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August 5th, 2010
08:09 AM ET

Thoughts before debating Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens (right) with author Mark Danner in 2004.

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor. CNN's Anderson Cooper interviews Christopher Hitchens tonight at 10 ET on "AC360."

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

After professional provocateur Christopher Hitchens announced that he had come down with cancer, legions lined up to pray for him. I have been known to lapse into prayer on occasion, but I did not pray for Hitchens, and I don't expect I will.

I understand why Mormons want to baptize the dead and, on the theory of "no harm, no foul," I don't object to it in most cases. But praying to God for the Great Unbeliever seems like something akin to sacrilege (and not against the divine).

Not so ripping into him. In a scathing review of Hitchens' "God is Not Great" published in the Washington Post, I wrote that I had "never encountered a book whose author is so fundamentally unacquainted with its subject."  I also wrote, however, that "there is no living journalist I more enjoy reading."

I stand by both statements. This post is prompted by the latter.

I teach a course at Boston University called "Death and Immortality," and in it we read remarkable work about the "undiscovered country" of death and whatever (if anything) lies beyond.  Hitchens wrote this week in a piece in Vanity Fair of "the unfamiliar country" of people with cancer, and his reflections rank up there with the best writing I know on that sickness unto death.

The Provincetown poet Mary Oliver has written of prayer as paying attention. And so she does - to the humpback whales and peonies and red-tailed hawks that animate her native Cape Cod (and mine). Hitchens pays equally attention to literary and political things, and writes down what he sees with care and courage.

It would be more Hitchenesque of me to body slam him while he is down. This is, after all, the man who called televangelist Jerry Falwell "an ugly little charlatan" just hours after his death, adding that "if you give Falwell an enema, you could bury him in a matchbox."  But I don't have it in me, and not because I am a better man.

Hitchens and I are scheduled to square off for the first time for a panel on the Ten Commandments with David Hazony in New York City on November 4, and I am fairly certain that if that event comes to pass he will have me for lunch, dinner, or whatever else is being served that day.

I am rooting for him nonetheless. We need people like Hitchens in our debates over God and war and torture and adultery and literature and other things that actually matter. We also need his writing, to remind us what passion sounds like.

"In whatever kind of a 'race' life may be," Hitchens writes in his Vanity Fair piece, "I have very abruptly become a finalist." I hope this finalist has a lot more laps in him, even if that means he will run headlong into me in New York City in November.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Atheism • Culture & Science • Opinion • Prayer

soundoff (526 Responses)
  1. keith

    For those who are stating that Hitch is un-beatable in a debate, watch his debate vs. William Lane Craig, even the majority of the atheist camp concedes that Hitchens was overtly over-matched by Craig. Regardless though, no one should have to go through cancer, I wish Hitch the best, and pray that he, as well as all of us may find the truth.

    August 5, 2010 at 6:36 pm |
  2. Prayer doesn't work

    If prayer actually worked there would be no wars and nobody would die.
    Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The end.

    August 5, 2010 at 6:35 pm |
    • Gigi

      Yes it does. It just doesn't work for you. This is earth, not heaven. Heaven has no wars. Heaven has peace. Not earth. Try praying the sinner's prayer and believe and let him in and you will see for yourself that prayer does work. It has worked for me everytime. By the way, Jesus is not a genie. You can't rub the bottle and expect for Him to do everything you want. He will do miracles. I am a living witness of that.

      August 5, 2010 at 6:46 pm |
    • Jesus

      Did you rub the lamp, O Great One?

      August 5, 2010 at 6:51 pm |
    • @Gigi

      So I guess those poor deluded people who prayed daily to save their dying child weren't worthy of the miracle?

      August 5, 2010 at 6:55 pm |
    • Jesus

      Did anyone rub the lamp?

      Anyone?

