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  1. #1
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    Dec 2004
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    Hitchens vs. Hitchens

    So apparently Christopher Hitchens has a Christian brother? Who'da thunk it.

    Anyway, I haven't read God is Not Great, so I'm only vaguely familiar with Hitchens's writing, but I thought this was interesting.

    -Y

    _________________________________________________


    Hitchens vs Hitchens
    By PETER HITCHENS - More by this author Ľ


    Am I my brotherís reviewer? A word of explanation is needed here. Some of you may know that I have a brother, Christopher, who disagrees with me about almost everything.

    Some of those who read his books and articles also know that I exist, though they often dislike me if so. But in general we inhabit separate worlds Ė in more ways than one.

    He is of the Left, lives in the United States and recently became an American citizen. I am of the Right and, after some years in Russia and America, live in the heart of England. Occasionally we clash in public.

    We disagreed about the Iraq War Ė he was for it, I was against it. Despite the occasional temptation, I have never reviewed any of his books until today.

    But now, in God Is Not Great, he has written about religion itself, attacking it as a stupid delusion.

    This case, I feel, needs an answer. Most of the British elite will applaud, since they see religion as an embarrassing and (worse) unfashionable form of mania.

    And I am no less qualified to defend God than Christopher is to attack him, neither of us being experts on the subject.

    People sometimes ask how two brothers, born less than three years apart, should have come to such different conclusions.

    To which Iíd answer that Iím not sure theyíre as different as they look, and that itís not over yet.

    (i've omitted a section on their family's background here in the interest of space and relevancy)

    Christopher is an atheist. I am a believer. He once said in public: "The real difference between Peter and myself is the belief in the supernatural.

    "Iím a materialist and he attributes his presence here to a divine plan. I canít stand anyone who believes in God, who invokes the divinity or who is a person of faith."

    I donít feel the same way. I like atheists and enjoy their company, because they agree with me that religion is important.

    I liked and enjoyed this book, and recommend it to anybody who is interested in the subject. Like everything Christopher writes, it is often elegant, frequently witty and never stupid or boring.

    I also think it is wrong, mostly in the way that it blames faith for so many bad things and gives it no credit for any of the good it may have done.

    I think it misunderstands religious people and their aims and desires. And I think it asserts a number of things as true and obvious that are nothing of the sort.

    At the heart of this book are two extraordinary, bold statements. One is a declaration of absolute faith, faith that religion has got it wrong, a mental thunderbolt of unbelief.

    Christopher describes how at the age of nine he concluded that his teacherís claim that the world must be designed was wrong. "I simply knew, almost as if I had privileged access to a higher authority, that my teacher had managed to get everything wrong."

    At the time of this revelation, he knew nothing of the vast, unending argument between those who maintain that the shape of the world is evidence of design, and those who say the same world is evidence of random, undirected natural selection.

    Itís my view that he still doesnít know all that much about this interesting dispute. Yet at the age of nine, he "simply knew" who had won one of the oldest debates in the history of mankind.

    It is astonishing, in one so set against the idea of design or authority in the universe, how often he appeals to mysterious intuitions and "innate" knowledge of this kind, and uses religious language such as "awesome" Ė in awe of whom or what?

    Or "mysterious". What is the mystery, if all is explained by science, the telescope and the microscope? He even refers to "conscience" and makes frequent thunderous denunciations of various evil actions.

    Where is his certain knowledge of what is right and wrong supposed to have come from?

    How can the idea of a conscience have any meaning in a world of random chance, where in the end we are all just collections of molecules swirling in a purposeless confusion?

    If you are getting inner promptings, why should you pay any attention to them? It is as absurd as the idea of a compass with no magnetic North. You might as well take moral instruction from your bile duct.

    Two pages later, speaking for atheists in general, he announces: "Our belief is not a belief."

    To which one can only reply: "Really? And that thing in the middle of your face. I suppose thatís not a nose, either?"

    Christopher is not tentative about his view on God. He describes himself as an "anti-theist", so certain of his, er, faith that he wars with bitter mockery against those who doubt his truth.

    Well, I wish I were as certain about any of these things as Christopher is about his anti-creed.

    He reminds me rather more of the bearded Muslim sages of the Deoband Islamic university in India I met last year, than of the cool, thoughtful Anglicanism that we were both more or less brought up in.

    For the purposes of this book, religion is identified as a fanatical certainty. No doubt there are plenty of zealots who suffer from this problem.

    But it is obvious to anyone that vast numbers of believers in every faith are filled with doubt, and open to reason. The Church of Englandís greatest martyr, Thomas Cranmer, was burned at the stake for changing his mind once too often.

    The noblest thinker of that Church, Richard Hooker, enthroned reason, alongside tradition and scripture, as one of the governing principles of faith, and warned against crude literal use of the Bible to justify or prohibit any action.

    Yet Christopher repeatedly asserts that believers "claim to know", not just to know, but to know everything. This simply is not true. Nor do we take the Bible literally.

    I never imagined that scripture had the fact-checked authenticity of, say, an account in The New York Times Ė though as we know even that grand newspaper sometimes publishes made-up stories without realising it.

    Did the Supper at Emmaus really take place? How I hope that it did, but I do not know that it did, in the way that I know a British soldier has recently been flown home dead from Basra or Helmand, or even in the way that I know that another such soldier will soon make the same sad journey.

    Many decades have passed since I fancied the story of Adam and Eve was literal truth, if I ever did. Rather more recently I have realised the great warning against human arrogance that is contained in it, the serpentís silky promise that if we reject the supposedly foolish, trivial restrictions imposed on us by an interfering, jealous nuisance of a God, then we shall be liberated.

