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No Atheists in Foxholes? Christopher Hitchens Proves Otherwise

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Vocal atheist (among other things) Christopher Hitchens is gravely ill, with esophageal cancer. After his diagnosis became public two months ago, people, particularly Christians, wondered whether it would be appropriate to pray for the author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.

Hitchens says he doesn’t mind, but remains an avowed atheist. In fact, he recently told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that turning to God now would be “pathetic.” (CNN blogger and atheist-baiter Stephen Prothero, author of God Is Not Oneplans to debate him on Nov. 4, but I’m betting Hitchens won’t change his mind!)

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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Gwyddion9

posted August 9, 2010 at 1:15 pm


I’m Wiccan, not Christian but I believe if there is a need, one should do their best to assist, even if they don’t like what you believe or your religion. No judgment is necessary, just focus on the present need.
I believe Jesus taught something similar, true? So pray positive things for this guy without having ones religion impressed upon him.



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EllieDee

posted August 9, 2010 at 1:36 pm


No one knows whats really in a mans heart, most especially at the end of his time. Ones ego, would never submit to the acceptance of something your whole life, fought against. But as you title suggests, only at that moment (in ones own solitude) will the truth be known. Maybe never to us, but to the person preparing for their own transition.
As for praying for him, no one needs permission to pray, for anyone! Anyone of faith, wants the betterment of all mankind. My prayers will always be that a mans heart will meet his Soul on his way Home to God.



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praesta

posted August 9, 2010 at 1:36 pm


I admire Hitchens for staying with his beliefs. He might have a hostile attitude towards Christianity and religion in general, but at least he believes in nothing. So many Christians believe in anything but Christianity. For many “Christians” church is a social club, a trench for political activism, a bastion of self-righteousness and hypocrisy, and a front for bigotry and hatred. Everything but belief in Jesus Christ. Sure, Hitchens has done his fair share of name-calling and intellectual bullying. But in the end, he’s not out for pious platitudes.
CAPCHA: Hans-Jurgen morzers



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Conor

posted August 9, 2010 at 1:58 pm


You’ve spelt “Author” wrongly.



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B. Neike

posted August 9, 2010 at 2:32 pm


Foxholes are the quick trenches dug by soldiers during war or on training maneuvers. I wonder if you know this because your post has nothing to do with the military.
Christopher Hitchens would be a great hypocrite if he changed his stance now, although I am sure he is fretting a bit his last days because if he has been wrong all along…



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Alicia

posted August 9, 2010 at 3:00 pm


The interview with Anderson Cooper and Hitchens’s article in Vanity Fair were wonderful, but very sad. I had the opportunity to hear Hitchens read from his memoir at what may have been his last public reading at “Politics and Prose.” He signed my copy of “Hitch-22″ and I read it from cover to cover in a few days. What impresses me so much about the way Hitchens is facing death is his realism about his chances, his gracious response to those who are praying for him, and the “no B.S.” zone he has created around himself.
None of the denial that has historically been associated with dying from cancer. His stoicism and honesty are refreshing and bracing. He may have meant “God is Not Great” as an advertisement for atheism, but Hitchens himself is an even better advertisement. If this be atheism, let’s have more of it.



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Joe

posted August 9, 2010 at 3:19 pm


@BNeike.. “There are no atheists in foxholes”..is a popular idiom/quote, at least in the USA, meaning atheists will convert to theism at the end of life.
In my world I am surrounded by a large family of christians who pray, have dreams and revelations and attend different denominational churches… yet these same family members argue with each other about who has the correct theology and doctrines. How ironic they all claim direct communication with GOd & holy spirit, who always seems to validate the correctness of their personal doctrinal positions.
Makes for great family holiday dinners, while they all fight about theology and who is communicating with God, and who is communicating with the Devil….apparently the Holy Spirit is telling each individual they are they only ones with the correct theology.
Prayer is mental illness



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Rob

posted August 9, 2010 at 3:32 pm


A contoversial title meant to draw readers into an article that goes nowhere and has absolutely nothing to do with the title. And there are still atheists in fox holes. Unfortunately, their guns have Biblical versus inscribed on them. Why? Because religion is the main cause of wars, oppression, murder, bigotry, racism, and hate in this world.