      *sigh*

      August 5, 2010 at 6:59 pm |
    • Bob

      Obviously you dont know how to pray.
      Jesus is the one and only GOD.
      If you are praying to allah, budah etc. then there is no one there to hear you. You must pray to Jesus and then thank HIM that He hears you. Why thank HIM? Because the Bible says that GOD only responds to the prayer of faith and that means that you must believe that GOD hears you and will answer your prayers. Thanking GOD or JESUS before HE answers you is a display of your faith. If you have a problem with that then the Bible gives an example of one man in the Bible who said Lord help my unbelief, or help me to believe. GOD has healed me of kidney stones, He healed my wife of eccema when the doctors saild it could not be done. GOD healed my 2 year old dog when I prayed for her just as the vet came into the examining room to kill the dog wilth a needle because she could not move and had lost almost half of her weight over 2 weeks. . When the vetinarian saw the dog moving, she said to me, what have you done. My wife told her that I annointed the dog with oil and prayed for her. The docotor was amazed and 2 days later we took her home after she had regained some strength. The doctor told us not to get our hopes up as it could just be temporary, but now 4 years later, the dog is still healed. People should actually read the Bible and find out what it saiys before they give their ipinions wilthout ever readilng the Bible. For example, would you get into a plane with a whosays he is a pilot because he bought a beginners book on flying but never read the book and had never flown a plane before. Walking into a Church does not make you a Christian, Just like walking into a barn does not make you a cow. Read the Bible and find out what GOD says HE will do for you and then pray to GOD and remilnd GOD what HE promised you, ask HIM and thank HIM for it and watch GOD go to work helping you. GOD is good. IT works for me. How much easier do you want it to be?

      August 6, 2010 at 10:07 pm |
    • Kenster

      @Bob
      I think you mis-read his post. He was not describing his own efforts, he was pointing to what he reasonably thinks as situations that should have never happened if prayer worked in a demonstrably reliable way using universal rules.

      As for the happy things that have happened for you, take 'em while you can get 'em. Such things are incredibly rare.
      If you would prove that prayer works by providing incontrovertible evidence of same, you have a long way to go.
      This is not to belittle your happiness, but to point out that you seem to want everyone to believe you.
      This is almost a requirement for a commenter in these blogs, but we cannot in good conscience believe what you say without the sort of proof that will stand up to an extremely rigorous examination.
      It is unfortunate that people who have had religious experiences cannot reproduce them so that others may see and wonder. That's why so many come and go scoffing all the way instead of staying to wonder.

      You want me to have faith in what you claim, but it remains a claim in name only.
      I am sure there is an explanation somewhere, but I do not blindly accept what other people say. This may be a big difference between the two of us. If so, I regret it extremely.

      August 6, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
  3. Dare-Win

    @Tom,

    Thanks Tom for hitting the nail with "the athiest community will attack with the same ferocity as any religous zealot when their beliefs are challenged". I'm an atheist myself but after after attending one single convention of theirs I knew thier aggressive and negative approach is somehow not right. It's always against somethin (religious of course). I don't like negativism and as such I call rather label myself as a Darwinist in heart and mind (soul has no place). Life in its facts is too beautiful not to be fascinated, we don't need any omnipotent creature for that.

    August 5, 2010 at 6:34 pm |
  4. Mark

    Christopher Hitchens is nothing but a fool. A mortal man rebellious against Almighty God!
    The funny thing is that he thinks he is wise, because he believes only retards believe in God. How about Nobel Prize winners are they retards? In teh book "Cosms, Bios, and Theos" 60 well respected world class, Nobel prize winner scientists discuss their belief in God, and the overwhelming majority of them believe in God, BASED ON THEIR SCIENTIFIC STUDIES....check the book out...
    Well, little Hitchens has an upcoming apointment with the God he rejected, and he will be surprised to find out that God is full of beauty, glory, truth, love, wisdom, kindness, and splendor! and he will be VERY sorry to have rejected him, because he will get what he wanted after all...an eternity without that beautiful God..a place called hell...
    Nevertheless, if he repents, and turns to Christ, he will be forgiven for all his foolishness...I hope he does..

