Mark D. Roberts

Mark D. Roberts


Why Does Hitchens Ridicule His Opponents?

posted by Mark D. Roberts

Part 8 of series: god is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens: A Response
Permalink for this post / Permalink for this series
Christopher Hitchens is an engaging writer, a master of clever rhetoric. Please understand that I’m not using “rhetoric” here in a derogatory manner. I respect the person who is a master of words, and, to be sure, Hitchens is such a master. To be completely honest, I envy his ability with language. I’m glad that the Decalogue doesn’t prohibit the coveting of your neighbor’s rhetorical skill, otherwise I’d be sinning right now.
In my last two posts I’ve shown, however, that sometimes Hitchens seems to let his language run away with him. Exaggeration, in measured doses, can accentuate one’s point. But when it distorts reality, then it isn’t especially helpful for the reader who seeks truth and not just entertainment. In the end, I don’t think it helps the writer, because discerning readers will tend to dismiss his claims as bombastic, whether they’re true or not.
Yet as I read god is not Great – two times, actually – I was concerned, not only about an over-indulgence of hyperbole, but also about a consistent tone of ridicule. I’ve got to believe that even someone who loves this book would agree that it’s full of scorn for religious people. Let me cite a few examples:

[Concerning religious furor over the year 2000] The occasion was nothing more than an odometer for idiots . . . (p. 60)
Augustine [one of the theologians most highly regarded by Christians] was a self-centered fantasist and an earth-centered ignoramus. (p. 64)
[Concerning the notion that certain places are holy] the ostentatious absurdity of the pilgrimage (p. 6)
Religion spoke its last intelligible or noble or inspiring words a long time ago. . . .” (p. 7) Not good news for us preachers!
[Religion] comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge (as well as for comfort, reassurance, and other infantile needs). (p. 64)
[Re: alternative views of how the universe was created] “creationist” stupidity (p. 78); the stupid notion of “intelligent design” (p. 85).
All attempts to reconcile faith with science and reason are consigned to failure and ridicule for precisely these reasons. (p. 65)

Perhaps such attempts will fail, and Hitchens is right. But why does he consign them to ridicule? Why does it help to make fun of people who see to reconcile faith with science and reason? Why not take them seriously enough to engage their ideas and show, in a scientific and reasonable way, why they are wrong? Hitchens admits to a great respect for science. But science doesn’t advance human knowledge by ridicule, but rather by careful investigation and logical examination. So again my question: Why are such attempts to reconcile faith with science and reason consigned to ridicule? (Photo to the right: A bit of the most recent Harvard Divinity Bulletin)
Ironically, a few days ago I received the latest edition of the Harvard Divinity Bulletin. (The Spring 2007 edition is not yet up on the website, but will presumably become available here at some time in the future.) The cover story focused on recent efforts among Harvard faculty to engage in cross-disciplinary studies of science and religion. It was entitled: “A Confluence of Opportunities To Bring Science and Religion Together: Several Harvard projects try to discover a middle way of debate, stressing synthesis rather than dogmatic opposition.” The article included some excerpts from a lecture delivered by Martin Nowak Professor of Mathematic and Biology at Harvard. He said things like:

Science is no replacement for religion because we are interested in many questions which are not scientific. For example, what is the purpose of my life? Where do I come from? Where will I go? Everybody has these questions either consciously or subconsciously.
Scientists should admit that science does not provide any evidence against well-formulated theology. On the other hand, religion should not oppose scientific progress.

Now Christopher Hitchens is surely welcome to disagree with Professor Nowak and to show that his points are wrong. But is it rational, scientific, or moral for Hitchens to ridicule this man? If so, why? If not, why does Hitchens claim the right to do so?
Throughout most of my experience in life, substantive arguments don’t need scorn. Arguers only stoop to such tactics when they realize that their arguments aren’t good enough to prevail. You can see this writ large over the face of American politics these days. If you can’t beat your opponent with logic, start tearing down your opponents character, intelligence, or whatever. Ridicule is the weapon of last resort for the debater going down to certain defeat. And, I’m sorry to say, in our culture ridicule often carries the day.
I was concerned enough about the prevalence of mockery in god is not Great to use up my one chance to ask Christopher Hitchens a direct question in our debate on the Hugh Hewitt Show. Here’s the interchange:

