Friday, July 07, 2006

The Rise of the Antitheist

I must admit that I have not been paying much close attention to Christopher Hitchen's beliefs. This was because I knew that he virulently opposes anything Christian and/or having to do with faith in particular, and the Bible in general.

I found the following article by Al Mohler intriguing. It caught my attention because of the title. Then, when I began reading it, I was surprised to discover that an extreme "leftist" actually supports the War on Terror. Of course, we find that Hitchen's bitter hatred of all things religious is the main reason why he is for the war. And, he doesn't mince words when he states his opinion that all religions are guilty (at some point or another) of causing great harm. It appears to me that Hitchens sees the current Islamofacist form of terrorism wrecking havoc upon our world happening today mainly because it is only to be seen as religiously motivated. There is no discussion about the fact that not all Muslims practice the extreme form of jihad that Al-Qaeda uses as their excuse to attack America, Israel and any other nations or groups that it deems as "infidels." Hey Al-Qaeda crazies...want to see genuine infidels? Take a good look in the mirror!

Back to the article. It is certainly a fascinating read and I thought that it might generate a lot of interesting debate and discussion here.

Christine

P.S. GMpilot, it appears that Hitchens could be considered like "a man after your own heart". Except for his agreement on the war, of course.

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The Rise of the Antitheist
by Albert Mohler July 7, 2006

Intellectuals have largely reacted to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 with a mixture of moral confusion and ideological denial. The root of this moral ambiguity, even in the face of undiluted terror and unquestionable evil, is a particularly dangerous form of moral relativism – relativism buttressed by intellectual prestige.

Rejecting this moral relativism as both dangerous and intellectually bankrupt, Christopher Hitchens took many observers in the literary and political worlds by surprise when he became an ardent supporter of the "War on Terror" and declared himself the sworn enemy of any relativistic ideology that would confuse the evil of terrorism with the good of freedom.
Hitchens, born in England in 1949, made his reputation as a man of the radical left. At one point, he clearly identified himself as a Trotskyist, and his formative intellectual influences have included radical theorists such as Noam Chomsky. Nevertheless, the events of September 11, 2001 transformed Hitchens' worldview. He calls for a firm line of opposition and military action against Islamic extremism and every other form of terrorism, as well as what he calls "Theo-Fascism."

Nevertheless, the most interesting dimension of Christopher Hitchens' thought is not the transformation of his political theory, but the contours of his radical atheism. In an interview with World magazine, published in its June 3, 2006 edition, Hitchens declares himself the enemy of all religious belief.

When asked what he hates, Hitchens responds: "Religion. I quite simply identify it with barbarism and backwardness and human stupidity. The methods of theocracy in action are a cult of death."

In his 2001 book, Letters to a Young Contrarian, Hitchens explains his opposition to belief in God in much greater detail. Baptized as an Anglican and educated in a Methodist boarding school, Hitchens was raised in the context of institutional Christianity. He appreciated the religious education he received as a matter of cultural influence, but suggests that he was never tempted to take the truth claims of Christianity seriously.

He recalls: "I was sitting in a Bible-study class at the age of about ten ("divinity," as we called it, begun as mandatory as daily church attendance, and one of my favorite subjects then as now) when the teacher began to hymn the work of God in Nature. How wonderful it was, she said, that trees and vegetation were green; the most restful color to our eyes. Imagine if instead the woods and grasses were purple, or orange. I knew nothing about chlorophyll and phototropism at that age, still less from the Argument from Design or the debate on Creationism versus Evolution. I merely remember thinking, with my childish and unformed context; Oh, don't be silly."

Hitchens distills his thought in Letters to a Young Contrarian – a book intended as a briefing for young intellectual skeptics. Hitchens suggests that they might think of themselves as dissenters or freethinkers, but his choice of the word "Contrarian" to describe himself is rather fitting. Hitchens clearly enjoys upsetting the apple cart of ideas.

As he briefed his imaginary young contrarian reader, Hitchens reveals the contours of his thought concerning God.

"You seem to have guessed, from some remarks I have already made in passing, that I am not a religious believer. In order to be absolutely honest, I should not leave you with the impression that I am part of the generalised agnosticism of our culture. I am not even an atheist so much as I am an Antitheist; I not only maintain that all religions are versions of the same untruth, but I hold that the influence of churches and the effects of religious belief, are positively harmful. Reviewing the false claims of religion I do not wish, as some sentimental materialists affect to wish, that they were true. I do not envy believers their faith. I am relieved to think that the whole story is a sinister fairy tale; life would be miserable if what the faithful affirmed was actually the case."

