Christopher Hitchens has cancer of his throat.
If you don’t know who he is you are probably not alone, but he writes for many well known periodicals and the Washington Post. He frequents many news programs as the token, intellectually rigorous atheist. He wrote a book entitled “God is NOT Great: How religion poisons everything.” I have not read the book. But, someone I love dearly has.
I recently watched a debate he participated in at a college in Virginia on September 9, 2008. Why? Well, I was driving to visit my in-laws and happened upon Hitchens’ opponent, Frank Turek. I liked what I was hearing summarized by him and he referred to this debate, so being the curious person I am, I logged on.
I won’t summarize too in depth the two plus hour debate, but in a nutshell...
It was lively. It was so relevant. Both theism and atheism have some really hard questions to answer. Mostly the types of questions we no longer ask because we have convinced ourselves that the answers have already been established (via science, technology, enlightenment), or the question is just irrelevant to our daily lives... What am “I”, WHY am “I”, What is life? WHY is life?
But has it really been settled? Is it really irrelevant? Do you think it matters how these questions are answered:
How did the universe arise from NOTHING?
How did precision like order arise from chaos?
How did life (“living things”) come from non-life (rocks)?
How did morality (a standard by which we know “right” from “wrong”, other than just one’s opinion) arise from materials (like carbon atoms)?
How do reason and logic arise from matter, mind from mud, math from molecules?
How did human freedom arise from blind repetitive forces (mutation, natural selection and the like), and how did consciousness arise from chemicals? (Turek, Frank. “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist”)
Hitchens says he is “here (at the debate) to satirize the idea that we (humanity) are here by Someone else’s permission.” He is such an eloquent and effortless speaker. I enjoyed listening to his voice. But his opening remarks came after Mr. Turek’s remarks and I have to say that Hitchens’ comments mostly centered upon the atrocities of religion. He seems to see no distinction between man-made, institutional doctrines which were responsible for historical (and present day) atrocities and a timeless, immaterial, creatively powerful Being Who perhaps gives a rip about him.
He states that God does exist, without argument from him, in the sense that He is real to those who believe in Him. But I think he insinuates that those who believe in Him are simple and unaware of recent knowledge and advancements which, he states (without naming any supportive sources) answer every single question about life and existence.
I found it very intriguing how completely and passionately devoted he is to being free from control and servitude. Interesting.
His speech seeps of the worship of knowledge, and although he is witty, there is an arrogance and condescension that does battle with his likability. That, seemingly unbeknownst to him, is a biblically primitive reality. I mean, there was, “in the beginning”, a very tempting Tree in a very beautiful Garden that contained some appealing Knowledge. Even if you don’t concede that, just go with me on this one for a moment.
Christopher Hitchens has determined that he will serve himself, and whatever he decides is right for him, he will do. He requires no guidance or permission and he answers to no one. Seems fair. He may choose some things that are benevolent and charitable, he may choose some things that are not. But he has all he needs wrapped up in his DNA. He is fulfilling, within himself, the role that a theist would say is reserved for God. I wonder how well he is doing at his job, because he certainly does not have a high approval rating of God's performance thus far in the history of religion.
For the Christian, our God provides an alternative to this "doing the most good with what we know." I have experienced it as very life giving, like that OTHER Tree “in the beginning.” God provides protection (and that is not the same as a life free of pain and loss), wisdom, truth, perspective, and hope - and not because I need Him to in order for me to make sense out of my existence. He tears down the notion of enslavement (to self) and builds a brand new inner creation. He proves that KNOWING good is not the same as BEING good. As I believe ON Him and trust Him, I am remade more and more into His image. And He alone IS good.
But, believe WHAT and trust WHOM? Believe and trust YOURSELF and the ‘fact’ that YOU are all there is, or believe that you were made, you are seen, you have purpose and that the One who gave that to you, loves you because He said He did. And He demonstrated He did.
So the choice in life is arguably, will you know ‘god’ by serving your intellect and understanding and expend your energy achieving what you determine life is to be about, or will you know God by allowing Him to give you meaning? The former is seen by Hitchens as freedom, independence and truth. The latter seems to him to be very juvenile, controlling and irrational - oh, and downright evil in that it takes away from humans their RIGHT to control their own lives free of religious control.
Hey, I am for that! I am free of religious CONTROL. But he assumes that a humans unfettered choices bring freedom. Really? Look at the choices people make around you. Look at your own choices. How much REAL freedom have those produced for you?
You know what? I have lived that life of control, calling the shots, making the best plans I could contrive. IT sucked. Really, it did. It looked all right from the outside looking in, but it was completely empty and without meaning. Why, if I were really just a collection of atoms, would I care about meaning? I cannot deny that I do. It is a reality. And you do too. Maybe it might be more wise to start having the shots called by Someone who knows a little more than you do. Worked for me.
Giving a free will offering of your life over to God's control is GOOD, not evil - in spite of the millions of examples of people doing evil in the name of God. All that proves is that people can get it wrong. I still get it wrong in a wide variety of ways everyday when I lose my patience with my kids, exhibit selfishness and self-centeredness. These things are wrong FOR ME, they harm ME (and others). And that is why God cares about them. He knows that there is LIFE in being free from these inclinations. He has the wisdom to do something about it.
Christopher Hitchens is a servant wether he likes it or not. Everyone serves something or someone - be it self or outside of self. That is a fact. But God, as I know Him in Christianity, came to set us FREE from servitude, not enslave us to Himself or anyone else. He came to set us FREE from ourselves, our ambitions, our limited wisdom, our narrow perspective and deadly addictions. Without Him, that is all we have. He gave us an alternative to living that way. Before that gift there was no choice to make.
God came in Christ to demonstrate His LOVE for us, to demonstrate that to serve Him is a life giving privilege. God LOVES us, He is not waiting to pounce on us or punish us. That is not the God of the Bible, in case He was ever presented to you as such. He has satisfied any justifiable penalty we might deserve for our independence. He loves YOU, and Christopher Hitchens and longs to set him free from the servitude and tyranny of knowledge without wisdom.