    August 5, 2010 at 6:34 pm |
    • Oh give me a break

      blah blah blah blah
      God is a fairytale, much like the easter bunny and the tooth fairy

      August 5, 2010 at 6:36 pm |
    • KEKC

      No, the Tooth Fairy is actually real! ))
      LOL

      August 5, 2010 at 6:38 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Mark,
      I hope so, too. I don't want one soul lost, because God deserves to have them all!!

      August 5, 2010 at 10:58 pm |
    • BradLW

      Wow! More of that good ole fundamentalist xtian love!

      If all of us foolish, bad, mean, persecuting atheists are going to go to hell, how will we ever "be surprised to find out that God is full of beauty, glory, truth, love, wisdom, kindness, and splendor!"?

      Who's the fool here?

      August 6, 2010 at 2:13 am |
    • CatholicMom

      BradLW,
      You already know that God is full of beauty, truth, love, wisdom, kindness, and splendor because you have ‘life’, don’t you? Whether you enjoy ever-lasting life or not will be up to you. That is your freewill. Determine your eternity while you live this life, a gift.

      August 6, 2010 at 1:11 pm |
    • BradLW

      Catholic Mom:

      You said:

      "You already know that God is full of beauty, truth, love, wisdom, kindness, and splendor because you have ‘life’, don’t you? Whether you enjoy ever-lasting life or not will be up to you. That is your freewill. Determine your eternity while you live this life, a gift."

      The above is the typical type of arrogant, ridiculous xtian statement that we non-believers find so offensive. I don't know any such thing about your god; neither do you. The difference between you and me is that you "believe" all of the mythology that is incapable of being demonstrated as "real". Neither you or your god (or anyone else for that matter) is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent or omnibenevolent since these are also simply philosophical constructs designed primarily to put the "fear" of god/s into the common people so that the church and state hierarchies can keep them in their "place"; that is the "real" nature of the matter(read some history instead of just RCC propaganda).

      August 6, 2010 at 5:48 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      BradLW,
      Every human being is full of beauty, truth, love, wisdom, kindness, and splendor if they are living in Christ and Him in them. Each person is a child of God, and no one can erase this from their lives. But they can erase the beauty, truth, love, wisdom, kindness, and splendor through sin and that is of their own freewill to make. If someone is unhappy that they do not have that in their life, they can get it back.

      August 7, 2010 at 10:52 am |
  5. News_Wire

    Religion = Superstitious Nonsense

    August 5, 2010 at 6:33 pm |
  6. Mike

    What I'm getting from this writing is that Mr. Prothero has an unabiding respect for Christopher Hitchens in that he is able to articulate his views in a rational intelligent manner and is unbending in his beliefs (or lack thereof). The venom that is coming out of this is from the comments that follow the article.

    It has long been my assertion that religion is based upon 5 tenets: Fear, guilt, superstition, customs and ignorance. I am not void of any of these qualities. However, I refuse to accept the idea that there is a supreme being. The god whom we have all been led to believe in did not create us in his image. Our forebears created him in theirs and nurtured the myth(s) to the point of absurdity.

    My lack of theological beliefs, however does not make me an evil, tyrannical, insensitive being. Nor does it make me a wild fanatic bent on changing the world. Rather, it makes me far more aware of my own moral beliefs. I do recognize the difference between good and evil, and try to lead my life as an example to others, faltering at times. After all, I am only human. It is possible to do this without claiming the existence of an all powerful being. Nor do I compare myself to those who profess to such beliefs and say that I am better than them. To do so, would be as hypocritical as claiming that such a being exists and damning those who would believe otherwise.

    Therein lies the rub. I am becoming increasingly intolerant of those who would have me believe as they do. If I refuse to accept the same theological beliefs that they have wrapped themselves in, I am branded. To add insult to that, some tell me they will pray for my soul. I would rather they pray for their own soul than mine. It is my belief that my soul is my essence. Nothing more. Nothing less. When I die, my “soul” dies with me. If I have led an exemplary life, then that is all that matters. Nothing more. Nothing less.

