Denying the Faith: In Dialogue with Christopher Hitchens (Part One)

**The following I am reprinting from a previous blog with a few edits.  I originally wrote this post on July 28, 2008.

“I trust that if you met me, you would not necessarily know that this was my view (atheism).  I have probably sat up later, and longer, with religious friends than with any other kind.  These friends often irritate me by saying that I am a ‘seeker,’ which I am not, or not in the way they think.”  (Hitchens, “god is Not Great:  How Religion Poisons Everything” pg. 11)

Denying the faith is not so much in reference to stating the obvious, Christopher Hitchens’ unrelenting atheism, as the term is a reference for a person who chooses to deny that they themselves have faith.  Denying faith seems to be quite common among more intellectual atheists who love to think of themselves as rational, open-minded, and not chained to any dogma.

In the opening of Tim Keller’s interesting book, “The Reason for God”, he entertainingly quotes Darth Vader, “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” All do respect to Keller (whom I admire) but I don’t believe that a lack of faith is the problem with an atheist paradigm.  Faith in the wrong view, most certainly I believe atheism to be, but also perhaps, an atheist may have too much faith.  I’ll explain what I mean later.

An important disclaimer before I start:  Although, I will challenge Hitchens at the very foundation of his perspective, I do have respect for him and do not want to make light of him as a person in any way.  Hitchens is brilliant, plain and simple, and as a journalist has a tremendous command of the English language.  He is an engaging writer, a frustratingly effective writer for many, who can articulate what he believes better than most people.

“god is not Great:  How Religion Poisons Everything” is Hitchens diatribe against religion including Christianity.  He not only argues that the Bible was written by stupid, ignorant men (thereby establishing the idea of God or Biblical faith as man-made) but also that the Bible is incredibly immoral and leads people to horrendously unjust practices.  (I’ll deal with Hitchens on the morality kick in a future blog).

Atheism, of course, is laid out as being the rational perspective.  The enlightened path based on reason and science.  But is it?  Let’s consider how the faith is being denied.

“And here is the point, about myself and my co-thinkers.  Our belief is not a belief.  Our principles are not a faith.  We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason.  We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, openmindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake.  We do not hold our convictions dogmatically:”  (Pg. 5)

Besides overstating the obvious that this passage sounds like some kind of doctrinal statement, it surely does seem that Mr. Hitchens holds his conclusions pretty dogmatically.  Read the book yourself to discover if Hitchens is some fair and openminded person.  In one sense, I don’t blame him because after all, the above sounds like any church constitution which simply states what a specific group believes and how they go about their practices (sacraments perhaps).

Hitchens’ dogma is founded on the basic assumption that everything in our world, galaxy, universe has a naturalistic explanation.  This is a worldview (like all the rest of them) that is completely unprovable because no person can travel back in time, prior to the big bang, and witness the cosmological events prior. Furthermore, no one has searched the entire universe (or beyond) and discovered that there is no metaphysical spiritual reality.  He accepts this position on faith- there is that tricky little term again.

One may be saying at this point that I’m making an argument from the unknown.  Processes, people and all kinds of things we observe today can be traced to a naturalistic cause- as far as we know.  If one extrapolates this assumption to everything in the universe than perhaps it can be postulated that everything has arisen as a result of natural law.

However, there is a glaring problem in the atheist worldview and one that I would argue will never be satisfactorily answered.  An atheist, by definition, cannot believe in a miracle (a miracle being defined as a breaking of natural law,  possibility but not necessarily, by the interjection of a supernatural Being).  If someone rejects a supernatural Creator or realm than all we are left with is matter.

Assuming that atheism is true, we would have to believe that a really, really long time ago there was non-living matter (we won’t bother with how this matter got there to begin with).  Eventually, after eons of time, this non-living matter “evolves” and becomes living or meets the definition of life.

Given that in science we have the law of biogenesis (not a theory but a LAW) which states that “life can only come from life”, if non-living matter became life at any point than we are most certainly looking at a miracle- a willful violation of natural law.  Therein, lies the problem for the anti-theist at the very foundation of their worldview and an introduction to the incredible faith that they have.

Of course, there are attempted arguments to get around this.  “There are many disputes between evolutionists as to how the complex process occurred, and indeed as to how it began.  Francis Crick even allowed himself to flirt with the theory that life was ‘inseminated’ on earth by bacteria spread from a passing comet.” (pg. 86)  Despite the attempt, it still does not answer how life arose from matter (or where the process that makes comets came from).

All of this, some of you have probably heard before, and none of the above writing really proves anything…except that people have faith.  Faith that there is a God or faith that there is not.  Both have their consequences and both have their apologetic points.  In the pit of each person’s heart, they make the decision of what to believe.

I have certainly made my decision and will concede to anyone that I have faith and struggle to practice it.  Hitchens has also made his decision but by all accounts, denies that he has faith when he certainly does.  To me, this fact becomes an interesting irony. 

About dangeroushope

Striving to follow Christ, love people and learn more about the world.
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