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December 16th, 2011
04:45 PM ET

My Take: An evangelical remembers his friend Hitchens

Editor's note: Larry Alex Taunton is the founder and executive director of the Fixed Point Foundation. This article is adapted from his book “The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief.”

By Larry Alex Taunton, Special to CNN

(CNN)– I first met Christopher Hitchens at the Edinburgh International Festival. We were both there for the same event, and foremost in my mind was the sort of man I would meet.

A journalist and polemicist, his reputation as a critic of religion, politics, Britain's royal family, and, well, just about everything else was unparalleled. As an evangelical, I was certain that he would hate me.

When the expected knock came at my hotel room door, I braced for the fire-breather who surely stood on the other side of it. With trepidation, I opened it and he burst forth into my room. Wheeling on me, he began the conversation as if it was the continuance of some earlier encounter:

“The Archbishop of Canterbury has effectively endorsed the adoption of Sharia law. Can you believe that? Whatever happened to a Church of England that believed in something?” He alternated between sips of his Johnnie Walker and steady tugs on a cigarette.

My eyebrows shot up. “‘Believed in something?’ Why, Christopher, you sound nostalgic for a church that actually took the Bible seriously.”

He considered me for a moment and smiled. “Indeed. Perhaps I do.”

There was never a formal introduction. There was no need for one. From that moment, I knew that I liked him. We immediately discovered that we had much in common. We were descendants of martial traditions; we loved literature and history; we enjoyed lively discussion with people who didn’t take opposition to a given opinion personally; and we both found small talk boring.

Over the next few years, we would meet irregularly. The location was invariably expensive, a Ritz Carlton or a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. He disliked cheap restaurants and cheap liquor. In his view, plastic menus were indicative of bad food. I never ate so well as when I was with Hitch.

Christopher Hitchens, standing, debates his friend Larry Taunton.

More than bad food, however, he disliked unintelligent conversation. “What do you think about gay marriage?” He didn’t wait for a response. “I don’t get it. I really don’t. It’s like wanting the worst of both worlds.” He drank deeply of his whiskey. “I mean, if I was gay, I would console myself by saying, ‘Well, I’m gay, but at least I don’t have to get married.’” That was classic Hitch. Witty. Provocative. Unpredictable.

Calling him on his cell one day, he sounded like he was flat on his back. Breathing heavily, there was desperation in his voice.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, anticipating some tragedy.

“Only minutes ago, I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.” He was almost gasping.

I didn’t know what to say. No one ever does in such moments, so we resort to meaningless stock phrases like, “I’m sorry.” Instead, I just groaned. I will never forget his response:

“I had plans for the next decade of my life. I think I should cancel them.”

He asked me to keep the matter private until he could tell his family and make the news public. Hesitatingly, I told him that while I knew that he did not believe in such things, I would pray for him. He seemed genuinely moved by the thought.

“We are still on for our event in Birmingham, right?” He asked. I was stunned. Sensing my surprise, he continued. “I have made a commitment,” he insisted. “Besides, what else am I going to do? I can’t just sit around waiting to die.”

Hitchens brothers debate if civilization can survive without God

As time approached, he suggested a road trip from his D.C. apartment to my home in Birmingham, Alabama.

“Flying has become a humiliating experience, don’t you think?” He said. “Besides, I haven’t taken a road trip in 20 years and it will give us a chance to talk and for me to finally take you up on your challenge.”

Arriving in Washington some five months after his diagnosis, I was shocked by his appearance. Heavy doses of chemotherapy had left him emaciated, and hairless but for his eyelashes. His clothes hung off of him as though he were a boy wearing a man’s garments. He was, nonetheless, looking forward to our journey, having packed a picnic lunch and, predictably, enough Johnnie Walker for a battalion. After breakfast with his lovely wife, Carol, and his sweet daughter, Antonia, Hitch and I headed south on an eleven-hour road trip.

“Have you a copy of Saint John with you?” He asked with a smile. “If not, you know I do actually have one.” This was a reference to my challenge of two years before: a joint study of the Gospel of John. It was my assertion that he had never really read the Bible, but only cherry-picked it.

“Not necessary.” I was smiling, too. “I brought mine.”