    August 5, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
  7. Matt Redmond

    To all you creationists out there, did you even read any of his books? No, you didn't. But here you are trolling away with your less than nothing and miserable opinions about a man whose worth is incomparably higher than any evangelist you could possibly think of. I'm sorry that you can't see that but don't blame your self, blame your upbringing and the ultimate indoctrination you were put through where fundamental religious ideas were embedded in your little uneducated mind. Indoctrination is not education.

    August 5, 2010 at 6:30 pm |
    • May

      I'm not UN-educated. I don't have to read any of his books to know he's dead wrong. I don't have to put my hand in the fire either to know that it's pretty stupid to do so. Reading a bunch of anti-God jibberish from a man who's one final heartbeat away from eternity apart from Jesus Christ doesn't make you an intellectual superman.

      August 5, 2010 at 6:42 pm |
    • Sanity Claws

      doesn't it feel good to vent?
      I do it a lot.
      More people need to express their anger, however incomprehensible it may be at the time, or risk exploding at the wrong place and time.
      It's healthy, I think, no matter what it is you're venting about.

      August 5, 2010 at 6:48 pm |
    • Sanity Claws

      ...and I'd like to add that I pretty much agree with you....

      August 5, 2010 at 6:49 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Matt Redmond,

      you said, ....a man whose worth is incomparably higher than any evangelist.....

      What is this 'worth' thing you are referring to?

      August 5, 2010 at 10:54 pm |
    • BradLW

      Well May:

      Your statement, "I don't have to read any of his books to know he's dead wrong." certainly refutes your claim as to not being "UN-educated". It simply leaves the impression that you are another arrogant, judgmental religious bigot.

      Your second sentence, "I don't have to put my hand in the fire either to know that it's pretty stupid to do so." produces the same result. If you really were not – not – "UN-educated", you would realize that you had to learn about the heat generated by fire before you had enough knowledge not to put your hand in the fire. Yup! Just more arrogant, judgmental, bigoted religiosity.

      1

      August 6, 2010 at 1:58 am |
  8. KEKC

    If there was a god, there would had not been a Holocaust, or child cancer, or tsunami-related children deaths. Having said that, what is actually "God"? A conscience delegated to an imaginary friend by those who cannot take responsibility for their own actions?
    Now, about this article: the fact of writing it BECAUSE OF someone's illness shows how low religious people's morale really is. You, a Boston University religion scholar, are very happy about the guy's tragedy, and you cannot cover that simple fact with your fake and sanctimonious compassion. Shame on you (don't try to delegate it to a "god").

    August 5, 2010 at 6:27 pm |
    • Out of Grace

      You have to understand the whole plan in order to understand the short period.

      August 5, 2010 at 6:38 pm |
    • KEKC

      Sure, you know The Plan. Why don't you share with me?
      Wake up, it is 21st century, and some people are still believe in caveman's stories about a supernatural being living on a cloud, who has created everything out of nothing ('cause He is Almighty). That is sad.

      August 5, 2010 at 6:41 pm |
    • KEKC

      Sure, you know The Plan. Why don't you share with me?
      Wake up, it is 21st century, and some people are still believing in caveman's stories about a supernatural being living on a cloud, who has created everything out of nothing ('cause He is Almighty). That is sad.

      August 5, 2010 at 6:46 pm |
    • Out of Grace

      23 minutes in hell.

      August 5, 2010 at 6:46 pm |
    • KEKC

      I as so scared... ))
      Now, returning to so called The Plan: if Holocaust, or 9/11, or children cancer are all parts of it, then what is the difference between the God Almighty and the Satan?
      Sorry, I'll have to disapprove "The Plan".

      August 5, 2010 at 6:58 pm |
    • KEKC

      I am so scared... ))
      Now, returning to so called The Plan: if Holocaust, or 9/11, or children cancer are all parts of it, then what is the difference between the God Almighty and the Satan?
      Sorry, I'll have to disapprove "The Plan".