MR: Well, only in that the harder parts of your book for me were the places where you rather ridicule people of faith. Now, sometimes you ridicule people of faith that I also agree with you are thinking and doing things that are virtually worth of ridicule. But I wondered why you do that when it seems like you’re going to lose the opportunity to influence some of the very people you would want to influence.
CH: Ah, well, it’s just the way I am. I mean, I am a polemicist, if you like, and one has to get people’s attention first of all.
MR: Well okay, that’s fair.
CH: And that may sound to you as it somewhat slightly sounds to me as a vulgar answer, but it is the truth, right? One can’t write a book saying God is not that brilliant.

Well, I suppose one could write such a book, but it wouldn’t sell nearly as many copies at Hitchens’s more provocative tome.
My problem is not with provocative language, with clever rhetoric, with incisive arguments, even when they’re directed at me. My problem is with ridicule, with ad hominem attacks upon people with whom one disagrees. I would argue that ridicule rarely accomplishes anything other than making people upset. It almost never helps the person with whom you disagree to listen to what you’re saying. And, at least in my book, ridicule is almost always an immoral act. Moreover, I’d bet that you don’t even need a religious basis to see that ridicule, especially when talking about that which people hold most dear, is wrong.
Yet I’m willing to argue this case against ridicule a bit further. I’ll pick up the thread tomorrow.



  • RJS

    Mark,
    I find that ridicule is the principle tool in the recent spate of books and lectures espousing atheism and attacking Christianity. Certainly it is the primary tool wielded by Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, etc. The arguments are old, and sometimes ancient, convincing to some and not to others. But the use of ridicule is particularly designed to create an us-them mentality and bring all “right-minded” people into the proper camp. This sense of belonging – as opposed to being “othered” is a powerful tool. Ridicule upsets those who are firmly in the group being ridiculed, but can provide a powerful push to those who are unconvinced or undecided. Unfortunately this tool of ridicule has often been used by Christians as well.
    I agree with you. Ridicule is almost always an immoral act.

  • David Walser

    Hitchens seems to suffer from the conceit that religion is a crutch for those who are weak of mind or character. Many atheists seem to have this problem. To them, belief in god is a sign of mental defect — the believer is too dumb to understand science has proven god does not exist or is too emotionally weak to deal with the fact this life is all there is. What these “rational thinkers” fail to realize is that, by design, science cannot tell us anything about deity.
    When I was in school (we need not say how many years ago) I read a paper published (IIRC) by Catholic University on the three premises that underlie the Scientific Method. (If anyone can point me to the paper, I’d be very appreciative.) The authors claimed these three premises used to be taught in introductory science classes. The premises were:
    *Everything that happens is the result of the application of Natural Laws.
    *By observation, we can identify and understand these Natural Laws.
    *Natural Laws operate without respect to time or place.
    These premises are essential to the Scientific Method. Without them, our ability to learn would be substantially curtailed. Take the first premise, for example. If we want to understand why a volcano erupts, answering that question with “God wanted it to erupt” forecloses further inquiry and stops learning. We have to ignore the possibility that the supernatural is involved with an event or we cannot engage in scientific inquiry. Similarly, the second premise is essential or we might too easily give up when initial observations do not yield virtually immediate results. We have to pretend that, with enough effort and time, all things can be understood by the human mind. Lastly, we need to assume that Natural Laws operate without respect to time or place or any knowledge gained through observation will be of little practical use. If the law of gravity applies differently in Texas than it does in New York, or if it applies differently today than it might next week, how can we use our knowledge of gravity to predict future events — like the trajectory of an artillery shell — or to understand the past?
    While each premise is essential to the Scientific Method, each of them is false. If God created all things, including Natural Law, then whatever we know about the law of gravity (or the rate of decay of carbon atoms) may not apply to a period before those laws were put in place. The scriptures teach us that we cannot fully understand the mind of God nor can we fully comprehend His works. And, of course, we are taught that God has (and from time to time still does) interacted with His creations. This does not mean the Scientific Method does not produce useful and, at times, beautiful knowledge! No, it just means that there is a limit to the the kinds of knowledge science can produce.
    What does all this have to do with Hitchens’ conceit? He fails to realize that, because of these premises, science cannot tell us ANYTHING about God or His works. If a group of scientists were at the Creation and saw God remove a rib from Adam and from the rib create Eve, the scientists would have to come up with an explanation that did not include God — or they would be violating the first premise and their work would not be science. Science is a tool for obtaining knowledge. Hitchens conceit is that science can inform us about all truth. It cannot. His conceit is also that science is the only tool for obtaining truth; it is not.