A few hours later we were wending our way through the Shenandoah Valley on a beautiful fall morning. As I drove, Hitch read aloud from the first chapter of John’s Gospel. We then discussed its meaning. No cameras, no microphones, no audience. And that always made for better conversation with Hitch. When he referenced our journey in a televised debate with David Berlinski the next day, various media representatives descended on me to ask about our “argument.” When I said that we didn’t really argue, they lost interest.

But that was the truth. It was a civilized, rational discussion. I did my best to move through the prologue verse by verse, and Christopher asked thoughtful questions. That was it.

A bit put off by how the Berlinski event had played out, Hitch suggested we debate one another. Friend though he was, I knew that Hitch could be a savage debater. More than once I had chaired such engagements where Hitch went after his opponents remorselessly.

Hence, I was more than a bit anxious. Here he was, a celebrated public intellectual, an Oxonian, and bestselling author, and that is to say nothing of that Richard Burton-like, aristocratic, English-accented baritone. That always added a few I.Q. points in the minds of people. With hesitation, I agreed.

We met in Billings, Montana. Hitch had once told me that Montana was the only state he had never been in. I decided to complete his tour of the contiguous United States and arranged for the two of us to meet there. Before the debate, a local television station sent a camera crew over to interview us.

When he was asked what he thought of me, a Christian, and an evangelical at that, Hitch replied: “If everyone in the United States had the same qualities of loyalty and care and concern for others that Larry Taunton had, we'd be living in a much better society than we do.”

I was moved. Stunned, really. As we left, I told him that I really appreciated the gracious remark.

“I meant it and have been waiting for an opportunity to say it.”

Later that night we met one another in rhetorical combat. The hall was full. Christopher, not I, was of course the real attraction. He was at the peak of his fame. His fans had traveled near and far to see him demolish another Christian. Overall, it was a hard-fought but friendly affair. Unknown to the audience were the inside jokes. When I told a little story from our road trip, he loved it.

The debate over, I crossed the stage to shake Christopher’s hand. “You were quite good tonight,” he said with a charming smile as he accepted my proffered hand. “I think they enjoyed us.”

“You were gentle with me,” I said as we turned to walk off the stage.

He shook his head. “Oh, I held nothing back.” He then surveyed the auditorium that still pulsed with energy. “We are still having dinner?” he asked.

“Absolutely.”

After a quick cigarette on the sidewalk near the backstage door, he went back inside to meet his fans and sign their books.

There was something macabre about it all. I had the unsettling feeling that these weren’t people who cared about him in the least. Instead, they seemed like a bunch of groupies who wanted to have a photo taken with a famous but dying man, so that one day they could show it to their buddies and say, “I knew him before he died.” It was a sad spectacle.

Turning away, I entered the foyer, where 30 or so Christians greeted me excitedly. Mostly students, they were encouraged by what had happened onstage that night. Someone had spoken for them, and it had put a bounce in their step. One young man told me that he had been close to abandoning his faith, but that the debate had restored his confidence in the truth of the gospel. Another student said that she saw how she could use some of the same arguments. It is a daunting task, really, debating someone of Hitchens' intellect and experience, but if this cheery gathering of believers thought I had done well, then all of the preparation and expense had been worth it.

The next day, the Fixed Point Foundation staff piled into a Suburban and headed for Yellowstone National Park. Christopher and I followed behind in a rented pick-up truck. Accompanied by Simon & Garfunkel (his choice), we drove through the park at a leisurely pace and enjoyed the grandeur of it all.

The second chapter of John’s Gospel was on the agenda: The wedding at Cana where Jesus turned water into wine. “That is my favorite miracle,” Hitch quipped.

Lunching at a roadside grill, he regaled our staff with stories. Afterwards, he was in high spirits.

“That’s quite a - how shall I put it? A clan? - team that you’ve got there,” he said, watching the teenage members of our group clamber into the big Chevrolet.

“Yes, it is,” I said, starting the truck. “They enjoyed your stories.”

“I enjoy them.” He reclined his seat and we were off again. “Shall we do all of the national parks?”

“Yes, and maybe the whole Bible, too,” I suggested playfully. He gave a laugh.

“Oh, and Larry, I’ve looked at your book.” He added.

“And?”

“Well, all that you say about our conversation is true, but you have one detail wrong.”

“And what is that?” I feared a total rewrite was coming.

“You have me drinking Johnnie Walker Red Label. That’s the cheap stuff. I only drink Black Label.”

