Christopher Hitchens is one of the few people in this world that I truly look up to. What makes me look up to him? Because he says that we should not have any idols or put anyone else in too high of regard. So in that sense I admire him for a quality that he possesses.
As you may know, last month my man Hitch announced that he had cancer. The cancer is in his esophagus and from everything I've read it has a relatively low survival rate because it is often detected in an advanced form. The news hit me pretty hard as I think that he is on the forefront of so many important battles. Even if you do not agree with everything that he stands for (I do not), nothing but good can come out of forcing open discussion.
It came to my attention that a religious blogger, Rev. Robert Barron, had written a piece about Hitchens (see here). The premise of the article was simple: Despite having spent much of his life railing against religion in general and Christianity in particular (if only because he sees it is a threat to his adopted country), Christians should pray for Hitchens.
Well, where to start with that one. I guess the first thing that I would say (and maybe Hitch himself would say) is that is a nice gesture. And I mean it - it is nice to know that people are thinking of you. But with that said....
Along with Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins, he is one of the “four horsemen” of the New Atheism, the movement that advocates an aggressive, take-no-prisoners approach to the claims of faith.
I love when people say "take no prisoners" when referring to atheism. As opposed to the thousands or millions of people that were literally taken prisoner for contrary religious beliefs? It wasn't called the "Dark Ages" for nothing. And for the record, it really isn't anything like that. Just prove one or two of your claims, that's all we ask.
Something that surprised and intrigued me was Hitchens’ affection for two of my own literary heroes, Bob Dylan and Evelyn Waugh..... Here’s why I say I was surprised: Both Dylan and Waugh are inescapably religious writers..... I confess I began to wonder whether, despite his brassy atheism, Mr. Hitchens didn’t have a good deal of sensitivity to things religious.
And this is a perfect of how little many Christians understand about atheism.
First, we infidels would have very little to talk about if we discounted works done by Christians. After all, the majority of the people in this country describe themselves as Christians. There is in fact beautiful gospel music - am I supposed to deny that it exists? Some of the most beautiful paintings in the world include Jesus - am I supposed to consider it a lesser piece of work because of the subject matter? (although I do get a kick out of the Christians ignoring a commandment to make these works of art. It seems that selling the religion was more important than following God's word) U2 is one of my favorite bands and maybe half of their songs are about religion (listen closely).
I do take some umbrage with some of what Barron says here. While some of Dylan's songs do have a religious tone to them, many have very unholy themes. Besides, if Barron knew a little more about Hitch he would know that he was twice married in a Church and he actually sent his kids to a religious school
But it’s always a very tricky business to interpret the purpose of the divine providence. After all, plenty of good, even saintly, people die prematurely from terrible diseases all the time, and lots of atheists and vile sinners live long prosperous lives before dying peacefully in their beds.
Amen to that brother. It is rare to hear a holy man admit this.
Hitchens’ disease is indeed ingredient in God’s providence, since at the very least it was permitted by the one whose wisdom “stretches from end to end mightily.”
I spoke to soon. This is class holy man speak. You take something awful and put the positive spin on it. This is case, the disease is all part of providence so there must be some good to it. After all, it is part of the plan. Um, no, it is bad.
But what it means and why it was allowed remain essentially opaque to us. Might it be an occasion for the famous atheist to reconsider his position? Perhaps. Might it be the means by which Hitchens comes to think more deeply about the ultimate meaning of things? Could be. Might it bring others to faith? Maybe. Might it have a significance that no one on the scene today could even in principle grasp? Probably.
And here is where the worshipper spin starts.
I think that this is where believers have a horrible time understanding unbelievers. Many - dare I say, most - believers are believers because it makes them feel better or fills a whole. There is no thought to the validity to the belief. There is merely a false comfort (cringing) because this belief is going to give them a happy ending (and not the Jimmy Norton kind of happy ending - that one delivers). Someone that sees the pure absurdity of religious belief couldn't simply "cross over" when hard times hit and suddenly stop to ignore their rational mind.
And this is the heart of religious belief and disbelief. Nobody is ever converted to disbelief. It is something that you find completely on your own when you start to ask yourself if these stories are true. Once you start down that path there is no stopping, and this is why people choose not to even start down that road. Now consider the other direction - when do people find religion? You are either born into it or you find it during a hardship - addiction, jail, etc. I can't think of a better way to expose belief than looking at it from this perspective. People find it when they need something, and that by itself makes it B.S.
But what struck me with particular power as I surveyed the Catholic media was that the vast, vast majority of Catholics reported Hitchens’ disease and then, with transparent sincerity, urged people to pray for him.
I don't know what blogs he was reading - many of them simply said "good" and reiterated the same kind of "maybe now he'll give JC a chance" attitude that Barron put on display.
In making that recommendation, of course, they were on very sure ground indeed. Jesus said, “Love your enemies; bless those who curse you; pray for those who maltreat you." Christopher Hitchens is undoubtedly the enemy of Christianity—even of Christians—but he is also a child of God, loved into being and destined for eternal life. Therefore, followers of Jesus must pray for him and want what is best for him.
Ah yes, the compulsory love angle. As if having your sins paid for by someone else wasn't immoral enough, why not toss in the fact that you are compelled to love someone. What could be more condescending than that? I can't fathom a reason why anyone should ever love someone that they despise. When Billy Graham died, Hitch went on Sean Hannity's show and basically said that we were better off that this asshat was dead (and he was right - Graham was a disgusting human being). If you don't love me I don't want you to pretend that you do.
And one more thing. You'll also notice that he slipped in the little blurbs that go completely unnoticed by the faithful because they are so used to hearing them. "but he is also a child of God, loved into being and destined for eternal life". Really? Where does it say that? In fact, it says quite the opposite - hence the need for holy men. But that message doesn't sell well so they make up their own. Why can't everyone see this?
One of the greatest Catholic apologists of all time, G.K. Chesterton, debated the agnostic George Bernard Shaw up and down England, and their arguments were often pointed and aggressive; but after the debates, the two friends could be seen drinking and laughing together. That’s a model of how a Christian treats his intellectual opponents.
Actually, not so much. What are the chances of a Christian voting for an atheist? The answer is "almost never" (there are several polls to back up this claim). I'm supposed to be impressed that this clown went out for a beer with a genius like Shaw? I hope this Chesterton guy was buying. And remember, many sects say alcohol was made by the devil (cringing, again).
I didn't even need to go into this kind of detail because prayer is silly. Believers get sick at the same rates as non-believers - why bother praying? Carlin was right - it doesn't matter if you pray to Jesus, the sun or your goldfish, prayers are answered at the same rate. And if you're praying you are asking the big kahuna to mess up his divine plan OR to do something that he could have simply done in the first place. How much more straight-forward could it be?
(link to the blog: http://www.PrayingToPesci.com/home/PrayingToPesci.nsf/lookupcontent...