A surprise for atheist Christopher Hitchens

 Christopher Hitchens once said he liked surprises. He got one yesterday. At the relatively young age of 62, on Thursday, December 15th, Hitchens died from complications related to esophageal cancer. This was not a surprise. Hitchens knew he had to die. He spoke candidly about death. He once answered a question about fear of death,

“Do I fear death? No, I am not afraid of being dead because there’s nothing to be afraid of, I won’t know it. I fear dying, of dying I feel a sense of waste about it and I fear a sordid death, where I am incapacitated or imbecilic at the end which isn’t something to be afraid of, it’s something to be terrified of.”

After being diagnosed with cancer, many wondered if Hitchens would back off atheism and begin to seek God. When asked about it, he replied, “”No evidence or argument has yet been presented which would change my mind. But I like surprises.”

And what a surprise it must have been to learn that his existence was not due to the blind chances of impersonal natural laws! Hitchens now knows with certainty that there is a personal, intelligent Creator. Perhaps (now that he’s had a proper introduction to the God he didn’t believe in), he would like to recant the title to his recent book: “God Is Not Great.” 

In sharing his thoughts about physical life on this planet, Hitchens once wrote: “There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.” Really? On a philosophical level, perhaps one should ask why he even wanted this life? Where does such “want” come from and what does it imply?

Frankly, I don’t trust the honesty of his testimony, “I want nothing more.” I realize that the absence of such desire could be a form of self-induced suppression since Hitchens spent an unusual amount of time and energy renouncing something he didn’t believe in. Historical anthropology, of course, overwhelmingly testifies that humans on every corner of the globe from every period of history pursue and desire the transcendent — quite vigorously. 

It seems a bit more honest to admit that in some compelling way we find ourselves intuitively prodded by a sense of transcendence. We humans deeply and innately sense that there is more to life than this life. I suspect that this also helps to explain the strange energy of protest behind the odd (and relatively recent) brand of militant atheism in men like Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris. These men want so desperately to be known as evangelists of all things rational and logical. Yet they are glaringly blind to the deep inconsistencies and irrational agendas of their own mission.

Another well-known atheist, Bertrand Russell, once cast a more honest and depressing vision of human meaning (which I am equally certain he would now recant): “Man is the product of causes which hand no prevision of the end they were achieving and which predestine him to extinction in the vast death of the solar system.” This is a far more logical conclusion for atheism.

Scottish agnostic, Richard Holloway, offered a perceptive reflection when he groaned,

“This is my dilemma. I am dust and ashes, frail and wayward, a set of predetermined behavioral responses, … riddled with fear, beset with needs…the quintessence of dust and unto dust I shall return…. But there is something else in me…. Dust I may be, but troubled dust, dust that dreams, dust that has strong premonitions of transfiguration, of a glory in store, a destiny prepared, an inheritance that will one day be my own…so my life is spread out in a painful dialectic between ashes and glory, between weakness and transfiguration. I am a riddle to myself, an exasperating enigma…the strange duality of dust and glory.”

Did you ever think that perhaps we were meant for more? Maybe human purpose is meant to have deeper connections than the fleeting experiences of a temporal world? Many people make it their lifelong goal to find a lifelong goal only to find that despising their own meaninglessness is the most tangible meaning they can discover.

Let’s be honest enough to admit that a longing for deeper meaning is universal to humanity.  We’re driven toward it as if it is our birthright or a kind of necessary spiritual oxygen. We’ve been told that our pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right. We are seeking creatures by nature and we often conceal the deeper realities of our pursuit with lots of temporal fillers. Just one more vacation, one more purchase, one more party, one more relationship, one more round of drinks — and on it goes. Like Dorothy, we’re off to see the Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz — only to draw back the curtain in disappointment time and time again.

Perhaps it seems predictable to quote C. S. Lewis, but he was right when he postulated, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

There is so much truth in Augustine’s famous prayer: “Everlasting God, in whom we live and move and have our being: You have made us for Yourself, and hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

On some level, Jesus would have agreed with the subtitle to Hitchens’ book, “How religion poisons everything.” Jesus invested large amounts of  teaching to opposing religion. Religious people hated Jesus and, unlike Hitchens, Jesus was put to death by a plot inspired by religious people. With great passion, they looked for opportunities to kill Jesus.