  • David

    This is a major flaw. Christians like myself who respect Hitchen’s learning, sharp mind and wit would be more inclined to listen if he did not consistently refer to people of faith as “morons” and “idiots.” These attempts to shut down debate are unworthy of someone of his considerable intellect.

  • Chris

    When Jesus Seminar leader Robert Funk died, Mark Roberts talked about how his nemesis Funk looked like Skipper (Alan Hale) from “Gilligan’s Island”. He put up pictures on this blog comparing the two. This all at the time of Funk’s death. At the time I felt that was in very bad taste and very poor timing of ridicule.
    I think Pastor Roberts is a fine, fine person. I don’t think he regularly goes around comparing recently deceased people he disagrees with to buffoonish stupid sitcom characters. In fact I’m sure he doesn’t, by simply reviewing a number of his great writings at this blog.
    Part of it is the company that you keep. Certainly Pastor Roberts guests on Hewitt’s show. Hewitt uses ridicule extensively. Hewitt’s guests defend themselves with ridicule right back.
    One thing I do love about Hitch is that he can dish it out and take it. I also trust that we’re not suggesting that non-believers are the only ones that use ridicule.

  • David

    While I’m not familiar with the incident you’re referring to — if indeed it is true, I would say it was disrespectful and inappropriate — there is a huge difference between saying someone resembles a 60s sitcom star and referring to EVERYONE who holds a certain belief as “morons” and “idiots.” For instance, calling Augustine an “ignoramus” carries with it the implication that NOTHING Augustine ever said on any subject has any worth. Hitchens, in fact, is very consistent in the use of ridicule, and very sharp ridicule at that. It usually does not help further his argument.

  • http://www.christianscholar.net Chuck

    One wonders how Mr. Hitchens would respond to the argument that the reason religious people say and do unkind things to others, is because “that’s just the way we are”. I suspect that he would dismiss such a defense as vacuous, perhaps even “moronic”. Well, what’s good for the goose…
    Mark, you’ve done an admirable job in pointing out that Hitchens’ book tells us a great deal about the author himself–more than he may even realize. Thanks for your labors in this.

  • Religious Zealot

    Ridicule is the tool you use when you have nothing else to bring to the table. One look at Hitchen’s “arguments” shows that his “800 pound gorilla” is a mirage. He starts with a conclusion and then throws in some unresearched “arguments and then ridicules anyone “foolish” enough to not believe him.
    I weep for our younger generation who seem not to have been taught how to build a proper argument and how to think critically. As Rev. Roberts has shown us, there are no “legs” to Hitchen’s arguments. There are assumptions and conclusions, but Rev. Roberts has shown that you can’t get there from here.

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com/ ChrisB

    There is a difference between satire and ridicule, but many don’t seem to realize that. I’m sure I cross the line sometimes as well.
    May I suggest an approach for use when an opponent seems to be resorting to ridicule?
    “In my experience, those who resort to ridicule are either trying to mask their lack of an argument or just jerks. Which are you?”