      August 5, 2010 at 6:59 pm |
  9. mmhurst

    I find it so strange that some people are befuddled by the announcement of Mr. Hitchen's illness and how changes the tone and tenor of his debate on religion.

    What, you didn't think he was ever going to die?

    You don't think he ever considered the possibility?

    Today, tomorrow, sooner or later – I'm pretty sure that Christopher Hitchens had contemplated his own death prior to being diagnosed with cancer and I'm not sure how that really changes much of anything (in terms of his views on religion).

    August 5, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
    • Sanity Claws

      I think what you're seeing is a curious form of politeness struggling for expression.
      ..and talking about someone who is not obviously joining the discussion carries with it a slight discomfort...especially if that person is suffering a physical malady.

      The situation is a strange one, I'll grant you that...

      August 5, 2010 at 6:43 pm |
  10. Jim

    Oh pray? And just what is that you religious elite's? Something that makes you more special than me. Oh wait, that is the standard opening for you to say your better than me by saying you're not. True 1984 speak. Hmmm, the code has been cracked a long time ago "better then me" Christians.

    August 5, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Jim,
      Stop being so hard on yourself. God loves you, too.

      August 5, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
  11. Ard V.

    Typical KKKristian hypocrite. COMMANDED by his (imaginary) god to "love others as himself" and to "judge not lest ye be judged" and yet he refuses to pray for him when he's got cancer. "Whatsoever you do to the LEAST of my brethren, so you do unto me." It's really too bad KKKristianity is fictional, cuz going to hell would be worth it to see all you hypocritical KKKristurds burning right along with me.

    August 5, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
  12. Shadtree

    I love the bumper sticker "I don't know..and you don't either"

    August 5, 2010 at 6:21 pm |
    • MuttMom

      My favorite bumper sticker: I found Jesus–he was behind the sofa the whole time.

      August 5, 2010 at 7:35 pm |
  13. Jim

    Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Jim Jones Follower = You tell me what to think, I just NEED to be one of the group to be. Heil Religion!!!

    August 5, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
  14. Sonja

    Prothero wrote a very classy column here. I hope both are well enough to debate in November! The world needs more people like Prothero who can respect people with different opinions and beliefs.

    August 5, 2010 at 6:15 pm |
    • Ard V.

      "The world needs more people like Prothero who can respect people with different opinions and beliefs."

      @Sonja, 2+2 does not equal 5. No matter HOW much YOU believe it does, it doesn't. No amount of praying or worshiping or burning dead animals on an alter will make it so.

      And ya know what else? No, I do NOT have to respect you or your belief that 2+2=5. I don't have to respect you, because you're INSANE for believing that 2+2=5. If more people would rise up and tell you that you are insane, and stop listening to your insanity, maybe your eyes would be opened and you'd realize just how insane you really are.

      August 5, 2010 at 6:28 pm |
  15. Channe

    The words of Christopher Hitchens – be they in his book or lecture and debates – have influenced and touched me more than any single word and phrase in the entire Bible.

    August 5, 2010 at 6:15 pm |
    • May

      What a shame...

      August 5, 2010 at 7:00 pm |
    • BradLW

      May:

      Yes: it is a tremendous shame that the xtian bible is such a hodge-podge of ancient history and politics which bear very little, if any, relevance to the world as it exists today.

      August 6, 2010 at 1:15 am |
  16. LouAz

    If this prayer thing really worked, half the batters in Major League Baseball would be batting 1.000. Well maybe not the American League. Why doesn't anyone ever look up and give the sky the finger when they strike out, or pop out, or hit into a inning ending double play. Guess god does not like baseball. Ask Hitchins about this in your next meeting will you ? Thx.