I realize that Christianity is classified among the religions of the world but I am certain the founder would not want any association with religion. The main reason for this is that religion is about man’s effort to seek God on his own terms. Religion is about appeasing a self-defined deity through human effort. Christianity is the exact opposite. It is about God making himself known and seeking humans by making a way (based on his unmerited grace) for us to be forgiven and restored to fellowship with our Creator.

The Christian is one who confesses: “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21). The apostle Paul expressed his desire for first century believers with these words: “I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3).

One of the best books responding to militant atheism is David Bentley Harts’ “Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies” Hart offered an important appeal to those who choose atheism.

“One does not have to believe any of it, of course—the Christian story, its moral claims, its metaphysical systems, and so forth. But anyone who chooses to lament that event should also be willing, first, to see this image of the God-man, broken at the foot of the cross, for what it is, in the full mystery of its historical contingency, spiritual pathos, and moral novelty: that tender agony of the soul that finds the glory of God in the most abject and defeated of human forms. Only if one has succeeded in doing this can it be of any significance if one still, then, elects to turn away.”

As I celebrate the God who became man, I am grateful that in him I find the purpose I was created for. When Jesus was in communion with God the Father, he said, “this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). The truth I must remind myself of is that “… there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people” (I Timothy 2:5-6).

Steve Cornell

see: Douglas Wilson’s obituary


About Wisdomforlife

Just another worker in God's field.
This entry was posted in Apologetics, Atheism, Atheists, Christian life, Christian worldview, Christianity, Hitchens, Meaning of life, purpose, Religion, Religion-not the answer, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Worldview. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to A surprise for atheist Christopher Hitchens

  1. Joe Brooks says:

    Great piece, as usual.

    I have been very saddened to see the number of Christians who have taken pleasure in the death of Christopher Hitchens, expressing a sort of “told ya so” sentiment. We shouldn’t rejoice at the death of Mr. Hitchens. He is now a lost soul, irretrievably so. As a Christian, I mourn his passing and his eternal fate. As a lover of good writing and sharp wit, sometimes excruciatingly sharp as it was so often pointed at things I hold sacred, I will miss his talents. But, as God is grieved by the sins of the living, I’m sure he is also grieved by the soul who succumbs to those sins and suffers eternally for it. To mock Mr. Hitchens is to mock God’s grief.

  2. Fubar says:

    re: would Jesus hate atheists?

    Sad that you decided to exploit Hitchens’ death to promote religious polemics. This the problem with mythic-conformist belief systems, an unending need to coerce individual belief, in this case, even after the individual is dead! There is no rational way to know if Hitchens’ consciousness survived after his physical death, or what the nature of that conscious experience is/was, much less if it is consistent with any the descriptions of “life after death” in any religious scripture.

    Evolution provides reasonable explanations of why the human brain produces chemicals that create perceptions of transcendence and well-being to enable social bonding and to alleviate anxiety over death caused by our sophisticated linguistic memory. After that, everything is a matter of cultural filters, subjective at best, in how the brain chemistry of transcendence leads to construction of meaning and culture.

    The assertion of absolutes is no proof of anything other than the cultural biases of the person making the assertion and the life experiences that went into their own “making of meaning”. That goes for religious and non-religious people. The underlying brain chemistry and psychology is basically the same, based on tribalism and group-think.

    My personal opinion is that religious people are better off taking the high road, and being compassionate in describing ways in which religious experience can help humanity bridge its divides in finding common good, not promoting more absolutist divides.

    I do not expect evangelicals to typically be flexible or open minded about adopting compassion since they will probably see it as conflicting with their sense of inherent superiority and their need to therefor “exclude” people with other beliefs/un-beliefs.

  3. tobeforgiven says:

    As a Christian, I too am disapointed with this article. I have been reading Atheist hatred for something that I believed had not yet happened, which was that someone would write something like this.
    Please consider removing this post, as it is in bad time.