  • Evan

    I think that Hitchens’ use of ridicule in this venue stems from something I mentioned before: human perception as to how an “Almighty God” should act. The argument runs roughly that “If there is an Almighty God who wants folks to be saved, He would not do X or allow Y, but rather he would have Z occur, because that is the only course of action that makes sense.” For example,
    Hitchens cannot see how God would allow His Bible to have any passages that did not agree in all details with all other passages, or to have four Gospels with differing viewpoints, as opposed to one seamless document. If He is Almighty, He can make it happen.
    As I have noted, the flaw here is that we are finite beings trying to analyze an Infinite being who is free of space and time and other
    limitations. From my viewpoint, though, the Bible is the least of my confusion. I am a parent, and the notion that I would send my
    son to die in the place of ANYBODY, much less an Adolph Hitler or a Josef Stalin, is utterly inconceivable, yet God sent His own son to die for those persons. God did something I would never, ever do. Why??? As Paul (himself a Jew) says in 1 Cor 1:23, “We preach Christ crucified, which is a scandal to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks.” “Almighty” God lets His own son be lynched? From that vantage point, it sounds pretty idiotic and Hitchens has never been one to suffer any fools gladly. As a device for demonstrating the absurdity of his opponents’ positions, ridicule has served him well in most every venue.
    The problem remains that finite humans cannot grasp the totality of an infinite being, any more than a two-dimensional drawing could fully grasp being 3-dimensional. Hitchens views the death of the Son of God as proof of the absurdity of the entire proposition, and ridicules the lot of it. I, as a parent, view it as something that would have been avoided if there were any way possible, and the fact that it was not avoided I view as an insight into the character of God and His son. If an Almighty parent and an Almighty son took these actions that I would never take, what do I learn about these beings? I take it as profound goodness exerted on my unworthy behalf; Hitchens sees it as foolishness. Again, no way to “prove” anything, you look at the data and form your theory, which is Faith any way you want to jump.
    Ridicule is also a tactic to bolster the proposition that your viewpoint is incontestable, and thus anyone who holds another view is an obvious fool. It is not very useful as persuasion. Hitchens is not trying to persuade, only to disdain, whereas Christians on the whole seek to persuade. Having seen the resurrected Christ, Paul could have rightfully told the Greek philosophers in Athens that their pantheon of gods and goddesses was pure bunk and that they better “turn or burn,” but instead, he noted their religious leanings and that they had even erected an altar to “the Unknown God,” lest they somehow slight one they did not know about. “I know this God,” Paul concluded. Discussion ensued, not fractious argument.
    Christ crucified is foolishness to many, including Hitchens, and only idiots and morons could believe it, and disdain and ridicule follow. If the presupposition is correct, the ridicule is therefore justified, but what if the presupposition is incorrect? You are left with
    the famous graffiti series: “God is dead”—- Nietzsche “Nietzsche is dead”—- God

  • A.C.H.

    It is with great pleasure, and not a little humor, that I am enjoying the ongoing discussion.
    It reminds me of a program on TV a couple of years ago wherein a group of highly respected intellectuals were gathered around a table at Harvard and proceeded to spend several hours genteely ‘debating’ the ‘issue’ of God’s existence.
    Each of the esteemed individuals maintained deeply furrowed brows and unsmiling faces throughout the ‘learned’ exchange, as round and round the table they went, each elucidating in measured tones, and referencing various volumes of ‘evidence’. In the end no conclusion was reached, and all left the gathering in the same state of belief, or unbelief, with which they started.
    In all of this, including the current debate, I cannot find the word ‘grace’. It might be assumed that the unbelievers would throw up their hands and cry “nonsense and unprovable” in response to the word.
    Yet, it is conceivable that, at least once, these very same fellows may have referred to another human being (dare I say, perhaps female) as “gracious”. And what, exactly would they have meant by that term?
    “Ah, ha” they might say. “But I am of course referring to something that I can measure: She was focussed, she was kind, she was thoughtful, she was gentle, she made me feel important, she knew just the right thing to say in the situation, she attended to my every need…”
    And so, it might be concluded, the individual who was noted and labeled in the special way of being “gracious” somehow stood out in the crowd. If the behaviour that merited the, what might be termed accolade, of “gracious” was somehow different than others, what then is the reason that someone would be drawn to, or feel good about, being in the presence of such an individual?
    More to the point, perhaps, is the question: Why would one desire to be around such an individual? Particularly if there were plenty of other individuals about, with whom one could just as easily enjoy the event/time but on a more head-to-head, one might say, rougher, manner?
    I submit that all the intellectual discussion of all the parties concerned misses several points, some of which can be “supported”, and others that cannot.
    Those that can be supported include the fact that intellectual debate is a kind of enjoyable ‘sport’ that is well documented, including in the New Testament wherein the venerable elders of a belief system who (including today) pride themselves on being able argued in minute detail the fine points of written doctrine.
    It can reasonably be assumed that meetings, such as the one at Harvard to which I allude above, concluded in the same fashion in Jesus’s time, and before, for that matter, as they did at Harvard more recently.
    As to those that cannot be “supported” it is equally reasonable to assume that, when surrounded by other human beings who more often than not fail to be “gracious”, many of us humans have a hunger to find that essence of “gracious” that may be often, if not always, missing in our lives.
    Whether a walk in the woods, or a quiet time of reading (even in a situation where one may be ‘lost in a book’ while surrounded by other humans, such as on a public bus) the seeking of graciousness in ones life.
    Does it really matter if an individual attributes “graciousness” to “God”? I don’t think it does, and I note below why I believe in that way.
    What does matter is that, throughout history, humans have sought some common thread to their desire for “graciousness” and have formed groups to seek that essence in their collective way. From this was, and is, born the ‘religions’ that are the construct of man.
    Christopher Hitchens, rather humorously in my opinion, stirs ‘religion’ into ‘God’, and vice versa, with the result being just a stew.
    What Mr. Hitchens completely misses, and is more important than the ‘clubs’ men form, is the serious issue of the denial of the hunger of humans for the qualities that comprise “gracious”. When that desire of humans is intellectualized or ridiculed, including the choice of some humans to try and form ‘religions’ so that groups of humans can find, or learn to be, “gracious”, then what is left?
    The intellect is not enough. As to the importance, or lack thereof, of attributing graciousness to a ‘God’, I believe that the degree to which any human is comfortable with ‘God’ is, a matter of graciousness, or grace.
    And so, we go around again.