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Larry Alex Taunton.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized

soundoff (1,648 Responses)
  1. Chris - Youth Minister

    I feel like the majority of the people posting comments are totally missing out on the huge premise of the article. These 2 people the writer of the article and Christopher Hitchens were able to have a friendship, and cordial discourse about faith (or lack there of), without being jerks to each other. They were 2 men who respected one another's view points.

    And, I think the biggest thing that we can learn from the article is that 2 opposing views can come together and talk, when we drop the ideological superiority that each side can boast. Instead focusing on the fact that we are all Human Beings worthy of respect, and more to offer then an argument with one another in hopes of gaining a superiority complex, and patting ourselves on the back for being witty, smart, and getting in the last word.

    Unfortunately, we like to demonize the other side regardless if you are a Christian, or an Atheist. And, that is just Human Behavior, that I believe both sides would like to change for the better.

    December 17, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      Ah...we demonize the "delusion", because that's all religion is.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • James

      That was a very classy and well thought reply WWW. My regards.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • Stan

      WhatWhatWhat, that’s just your opinion. But you are irrelevant, so it doesn’t matter.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      It's not an opinion, it is the truth. Religion = Delusion. Coexistence is futile.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      If you don't agree, you ARE delusional, and WILL be assimilated.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • GAW

      @ Chris Based on the one response I think you are finding that many of the atheists posting here are less tolerant that many of the Christians I know. They don't want you to question them and it's all or nothing! I don't want any of these guys in power any more than I want the Religious Right to take control of this country.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • MrMufasa

      Why do you feel the need to advertise that you are a youth minister? Why wouldn't "Chris" suffice. The non-Christ-like arrogance turned me off instantly. Why bother with the rest...

      December 17, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • Marks from Middle River

      WWhat- That is why your post is just the echos of the religious extremist. Both you and folks such as Rev Terry Jones are really more alike in you thinking and and especially the words that folks such as your self use.

      Yell , kick and scream and at the end of the day it appears Hitchens was a better man than all of those on the intolerant extremes.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • Clayton

      We have the superiority of scientific facts and the use of rational thought processes in evaluating these facts.
      We don't even have to be arrogant, since most religious nuts will always view whatever we say as arrogant anyway just as they will view anyone daring to contradict them as being insulting to their religion.
      If your "god" cannot defend himself and can be dismissed without proof, then what of your faith when we can also provide real proof that your religion is nothing but lies? No "god" to back up anything you assert religion-wise means you are little better than any other slave who has been forced to love their evil master.
      Let's say you go back to WW2 and talk to a Nazi who is busy overseeing the slaves as they empty out the ovens.
      He would use all the arguments religious people use to defend his actions and beliefs.
      The fact that he was most likely either Catholic or Lutheran just adds a certain amount of irony, wouldn't you agree?

      December 17, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
  2. AtheistSteve

    Bump

    Back on page 13 JT said "God Wins. Whether you are a "believer" or an atheist God wins because all of us are engaged in the conversation of his existance. No one debates the existance of any other deity as much as God. God is on everyones mind all of the time. If you are believer, you are praying to God. If you are not a beliver you are always asking yourself how can people waste thier time believing in God. Either way, we are all giving him credit.... Kinda funny "

    To which I replied: "Not quite...in the minds of atheists God has already lost. We hardly give it a second thought. But every time we drive by a church(by we I mean TruthPrevails and I)and laugh at all the sheeple at the steeple. Or when we are downtown and pass the crazy old woman who drives the car plastered with religious stickers(seriously it is completely covered with them). On billboards, signs, TV, and in the very language used by people the talons of religion assault us at every turn. It is inescapable and since the moment I realized that God was fiction and became an atheist the entire world took on an eerie similarity to the alternate 'evil' universe in Star Trek or the bizarro world of Superman. It is astounding to see that the vast majority of the world lives in the 'Matrix' of religious duplicity. I'm so happy I took the red pill."

    Then Rleinen posted the oft used Pascal's Wager:
    "To Atheist Steve: someday, friend you will die, and then you will know the truth. Better to find it before then. Think about it..."

    And again I said: "I have.... I was Catholic for the first oh...nearly 20 years of my life. i'll waste no more of my life worried about a heaven or hell and a God that doesn't exist. Freed of the guilt and dogma my life has never been happier. I've lost nothing and I risk nothing. But I've gained a great deal...an appreciation for this one and only existence...a realization that religion has no answers to questions about the unknown. It is like I've escaped the 'Borg', the awful a$$imilating monster of Christianity."