  4. I appreciate concerns about being compassionate (a tone I am authentically committed to) but I certainly think it would be a suspicious overreaction to label anything I wrote as “hatred.” And to suggest that I am exploiting Hitchens’ death to promote religious polemics tells me more about the person projecting such motives than about what I actually wrote. I also question whether such a suggestion betrays a failure to understand the person about whom I wrote. Let’s remember that Christopher Hitchens built his reputation on being a contrarian. I think it fair to say he took great delight in polemical engagement. To completely dance around such engagement upon his death is to disregard the thing for which he lived and took great pleasure. He also repeatedly made it clear that he was not interested in being pitied or in need of forgiveness and repentance. I did not dishonor Hitchens as a human being and one could argue (and he loved a good argument) that I wrote in a manner that he was pleased to engage all throughout his life.

    But having said that, I invite you to notice that I made no postulations about Hitchens eternal destiny. I leave such matters with God. I did not know Hitchens’ heart but (by grace) I know that in the heart of God there is a wideness of mercy that goes beyond full human comprehension. The words of Scripture ring clear: “Be merciful to those who doubt.” (Jude 22).

    It should be noted that atheists are often quick to cry foul (with strange measures of moral outrage) when they perceive what they think to be a lack of compassion from believers (to which on curious assumption they feel we are somehow morally obligated according to a standard they hold as authoritative). Remember, however, that men like Hitchens spoke often and freely with high tones of condescending mockery toward those who had faith in Christ and his sacrificial death. They spared no contrary words against religious people and they asked for no pity toward their positions. In fact, they take offense and even sneer at those who try to extend such pity.

    I did not attack nor announce eternal doom over Christopher Hitchens. But I am troubled that some think that upon one’s death we are obligated to only say good things — even when those things are not true and even when they are not what the dead would have wanted us to say.

  5. tobeforgiven says:

    Hitchens wrote awful things about Mother Theresa, about Jerry Falwell after their deaths. I would agree you have said nothing truly disrespectful.
    But I would say that Paul teaches us to be “all things to all people”
    In Romans 12:15 he says that we should “mourn with those who mourn”.
    I believe that in this time, we need to show our true colors. That we are a people who love. A pleople who teach salvation through Jesus Christ (and only through Jesus Christ) by showing the same kind of grace that God showed us. That we, though having turned from him, and having been enemies of him, have been given the opportunity to be saved by him.
    We have to show this in how we treat others. Perhaps the best way to show the grace of Jesus Christ, is to come along side these folks who have hated us, and said awful things about us, and Mourn with them. As we do indeed mourn the loss of a soul to the evil one! This is not a joyous occassion (I know you understand this). But perhaps the best way to show who Jesus is in this moment, to show that Hitchens was wrong about him, is to show the love that he showed. To stop talking and let his love speak.

  6. On another note, (to Fubar) it is a bit of a stretch to attribute human search for transcendence to brain chemistry. But if that is the explantory model you want to put believe, you should at least verify it with actual data from neuro-science.

    And be careful in labeling something as “mythical conformist belief system.” You also have a belief system and conformity to it is expected (if not required) in much of the academy. And “mythical” is another one of those code words of condescending mockery used to manipulate emotional reaction rather than welcoming informed debate.

    Your response follows typical moves made by atheists. After pokes at the “mythical” and postulations about what the science of evolution offers, you appeal to “rational” and “reasonable” (words that you might just be using based on self-accommodating filters to protect self-serving presuppositions). Then (with predictability) you postulate that something from neuro-science has definitively located “perceptions of transcendence and well-being to enable social bonding and to alleviate anxiety” in brain chemistry. Finally, (icing on the skeptics cake) you use a bad word. You suggest with absolute authority that (after your postulations about brain chemistry with supposed support from neuro-science), “everything” “is a matter of cultural filters, subjective at best, in how the brain chemistry of transcendence leads to construction of meaning and culture.” Do you see why someone might look at this kind of belief system with a bit of suspicion?

    To use such a line of argument and then to definitively and absolutely declare that, “There is no rational way to know if Hitchens’ consciousness survived after his physical death, or what the nature of that conscious experience is/was” only generates more suspicion.

