For those of you who follow contemporary discourse – particularly that by contemporary atheists on contemporary Christianity – you will find of great interest this article by the brother of Christopher Hitchens. (Christopher Hitchens has made himself famous as one of the current proponents of the “new atheism.”) Peter Hitchens does an admirable job of speaking for contemporary Christianity:
Why is there such a fury against religion now? Because religion is the one reliable force that stands in the way of the power of the strong over the weak. The one reliable force that forms the foundation of the concept of the rule of law. The one reliable force that restrains the hand of the man of power. In an age of power-worship, the Christian religion has become the principal obstacle to the desire of earthly utopians for absolute power.
For those of you with family – you will especially enjoy the fact that a great atheist can have a Christian sibling, just as Christians have to tolerate atheist siblings. It is good writing and good reading. May God have mercy on us all.
Thanks for letting us know about Christopher Hitchens’ Christian brother. I look forward to reading his article.
Anyone interested in the so-called “New Atheists” and how Christians can respond really should read David Bentley Hart’s book Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (Yale University Press, 2009). It is quite simply one of the most engrossing, insightful, inspiring, and disturbing books I’ve read in a long time. For anyone who wants to know what difference the rise of Christianity in the early centuries of the “common era” made in how and why it’s even conceivable for anybody to view individual human beings as persons of infinite value and dignity, and why the “New Atheists” who advocate for the abolition of “religion” per se and Christianity in particular are (at best) ill-informed and (at worst) off their moral rockers, and also what might be at stake as Western culture continues to lose the Christian moral vision, this book is a must read.
It is indeed a must read. Hart has turned his considerable talents to a worthy topic.
My ears always perked up when my grandmother would tell me stories about her father, the minister, and her uncle (brother of her father), the atheist. One never knows how things will work out…
I’ve long felt that encountering a person who embodies our faith is the greatest witness to its truth. Debates do little but expose insecurites that are masked by pride. Decades ago when I read JB Phillips’ little book, Your God is Too Small, I sensed that the vast majority of atheists had never encountered a plausible concept of God. They were often still rejecting the man with the white beard behind a cloud that they had outgrown in their youth. Funny how our mathematics and liturature courses become gradually more interesting but catechetics/theology remains too often on a grade shcoollevel and thus becomes of little value as we mature. At any rate, I’ve long seen atheists as people who are either still working out adolescent authority issues or as sincere people merely waiting to believe in a truly glorious God that is not confined by the limited descriptions and restricted vision that many Christians (some of them very popular televangelists that peddle the very opium that Marx derided us for) communicate.
My limited experience finds that such skeptics often respond to books like Nesterov’s “Light From the East” or hesychism or apophatic theology….all of which lead to a truly numious God that evokes both awe and wonder.
Thank you for link Father Stephen.
I certainly hope (and will pray) that Hitchens the elder comes to terms with the sad events that led his loss of faith.
One notes that the failure of modernity is that it cannot, or more precisely will not, reconcile the Christ of history with the manifest God in our midst.
The scales, evidently, have not fallen off from all eyes. Why is this so?
The Church Fathers speak of the existence of “three wills” but it is only the first which is salvific — the will of God. The second, the will of man is neither good nor evil in itself but the third, that of the demons, seeks our destruction (Lossky, 1957, p.129). No wonder then, the ancient Byzantine and Russian icons never depict the Resurrection itself, but rather the rising of Christ out of hell (Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: Christ the Conqueror of Hell, 2002, para. 1-2).
Christ is in our midst!
That made a fun read in a number of levels. Thanks for the link.
I don’t know why, but I only get a blank page no matter how I click on the link.
try this one David:
Superb article, Fr. Stephen – worthy of a CS Lewis or a Sara Maitland! Thank you so much for the link…
I also have not been able to get the article to come up. I’ve tried several times over the last several days. Yannis, sadly, your link didn’t work either.
Both links still work for me.
I think Peter Hitchens hits the nail on the head-poetry is the (primary) answer to their prose. The New Atheists are reasoning themselves to death, but reason left to itself cannot grasp the wholeness of the world. For that, we’re left with poetry.
Which brings me to another gripe I have with the New Atheist and post-Enlightenment folks: What exactly is Reason? Can we point to the actual substance of Reason? Rather, we can only talk about Reason proximately. Assumptions lie under cold, hard science, so I think Reason as an autonomous edifice is a false hope.
Lastly, I would quibble with those posters above who identify Hart’s book as an answer to the New Atheists. The title of the book really doesn’t reflect the content of the book-a point raised by others than me (read the Amazon reviews). But, that said, Hart’s question is one that I still think about from time to time: How long will a common Christian-type cultural moral synthesis stand when Christianity itself is removed from the culture.
My guess is that the moral synthesis won’t last very long at all.
Yes, I think the moral synthesis is breaking down quickly. There are parameters that are so fixed within nature itself that certain segments of morality will be difficult to destroy. There are interesting things afoot, I think, that may make our century more interesting than we would have guessed. But I may be wrong and very bad times indeed await us. God only knows such things. It is not for me to know such things. But I wonder at the goodness of God and His mercy. The prayer of a single righteous man, almost brought salvation to Sodom and Gomorrah. May the righteous flourish and may they pray for the salvation of sinners such as us!
Right now, it would seem that the righteous are flourishing in Africa and that, more and more, it is by their prayers that we in the northern and western hemispheres will be saved from destruction. Reading about the explosion of Orthodoxy in sub-Saharan Africa in the last few decades and up to the present day is like reading the book of Acts.
Oh, and I did read that article, the second link worked for me. Thanks Yannis!