This past week I encountered atheists on Twitter. I noticed one atheist’s snarky scorn of Christians and I responded.
As you’ll see, I engaged him and one other for just a few rounds (please forgive my typos and some bad grammar, I was busy making a living at the same time). The atheists immediately stop tweeting after dismissing me out of hand: “One more logical fallacy and we’re done.” Their arguments must have fallen off the edge of the earth, the black hole of unbelief having sucked them away.
The exchange reminded me of a post I put together when Christopher Hitchens’s passed. (This is a long but hopefully informative post. So, grab some coffee and hold the scotch.)
In Memoriam: Christopher Hitchens, 1949–2011
As you will see and hear in the video below, Christopher Hitchens’ (Hitch’s) arguments for atheism (exclusively an argument against theism), after many dead-end asides, were centered on his aversion to having anyone telling anyone what to do. His followers readily know that over the years Hitch has repeatedly taken umbrage on paper or in one-upmanship debates against totalitarianism and against any authoritarian person or religion having a say in his life or in the lives of others. For the record, William Lane Craig (marker 13:59) noted that Hitch despised and hated religion.
Hitch was certainly OK, though, with authoritarian imposition upon others if he felt the cause justified removing other authoritarian figures from the lives of those he thought were oppressed. He, to the horror of the liberal elitists, aligned himself philosophically with G.W. Bush regarding the Iraq war and the war on terror against radical Islamists.
The February 2012 issue of Vanity Fair includes Salman Rushdie’s “In Memoriam”, Christopher Hitchens: 1949-2011.” Rushdie wrote about Hitch’s return to the left:
“Paradoxically, it was God who saved Christopher Hitchens from the right. Nobody who detested God as viscerally, intelligently, originally, and comically as C. Hitchens could stay in the pocket of god-bothered American conservatism for long. When he bared his fangs and went for God’s jugular, just as he had previously fanged Henry Kissinger, Mother Teresa, and Bill Clinton, the resulting book, God is not great, carried Hitch away from the American right and back toward his natural, liberal, ungodly constituency.”
As a way of life Hitch sought to stand juxtaposed to the universal rule of law (his own conscience) in an antinomian position while at the same time declaring moral diatribes against religious and political authorities he considered too overarching in their imposition. A true Epicurean in his ways, Hitch also liked to keep his conscience well inebriated and his roving moralist eye ever looking elsewhere – looking outside and not within – denial and pretense being typical liberal traits.
With atheistic cowardice and hubris, Hitch attacked Mother Teresa, a little old lady. He apparently wanted to feed his prurient desire to neutralize any authority figure (overt or implied) by trying to bring her down several notches in people’s eyes. Why? He claimed she was pushing her authoritarian teachings onto the helpless. He accused her of hypocrisy in her dealings (an easy, self-serving claim for an atheist to make against any Christian). He may have felt threatened by her devotion to an unseen God and her ability to make things happen for others and doing so as a little old lady.
Why would a grown man verbally attack a helpless woman who indeed went about helping others who themselves were under the totalitarianism of poverty and squalor? Maybe Hitch thought she wasn’t helpless. Maybe it was a direct attack against God. It certainly was an act of unmatched intelligential cowardice. To be sure Mother Teresa fought the unseen authorities of this world (the “powers of darkness”) by physically helping the outcast, the hungry and the hurting with an agape-powered love and not verbal hubris.
Hitch, on the other hand, fought the very public “seen” authorities of this world by aligning rhetorically with causes which he felt were important for him. He should have noted that he and Mother Teresa were fighting the same issue – human suffering at the hands of others (whether a dictator or a false religion) -from two different sides. Yet, he chose to denigrate Mother Teresa. I believe he did this because he felt threatened by her belief in the unseen God.
Hitch postures that Christians, especially Christian missionaries like Mother Teresa, are hypocrites who say things they know to be true and good but live disconnected lives apart from such truth – their deeds not matching match their words. This argument (?) against God was replayed in his use the La Rochefoucauld quote “hypocrisy is a tribute vice pays to virtue.” Yet, this hypocrisy argument folds in on itself if one were to hold any moral standard at all. Perhaps Hitch, a polymath, saw moral laws as “many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.” (The Raven, Edgar Allen Poe)
Clearly Hitch’s excessive lifestyle (his immoderate drinking, smoking, etc. have been noted elsewhere) made his salacious attacks against God all the more the more forthcoming and lubricious. His lifestyle had also proved his belief in nihilism – life is nothing if not suffering. So he apparently used a “get it while you can” justification to medicate the blows between verbal jousting contests.
His liquid lifestyle also spoke to the fact of Hitch’s drive for “freedom” from any limitation imposed on his person including by his own person – his physiology. He chose against himself again and again. He did this while throwing the world a bone now and then, choosing willy-nilly causes to deflect away any personal soul-searching which might lead to accountability to any higher authority. (see marker 25: 5, If god does not exist then objective moral standards don’t exist – a self-satisfying argument.)
Hitch detested dictatorships of all kinds and he did so while as a potentate of his own world. He would not bend the knee to anyone or to anything. He would fight, as Salmon Rushdie recalled in the same Vanity Fair article remembering his friend, for anyone who was made to do so. Hitch’s rebellion was against dictatorial authority of any kind and not just in the political and religious realm. And he certainly rebelled against authority stated as codified truth – the Bible and the recorded history of the resurrection of Jesus. His moral relativism, stated above, is characteristic of most atheists (and the “ungodly constituency”) since they affirm that no moral standard exists outside one’s self.