  • http://jasondrexler.townhall.com Jason Drexler

    Part of me is burning to ridicule Mr. Hitchens right now, but I digress …
    In all seriousness, my educated guess is that Mr. Hitchens had a bad childhood (and since I’ve been reading John Eldredge lately, I’ll say a bad father in particular), and that he feels that God seriously screwed him over in some way at some earlier point in his life (perhaps it was the parent thing). Which goes to a crucial point that C.S. Lewis once made about his own former atheistic belief: He believed that there was no God, yet he was mad at God. How can this be? It can’t. And when Lewis realized this about his own life, it was one of the things that ultimately led him to faith in Christ. It is also something that seems to be common amongst atheists (at least, amongst the vocal ones): They preach that there is no God, yet they are enraged in such a way as to suggest that they DO believe in a God and that this God gave them the shaft sometime in their lives, so they’re trying to get back at Him by denying His existence. The very idea of God makes their skin crawl. Why is this? If Hitchens et al. truly believe that there is no God, why can’t they simply be content in their own belief and let it rest? For as we’ve seen, they don’t let it rest; they don’t even argue respectfully. They ridicule. Again, why do they do that? Why does the idea of God make their skin crawl? Because in their heart of hearts they know that there is a God, and that they’re angry at Him for some reason and so want to both get back at Him AND escape His presence, so they choose an atheistic course in an attempt to “hurt Him back” and to convince themselves that He’s NOT right there in front of them all the time, beckoning them to just give in and let Him heal them.
    So … Mr. Hitchens … Will you be secure in your own belief and let everyone else live in peace under the “to each his own” philosophy? Or will you continue to be angry at a God whom you insist isn’t there?
    Or … will you break down and admit that your very anger is proof that there IS a God — a God with whom you at last need to wrestle?

  • SonnyJim

    Chris,
    May I suggest that you use this site’s search function and reread your references before posting to ensure a little more care in your comments.
    In his post Sept 12, 2005, Mr. Roberts sidebars a picture of Robert Funk above a picture of ‘The Skipper’ with the following text between:
    “So I’m looking at the photo of Robert Funk (above), and thinking about Bob Denver/Gilligan, when all of a sudden it occurs to me that Funk looks rather like The Skipper from Gilligan’s Island. Strange things happen to people when they spend too long staring at computer screens.”
    This was of course in reference to the original spark for the post which was the coincidental timing of Mr. Funk’s death and Bob Denver’s.
    If Mr. Roberts is ridiculing anyone, it is himself for spending too much time on the internet.