    The belief system that postulates that the physical world is a self-contained system that works by impersonal, blind, unbroken natural laws has too often been supported by a ludicrous overuse (and abuse) of evolutionary biology. The idea that nothing beyond nature could have any relevance to what happens in nature is a conclusion of faith not science.
    There is not one shred of scientific evidence to support it. Honest scientists (and there are still plenty of them) know that it’s simply outside the function of science to resolve such matters. Stretching science into philosophy (or a form of religion) has given people the misleading impression that the science of evolution offers more than it can. We must distinguish science from the philosophy of materialism.

    Science can describe in fascinating detail what is within the universe. Science can speak of purposes related to adaptability and survival in the physical world. Any movements after this are outside the limits of scientific inquiry. Now admittedly I am referring to the hard sciences.

    Other methods of scientific inquiry are quite useful in assisting rational conclusions about biological origins. In this broader sense, scientific inquiry should always be based on empirical research that follows the evidence wherever it leads. So, for example, empirically detecting marks of design is a kind of scientific inquiry based on rational and reasonable data. It’s used in criminology, archeology, Cryptology, and using the same principles and procedures found in each of these disciplines, scientist are capable of distinguishing products of nature from products of intelligence.

    When applied to biological origins and development, the empirical research reasonably suggests that, “only intelligent causes adequately explain the complex, information-rich structures of biology and that these causes are empirically detectable. To say intelligent causes are empirically detectable is to say there are well-defined methods that, based on observable features of the world, can reliably distinguish intelligent causes from undirected natural causes” (Dembski).

    I say this because it’s just misleading to suggest that belief in an intelligent cause to the universe is without scientific support. But rejection of an intelligent cause to the universe is clearly without scientific support. I am also not suggesting that evidence for an intelligent source automatically leads to Genesis 1:1. nor am I suggesting that it solves all our problems. But let’s not be so quick to speak of “rational ways” unless we’re prepared to be honest about all of the evidence.

  7. Fubar says:

    Hitchens was certainly correct about much of what he saw as silly and flawed in religion.

    But, he was hardly able to escape his biases and the cultural limits of his paradigm. Not that he tried to make any such escape. His genius involved using the limited tools in his belief system to peel away horrible and ugly human flaws that religious and political people prefer to leave unexamined. And he should be celebrated for the deep humanity of that genius, not insulted for small minded reasons.

    Hitchens lived up to his ideals, which were both deeply noble and deeply flawed, to a much greater extent than 99% of most religious people do theirs.

    Hitchens was not afraid to embrace a complicated, messy human nature.

    Hitchens was not afraid to examine the various missionary projects of western culture in the most unvarnished manner possible, and to conclude that no such imperial project can ever lead to anything but debasement, oppression and social injustice. For over 1,000 years, such missionary projects have attempted to replace the divine feminine and the “snakepits of culture” with “sterile wards of professional service” (Ivan Illich). Hitchens saw the deception and hypocrisy, the bartering of spirit and meaning for debased reasons, that is a major part of western religion (mythic religion = ethnocentrism+imperialism).

    The fact is that you have taken an opportunity to insult a man that some people are mourning (perhaps mourning out of a universal sense of loss at any member of the human family), and that makes you look small and lacking in compassion, and full of ugly revenge.

    The decent thing to do is to respect all mourning, suffering and loss, not use it as an opportunity to engage in small minded and flawed, narrow polemics.

    You claim to have demonstrated respect for the man (on his terms!?!), but have clearly not done so, and should be deeply ashamed.

    Religion has been one of the main tools used to oppress humanity for at least 8,000 years. Any person that attempts to rescue humanity from such oppression has made a far greater contribution to the world than most religion ever has.

    You have not even attempted to stand outside your ideology and try to at least describe what others see of value in Hitchens’ work against injustice, corruption and abuse of authority (Jesus certainly spoke to those issues of the common good).

    You straw man arguments about atheists and the great boogey-man of scientific materialism are irrelevant to my points. It is however rather absurd to posit that evolution and brain chemistry are not at the root of consciousness (including “spirituality”, “mysticism”, “transcendence”, etc.)