    December 17, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Stan

      Gee, thanks for copying and pasting your old comment thread. You are VERY important.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      No...but I did want it to be read. Given how quickly the pages add up and my rather slow typing it would get lost in the flow.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  3. Brian

    The least religious parts of the world are the happiest and have the lowest crime rate. Even the least religious part of the United States has the lowest crime rate and is the happiest part of the country. also the most intelligent but we won't go there will we

    December 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • James

      Other than you're assertions being completely wrong....we won't.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Dont be that guy

      @Brian
      Many of those countries you're referring to are happiest because of thousands of reasons that dont have to do with religion. Many of them have health care thats better than ours (I would be happy it I had free health care) many of them have much better education (not ranked 17th) that doesnt put them in debt. Many of them have governments that make sense. To think religion is the culprit is greatly oblivious to how we can define a nation to be happy. Most people are happy with food, water, house, and money in the bank. How does religion compromise that again?

      December 17, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • travis

      Great way to prove your facts with real statistics. I just love it when people pull stuff out of their butt. Like when someone harps on and on about how the states with the strictest gun laws have the lowest crime rate despite the fact it is far from true. So what is your basis for this statement? Where did your research come from?

      December 17, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Richard

      Albania is an atheist state. Go ask people in Albania how happy and enlightened they feel.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  4. Dave

    How very ironic...the author expected an atheist to behave like a "christian". I do love it.

    December 17, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  5. racer x

    Suppose I were a member of a religion that advocated exterminating all non-members. Would you "respect" my belief? Would you consider it "closed minded" to reject my belief out of hand? Of course not; you would make the logical inference that my religion is bs. If you believe in some sort of "god," yet can follow this argument, you're almost there.

    December 17, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • pablo

      Are you referring to Islam? Be careful. They know where you live.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • GodofLunaticsCreation

      I always found that irony amusing and above the heads of the typical apologist, believer.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • GodofLunaticsCreation

      Pablo, Islam/Judaism/Christianity are the real axis of evil.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      Christinsanity and Islame both feature the "end times" where non-believers, which means ME, are persecuted and killed. If only they would believe they were going to see Jebus, and that was it. But, no, they had to include the murder of everyone they don't like. That's delusional, and anyone who believes it needs medical assistance or the nut house.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Dont be that guy

      When I read the comments of CNN's faith blog, it leads me to believe every bloggest lives in a cave without any diverse social interactions. As someone who was fortunate to grow up in a multi-cultural setting, I find it absurd to group individuals of all walks of life into superficial categories. I have friends of all faith and those without faith. I could never see myself blasting their belief behind the secrecy of a screen name. If you really believe everyone other than yourself is wrong, no wonder your life revolves around the artificial interaction of the world wide web. Get out of the house, meet someone, i'm sure many of you have a christian friend, an atheist friend, a buddhist friend, think of them when you write your comments. If you truly are a friend, I would hope your comments reflect so.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • racer x

      Actually, I wasn't referring to Islam. My example was purely hypothetical. Suppose my religion involved belief in an invisible ying-yang rabbit (good, evil, fertility, whatever). The Rabbit is kind unless displeased, then he turns all Bugs Bunny on his enemies. Would you respect such a religion? Would you consider it "closed minded" to reject such a religion?

      December 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      I blast peoples faith right to their face, I don't put up with discussing delusional behavior with anyone. As an atheist, discussing religion is exactly the same as trying to have a logical discussion with an Alzheimer's patient, it's a waste of time and energy.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  6. Atheist 1#

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pBtsIm2k5E&w=640&h=360]

    December 17, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • GodofLunaticsCreation

      Glad to see my African American brothers shaking off the the last vestiges of the chains which the religious slave owners used to shackle them.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  7. gagerw

    Hitch never lost a debate.

    December 17, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  8. BNB42

    I would argue that those who see god in everything are the ones who have a problem seeing life`s true value. They`re not able to see the enormous beauty in the immense improbability of our very existence. If god created us all for a purpose, we`re just doing a job, pawns in his cosmic game. But if we just happen be be here by random chance, then the lives we have are truly something to value, enjoy, and celebrate.