  • Kent

    Well, in terms of sarcasm – Paul uses it against those who insisted one must be circumcised in order to be Christian (and other instances), and Isaiah directed it at those who worship idols, or at least to the manufacturing a “god” process.
    As for the argument David Walser makes earlier, it’s actually even more basic than that. In secular cosmology, there comes a point at the Big Bang when the basic laws of physics and so on “condense out” and become part of the universe. Anything prior to that point is unobservable either because our atom smashers can’t bang things together hard enough to make particles so small that they existed prior to that point, and thus observe their properties, or they simply didn’t exist at that point. For example, the universe expands faster than light for a short duration, in spite of the fact that this is now impossible. So one doesn’t even have to refer to God to say that the laws of science are false in terms of being “everywhere at all times the same”.
    You can also not say that “everything that happens does so as a result of natural laws” if the Big Bang and events immediately following yet predating the consolidation of laws and matter and energy to which those laws applied A) happened and B) happened at a point prior to those laws existing. In fact, as Ravi Zacharias stated to a scientist on this subject, “Does this not mean that all theories as to the origin of the universe are outside the scope of science and therefore based on faith statements?”
    You can also not say that we can observe all scientific theories lest they not, in the absence of observation, be considered scientific. Cosmologists routinely refer to string theory, multi-verses that cannot be observed by nature. They also refer to Dark Matter and Dark Energy where the effect is perceived (and forms the vast majority of what exists in the universe) but actual observation of the source is maddeningly difficult if not impossible. One theory, for example, states that dark matter may be made of elementary particles that are the size of planets or larger. Well, you can’t very well crank out something like that at Fermilab, can you? Where would you put it? And all that assumes that that particular theory is even correct.
    I do see sarcasm, where atheists are concerned, as something that can be applied with some loving precision and in appropriate situations. If an atheist worships his or her “rapier wit” and this idol is standing between that person and genuine understanding (either of argument or emotion of the target), and that person is disarmed repeatedly to the point of helplessness, you may succeed in taking the conversation to another level beyond the cruelty of the mental playground bullying this person is apparently unable to mature past. It’s a bit like when the Philistines put the Ark of the Covenant in their temple and came back the next morning to find their idol had toppled over in its presence. If Hitchens enjoys juggling strawmen for his own mental self-stimulation, I will be entirely happy to juggle factual torches and occasionally send one in his direction. Alistair McGrath does a very good job of doing so to Dawkins in his books “The Dawkins Delusion?” and “Dawkins God”. He is able to do this because he is not only a Christian but a Ph.D in biochemistry at Oxford. If you intend to make a difference in this area, please be armed with more science, history, and biblical scholarship than your opponent. I personally have found “Atheism 2.0” to be a kick in the complacency to finally plug the gaps in my own understanding of these areas.

  • *Ken

    I really don’t see much difference between Hitchen’s “style” of arguemment, and that is all that it is, and the quiet concerned condescentian of Dr. R in the debate where he was so sure if Hitch only read the right books he’d come around.
    Remember a good christian believes all who don’t come to christ burn in hell for eternity … now that’s harsh … Hitchens otoh is a a secular humanist and as such believes in the inherent value in each and every one of us, no heaven but also no hell, and Jesus supposedly said a version of “my way or the highway” …. now, really, who is nastier and less generous
    K

  • http://www.brandondutcher.blogspot.com Brandon Dutcher

    Your post is very persuasive and well-written, with a winsome tone of gentleness and respect. And at first blush I’m sure most serious Christians would agree with your statement that “ridicule is almost always an immoral act.” And yet …
    I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but your fellow pastor and blogger (and Hitchens combatant) Douglas Wilson has written a little book called “A Serrated Edge: A Brief Defense of Biblical Satire and Trinitarian Skylarking.” I won’t summarize the whole book, but (to give you a flavor) chapter titles include “The Satire of Jesus,” “Old Testament Satire and Jabs,” “The Language of Paul,” and “The Goal of Giving Offense.” Now I don’t know what you or your readers think of Wilson, but I think few would deny that he’s a serious thinker who is committed to the truth of God’s Word.”
    All that to say: yes, it’s clear that ad hominem attacks are off-putting and unproductive. But are you really prepared to go so far as to say that “ridicule is almost always an immoral act”?
    In any case, I enjoy your blog. Keep up the good work.