    Any form of absolutism is bad. religious absolutism is bad, scientific absolutism is bad.

    The dual-inheritance theory that I’ve studied (gene-culture coevolution) is far beyond the unsophisticated model of evolution that you think “atheists” believe in. Gene-culture coevolutionary theory scientifically examines the ACTUAL ARTIFACTS that form the basis of culture and meaning (including religion). No science (which is based on external/systems persective) can ever address the actual inner “emotional” experience of transcendence that is “beyond” rational awareness (divine unity, ultimate emptiness, etc.).

    I believe in neither scientific nor religious absolutisms, but rather in a third way: holistic/integral values (transrationalism), and the common good.

    I see no reason that the poetry of religion (spiritual liberation) can’t be complementary to scientific rationalism.

    The problem with modernism is that it creates a form of culture that lacks authenticity, and eventually erodes local wisdom, shared value commitments, etc. This is what Habermas refers to as the “colonization of lifeworld by systems” (systems being “externals” such as money and power, lifeworld being shared meanings and the inner sense of beauty or the sublime).

    Religious people need to take things up several notches to be able to coherently address the problems inherent to modernism and postmodernism.

    Spirituality needs to be restructured and placed in a different context because human history has changed, and the old conceptual models are experiencing a “crisis of legitimization”. Partial truths can no longer claimed to be full truths.

    Hitchens actually did religious people a far bigger favor than most of them probably know: he pointed out what is silly about the aspects of prerational culture in religion so that they could then contemplate how to elevate their spirituality to a higher plane of meaning that can satisfy the “coherence needs” of a changed human condition.

    If religious people fail to elevate how they think about how they think, they miss the most important form of service to humanity possible in this age of relativism: adding spiritual authenticity to the discussion of a paradigm shift toward a more socially just world.

    have a nice day.

    • I am not sure where to start with such an odd run of verbal scolding. But I will at least say that your reaction to my thoughts concerning Hitchens speak much more loudly about you than about what I actually wrote. Wouldn’t you say that projecting motivation and shame on me seems oddly out of order for one who protests so absolutely against “any form of absolutism”?

      Your lines are a strange mix of misrepresentation, self-contradiction and historical bias : Examples: “boogey-man of scientific materialism” (what are you possibly talking about?) “should be deeply ashamed” (Really? Upon your absolute authority?) “Religion has been one of the main tools used to oppress humanity for at least 8,000 years.” (Historically false) “to posit that evolution and brain chemistry are not at the root of consciousness ” (Is this what I suggested?) “the most important form of service to humanity” (Says whom?)

  8. Fubar says:

    If you are incapable of understanding that religion is one of the main tools that has been used to oppress humanity since the beginning of so called civilization, there is no point in wasting time discussing why your uncharitable attack on Hitchens is disgusting.

    My “authority” is common sense and a distaste for bigotry, bullying and hate mongering.

    Anyways, thanks for showing that Hitchens was right about religious people.

  9. Fubar says:

    re: “And what a surprise it must have been to learn that his existence was not due to the blind chances of impersonal natural laws! Hitchens now knows with certainty that there is a personal, intelligent Creator.”

    This is followed, later in the discussion, by:

    “I invite you to notice that I made no postulations about Hitchens eternal destiny.”

    Of course you didn’t have to take the blame for “postulating” anything, anyone that understands your tradition of religious interpretation knows what happens when Hitchens, the great “godless” atheist, reaches the “gates of heaven”.

    This is simple: under the veneer, the construct that you are putting forth is groupthink. You wish for Hitches to either “see the light” (rejoin the tribe, conform to the coercive power of a hostile primitive collective), or be “cast out”. It is an old, vicious, autocratic, patriarchal war-slave archetype that deserves to be tossed into the dustbin of backward and useless human ideas that are contrary to compassion and altruism (the divine feminine).

    Unless you are using the usual tricks that polemicists use to twist words and split hairs in meaningless ways so as to avoid admitting to mistakes, you have contradicted your self on the main point in your original commentary about the “surprise” that you *assume* that Hitchens had after he died.