    August 5, 2010 at 6:10 pm |
    • May

      Ever stop to think that maybe, just maybe some of those players are just thanking God for his kindness and the ability to play the sport they love. Maybe, just maybe one or two of them don't really care what their batting averages are, but care more about honoring God with their actions, attitudes, conduct..etc. For Pete's sake, why do you use something so trivial to decide whether or not you think prayer works or not? If you're praying with the right motives, God is more than willing (in fact, anxious) to answer your prayers. Maybe your motives are wrong.....hmmm?? God's not your personal Genie.

      August 5, 2010 at 6:23 pm |
    • Ard V.

      If this prayer thing really worked, why hasn't an amputee EVER grown back an arm or a leg? People are supposedly cured of cancer or lupus or creeping halitosis all the time, but god NEVER answers the prayer of an amputee. They must have REALLY pissed him off, huh?

      August 5, 2010 at 6:30 pm |
    • BradLW

      May:

      Yes: it is a shame that the xtian bible is such a hodge-podge of ancient history and politics which bear very little, if any, relevance to the world as it exists today.

      August 6, 2010 at 1:06 am |
    • BradLW

      Whoops! I got that in the wrong place! See "May" under "Channe" below.

      August 6, 2010 at 1:10 am |
  17. May

    Give me a break already! All the people posting on here, going on and on about what a marvelous guy this dude was. "Oh, how he will be missed"...."Oh how we need his views on this, or that". Please! This guy was/is a worm. This guy is about to step head long into eternity without a SHRED of hope. None. This guy doesn't need to be admired for heaven's sake. This guy needs pity.....pure and simple. 2 seconds after he breathes his last breath, he will know full well how vain and meaningless all of his "words" were. This man has been deceived! Along with all of you other God haters. The irony is that you think Christians are the ones being deceived. The Bible calls this man a fool.

    "The fool says in his heart, there is no God".

    Stop idolizing this man like he's some great philosophical heavy weight, ready to devour all the cowering little Christians for lunch, and anyone else who would dare to challenge his intellectual supremecy. Please, do yourself a favor and check out what God says about people who are wise in their own eyes. Psssst....a hint....it's in the Bible.

    August 5, 2010 at 6:09 pm |
    • Gigi

      Ditto. That's what I say. It's too bad that they have to get there and find out when it is too late. God has left us a blueprint. It's so sad how many people hate Him. So sad how many people are lost. Their hardened hearts.

      August 5, 2010 at 6:20 pm |
    • Ard V.

      "2 seconds after he breathes his last breath, he..."

      ...will be as cold and as dead as YOU will be 2 seconds after YOU breathe YOUR last breath. And 2 years after. And 2 decades after. And 2 gazillion, trillion, billion millenia after.

      August 5, 2010 at 6:32 pm |
    • Tyler

      How does one know that the words in the Bible were conceived by God? How do we know it's not just another book? The generation before us told us God wrote it. The generation before them told them the same and so forth. At some point there was an origin of the words on those pages. Man or God? To debate this and come to the decision that man wrote it makes you less of a man? I don't understand how this decision is considered "foolish". Christians believe the Qur'an is written by man. Why is it so preposterous to think the Bible was written by man?

      Also, can a discussion about religion remain inoffensive when the people involved in the discussion are of different religions? Believer or non-believers?

      August 5, 2010 at 6:34 pm |
    • Sanity Claws

      pot, meet kettle..

      August 5, 2010 at 6:35 pm |
    • Jamie

      So what would happen if I were never exposed to Christianity or the bible before I died? If I never had a chance to accept Jesus? Would I be condemned to eternal hell still? That doesnt seem right.

      August 5, 2010 at 7:55 pm |
    • Luke

      Jamie – Sounds like most of the population of the Asian continent, no?

      August 5, 2010 at 10:02 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Tyler,
      Men wrote the Bible of their own freewill but God put the Truth in the words and made them His own.

      August 5, 2010 at 10:19 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Jamie,

      You live your life according to the right and wrong that was written in your heart by your Creator, God. You have a conscience which is a gift from God to help give you direction. It helps you live a right life.