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B Neike

posted August 9, 2010 at 3:44 pm


@BNeike.. “There are no atheists in foxholes”..is a popular idiom/quote, at least in the USA, meaning atheists will convert to theism at the end of life.
@Joe
DUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH….. I know what it means. It still isn’t appropriate to compare a terminal disease to a wartime situation. Actually it means soldiers under fire in a war zone will quickly find religion and begin fervently praying when their life is threatened. It has nothing to do with avowed atheists facing the end of their life.



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jack h

posted August 9, 2010 at 3:57 pm


>
Amen brother! And the more uneducated the followers are [think Islam] the more violent and ignorant the religion is!



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Cliff R

posted August 9, 2010 at 5:00 pm


Hitchens has faith in the fact that there is nothing after death…sure hope for his sake that he’s right…



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Dave

posted August 9, 2010 at 5:40 pm


Hmmm, as a former military member and an atheist, I can guarantee there are atheists in foxholes. However, let’s assume for one second I’m wrong. If so, how can I know which god is the right god. That seems important. I bet praying to the wrong god is worse than praying to no god at all. Furthermore, I bet that if there were an all-knowing and all-powerful god, it won’t care that one person out of billions that people that have ever lived believes in it, the specific god that purportedly exists somewhere up in the sky (…out of the thousands men have conjured up over the centuries). I bet that if a person has lived a moral life even if they were a non-believer, then that surely has more influence over a their fate than say, the hypocrisy that so many “believers” commit on a daily basis. I’m betting that if there were a god, good people wouldn’t be judged harshly for not believing. (After all, “god” made then that way.) But, if it did judge non-believers harshly, well then I’d rather burn. At least I’d be in more interesting company. I just hope that I wouldn’t get stuck on the same level of hell as all those televangelists, pedophile priests, and hypocritical believers. (Thank god I don’t believe in the devil either!)



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Cliff R

posted August 9, 2010 at 5:58 pm


Interesting comments…
What if the real God gave us a choice? to believe or not to believe? Instead of just forcing us to believe in Him.
What point would there be in a god that would force us to do something against our will?
Hitchens continues to choose…



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Elliott

posted August 9, 2010 at 6:21 pm


The important thing isn’t what he says in public in his final days but that he open himself to the Lord. A hardened heart will not experience God, but a heart that has opened to Him will be amazed at what a beautiful God we have. He loves each one of us including Christopher.



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ANN wright

posted August 9, 2010 at 6:55 pm


As the mother of an uber-intelligent son who first encountered Hitchens over war and torture, then went to become an atheist while raised solidly Christian, I am embarrassed that others of my faith would so glaringly fail in the commandment Jesus said was only second…..love your neighbor as yourself. No one was ever won to Christ by vitriol and judgement. My goal is to win my son back by loving him without condition. As long as he is alive, and that has been close to loss several times, then he has the hope of eternity with God. The mind, the wit, the ability Hitchens has came from His Maker. My son is bi-polar. Who do I ask about that? God. If Hitchens is one of those hired on the last day and paid the same as you or I who have followed God all of our lives, do we complain to the boss? Jesus had much to say about that as well.



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B Neike

posted August 9, 2010 at 10:22 pm


@Joe
I apologize for my comments.



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lucy

posted August 9, 2010 at 11:50 pm


I’m with you Dave! and Elliot, I don’t think Christopher or any other atheists have hardened hearts. That would imply that they were mad at god for some reason when in fact they just don’t believe god(s) exist. I am not jaded or hardhearted. I believe in humanism. I teach special education because I feel the need to help my fellow man (child). I believe compassion and kindness are human traits.



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Joe

posted August 10, 2010 at 4:16 am


@ BNeike.
no need to apologize, you wrote nothing inappropriate or whatever.
Peace out.