One can hardly accuse Hitchens of mincing words. He opposes and dismisses all belief in God as harmful, dangerous, subversive of the common good, and delusional. He goes further than many atheists in rejecting any form of sentimentality concerning the loss of faith. In this, Hitchens sets himself at some distance from the skeptics and mild atheists common to the British intelligentsia. Hitchens is not only an unbeliever – he is the enemy of belief in God.

For the most part, Hitchens does seem to understand what he rejects. He wants nothing to do with an omniscient and omnipotent Deity. "Well, there may be people who wish to live their lives under a cradle-to-grave divine supervision; a permanent surveillance and monitoring. But I cannot imagine anything more horrible or grotesque. It would be worse, in a way, if the supervision was benign."

As Christopher Hitchens sees it, any form of belief in God is absolutely opposed to true human freedom. The very existence of God would be, he asserts, a virtual denial of human freedom and autonomy.

Furthermore, he argues that belief in God compromises the intellect of believers. "I have met many brave men and women, morally superior to myself, whose courage in adversity derives from their faith. But whenever they have chosen to speak or write about it, I have found myself appalled by the instant decline of their intellectual and moral standards."

Yet, Hitchens' main case against belief in God is based in his rejection of the very possibility of divine revelation. He asserts that believers in God must pose an arrogant and presumptive truth claim.

As he argues: "This arrogance and illogic is inseparable even from the meekest and most altruistic religious affirmations. A true believer must believe that he or she is here for a purpose and is an object of real interest to a Supreme Being; he or she must also claim to have at least an inkling of what the Supreme Being desires. I have been called arrogant myself in my time, and I hope to earn the title again, but to claim that I am privy to the secrets of the universe and its creator – that's beyond my conceit. I therefore have no choice but to find something suspect even in the humblest believer, let alone in the great law-givers and edict-makers of whose 'flock' (and what a revealing thought that is) they form a part."

In that paragraph, Hitchens gets right to the heart of the issue. The question of belief in God is inescapably linked to the question of revelation. He is on absolutely firm intellectual ground when he insists that anyone who claims to believe in God must "also claim to have at least an inkling of what that Supreme Being desires."

Of course, Hitchens sees all claims to divine revelation as evidence of "arrogance and illogic." Nevertheless, he does understand the basic structure of the Christian truth claim – a claim that the one true and living God has indeed spoken and has revealed Himself to His human creatures.

This argument can be turned on its head, of course. If God has revealed himself, we are then intellectually obligated to accept His revelation and to believe in Him. Hitchens accuses believers of moving from the conclusion of faith to its evidence, but he created his own intellectual problem by dismissing the very possibility of revelation without argument.

The important dimension of Hitchens' argument is his recognition that belief in God and confidence in divine revelation are inseparable. This is a point that seems all too often to be missed by some theologians. In contrast to the vapid and vacuous "spiritualities" which populate America's postmodern religious scene, Hitchens understands that a faith based on revelation is the only faith worth rejecting.

Hitchens is indeed a contrarian intellectual, as well as an atheist and antitheist. His rejection of Christianity extends to a rejection of the logic of atonement, redemption, and punishment. Nevertheless, his own contrarian line of thinking can help Christians to understand what is at stake in the great intellectual conflict of our times.

At the center of this conflict stands the doctrine of revelation and the existence of Scripture as the Word of God. Without this Word, we would have no basis for belief in God, Christ, the Gospel, or any hope for the future.

As has been so often the case throughout the history of the church, the sworn enemies of the Gospel often assist the believing Church to understand the crucial intellectual issues of the day. Indeed, many of these sworn enemies, understanding what truly is at stake, become converts to Christianity over time. We can only pray that this will be the case with Christopher Hitchens. In becoming a Christian believer, he would truly demonstrate his contrarian attitude against the Spirit of the Age.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., serves as the ninth president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

Widely sought as a columnist and commentator, Dr. Mohler has been quoted in the nation's leading newspapers, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Atlanta Journal/Constitution and The Dallas Morning News. He has also appeared on such national news programs as CNN's "Larry King Live," NBC's "Today Show" and "Dateline NBC," ABC's "Good Morning America," "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" on PBS, MSNBC's "Scarborough Country" and Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor."

Click here to contact Dr. Mohler, or visit his website at www.albertmohler.com.