    Why not simply display some simple human decency and allow that perhaps we should take some poetic license in honor of the spectacular godless wreck that Hitchens represents to many religious people and permit him to slip into the terrible void of non-existence and oblivion in death that he himself embraced? But no, instead you have to dehumanize the man in the end, insisting that he conform to your missionary cause.

    You have hideously forced a dead man into an *imaginary* conversion, which is exactly what is expected from people that profess mythic-conformist beliefs.

    Your assertion that you have some special knowledge or insight into the nature of post-death consciousness is silly. By silly, I mean that your assertion is simply an appeal to primitive tradition, which is the simple (and understandable) need that people have to create fairy tales in their own minds to avoid the extreme anxiety of being able to imagine a future death, or non-existence. The human mind is wired to trick itself out of such anxiety, and all religions learned early on to appropriate the trick in some form or another..

    When human beings evolved the sophisticated linguistic imagination and memory (50,000+ years ago?) needed to be able to imagine their own future death, the resulting anxiety (stress) was maladaptive to survival. So, the brain evolved a the ability to produce “bliss” chemicals. People that get hit by lightning and survive to talk about it usually have something similar to “out of body/near death” experiences. They have “visions” of some prophetic “daddy” god archetype, they see divine/mystical light, and feel at one with the universe/heaven,etc. The “god helmet” experiments confirmed that electrical fields can stimulate such “mystical” experiences that some people interpret as profound.

    The debate over ID is meaningless. Some independent thinkers might casually accept the idea that some universal “overmind” set the patterns of the universe in motion. So what? All of the religious people will still fight over their particular version of truth with each other and anyone else that dares to take a different perspective (and risk the coercion of a hostile collective of “true believers”).

    The claims by some religious human beings on planet earth that the “hand of god” is at work in the construction of their particular mythic culture (and its long history of oppressing people in the name of that god) is a far cry from any universal notion of an “overmind” that creates pattern.

    Religion was created by human biology, evolution. culture and archetypal psychology (including economics, politics and militarism), not some “god” or a tribal spokesperson/prophet.

    Rational examination of the actual artifacts of history EASILY indicates that religions are as shaped by the great evolutionary paradigm shifts in human culture as everything else in human experience.

    Even if they had supernatural abilities to see the future, the prophets would have had no reason to discuss evolutionary theory with ancient people that didn’t have the scientific sophistication to understand it, or its relation to spirituality. (any more than they would have discussed how to drive a Jeep over a sand dune or write software.)

    Mythic religion is backward, orthodox, static. Little good can come from it at this point in history (tribal affiliation=groupthink). What does come from it is the organization of power around prerational culture, which is ALWAYS CORRUPT and placed in service of ego, patriarchy, ethnocentrism and filthy lucre.

    Sorry for dragging this out, I’m sure the discussion is pointless due to difference of perspective.

  10. Fubar says:

    btw, I have little or no sympathy for most of academia. which is rife with psychological violence. other than some biology and anthropology, most of my influences, including spiritual ones, are anti-establishment and counterculture. Consciousness studies is not in the mainstream of academia, although a few academics specialize in it. I consider the belief in the true defense of a democratic republic and its constitutional principles to be a “radical” perspective that makes both establishment liberals and establishment conservatives uneasy.

    http://attackthesystem.com/free-enterprise-the-antidote-to-corporate-plutocracy/

    Abuse of patriotic government employee who reported fraud and waste:

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/05/22/60minutes/main20064396.shtml

    humanity can either chose institutional structures that arise from the archetypal psychology of imperial culture (closely linked to mythic religion and exploitation), or they can chose liberty (free markets, small government, uncorrupted laws, social equality). The ancient greek “pagans” had a clear understanding of the connection between the psychological archetypes of liberty and reason (and industry).