    December 17, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • gager

      good one

      December 17, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • James

      That reads like a sentiment out of a Harlequin romance novel.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • BostonPhil

      Great comment

      December 17, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  9. Jake

    @George You asked for evidence, I provided it (evolution) and you disappeared. I don't blame you, your position is indefensible. But I am surprised.

    December 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  10. Atheist 1#

    TAKE IT FROM ME A FORMER CHRISTIAN. JUST BECAUSE THE THOUGHT OF HEAVEN AND SEEING YOUR FAMILY IN THAT PLACE AFTER YOU DIE MAKES YOU HAPPY DOESN'T MAKE HEAVEN REAL!

    December 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • James

      You all caps are very real though.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • TheWiz71

      Just a little technical pointer – the "caps lock" button is on the left hand side of your keyboard. Because your caps are HURTING MY EYES!

      December 17, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  11. Jenna

    Love watching the atheists consistently make idiots of themselves every day in the Belief Blog section. You can’t scientifically disprove the existence of an intelligent creator just as much as the religious can’t scientifically prove one exists. And don’t BS me on who has the burden of proof. The burden of proof lies with whoever is making the argument/comment at the time. I don’t know what exactly it is, perhaps plain insecurity, boredom with nothing to do on the weekend, or maybe some insane desire to convert religious people over rather then respect their faith (by the way, there’s a reason it’s called “Faith”, meaning scientific evidence doesn’t come into play). The only difference between the religious comments and the majority atheist comments in these articles is that the atheists come out generally attacking and insulting, and often employ insulting usernames, where-as the Christians are defending.

    December 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • racer x

      OK, Jenna, keep trying to convince yourself. You know the truth deep down inside.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Observer

      "The only difference between the religious comments and the majority atheist comments in these articles is that the atheists come out generally attacking and insulting"

      And the believers just talk about everyone that doesn't completely agree deserve to spend eternity in hell (subtle message or not).

      December 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • James

      Jenna, there is nothing new under the sun. This has been occurring since the advent of the movement.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • BNB42

      You can not convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it is based on a deep-seated need to believe.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Jake

      "You can’t scientifically disprove the existence of an intelligent creator just as much..." The sentence should have ended...just as much as we can't scientifically disprove the existence of Santa Claus.

      Do you not realize that the logic you're using would be precisely as valid to argue the existence of Santa Claus? Surely you can see that the logical inability to disprove the existence of something that doesn't exist does not lead to the conclusion that that thing does, therefore, exist?

      December 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • GodofLunaticsCreation

      You should save your laughter, or maybe tears, for your display of ignorance. Because the reason for your laughter is that God, Unicorns, Fairy's can't be dis-proven. In other words, you have bought a case which is built on the weakest of all foundations. Look outside your glass box and you will notice a crowd laughing back at you and weeping for your barbarity and ignorance.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • James

      Wait...there is no Santa?!?! Unfortunately, in blogs like these the scientific method and various "proofs" are sacrificed to the ever-changing gods of opinion and the need to feel right.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)

      Your argument about why it's called "Faith" is a circular one. You presuppose that faith is a good thing.

      There's no difference between faith, and gullibility. People only use the word "faith" when they wish to portray their gullibility in a positive light.

      Science requires no faith. If you don't believe it, you can read a science book, and reproduce experiments yourself. You cannot do that with religion.

      Science has already proved religion wrong on many, many things (sun revolving around earth, earth being flat, immaculate conception being possible, earth being 6000 years old, etc etc). Has science proven every thing yet? Of course not. Science is only 400 years old. Religions are thousands of years old, and they're no closer to "answers" than they were when they were founded. Modern science really only started with the industrial age (150 years), and only got kicked into high gear with the advent of the computer (about 50 years). In that short time, science has answered tons of questions, despite the systemic intellectual bigotry of religion.

      BTW, atheists like me also love to watch Christian idiots like yourself make fools of themselves on the Belief blog.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Jenna

      Sigh…still waiting for an intelligent response from anyone. You’re all using the same, re-cycled rebuttals. Your statements have actually reinforced what I was just saying

      December 17, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • GodofLunaticsCreation

      I think she is hanging her head in shame, well if she had any semblance of self respect she would.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Alexa

      You know Jenna, as an atheist I would really love to debate this with you but I have a bunch of stuff to do this weekend with my Christian friends.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • GodofLunaticsCreation

      Oh she speaks! Well, how do you counter the arguments made, Jenna?