  • Banjo

    This is not to ridicule Hitchens, but I think some of his writing — perhaps his best — is done under the influence of strong spirits. Anyone who has spent time in a tavern knows this contributes to a spirit of contention that quickly resorts to reductive ridicule. The best example is someone who bested in argument asks “Do you call hat piece of s— on your face a nose?” This, of course, is unanswerable.

  • Brad

    Debate and switch is certainly a popular method of argument, even if it does derail the debate. Mr. Hitchens suggests that that is just the way he is. I suppose that’s why he undertook the writing of a “shake your fist at God” book.
    Derisiveness does not teach or explain but acts as an intoxicant for the enjoyment of supporters. Could his polemic bloodlust and lack of understanding both be rooted in his secular nature? A serious look at grownup criticism of Christian theology would be exciting but when the debate reduces to name calling it’s time to send the namecallers to bed without their dinner.
    Why not just toss his book on the growing heap along with “piss Christ,” “dung Mary” and the rest? Are his supporters listening to the debate? What do we gain from a vitriolic tirade against us as believers?
    Frankly, I gain more from debating the occasional Jehovah’s Witness that knocks on my door.

  • Jeff

    The thing that gets me is that while his derogatory style works among those predisposed to hear it, it has a contrary effect on those pre-opposed; this doesn’t resolve any debates, it merely widens the gap.
    That leads me to wonder whether CH really cares about his point at all, and is instead provocative for the purpose of selling books. Or is his logic so flawed that he feels it necessary to cement the cracks with slander. It seems he is working backward from his premise instead of toward it: a neat trick when the premise is also his conclusion, but in the end, only a trick after all.
    If that’s the case, he is merely an apologist of his atheistic faith, and has already become the subject of his own mockery.

  • Evan

    I think that Hitchens’ use of ridicule in this venue stems from something I mentioned before: human perception as to how an “Almighty God” should act. The argument runs roughly that “If there is an Almighty God who wants folks to be saved, He would not do X or allow Y, but rather he would have Z occur, because that is the only course of action that makes sense.” For example, Hitchens cannot see how God would allow His Bible to have any passages that did not agree in all details with all other passages, or to have four Gospels with differing viewpoints, as opposed to one seamless document. If He is Almighty, He can make it happen.
    As I have noted, the flaw here is that we are finite beings trying to analyze an Infinite being who is free of space and time and other limitations. From my viewpoint, though, the Bible is the least of my confusion. I am a parent, and the notion that I would send my son to die in the place of ANYBODY, much less an Adolph Hitler or a Josef Stalin, is utterly inconceivable, yet God sent His own son to die for those persons. God did something I would never, ever do. Why??? As Paul (himself a Jew) says in 1 Cor 1:23, “We preach Christ crucified, which is a scandal to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks.” “Almighty” God lets His own son be lynched? From that vantage point, it sounds pretty idiotic and Hitchens has never been one to suffer any fools gladly. As a device for demonstrating the absurdity of his opponents’ positions, ridicule has served him well in most every venue.
    The problem remains that finite humans cannot grasp the totality of an infinite being, any more than a two-dimensional drawing could fully grasp being 3-dimensional. Hitchens views the death of the Son of God as proof of the absurdity of the entire proposition, and ridicules the lot of it. I, as a parent, view it as something that would have been avoided if there were any way possible, and the fact that it was not avoided I view as an insight into the character of God and His son. If an Almighty parent and an Almighty son took these actions that I would never take, what do I learn about these beings? I take it as profound goodness exerted on my unworthy behalf; Hitchens sees it as foolishness. Again, no way to “prove” anything, you look at the data and form your theory, which is Faith any way you want to jump.
    Ridicule is also a tactic to bolster the proposition that your viewpoint is incontestable, and thus anyone who holds another view is an obvious fool. It is not very useful as persuasion. Hitchens is not trying to persuade, only to disdain, whereas Christians on the whole seek to persuade. Having seen the resurrected Christ, Paul could have rightfully told the Greek philosophers in Athens that their pantheon of gods and goddesses was pure bunk and that they better “turn or burn,” but instead, he noted their religious leanings and that they had even erected an altar to “the Unknown God,” lest they somehow slight one they did not know about. “I know this God,” Paul concluded. Discussion ensued, not fractious argument.
    Christ crucified is foolishness to many, including Hitchens, and only idiots and morons could believe it, and disdain and ridicule follow. If the presupposition is correct, the ridicule is therefore justified, but what if the presupposition is incorrect? You are left with the famous graffiti series: “God is dead”—- Nietzsche “Nietzsche is dead”—- God