      Evil is a strong force in the world and Jesus Christ wanted to establish His Church and Sacraments for you so that you have a better chance of fighting off evil. He wants everyone to be Baptized [the Sacrament that makes you ‘born again’] because then you have the Holy Spirit working within you giving your works meaning. Sin drives the Holy Spirit out of your soul and so the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the way to true repentance.

      Once you know the Truth you will want to stay with it. It is your help and salvation. Don’t worry, God loves you; His death and resurrection was for every single person so that they might have life everlasting. He just wants you to get real close to Him. When you get that way, you will feel safe and happy and free!

      August 5, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
    • Luke

      CatholicMom – " He just wants you to get real close to Him."

      I thought you guys didn't like gays so much? *smirk*

      August 5, 2010 at 10:58 pm |
    • BradLW

      Catholic Mom:

      Please explain to all of us the following w/r to "free will":

      "Catholic doctrine

      Among the early Fathers of the Church, St. Augustine stands pre-eminent in his handling of this subject. He clearly teaches the freedom of the will against the Manichæeans, but insists against the Semipelagians on the necessity of grace, as a foundation of merit. He also emphasizes very strongly the absolute rule of God over men's wills by His omnipotence and omniscience–through the infinite store, as it were, of motives which He has had at His disposal from all eternity, and by the foreknowledge of those to which the will of each human being would freely consent."

      * RELATION OF THE QUESTION TO DIFFERENT BRANCHES OF PHILOSOPHY
      * HISTORY
      o Free Will in Ancient Philosophy
      o Free Will and the Christian Religion
      + Catholic Doctrine
      + Thomist and Molinist Theories
      + Free will and the Protestant Reformers
      o Free Will in Modern Philosophy
      * THE ARGUMENT
      o Proof
      o Objections
      * NATURE AND RANGE OF MORAL LIBERTY
      * CONSEQUENCES

      http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06259a.htm#cat

      And that, good people, is only the tip of a very large ice berg!

      So many religious people are always looking for simple answers to complex questions.

      August 6, 2010 at 12:56 am |
    • CatholicMom

      BradLW,
      Freewill….and freedom from sin….or slavery to sin…boils down to this:

      “Our moral freedom, like other mental powers, is strengthened by exercise. The practice of yielding to impulse results in enfeebling self-control. The faculty of inhibiting pressing desires, of concentrating attention on more remote goods, of reinforcing the higher but less urgent motives, undergoes a kind of atrophy by disuse. In proportion as a man habitually yields to intemperance or some other vice, his freedom diminishes and he does in a true sense sink into slavery. He continues responsible in causa for his subsequent conduct, though his ability to resist temptation at the time is lessened. On the other hand, the more frequently a man restrains mere impulse, checks inclination towards the pleasant, puts forth self-denial in the face of temptation, and steadily aims at a virtuous life, the more does he increase in self-command and therefore in freedom. The whole doctrine of Christian asceticism thus makes for developing and fostering moral liberty, the noblest attribute of man. William James's sound maxim: "Keep the faculty of effort alive in you by a little gratuitous exercise every day", so that your will may be strong to stand the pressure of violent temptation when it comes, is the verdict of the most modern psychology in favour of the discipline of the Catholic Church.”
      Or check out the Catholic Encyclopedia.
      I am so glad you know where to go for the answers and that the moderators are allowing you to post the site. Thank you!

      August 6, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
    • BradLW

      Catholic Mom:

      I sincerely hope that you do realize that your CE reply to my last CE post is nothing but RCC philosophy which was subsequently reduced to dogma and doctrine? There is not a single thing in your post that can withstand the rigors of verification or falsification any more than there was in mine, and that is the point.

