosmic design? Who thinks up these arguments? Actually it’s an insulting question: ‘I hear you’re dying. Well wouldn’t it be a good time to get rid of your beliefs?’ Try it on them and see how they would like it. ‘Christian, right? Cancer of the tits?’ ‘Well, yes, since you ask.’ ‘Well, can I suggest you now drop all that tripe?'”
At least he acknowledges they are “beliefs” and not “facts.” But the following paragraph shows that no matter how incredibly intelligent someone is, they will only see what they want or feel compelled to see.
Hitchens once wrote a line that has almost gained the status of philosophical epigram or even scientific dictum: “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” Although it echoes Wittgenstein’s famous injunction regarding the ineffable – “Whereof we cannot speak, therefore we must be silent” – Hitchens’s version is less a “no entry” sign than a civic reminder to place rubbish in the bin.
So according to Hitchens, all religious claims are asserted “without evidence.” I’m amazed that someone as ostensibly intelligent as Hitchens would really believe such a thing is an accurate statement. Speaking as a Christian believer, there is a branch, and a very large one, of theology called apologetics whose sole objective is to amass just the evidence for belief that Hitchens says doesn’t exist. He needs to get to know Ravi Zacharias. Does he really believe that those of us who believe in God, or in my case the veracity of the Christian faith, believe so in spite of the evidence? Apparently so.
A further quote from Hitchens shows that it’s not so much evidence that rules his thoughts as his perception of what he thinks belief in God entails:
As for the notion that his brand of atheism is reductive or joyless, it’s religion, he contests, that is “cosmically hopeless, as is all the related masochism that goes with it – you’ve got to spend your entire life making up for the vermin you are. What is that if not degrading? We don’t do that to people. We say you may as well know you’re a primate, but take heart, primates are capable of great things.”
Oh yes, now I’m full of joy, knowing I’m a “primate” that is capable of great things. Going back to plausibility, in my mind it is absolutely insane to think all of existence is a product of chance and matter colliding (uh, where did matter come from? Shouldn’t we even ask?). It is simply too big a leap of faith to believe that somehow chance created the universe, human beings, a flower and a bee, the human heart and lungs and blood, and a body that heals itself, mathematics and the periodic table, the Grand Canyon, Clair de lune, and the Sistine Chapel, a flower, love, emotion, sexual reproduction, orgasms, a lemon and the tongue that can taste bitterness, chocolate that can taste the sweet, eyes that can be moved by an ineffably beautiful sunset, or a beautiful woman; Shakespeare, Bach, and The Beatles, and ears to hear and brains that can appreciate something we call music.
And one could go on and on and on and on and on. I simply can’t help myself; I am driven to believe that all of this, and infinitely more, is not simply a product of chance and matter that came from who knows where. Evidence? It is ubiquitous.
To people like Mr. Hitchens, God is no more plausible than Santa Claus. Yet I see those like Mr. Hitchens as just more evidence that there is something called The Fall, an infection of the human heart that came into the world because man decided he could “be like God, knowing good and evil.” How else to explain such blindness, as deep as a black hole, which sucks all reason and logic into itself. As Paul says in Romans 1, creation itself is all the evidence we need to see the power and glory of God.