A Hitch in His Atheism?

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He’s pro-life and pro-war, pro-Darwin and pro-KJV. He’s not just an atheist, but an anti-theist. And that’s why he longs for the days of compulsory prayer in schools. He’s Christopher Hitchens, former columnist for The Nation and the neo-conservatives’ favorite liberal.

The June 3 issue of World magazine, the conservative evangelical newsweekly, features an interview with Hitchens on what makes him, in songwriter Kris Kristofferson’s words, “a walking contradiction.”

In the interview, Hitchens identifies religion “with barbarism and backwardness and human stupidity.” No one who has ever read Hitchens will be surprised by this: he loathes Christian creationists in Tennessee for the same reasons (if not to the same degree) that he loathes Islamic jihadists in Saudi Arabia. Hitchens says that unlike some atheists, he does not wish theism were true: “To have pre-cradle to post-grave round-the-clock supervision and surveillance by someone with a very devious form of morality, who wants this to be true?” Hitches ridicules the idea of Jesus’ atonement for sin, along with the idea of “a real program of torture that will go on forever” in Christian eschatology.

“It’s disgusting. It was completely invented by very underdeveloped human beings,” he says, astoundingly citing Augustine and Aquinas. “These are peasants: the sort of people we are up against now, with wild looks in their eyes and living in caves.”

Nonetheless, Hitchens teaches his children the King James Bible, without letting them know what he thinks of it.

You are not educated if you don’t know the Bible. You can’t read Shakespeare or Milton without it, even if there was nothing else of it. And with the schools now, that’s what I hate about secular relativism. It’s afraid of insurance liability. They don’t even teach it as a document. They stay out of the whole thing to avoid controversy. So the kids can’t quote the King James Bible. That’s terrible. And I quite understand Christian parents who want to protect their children from a nihilistic solution where there’s no way of knowing what’s been discussed.

Interestingly, Hitchens admits that he knows the King James Bible well and the he could not “imagine my life without it” because he couldn’t read William Blake or Paradise Lost. Hitchens cites the dispute between George Orwell and W.H. Auden when Auden said he could not bear to live in a country where there were no churches. Interviewer Mindy Belz asks Hitchens, “Could you?”

Hitchens responds: “No. There’s very slight danger of it, anyway.”

Could it be that somewhere in this cynical, war-happy anti-theist there is someone who wishes he could believe it is true? Perhaps Christopher Hitchens rails against theism, while teaching his children the Bible, and then puts himself to sleep with a warning to himself: “I don’t believe. I don’t believe. Help thou my belief.”

The culture is changing but it can be good news for the church.


Onward cover

About Russell Moore

Russell Moore

Russell Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the moral and public policy agency 
of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

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