    As the serpent promises: "Ye shall be as gods." These may be the most important words in the whole Bible.

    Take the enticing satanic advice, and you arrive, quite quickly, at revolutionary terror, at the invention of the atom bomb, at the torture chamber and the building of concentration camps for those unteachable morons who do not share your vision of a just world.

    And also you arrive at the idea, embraced by Christopher, that by invading Iraq, you can make the world a better place.

    I hesitated about mentioning this. Was it unfair, a jab below the belt? No.

    Much of his book is devoted to claiming that religious impulse drives Man to do, or excuse, or support wicked and terrible things in the name of goodness.

    Is this not a perfect description of the Iraq War, which he backed?

    On the few occasions where Christopher is prepared to admit that religious people have done any good, he concludes that they did so in spite of their faith, not because of it.

    He even suggests that the atheist Soviet tyranny was itself a form of religion.

    You canít win against this sort of circular absolutism.

    Yet he has this absurdly backwards. Religious and unbelieving people have both done dreadful things, and the worst of them have committed their murders and their tortures in the belief that they were doing good.

    Nothing is proved by either side in this argument, by pointing to the mountains of skulls piled up by evil atheists, and evil theists.

    What they have in common is that they are human, and capable of the sin of pride. The practice of religion does not automatically prevent this, and nobody said it did...


    View the entire article here:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/liv...7&in_a_source=

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    315

    Re: Hitchens vs. Hitchens

    Thank you for an article that made me think.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
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    1,773

    Re: Hitchens vs. Hitchens

    Quote Originally Posted by yossarian
    So apparently Christopher Hitchens has a Christian brother? Who'da thunk it.
    Anyway, I haven't read God is Not Great, so I'm only vaguely familiar with Hitchens's writing, but I thought this was interesting.
    -Y
    ______________________________________________
    Hitchens vs Hitchens
    By PETER HITCHENS - More by this author Ľ

    Christopher is an atheist. I am a believer. He once said in public: "The real difference between Peter and myself is the belief in the supernatural.

    It is astonishing, in one so set against the idea of design or authority in the universe, how often he appeals to mysterious intuitions and "innate" knowledge of this kind, and uses religious language such as "awesome" Ė in awe of whom or what?

    He reminds me rather more of the bearded Muslim sages of the Deoband Islamic university in India I met last year, than of the cool, thoughtful Anglicanism that we were both more or less brought up in.

    For the purposes of this book, religion is identified as a fanatical certainty. No doubt there are plenty of zealots who suffer from this problem.

    But it is obvious to anyone that vast numbers of believers in every faith are filled with doubt, and open to reason. The Church of Englandís greatest martyr, Thomas Cranmer, was burned at the stake for changing his mind once too often.

    The noblest thinker of that Church, Richard Hooker, enthroned reason, alongside tradition and scripture, as one of the governing principles of faith, and warned against crude literal use of the Bible to justify or prohibit any action.

    Yet Christopher repeatedly asserts that believers "claim to know", not just to know, but to know everything. This simply is not true. Nor do we take the Bible literally.

    I never imagined that scripture had the fact-checked authenticity of, say, an account in The New York Times Ė though as we know even that grand newspaper sometimes publishes made-up stories without realising it.

    Did the Supper at Emmaus really take place? How I hope that it did, but I do not know that it did, in the way that I know a British soldier has recently been flown home dead from Basra or Helmand, or even in the way that I know that another such soldier will soon make the same sad journey.

    Many decades have passed since I fancied the story of Adam and Eve was literal truth, if I ever did. Rather more recently I have realised the great warning against human arrogance that is contained in it, the serpentís silky promise that if we reject the supposedly foolish, trivial restrictions imposed on us by an interfering, jealous nuisance of a God, then we shall be liberated.

    As the serpent promises: "Ye shall be as gods." These may be the most important words in the whole Bible.

    Take the enticing satanic advice, and you arrive, quite quickly, at revolutionary terror, at the invention of the atom bomb, at the torture chamber and the building of concentration camps for those unteachable morons who do not share your vision of a just world.

    On the few occasions where Christopher is prepared to admit that religious people have done any good, he concludes that they did so in spite of their faith, not because of it.

    What they have in common is that they are human, and capable of the sin of pride. The practice of religion does not automatically prevent this, and nobody said it did...

    View the entire article here:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/liv...7&in_a_source=
    When he says "believers", I presume that he means (most of the time) the Anglican faith, and sometimes people of all faiths of any religion.

    Is he a true, born-again Bible-believing Christian who believes in justification by faith alone, being declared righteous in God's sight - by faith in Christ - alone?

    Good question. I suppose we won't know until true believers "get up there."

    But my take from this is that Anglicans don't take the Bible literally - the question arises, not any of it?

    Is the virgin birth a parable? Was Christ's work on the cross only figurative, because it never happened? And did Christ truly exist to begin with, since those 'stories' may have been made up to only 'teach' lessons ?


    Perhaps Peter is looking for a 'future' kingdom - that is an inherent believe amongst many in Christiandom, it appears.

    Perhaps, according to Acts 1: 6-7, when the disciples asked Christ "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom of Israel? ...and Christ answered; "It is not for you know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority..."

    ...perhaps Peter is waiting for the future dispensation of the kingdom of Israel.....

    Or perhaps Peter is waiting for the 'taking up' or rapture of the visible and invisible true Church in accordance with 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17

    **** so is he a true "believer?"

    The Lord knows His own...

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