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Dale

posted August 10, 2010 at 9:47 am


If you read the Bible it shows that in many situations the “enemies” of god can’t help it that they have hardened hearts. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by god after every single plague. And many kings hearts were also hardened by god towards negotiations with the israelites as a pretense for the israelites to wipe out their city. So perhaps Hitchins would honestly want to be a believer, but god has chosen to harden his heart and punish him with cancer as an object lesson to the world about how evil atheism is.



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Chris

posted August 10, 2010 at 10:56 am


ANN Wright – what great words of wisdom and discernment. I believe that most atheist loose God in the hearts before their minds. In that regard there usually is some catalyst that prompts this. We should love and respect and through our peace demonstrate the tremendous value of our spirituality. In another direction from some of my atheist friends it seems the deep down they would rather be proved wrong than right. Thus giving them this hope we should have.The best way to do this might be to avoid the focus of religion and move toward a more spiritual one. Never debating only dialoging. Recognizing and admitting that religion has done many horrible things although for the converse it has done many more wonderful things.
Warm Regards,
Chris



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Bob

posted August 10, 2010 at 11:20 am


@Dale -
You underline Hitchens’s point. If there were a God who “has chosen to harden [Hitchens's] heart and punish him with cancer as an object lesson to the world about how evil atheism is,” that would be an evil being not worth anyone’s regard, let alone worship.



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MARTIN S.

posted August 10, 2010 at 3:35 pm


Without faith, life has no meaning.
Without GOD, life has no purpose.
Without Christ, there is no life!!



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Rick

posted August 10, 2010 at 7:43 pm


Religion is for the week minded.
Relgion is a form of control.
And keep your young boys away from catholic priests.



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nnmns

posted August 10, 2010 at 9:30 pm


Dale: If you read the Bible you learn nothing except what the Bible says, since it’s a mixture of fables, occasional history and propaganda for the writers’ and editors’ religions, all mixed together so only experts might hope to sort our what’s what. Oh, and Bob’s right.
Chris is it your opinion your spirituality is tremendously valuable? I’m sure Pat Robertson, for instance, thinks his is but I beg to differ.
Martin, saying trite things don’t make them true.



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Chris

posted August 11, 2010 at 2:16 pm


nnmns – You are correct I can only speak for myself in that my spirituality is of tremendous value to me. However I have many friends who find similar value in their spirituality. Wanting to draw a strong line differentiating between organized religion and spirituality. As I have found that as I grow older I become much less religious and much more spiritual. I would not classify or even begin to account for Pat Robertson’s idea of either. Who knows what he is thinking when some or maybe most words come out of his mouth?
Warm Regards,
Chris



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Trudy

posted August 12, 2010 at 12:13 pm


I think when Chris is standing before God in his final judgement and is shown how wrong he was it will be sad to know he can not change his view. There is only 2 outcomes after we die – a life in Heaven with our Almightly God, or one in hell with Satan.



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Goodguyex

posted August 12, 2010 at 1:27 pm


Christoopher Hitchens could try to assainate Pope Benedict when he arrives in the U.K. in September.
Since he is dying and hates the idea that Benedict will outlive him what reason is there that Hitchens should not show the world he really, really believes what he says and is not just pronouncind snaley flatulance?
As an atheists what do you think he thinks he has to lose?
Nothing!