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3 comments:

Barefoot Guy said...

Hey,
I enjoyed your blog. Thanks for being honest and open about everything. I love Jesus and love reading about people who know him too.

I am a musician and I would be honored if you would check out my music. All my music is free for download. Anyway, I don't mean to be a pest, just thought I'd share.

Thanks,
-Sean
______________________
www.SeanDietrich.com
"All my muisc is free."

Christinewjc said...

Hi Barefoot guy,

I'll have to check out your music at your website link. I briefly visited your blog and found that you certainly are a "barefoot guy"...literally!

Ouch!

I can't even walk across my cement patio during the hot summer months without my feet burning no less go running barefoot! Your last post indicates that your feet are two great big callouses...a pedicurist's dream (or nightmare perhaps?) heh heh

GMpilot said...

With the exception of that maudlin hope expressed—“We can only pray that this will be the case…”—Mohler is spot on in his observations. So is Hitchens, IMO.

t used to be that I didn’t think this way. As recently as the early ‘80s I was perfectly willing to live and let live. Oh, there were challenges: one of my mates was spouting from his copy of The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, and after I stopped laughing I explained to him why…I also asked to read the book, as I’d never seen a copy of that forgery before. In 1980 I observed the “Washington for Jesus” rally, where fundamentalist Christianity and Republican politics formally celebrated their nuptials, and I wondered when Washington had replaced Jerusalem as the apple of God’s eye.

Barry Goldwater, a conservative who puts modern “conservatives” to shame, spoke out against creeping godism in 1994: "When you say 'radical right' today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye."

Christine, if I and other disbelievers were as bad as you’re trying to make us out to be, the prisons would be full of us, and the great train of woe throughout history would have been driven by atheists. Last time I checked, we’re vastly under-represented in both the history books and the incarceration lists.

Christers are always talking about “taking this country back”. It was never (only) theirs in the first place. The Massachusetts whaler, the Alabama slave and the Dakota cowboy all had a stake in it. Their descendants still do…and they’re not ants, or robots. They’re people, with different lives, opinions, and goals. Some will not be compatible with yours. That’s life.
Also, when I hear those words, the question comes: just how far back do you plan to take it?
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There is no proof of the existence of a god.
There is no need of, or use for, a god.

A good god would be useless if it were not powerful.
A powerful god would not deserve worship if it were not good.
There is no all-powerful good god; otherwise there would be no imperfection.
If this world is the best god can make, the stories of heaven must be lies.

History shows that theism is accompanied by ignorance and superstition. There has never been such intolerance and persecution as theists have practiced.

Theism had to be fought when humankind made its successive steps toward liberty, science, and social reform.

Theism was invented in the earliest days of mankind’s ignorance. It is incredible to believe that primitive humans guessed wrongly about everything else, but discovered the truth about the origin of life.

Everything about which science has discovered the origin was claimed previously to have been the work of a god. Theism recedes whenever a new fact is discovered.
No new discovery ever supports a theistic explanation of anything.

All ‘revelation’ proves, on investigation, to be of human origin, and generally fraudulent.
(This is one of the things that rattled Dr. Mohler so much, I guess.)

Theism is consistent with crime, cruelty, envy, hatred, malice, and uncharitableness.

Atheism teaches that:
There is no heavenly father. Humankind must protect the orphans and foundlings, or they will not be protected.

There is no god to answer prayer. Man must hear and help man.

There is no hell. We have no vindictive god or devil to fear or imitate.

There is no atonement or salvation by faith. We must face the consequences of our actions.

There is no beneficent or malevolent intent in nature. Life is a struggle against preventable and unpreventable evils. The cooperation of humankind is the only hope of the world.

There is no chance after death to ‘do our bit’. We must do it now, or never.

There is no divine guardian of truth, goodness, beauty, and liberty. These are attributes of humankind. We must defend them, or they will perish from the earth.
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Was this the sort of thing you were expecting, hostess? I got the above from an Australian site, but they credit it to someone in the USA.

Yes, I do have a lot of beliefs in common with Hitchens. But I’m not in perfect lockstep with him—did you think I would be? As for the “self-proclaimed beliefs”, I don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re saying your beliefs are not self-proclaimed, is that right?

After seeing your mindset over the past 2 years at the TalkWisdom message board, I think that it is obvious that you and Fred Phelps have a lot of opinions and self-proclaimed belief in common. So we agree to disagree.

I can live with that if you can.