Thursday, July 16, 2009

Christopher Hitchens, Stupid Christians, and the Sublime, pt. 1--an introduction

So, I initiated a sort of thought experiment over the past several weeks where I sought to genuinely understand the worldview, without prejudice, of a man like Christopher Hitchens. In case you don't know of him, check him out here: (also, a youtube preview of a great film/documentary with him and Douglas Wilson). He authored a book that I decided to read this summer provocatively titled, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Here is what I wanted to try and understand from reading his work and trying to enter his world: upon what basis (if any) do men such as Hitchens build a life that includes virtue, beauty, discerning truth from falsity (and error) such that life is worth living?

In other words, I believe that Hitchens, along with his informally associated colleagues such as Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett, reject the path of nihilism and really believe that a society free of superstition and religion will be qualitatively superior. They seem to believe that they really have something inherently better to offer, thus the books . . . so, what is it? What would the world look like from the vantage point of someone who believes that there is no cosmic design to the universe, no ultimate meaning prescribed for life, and no judgment unto death or life at the conclusion of our time upon this soil?

I didn't want to just read and try to refute line by line. There is a place for that, to be sure, but I wanted to attempt a more philosophically (and spiritually) honest pursuit and see what would be left after everything is shaken (see Hebrews 12:26-28). Though I completed the book a couple of weeks back now, the thoughts have continued to develop (ferment?) and I am just now reaching a place where I believe that I can make something of a genuine response.

I've also been working through a few other works, philosophical, theological, and historical that have contributed providentially to the course my mind has taken. I'll list them tonight as a kind of prior works cited and let it be assumed that I am dependent upon each of them in some ways for whatever is written henceforth.

-Maurice Friedman's Problematic Rebel: Melville, Dostoevsky, Kafka, Camus

-David Bentley Hart's Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth

-Michael Burleigh's Earthly Powers: The Clash of Religion and Politics from the French Revolution to the Great War

-David Ingram's edited collection, Critical Theory: The Essential Readings

So, if interested, stay tuned . . .


jdhargrove said...

biding eagerly by...

Tammy said...

appreciate how thoughtful and intentional that you are in approaching these subjects-I have not done so myself and am learning along w/you, so thanks

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Christopher Hitchens has some really interesting things to say about Christianity. I'd recommend watching one of his debates, preferably the one with Dinesh D'Souza, conducted at none other than Biola university...

I started reading Richard Dawkins book "The God Delusion" but didn't finish. It made me quite angry. But the reality of the matter was that... and I feel a bit awkward to admit this, but... I was utterly speechless. Defenseless.

To step up on my soapbox for a moment, I have to say that Christians (especially us evangelical types) are breeding generation after generation of individuals who may praise Jesus with all their hearts but have no idea how to interact with a person like Hitchens or Dawkins. Our response is always to stay away from those "wackos" by any means necessary and stick to a more friendly environment.

I'm assuming thats what you meant by "stupid Christians," but I've only read the first post... so I guess I'll read on.

-Austin R.