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J R Kaplan

posted August 16, 2010 at 5:18 pm


Five years ago, I was battling Stage IV head and neck cancer, and I was not expected to survive. I also am an atheist, like Mr. Hitchens. I did not turn to God, I did not pray. People prayed for me, and I was grateful for the thoughts, but I do not believe that those prayers were why I survived.
I did reflect from time to time that if I had been a believer, I would have a well-marked path to follow – pray, and if it worked, show gratitude for the power of prayer and the grace of God, or pray, and if it did not work, take comfort in faith and its emotional accompaniments replacing the more painful reality. And, of course, everyone would speak more highly of you after you died. All of that still wasn’t a good enough reason to abandon reason. The arbitrary nature of pain, disease, accident, natural disaster, suffering – seem an argument for atheism, not belief. While I had not been in good health in the several years previous to my cancer diagnosis, and most of those health problems were my own fault, brought on by my then morbid obesity and my disinclination to do anything about it, there simply was no hint that my own health history or my family’s made me likely to get this kind of cancer. It seemed as pointless, then, to search for someone to blame, as to pray to God to save me or make my remaining life and death easier. I survived because of skilled medical and nursing care, the aid and care of family and friends, and an application of will and strength, and a helping of blind luck.
I do not think that my near-death experience changed or improved my character – although some friends and family disagree, they think I’m nicer now. I am grateful to be alive, grateful to be healthy, grateful that my losses due to illness are minor in the larger scheme of things, and grateful to the people who helped me. I like to think that before I had cancer, I also had gratitude to those who helped me – that is for others to say. Unlike Christopher Hitchens, I am not inclined to encourage atheism, undermine anyone’s beliefs, or to attack religion. As I do not think I am a better person for having survived a cancer ordeal, I do not think I am a better person because I am an atheist. Demonstrably, I am not a happier person because I am an atheist. I simply think, that after much study, reflection, and an intellectual journey, that I can do no other but be an atheist.
That journey was not easy (like Mr. Hitchens, I have few qualms about asserting my intellectual powers, compared to most of the people I know and meet), and I don’t think that most people have the knowledge that I deemed to be requisite to understand certain issues in the journey from religionist to atheist. For most people, religious belief is an effective vehicle for the transmission of ideas about morality and simple rules for living happily with your fellow man. In the absence of God and belief in an independent source of good and evil, it’s not easy to construct a notion of morality, or reasons not to exert physical, intellectual, or economic power at the expense of others. I would hate to rely on an uneducated brute’s capacity to understand how discoveries in areas like quantum physics, particle physics, genetics, astronomy, biology, and so on, inform and offer explanations of how the universe and people came to be without reference to God, just so I can rely on the brute not beating the crap out of me to take food out of my mouth. If religion is one of the factors that keeps him from doing so, I am more than happy to leave religion to be embraced by those who choose to do so, and to accord it dignity and respect, without being seduced myself by its blandishments.
I respect the mind and the resolve and the intellectual rigor of Christopher Hitchens, and I will grieve for his death as I now grieve for his suffering, and I will miss him. But the best tribute I can give him is that I waste no energy or mental resources on thanking God for his existence and his worthy work, nor cursing God for his premature death.