      December 17, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • Jake

      Jenna, seriously? There have been logical counter-points that clearly poke holes in your post. Ignoring that reality doesn't help your position.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • GodofLunaticsCreation

      Jenna is still waiting for intelligent posts. I guess she can only see her own posts.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Jesus C.

      So called "Christians" use my name to provoke guilt, fear and judgement of others to get what they want, instead of love and forgiveness. I should deny them before my Father.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      Christinsanity and Islame both feature the "end times" where non-believers, which means ME, are persecuted and killed. That's the most ridiculously offensive ideology I have ever heard of, and it should be banned. If only they would believe they were going to see Jebus, and that was it. But, no, they had to include the murder of everyone they don't like. That's delusional, and anyone who believes it needs medical assistance or the nut house.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • James

      I agree with you Jenna, they are proving your point without realizing it. However, I do agree with Nate that the the various manufactured sects have added little light and knowledge during their tenure. However, worshiping science, when so many scientists disagree is also a slippery slope.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • Brian

      Christians are defending on what basis? speculation and presumption that a book is factual based? they have no real reason to defend other than they are all part of the same club. Its more about defending your team rather than defending something that is logical. I can defend snow white and the seven dwarfs because it is my favorite fairy tale but that doesn't make it a true story worth defending in reality. Anyone with half a brain can see that religion causes more harm than good in the world in the large scheme of things. It has always been the reason for war. It is the cancer of society disguising itself as a positive thing and the world will never advance or make real progress until religion is eradicated.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • Jesus C.

      You say, "Atheist make idiots out of themselves." That's judging and Christians are not supposed to judge. I see Hell in your future for judging others.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • JT

      @Jenna....*groan*....you do so well perpetuating the stereotypical uneducated, non-thinking Christian. Please take a basic science class. You really should read books other than the bible and listen to other people than your pastor or cult leader.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • BNB42

      Jenna: An atheist doesn`t have to be someone who thinks he has a proof that there can`t be a god. He only has to be someone who believes that the evidence on the God question is at a similar level to the evidence on the werewolf question.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Jake

      Since you still can't accept any of the problems we've pointed out with your post, here's another one. You say:

      "And don’t BS me on who has the burden of proof. The burden of proof lies with whoever is making the argument/comment at the time."

      But Jenna, don't you see, religion is the argument that you are bringing to the table. We're just saying "uh, that seems pretty crazy, I don't believe it". I'm not obligated to disprove any wild story you can make up – the null hypothesis is that the story is untrue. Until you prove otherwise, the null hypothesis is the going assumption.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • GodofLunaticsCreation

      Don't waste your time on Jenna. She was given numerous counter arguments and she has not answered any of them. She is obviously an uneducated troll and should provoke only pity.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • Jake

      James, you say "I agree with you Jenna, they are proving your point without realizing it." You're certainly right that I don't see how anything Jenna said has been in any way proved. Please enlighten us. Or are you going to embrace the logic rules of religion and just make wild claims without providing any evidence, but simply requiring we use "faith" to believe what you say?

      December 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • You're On Your Own

      I found my way out of the labyrinth of myth, legend, fantasy and superst.ition, Jenna. It took many years. Nobody talked me out of it. Nobody will talk you out of it either. If you are really interested in realism, you will need to search for it.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)

      James,

      Atheists don't "worship" science. We don't wake up early on Sunday to go to the laboratory to burn candles in honor of Richard Feynman, and chant hundred year old songs to celebrate our unconditional love.

      We may "respect" science, or "practice" it. That's not the same as worship. Are you really so intellectually challenged that you don't understand the difference?

      Worship requires unquestioning obedience. Science actually demands a rigorous peer review process, where work is scrutinized mercilessly by unkind peers who wish to poke holes in your theories. You, the layman, probably never hear about all the many scientific hypotheses that never make the mainstream media, because other scientists shoot them down with counter experiments, and other logical arguments.

      What is this disagreement among scientists you're talking about? Scientists don't disagree about the value of science. Are you talking about climate change, for example? 99% of climate scientists believe climate change to be a reality, and 97% believe it's significantly the result of human activity. Are you talking about that dissenting 3%?

      I don't know about you, but when the weatherman tells me there's a 97% chance of anything, I adjust my clothing accordingly.