In the video Hitch asks the universal question posed to theism: why would a God who was all powerful and good allow suffering? My answer: suffering comes out of created man’s free-will choices in a fallen world. God has allowed it for a time but not forever. Justice will be meted out and suffering will end.
He continues his disbelief: “Why would God spend eons of time in creating a world that he could set up in a blink of an eye?” He went on to say that Christians are now co-opting evolution theory in accordance with the Creation argument, evolution being a position long held by atheists. He “christens” this “tactic” or “style” of argument as “retrospective evidentialism” or as a “second thought.” (marker 37:40)
As a Christian theist I see no conflict whatsoever with science and creation. I believe in theistic evolution-a finely tuned theistic universe, a personal cause of the universe and a theistic objective morality. As scientific evidence becomes available it should be used and not discarded. Beyond scientific proofs, my own belief in God is vindicated every day because I, a rational human being, know that God exists. I continue to pursue Him actively and I submit to His authority. Hitch, on the other hand, fled from any such authority outside of himself and employed his own existentialist belief system where he felt safe from intrusion.
Also in the video, Hitch uses the Creationist argument of a literal seven days to say that we as Christians are basically lunatics to believe such things. Again, I see no conflict with a Creationist’s position of a literal seven days and the theory of relativity which could make thousands of millennia appear as seven literal days. But as I mentioned above, I accept theistic evolution, so the point is mute in my case.
Hitch takes another jab at Christian theism by invoking his own god-like view point when questioning why God would do what Christian theists believe He did. He balks at the idea (and I’ll paraphrase): “…the eons of time that God has created-evolved – that all of this fine tuning, mass extinction and randomness is the will of a Creator God (marker 40:21) and that all of this happened so that one very imperfect race of evolved primates might become Christian – all of this was “with us in view” is a curious kind of solipsism, a curious kind of self-centeredness.”
Hitch jests that he thought Christians were modest and humble, not self-centered with certain arrogance to the assumption that this “was all about us.” And, “The tremendous wastefulness of it, the tremendous cruelty of it, the tremendous caprice of it, the tremendous tinkering and incompetence of it, never mind, at least we’re here and we can be people of faith.” This projection from one who, with his own free will, spoke from a self-centered and solipsistic core throughout his entire life!
The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Creator, was always meant to bypass the wise of this earth: “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say, “He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.”” (Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church). A priori rebellion coded as cleverness is found in the Mitochondrial DNA of man.
Apart from Hitch’s free-wheeling self-directed solipsism, there is a bounty of sound arguments for theism and William Lane Craig (WLC) highlights them artfully: “No good argument that atheism is true, there are good arguments that theism is true – not via social questions or ethics (marker 16:00).
WLC philosophical arguments in quick notation:
Cosmological argument: things exist, not nothing; the universe began to exist not infinite, not eternal – Big Bang Beginning, ex-nihilo, a cause by an UnCause beyond space and time; David Hillburg – The infinite; there must be a cause of creation. This Being must be uncaused, timeless, space unfathomable & personal and not abstract thought or object; The universe has begun to exist and is not infinite, not eternal (astrophysics concur); Past event are real, there must be Personal creator of the universe, transcendent intelligent mind
Teological argument: (marker 20:00) finely tuned universe – mathematically constants (e.g., gravity) not determined by the laws of nature & the arbitrary conditions (entropy, balance between matter and antimatter); any change in these would be the end of life itself (the atomic weak force being altered)
Chance? Odds are incomprehensibly great, life prohibiting universes are more probable
It follows logically by Design – intelligent argument, intelligent designer
Moral argument (marker 25: 15): if god does not exist then objective moral standards don’t exist; if God exists then valid and binding; the morality that has emerged proves that god exists – via moral experience; we understand that there are things that are really wrong.
Historical fact (marker 27:40): The resurrection of Jesus a historical fact not just a belief; tomb discovered empty eyewitnesses; individuals and groups saw Jesus, appearances to believers and unbelievers; the original disciples believed in the resurrection and Jewish religion believed otherwise about when resurrection occurs; Christian die for the truth of the resurrection (marker 30:26)
Experiential knowledge: The experience of God or claim to know that God exists – properly basic beliefs part of a system of beliefs including the belief of an external world; context of physical objects; grounded in our experience of God; God immediate reality
Hitch responds (marker 33:16): “arguments the same across religions – belief in God but differences; presuppositionalists (by faith) and the evidentialists a distinction without a difference.”
As you will note Hitch’s arguments are all basically dismissive of Christian supporting arguments for belief and are not evidentiary in favor of atheism; note his “rather sweet” dismissal of those who believe – that those of faith should have evidence. (Hitch once again conveniently dismisses the facts of the resurrection and the improbability of causation by chance.)
Hitch: “We argue that is no plausible or convincing reason, certainly no evidential one to believe that there is such an entity…all observable phenomena is explicable (marker 42:00); I don’t believe that following the appropriate rituals…
“Even if this deity did exit it doesn’t prove that he cared about us…cared who we had sex with …care whether we lived or died… (marker 42:32)
“Miracles suspend the natural order – Christians want it both ways (“promiscuous”) (marker 44:00); The natural order – “It is miraculous without a doubt”
“I have to say that I appear as a skeptic, I doubt these things.” (marker 46:16)
“The theist says it must be true…” Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”;
“Too early in the study of biology…to make these claims.”
Hitch, the verbal grappler, was as a sound and fury professional wrestler who was agile at avoiding a real match-up with Truth. But now, the fight has ended, the match is over. All that’s left in the empty corner is Hitch’s book “God is Not Great” and an empty bottle of Scotch.