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robert grant

posted August 17, 2010 at 3:10 am


Here you have in 5 comments a microcosm of how thinking works when it comes to religious viewpoints–of any sort. First, there are Chris and nnmns thoughtful responses to each other without vehemence or intolerance. A sort of “agree to disagree” debate that doesn’t boil over with personal attack, mindless raving or sewer language.
Trudy’s belief comes from a book with hotly contested interpretations of its meanings and even its validity. There’s nothing wrong with this, except: making judgments of another’s eternal destiny based on nothing more than belief. There is a wide chasm between “belief” and “truth” and they are mutually exclusive.
With one you can come to a provable conclusion. With the other, that’s not only impossible, but not worth the effort. One’s belief, opinion, superstition, religious teachings, fear, guilt, all the other ramifications of a faith-based thought process are a personal persuasion quite apart from what most reasonable people would call “the real world”.
It is, once again, belief. As long as there is only belief to rely on, there can be no proof. Without proof, there is no reliable evidence. No, the bible doesn’t provide reliable evidence even when the argument is made that the writings about Christ’s life, mission, death and resurrection were taken from personal witness, because, you see, they were not. There was no stenographer following him around.
All content of the gospels is from times far from Christ’s 3 known years of activity. In at least one case, as much as close to 100 years. And that testimony is based largely, if not solely, on verbal accounts, lore. As was the tradition for passing on history at the time. Practically everyone was illiterate.
The 4 gospels are not in agreement in any number of significant ways. “Believing in one’s heart and mind” that these writings are true is not proof. “But I’ve seen these beliefs work miracles in people’s lives.” Well, you’ve seen something work in their lives, but what. Deep belief, reliance on the beneficial gifts of a supernatural being, confessing one’s sinful deeds, all have a certain calming psychological effect.
Catharsis can be a helpful factor among many others in the healing of a great many things, whether the catharsis is from, let’s say, talk therapy, or from a belief catharsis that has come from a religious strategy. Much like the placebo effect of sugar pills given to patients instead of the real thing. They still might get better. Why? Because they believe they are, and nothing more.
That’s powerful all right, but it’s not anything to do with a god-inspired or god-given act. This power comes from the mind of the person who seeks it and nowhere else. And, it can be a good thing. It’s just not religious. And, it’s still based on belief. And, alas, it might not work.
Christians of this ilk will try to convince another that biblical writings are somehow “God-inspired” and this makes them true. Nope. That’s still a matter of belief, nothing else. I don’t buy it, and many others don’t as well. And we are not going to heaven or hell because of it. As far as I know, Dante to the contrary, neither place has been
verified as existing, much less as being one’s gift of belief, or damnation because of lack of it.
This leads us to the extraordinary memoir and statement of belief based on a long period of rigorous intellectual investigation, informed thinking, and use of a mind that either escaped from or was never poisoned by religious dogma. Mr./Ms. Kaplan’s story is a wonderful, even inspiring one. It has great breadth of thought. It has a firm statement of belief, not believing in a god is still a belief, that is based on inspection, not a sort of mindless reflection.
If anyone ever went through fiery trials, Mr./Ms Kaplan has. And yet, no angry fist toward the skies, or complaints or intolerance for those who don’t accept this way of thinking, or belief if you will. And written with such style, articulateness, and I would say a sort of “grandeur” that isn’t easy no matter the circumstances under which anything is written. Rational, intelligent, without rancor and without intolerance for another opinion. Simply, you have the right to believe as you wish, I choose not to accept it.
Far and above, by the proverbial leaps and bounds, the unpleasant back-and-forth banter and mindless vindictiveness blogs are often subject to. The remarks deserve to be published beyond this location. Let’s hope that by someone’s effort they will be.
A lot to be said about 5 posts. It is, at the least, fascinating.



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robert grant

posted August 17, 2010 at 3:29 am


I failed to mention the remarks of “goodguyex”. That could be because I didn’t think there was any reason to have done so at the time, and I would have to profess there is not a justifiable one here, either. Still, there were 5 comments. You can decide for yourself where this particular one fits in the grand scheme of things. After all, it does represent yet another way of thinking in this complicated matter of “Is There A God Or Isn’t There?!” I can’t quite figure out which way “goodguyex” is headed in that regard. And, of course, a certain tenuous hold on literacy and the invasion of non sequitors
doesn’t help the cause I’m afraid.



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robert grant

posted August 17, 2010 at 4:17 am


I will apologize for posting 3 comments in a row. That’s reprehensible and usually unacceptable on any blog. But, if I may ask your indulgence at least this one time,
I wish to mention a comment that is number 1 on my Top Ten list of circular reasoning and specious remarks: “The Bible is true because it says it is true.” Therefore, I finally leave you [at last! I heard that.] with this challenge: for those who use this argument to support belief, faith and the inerrant nature of this book, explain how the remark works. Rationally.
And, do NOT come back with this old canard: “It isn’t necessary to be rational. That’s your problem. You don’t have to ‘understand’, just believe and let God take care of the rest.”
or even anything that’s remotely similar. The buzzer will go off: “Wrong!”