      If you want to talk about the part of science that most directly conflicts with religion, that would be evolutionary biology. In that field, there is no significant dissent among scientists. Evolution is accepted as fact.

      Try again. I await your next miserable attempt to be logical.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • MrMufasa

      These people are so obtuse. I've given up arguing with devout Christians. It's pointless. It never goes anywhere, and I never learn anything interesting. When a person believes wildly outrageous things on the basis of "faith" (i.e., claiming a justification for belief rooted in some sort of overwhelming emotional intuition–I call it mental illness), there's no where for the conversation to go. The conversation takes on a sad, pathetic quality. And when they bust out that smug (but ironically insecure) grin for knowing something I don't know (but again, without acceptable reasons), I just want to hug them and tell them it'll be okay. It's always the same.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Jake

      @You're On Your Own – Curious to hear more about how you broke free of religion? Obviously the reason it's so pervasive is that for so many, it's deeply ingrained from childhood (and I don't think it's an exaggeration to use the term "brain-washing). What made you accept that it might be ok to rethink things?

      December 17, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Jake

      Actually Nate, according to a leading republican presidential candidate, evolution is just "a theory that's out there". How incredibly scary is it that there are actually people in this country that think evolution may not be real? And even worse, there are enough of them to elect a guy to the position of governor of one of our states! It really blows the mind.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • James

      Wow Nate, that was really mean-spirited on your part. I agree with your assertion on organized religion and you come at me like that? As far as science....are there Christian scientists who believe in the theory of evolution> In my congregation, I know of no less than half a dozen who have a lot more credentials than both of us will ever have.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • Jake

      James, are you saying you question whether or not evolution is real? If you are...seriously...I don't know what to say. Evolution is as much of a fact as gravity.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • James

      Jake, we are having a little bit of a communication gap. 🙂 I will say that I am not a scientist, nor do I pretend to be. However, I do enjoy my private conversations on the topic with those Ivy League scientists in my congregation who do believe in evolution and have been able to eloquently reconcile that with their faith. Although I am admittedly not a scientist....I am always willing to learn from all opinions and welcome a friendly dialogue where the opinions of all parties feel welcomed.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • Jake

      Ah, got it James. Personally, I have to say that I question whether or not those scientists in your church really believe in a god. I suspect that in their heart of hearts, they don't. And in order to make religion compatible with evolution, you have to ignore so much of the teachings that I don't see how you can conclude that what remains is true. The only explanation in my mind is that these scientists, like so many, had religion ingrained in them from birth and would rather ignore what their heart tells them is true than go against what they've been taught to believe. I'd ask you this – of the scientists you mentioned, have any of them been raised without religion and then decided, at an old enough age to think for themselves, to become religious? I very much expect the answer to that to be no.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • Jenna

      Still no logical counter-arguments. Guess I need to go through each response is chronological order:

      Racer x: Nothing here

      Observer: False there. There are some that stating that, yes, but not all. And the few who are saying that are simply quoting text from their bible. They are not presenting a personal opinion in the form of an attack.

      James: I think you’re right.

      BNB42: I understand what your intention was with the statement. But for people of religious beliefs, there actually is evidence for them, but not what you would call evidence (meaning, scientific). Also, your argument is too general. All people can be convinced of things.

      Jake: As intelligent is your attempt to point out some flaw(s) with what I said, you’re still only repeating what I already said. You can’t scientifically prove God doesn’t exist. The religious can’t prove scientifically he does. I can’t scientifically disprove that Santa doesn’t exist and live in the North Pole. I was never stating that, therefore, they must exist. My whole point is that because of this, there shouldn’t be any insulting towards either group towards the other because neither group can disprove the other. Get it?

      GodsofLunaticCreation: Part of my point was how atheists purposely and intentionally attempt to insult the religious here, in part by using usernames that they think will be insulting. You proved that part of my comments =) Also, you’re piggy-backing off the more intelligent Jake.

      James: Not really sure what to make of it.

      Nate(Seattle, WA): “You presuppose that faith is a good thing” That’s too opinionated. Also, you lost all credibility and respect with your next two sentences. You proved my point too, with the attack =)

      GodofLunaticsCreation: At this point, he/she has resolved him/herself to being irrelevant.

      Alexa: Good one 😉

      GodofLunaticsCreation: Running out of steam.

      Jake: See my response to you, above.