  • http://jasondrexler.townhall.com Jason Drexler

    Hey Ken,
    A discussion of Christian theology on hell could make for a long discourse, so in the interest of time: The Bible doesn’t give every detail of what the place called Hell is like, but we do know that “hell,” by definition, is the absence of God. The Bible also teaches that our choices here effect our eternal destination, so if anyone chooses to not follow Jesus in this life (that is, they choose to live their lives absent of God’s presence), then they will be absent his presence for eternity — which would be hell. So in the end, God doesn’t send anyone to heaven or to hell; we each send ourselves to one or the other. And when you consider that Jesus came to earth so that we could all be with God, and not separated from Him, it seems, then, that Jesus was trying to save us all from ever experiencing hell. In my mind, that’s the most generous thing anyone could ever do for me, thus making Jesus more generous than Hitchens or any of the rest of us ever thought of being.
    As for your comment about Hitchens and secular humanism and seeing “the inherent value in each and every one of us,” Hitchens’s tone suggests that he sees little, if any, value in religious folk. And if I were to compare Hitchens and Jesus in a purely secular way, I’d have to say that Jesus has shown himself a much better humanitarian and a much nicer person, and that Hitchens has given me not even one reason to listen to anything he says.

  • *Ken

    Jason,
    thanks for the reply,
    re Hell, the point remains that Hell in the sense that you describe it is attributable to JC. That was his point and it remains valid. You are explaining the mechanism, do we send outself to Hell or are we judged by JC as he sits at the right hand of himself in his alter-ego? Really not as important as the concept that all go to Hell who do not accept JC. The afterlife was not an issue to the Jews of his day. The concept of heaven as a carrot and hell as a stick has caused much suffering, that was his point.
    You should check out a bit more about Hitchems and read some of his stuff on other topics. ) Cloumns in Slate are a good place to start). His support of the war in Iraq is based almost entirely on his love for the Muslim Kurds who have made him their brother. He also believes strongly that taking out Saddam was the right thing to do for sound political reasons.
    and to those posters who accuse him of being under the influence, he loves his drinks but nobody can argue as well as he dies under the influence. I have a policy of never debating anyone who is drinking as even the brightest soon make no sense. A very un-Christian accusation.
    Ken

  • JD Bryant

    I don’t want to generalize this observance but I have found all too often the people on the left think that you win an debate by trashing the opponents character and intelligence. This is the politics of personal destruction extended into a debate. The further you go to the left the greater is the tendency. Witness the behavior on the Daily Kos. Intelligence doesn’t seem to be a factor except to raise the quality of the insults.

  • http://www.super-science-fair-projects.com Madeline D Binder, M.S. Ed.

    Each of us has the right to speak our minds and show our emotion about something. We have different ways of expressing it, and of those is writing. Christopher Hitchens is good writer obviously because of how he play with words. But the sad thing is that he ridicules God which is the gravest mistake a man could ever do. It won’t influence people who have great faith in God, but what about the ones whose faith is still floating in the air? No matter how good writers we are, we still have a big responsibility in every word we say or write.

  • http://qkxko.com/ltfkabx.html Karen Diaz

    hi
    wo9n1fha141t0mee
    good luck

Previous Posts

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Thank you for visiting Mark D. Roberts. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Red Letters with Tom Davis Recent prayer post on Prayables Most Recent Inspiration blog post Happy Reading!  

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