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SolInvictus

posted August 17, 2010 at 6:19 pm


Christopher Hitchens is a man who has chosen his path in life, and will stick to it at least publicly until the bitter end. The atheist finds comfort in a journey that is claimed by many followers of atheism to be intellectual in nature, in fact that journey of science and fact is fraught with academic, factual and logical holes so big that if atheists were held to the same standard of evidence they hold believers, atheism would be labeled by many as an intellectual fraud.
I do not have enough faith to be an atheist. Science has not trumped creation, Darwin was silent on the origins of life, and despite super computers, the complete mapping of DNA, and historical technical advances man has yet to create form scratch a single living cell. Not a one.
I do not believe that nothing without any help, created something, that something without any help became alive and after becoming alive replicated itself, which by the way has now been effectively debunked as a possibility, then morphed into trillions of cells able to communicate through chemicals, and somehow became conscious. All without any help or guidance. That is a leap of faith that can not be imagined to be reality.
One of the intellectual giants of atheism was Antony Flew. In fact he was THE atheist source who debated Christians such as C.S. Lewis for over 6 decades, over 60 years. Then a funny thing happened, Flew admitted in his words that creation is the likely scenario and a creator exists.
Plenty of evidence exists of a creator, choosing to ignore it and hold it to an impossible standard does not negate the evidence. There is evidence of God, a creator everywhere.



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Erich

posted August 18, 2010 at 6:39 pm


Oh my the hope of deathbed conversions does indeed spring eternal :)
//in fact that journey of science and fact is fraught with academic, factual and logical holes so big that if atheists were held to the same standard of evidence they hold believers, atheism would be labeled by many as an intellectual fraud.//
It’s funny that we never see that standard articulated.
//Science has not trumped creation, Darwin was silent on the origins of life, and despite super computers, the complete mapping of DNA, and historical technical advances man has yet to create form scratch a single living cell. Not a one.
//
The difference is that science is honest about the unknown, it’s the reason that scientists are still employed. A literal interpretation of Bronze Age mythology may be poetic and lyrical, but ‘goddidit’ is not exactly an explanation of anything.
We actually pretty close on the cell creation front so I would perhaps find another example.
//I do not believe that nothing without any help, created something, that something without any help became alive and after becoming alive replicated itself, which by the way has now been effectively debunked as a possibility,//
This what’s called an argument from personal incredulity, and all ‘debunking’ to date (Irreducibly complexity arguments) etc follow the same form.
//One of the intellectual giants of atheism was Antony Flew. In fact he was THE atheist source who debated Christians such as C.S. Lewis for over 6 decades, over 60 years. Then a funny thing happened, Flew admitted in his words that creation is the likely scenario and a creator exists.
//
Funny that Flew had no evidence-based argument for his conversion, and does a change from one who may have well been ‘diminished’ by the time of his change of heart really make the case. Also Flew ‘converted’ to Deism, a cosmic kickstarter, not a god who would have intervened in the creation of life.
//There is evidence of God, a creator everywhere.
//
The issue is finding evidence that can’t be confused with one’s imagination, biases,etc.



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real truth

posted August 22, 2010 at 11:48 am


Hitchens is a Neocon jerk. He’s done nothing but make atheists look ridiculous. As an atheist I won’t miss him 1 bit.



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Well

posted August 22, 2010 at 11:50 am


What created the creator?
No one ever asks that…..
Either the universe always existed without anything making it, or God always existed without anything making it. Neither makes a lick of sense to a finite human being.



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Katie Angel

posted August 26, 2010 at 10:35 am


Well,
And that is EXACTLY the point – we are finite human beings trying to come to terms with an infinite BEING that is beyond our comprehension. That is why God gave us a human “face” with which to interact in Jesus. He came to so that we fallible and finite human beings would finally be able to have a true relationship with our Lord and Creator.



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Jerome McCollom

posted September 7, 2010 at 1:24 pm


Sollnvictus wrote, “Darwin was silent on the origins of life.” Granted, and he was also silent on Newton’s theory of gravity. Darwin didn’t make it a point to study the origins of life, because the technology did not exist then. If someone wants to study up on models that deal with the origins of life, they exist. Just a little research will do. Anyway, what is more complicate, this god or a DNA molecule. I will go with the god idea, but somehow his complexity never has to be defended.



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