Friday, December 16, 2011

More Musings on Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens loved to debate Christians, and one of those Christians with whom he sparred has written this lovely, grace-filled obituary about the man.

When I linked to this article on Facebook, one of my (actual, not virtual) friends had this to say...

A terrible loss of one of the great thinkers of our time. I'm not well-read on Hitchens, but two of my favorite quotes from him follow: "My own view is that this planet is used as a penal colony, lunatic asylum and dumping ground by a superior civilization, to get rid of the undesirable and unfit. I can't prove it, but you can't disprove it either."

‎"Religion makes kind people say unkind things: 'I must prove my faith, so mutilate the genitals of my children.' They wouldn’t do that if God didn’t tell them to do so. And it makes intelligent people say stupid things: Condoms are worse than AIDS, for example. Things they wouldn’t dream of saying if the pope didn’t tell them to do that."

We need voices like his in this world.

I replied...

Many folks don't take the time to understand their belief system or to think about it. Most pulpits are not used as platforms to enrich the intellect of parishioners, but as stages to engage their emotions for continued loyalty to that organization. Furthermore, the context of most Biblical passages is thrown aside in favor of bullet-point doctrines or sacred snippets or legalistic rules that satisfy predisposed prejudices and fears.

If one is going to put their faith in a belief system or trust in a man who professed to be God, it behooves them to devote time to studying what they are putting their faith in. That's difficult. The Bible is damned hard to understand. Jesus said a lot of things that make me wince, especially when I don't understand the historical or the cultural context in which He was saying it. It's much easier to have faith spoon-fed within a community of like-minded worshipers.

However, there are few things more dangerous than practicing an uninformed faith...


Follow-up thought...I think one of Hitchens' lasting contributions was his willingness to directly confront and debate the Christian community. From my perspective, he didn't dismiss all of us as rubes or morons. Instead, he challenged our core beliefs, made us question our absolutes, and in so doing, deepened our commitment to being ready to answer for the hope that lies within us.

At least those of us whose first reaction to his atheism and provocative statements wasn't to say, "Oh, man, that guy doesn't believe like I do. I *hate* him." :-/

Yeah, I know...Facebook is meant to be shallow, time-wasting fun, and I've made it heavy, deep, and philosophical with a touch of "annoying" for good measure. Hey! It's how I roll... ;-)


  1. Thank you, Chris! Much appreciated.


  2. I never *hated* Hitchens or any other atheist for that matter and I don't feel there is anything wrong with questioning your beliefs. I think everyone does at some point,regardless of what those beliefs are. Where I have trouble is with the mockery. I can't seem to find a way to deal with it where it doesn't bother me. I can see it sometimes and pay it little mind but still deep inside I wince,just a bit. I feel the need,as a Christian, to run to Gods defense,forgetting most times that God doesn't *need* me to defend Him but what's a good way to handle that struggle?

  3. That's a great question. I think it's to look beyond the mockery and remember the soul to whom you're ministering. Remember that the atheist is a person, not a straw man, and that they've arrived at their unbelief in God for reasons that go beyond mockery. I think this will help us all when it comes to interacting with those with whom we have disagreements.

    God doesn't need us to defend Him, yes, but He does need us to minister to others. I would begin by asking them questions when they mock. Ask them why they believe the way they do, how they arrived at their conclusions. But ask with the genuine intent of learning (and with the genuine goal of showing them love; true, dedicated atheists believe in love above all else). Even when they say something outrageous, don't become defensive, because your beliefs are pretty outrageous to them. Consider what they say. Honor their ability to think with your ability to listen.

    It may seem like you're ceding ground in the moment, but they'll likely remember the Christian who didn't go crazy when their beliefs were challenged and instead, took time to let them, the atheist, the so-called enemy, talk and explain.