    The following article identifies the connection between epistemic indeterminacy and epistemic sophistication in pragmatic terms. It advocates for a belief that religion and science can be complementary to each other.

    http://www.archive-ilr.com/archives-2006/2006-10/2006-10-murray.php

  11. Joe Brooks says:

    Stephen Hawking said that “the greatest enemy of knowledge isn’t ignorance; it’s the illusion of knowledge.” I propose that the New Atheists and their philosophical forebears and compatriots are a prima facia case for that contention. For, although reason cannot prove that there is a God, otherwise faith would be unneeded, reason, and the continuing accumulation of supporting evidence, does lend weight to the fact that our faith is reasonable.

    More than being a learned behavior or part of a pattern of socialization, human beings are “hardwired” to believe that there is something beyond our natural world. Now, this “something” can take many different forms around the world, but there is something about us as a species that seeks the spiritual. As such, atheists are the aberration.

    Mankind, across all cultures, always seeks to deify something: the weather, volcanoes, totems, ancestors, etc… Why is this?

    Atheists will say that it is our feeble way of trying to explain the unexplainable. They say that early man feared thunder, so he created a “thunder god” and then tried to appease this manmade deity. Or gods were created by the powerful in society to enforce codes of conduct on the masses. Now, I do not believe that truth is determined simply by the number of adherents to a proposition, but it never ceases to amaze me that in world where the estimates of self-described atheists or “nonreligious” are somewhere between 2% to 12% of the total population, that its so easy for skeptics to dismiss the faithful as idiots. I would wager that the number of people who think the moon landing was faked or that the moon is made of cheese is somewhere in the same 2-12% range.

    No, this innate belief is more than a manmade construct devised to control our actions or to explain away natural phenomenon. There seems to be a shared “experience” across all of creation that has left an indelible imprint upon who we are as a creature. I use the word “experience” carefully for it is not an empirically quantifiable experience, per se, but rather a shared sense of “the other”. This may be the “numinous” of German theologian Rudolph Otto, the “wholly other” that evokes a sense of mysterium fascinans in all who are open to it. It is a fact that there is, among nearly all human beings, an idea that there is something that makes our existence purposeful. Perhaps, embedded deep down in our genetic make-up, there is the imprint of a maker, much as an artist signs his paintings, which says, “This is the product of my labor and I call it my own.”

    Mankind is geared to believe in a creator and to believe that the creator is still involved in our lives on some level and atheists are the one’s swimming against the stream of truth. John Calvin also believed that we are made with a natural inclination to believe and it was our sin nature that blunted this predisposition towards God. I would also add willful ignorance to the list of things that can separate us from our Creator, an ignorance born of and magnified by pride. The atheists like to think they are independent thinkers and they, like the man who tore free of his bonds in Plato’s “Parable of the Cave,” are the ones to walk out of the darkness and into the light. However, in reality, they are fighting against the nature instilled in us all to turn towards our Creator. Locke’s slate is not so blank, after all, but the doubters are doing there best to wipe away the truth and rewrite man’s story with a secular god of their own making.

    Our soul’s natural inclination is towards God, to tear free of the earthly and temporal bonds of this life and to rejoice in the timeless presence of Him for whom it was created. Sadly, our soul and our will are often working towards different goals. While our souls desire divine union with the Everlasting, our will is often driven by desires of the moment, of the here and now. As the old hymn goes, this world is not our home; therefore, the battle that must be won is the earthly submission of the will, usually against its own desire, to God. Only once the will is placed in His hands, under His control, can the soul begin its blessed ascension. This is no easy battle; the will has many allies in this world: the weakness of the flesh, family and friends, the media, our own sinful nature, even time itself. However, the soul has the one great ally that it needs and that ally has a toehold in our will, if we will only acknowledge it. The fact that we are made in His image has left a part of our will predisposed to let the soul free to take wing, to open the door to the cage that the rest of our will pieces together, bar by bar. When Christ stands at the door and knocks, it is that part of the will, His holy imprint, which allows us to choose to answer the call.

  12. Fubar says:

    re: authentic spirituality in a postmodern era?

    Hey Joe,

    What you have left out is the manner in which the rejection of traditional authority was necessary for the world to accept an end to slavery and other forms of oppression, autocracy, racism, sexism, and so forth.