      No place in any xtian bible that I am currently aware of do the words "free" and "will" appear together as "free will". Again, I challenge you to prove me wrong as that would enlighten me and I almost always welcome enlightenment that is subject to verification and falsification; anything else, IMO, is pretty much a waste of time and mental effort. "Free will", is just another religious philosophical construct that ancient men developed in an effort to address all of the issues of evil extant in the human community. After all, the all knowing, all powerful xtian god "created"(not) the first man and woman so that they would fail and thereby provide amusement for her/him/it; pretty sick philosophy.

      Tis a shame that you are so incapable of answering any direct questions directly, but here is another one for you(this appears in another one of my posts on this thread):

      Please explain the trinity to all of us; how did the xtian god manage the magic trick of killing her/him/it -self and then resurrecting her/him/it -self? It should be obvious that this requires an entirely different concept of "death" than that with which man has always had to work; and still does for that matter.

      August 6, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      BradLW,

      Why are you criticizing my post which you say is just like yours in procurement?
      There is one big difference between yours and mine….I have faith in mine and you don’t have faith in yours.

      Because my Faith is rooted in the Tradition [big T], the Magisterium, and the Catholic Bible I understand my life and beliefs when it comes to my Creator. I am not sure how your understanding of your life and beliefs came to you….did you say the Universe is your god or was that someone else? Regardless, you wanted to understand the Trinity…..

      Jesus Christ promised the Catholic Church His guidance and protection. The Holy Spirit was SENT to bring the Apostles into remembrance of all that He had taught them and what they were to teach. Also the Holy Spirit would bring the Catholic Church into the fullness of Truth as He inspires the Church as time goes on because Jesus Christ said ‘the Apostles could not bear to hear it all just then’.

      With the Tradition, the Magisterium, and the Bible, the Catholic Church has explained the Trinity very well. It is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in One God. All Christians believe this to be Truth. [If not, they are not Christians.] You are very capable of going to Catholic sites on the net and reading in detail how the Church pronounced the Trinity as such. It is free for all to read and understand. I don’t need to copy and paste for you.

      Not everything is in the Bible so just because you cannot find the words freewill in the Bible does not mean it does not exist! BradLW isn’t in there either….do you exist?

      I have no problems or questions about my faith and so since you don’t have ‘it’ and don’t want ‘it’ it shouldn’t bother you that I have ‘it’. But I will try to accommodate your problems and questions if you want me to. If my methods of explaining aren’t helpful to you, all I can say, is there are many ways of searching for the Truth and you don’t have to rely on me for it.

      August 7, 2010 at 10:40 am |
  18. Ron Hicks

    I should imagine being a sane and committed atheist, Hitchens doesn’t give a hoot if you pray for him or not. He’s also probably equally unconcerned about what you believe or have to say regarding him or his current problem. I’m also a little puzzled as to why you believe anyone would care about your thoughts or beliefs. Hubris can be such an unpleasant human trait.

    August 5, 2010 at 6:09 pm |
    • Sanity Claws

      kettle, meet pot...

      August 5, 2010 at 6:34 pm |
  19. Tom

    Bob, let me guess what side of the equation you fall on! No matter how much scholastic firepower is referenced in any capacity, you cannot prove that God does not exist. Now if your a good lawyer you can use the "beyond a reasonable doubt" argument. But it still leaves room for error as any science does. What we now know as scientific fact will constantly change based our ability to learn. I always find it fascinating as well that the athiest community will attack with the same ferocity as any religous zealot when their beliefs are challenged as Anthony Flew found out the hard way.

    August 5, 2010 at 6:08 pm |
  20. Saint Ringo

    no one likes to admit.....that they just don't know. When it comes to god, no one knows anything....zip, zero, nada.

    August 5, 2010 at 6:07 pm |
    • MotoChris

      Saint Ringo, how come i can't profess to "know" God, but yet it's an absolute fact (according to you) that God is unknowable? I mean do we have to die and go to heaven first in order to know God? What if i told you that watching a flower unfurl, or the innocence of a child, or the wonderment of the night sky teaches me about God? Some people know more about God than you give them credit for. And no i don't believe God is a friendly man with a long white beard

      August 5, 2010 at 6:41 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.