7/17Despite the intensity with which some from the atheist proselytizers reject having their worldview described as mainly a negation ('atheism'-means 'no god'), I must say that their arguments rest, from what I have seen, upon attacking what they see as evil as opposed to painting a portrait of what should be instead.
Therefore, the strength of Hitchens' argument consists in his sharp critiques that are too often true, if too limited and unfair at points. So, this post is dedicated to just that: in what ways religion can be said to poison everything. I will follow this up with a later post discussing the sufficiency of this line of thought.
A note of clarification must be issued at the onset: Hitchens, understandably, groups every religious group together in his critique and this will cause members of each separate group to say, "yeah, but our group is different . . ." I think that this grouping actually makes sense in several ways, but will be focusing my attention upon Christianity and how his critique is aimed there specifically.
So, Christianity: is it divine truth that is transforming the world through faith, hope, and love to the glory of God the Father through the Son by the Spirit? Or is it merely one group among many bent upon brutal self-aggrandizement?
It is not difficult to find evidence that supports the latter. And this is particularly poignant when one looks past the usual suspects of televangelists to the individual Christians you personally know. How many of us have known that Christian who is clearly trying to use 'spiritual talk' in order to find a place for himself (or herself) in their social circles? They may be self-righteous or they may simply be annoyingly zealous, but regardless, they come across a bit strong and it seems that it may be more of a show than anything else. And what about the critics of such 'spiritual ones:' "they just take Christianity way too seriously . . . Jesus didn't really mean for us to live like that . . . yeah, but God expects us to take care of ourselves first, etc." If it isn't true such that we really cannot justify giving up all in order to follow Jesus, then how can it really be said to be anything more than one made up system of fear and morality? How many sermons have you heard preached that resemble calls to try harder to be spiritual and moral which could have been preached in a mosque, synagogue, or temple with few changes?
And how many of us have not been hurt by Christians in ways that seem so wildly inconsistent with anything approaching a gospel-transformed life? Does it not seem, at times, that religious types are actually meaner? And how about yourself? Does there seem to be the touch of divine grace upon your life such that you are truly kinder or have you simply adopted a code of ethics that have allowed you to find a comfortable bourgeoisie existence?
These are the questions and points that Hitchens (among many others over the years, of course) hits upon that have to really be engaged even if they are not particularly new.
Personally I have thought deeply about the evidence of grace in my relationships with other Christians, the evidence of grace in my own life, and the evidence of grace in the life of the Church as a whole. And it is the latter that can be the most terrifying to consider if you know history as well as what much of the contemporary Church looks like here in America.
Based upon what I know of the promises of God in the New Testament concerning the Church, I believe that it is safe to say that God's name is so inextricably tied to the Church that if evidence of the divine is completely lacking there then all other arguments (cosmological, teleological, etc) matter not at all. He purchased a people for Himself and because of doctrines concerning issues such as the depravity of man and the efficacy of grace, He must protect it or it will perish, He must beatify it or it will be ugly, He must grow it or it will be stillborn. Ultimately therefore, it is absolutely incumbent upon God to make the Church what He wants it to be. What are we to make of the Church that currently is and of the Church that has been?
We Christians are, in so many countless ways, stupid.
Is there an answer to these questions and a defense for these attacks beyond the obvious one mentioned before that those who are attacking have not really proposed anything credible philosophically themselves?
I believe that there is and part of it has to do with the sublime. Next time . . .