    Here is a buddhist-inspired analysis of the problem:
    http://www.shambhalasun.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2289

    Classical western liberalism (whose intellectual foundations were laid by Pagan Greeks 3,000 years ago!) always defended the “natural rights” of people, including the right to resist conformity (via dissent and criticism), against corrupt tyrants, aristocracy and high church. The genius of the radical Whigs was the reformulation of religion (and frankly, the reformulation of “God”) to make it consistent with the social movements that democratized economics, politics and culture over the last couple of hundred years.

    What most religious americans now “think” is patriotic was once, long ago, deeply radical and anti-establishment (starting around the English Civil War 1640s).

    The metaphysics and myth structures (“interiors”) that went along with traditional authority were rejected, along with the “exterior” social. political and economic structures.

    The process by which scientific rationalism became established, along with technology, democracy, liberty, required a fundamental paradigm shift away from the “baggage” (such as the coercion of a non-conforming individual by a hostile collective and its religious leaders and political tyrants) associated with pre-rational religious beliefs. Which are associated with mythic religion.

    Oddly, the “”anti-religious” paradigm shift was the first “universal” paradigm that was world-centric instead of ethno-centric.

    So, in a way, scientific rationalism moved spiritual evolution forward a step beyond what pre-rational religion was able to accomplish.

    Humanity now has a choice, attempt to define a form of authentic spirituality that is compatible with emergent realities, or regress to backward forms.

    Backward forms of spirituality are clearly not going to provide people with the tools necessary to fight political corruption and social injustices. On the contrary, backward religion has always been used to provide justifications for economic and political oppression and injustice.

    The almost complete inability of conservative religious movements to even acknowledge the existence of social injustice is remarkable, but it makes it a useful (and necessary) tool for powerful political and economic interests that find democracy and freedom of thought to be pesky and annoying.

    To put it bluntly, any real reform movement that seeks to prevent the complete destruction of the US Constitution has to deal with the manner in which conservative religious movements have contributed to economic and political corruption.

    re: liberty vs. empire

    As I mentioned earlier in this thread, both the left and right are now deeply anti-democratic, and tending toward totalitarianism.

    By pitting liberal and conservative subcultures against each other (and by extension anti-religious and pro-religious movements against each other), the forces that seek to create elite power distract the people from the real issues.

    By supporting totalitarian forms of conservative politics, the basic structures of the system are corrupted, and as can be seen recently, those corrupt structures can be used by “liberals” for evil purposes. At a deeper level, what is happening is that both the left and the right are regressing to imperialistic tendencies that are rooted in primitive psychologies.

    Hitchens was primarily a person that believed that rationalism led to enlightenment, and thus to a need to fight imperialism and social injustices. When thinking about the existence of the kinds of “structural (exterior) evil” that liberalism opposes, Hitchens early on concluded, for obvious reasons, that religion and its outmoded metaphysics was a tool of such oppression.

    The problem, largely unresolved, that Hitchens and people of his philosophy face, is that scientific rationalism is necessary, but not sufficient, to maintain democracy.

    Scientific rationalism concerns itself mainly with the “exterior” aspects of consciousness. As such, it failed to address the “interior” realms of the human psyche (spirit/morals) in an authentic manner. So, the project of modernity became a project in which a new form of coercion came about that replaced local wisdom and community with corporate values, and money and power came to dominate most people’s realities. Not open public space, not deep questioning of the status quo, not authentic culture or spirituality, and its reinforcement of collective, shared value-commitments.

    The “deficient” form of modernity (corporatism) replaced culture and the “lifeworld”.

    It is certainly true that there is a populist basis for some forms of religious conservatism in the USA, and that includes a deep distrust of the weird alliance between “establishment liberals” and some elements of the corporatist world of state-capitalism.

    However, unless such populist religious conservatives become capable of addressing the full spectrum of connections between state capitalism and both liberal and conservative elements of the establishment, they will not be able to play a legitimate role in a new anti-statist (anti-imperialist) consensus.

  13. Phil says:

    You are a simplistic buffoon, your religion like all religions is a pathetic old myth.

  14. Nothingsaint says:

    A cheap, embarrassing, and disgusting article…..Almost as disgusting as the primitive doctrine you hold dear.

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