      GodofLunticsCreation: This guy/girl was the one hiding near the back of the big group of kids watching some poor kid get beaten up or teased, while shouting comments backing the perps.

      Jesus C.: Creative attempt at being stereotypical

      WhatWhatWhat?: Again, it’s their faith. You don’t have to believe in it. Is it bothering you that they may be right? I don’t think “persecuted and killed” is quite accurate.

      James: Thanks

      Brian: They are defending the attacks from all the slurs and insults from atheists on this board. Prove that religion causes more harm than good. “It has always been the reason for war” False, bigtime. WW1, WW2, Vietnam, Korea (ummm, how many million peoples’ death is that so far) where all in the name of politics/political ideologies and territorial conquest. Speaking of WW2, the rest of your comment makes you sound like H itler.

      Jesus C.: Not judging. Just pointing out the obvious. There’s a difference. Just curios, as I’m not Christian, what do you mean they’re not supposed to “judge” Sounds biblical though. Good try =)

      JT: Actually, I have a degree in Chemical Eng. I thought my comment was pretty logical and structured. How was it stereotypical? On the contrary, not enough Christians here seem to point out what I was saying, about how neither group can disprove the other, and that anyone trying to completely discredit the other group, especially using insults, makes themselves look like idiots.

      BNB42: Same answer as to Jake.

      Jake!: The argument I’m brining to the table is that you’re not just saying “uh, that’s crazy, I don’t believe it”. You’re literally, verbally attacking and insulting the religious, not simply reminding them that you don’t beleive. And to call them “crazy” is an insult? Did you realize that? Maybe not? And who are you to affirm the null hypothesis is the “going assumption”???!!

      GodofLunaticsCreation: Okee

      Jake: He’s addressing James here.

      You’re On Your Own: Good comment. Whether you believe, or do not believe, I’m happy you are happy now.

      Nate(Seattle, WA): He’s adressing James.

      Mr.Mufassa: Why are you arguing with them? Can you simply accept them and their belief?

      Jake: He’s addressing Your On Your Own

      December 17, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • James

      Jake,

      The Harvard educated scientist that I know the best became active in the faith at the age of 25. His wife is also a Harvard educated physician who came into the faith and have been active in it for well over 20 years.

      December 17, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • Jake

      Jenna, yeah, I “get it”. My point is, the story of religion is far-fetched. It doesn’t make sense logically or from a common sense perspective. I’m not out to “insult” you, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to suggest that you should be given any credibility when you have no evidence to suggest the wild story of religion is true. You wouldn’t consider me credible if I tried to convince you that Santa Claus was real and you wouldn’t treat me as an intellectual equal if I claimed to believe in Santa Claus. When you make the outrageous claim that religion is true, why should you not be treated just as you’d treat me if I believed in Santa Claus?

      And assuming the null hypothesis is standard scientific method. This is the thought-process that has allowed us to advance as mankind and develop things like the internet. Without scientific method, we would not be having this conversation right now. If I claim that tomorrow, the sky will be green, I assume that your starting point would be the null hypothesis – that no, it will not be green tomorrow. I’d have to provide good reason for you to believe otherwise. I assume that you’d think anyone who believes me that the sky will be green tomorrow is crazy. Again, I’m not calling you crazy to intentionally be mean or insulting, I just truly see it as crazy to believe that the sky will be green or to believe in religion. From the evidence I’ve seen, they are both equally ridiculous claims.

      You of course have every right to your own view, but I think it’s strange for you to say that there are no logical counter-arguments. There have been plenty. A believe in religion requires a suspension of logic. Those of us who disagree with you have used highly logical arguments, which you fail to refute.

      Anyway, best wishes to you – I truly have no ill will, I just feel religion and the type of thinking it promotes is bad for the world and I want you and the rest of us to make the world a better place.

      December 17, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • Jake

      Thanks for your response James. I am surprised. I don't know the people you mentioned, so I can't conjecture on why, but I don't think it's often that you see highly educated people become religious unless they were raised with it.

      December 17, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  12. hawkechik

    "Birmingham, Alabama"? You have my sympathy.

    December 17, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  13. Rob

    I enjoy how this good Cristian thought it was sad and macabre that Hitchens fans were waiting for him and in the next paragraph calls his fan, some of whom were about to give up on their faith, bright and cheery. For real though, good story minus the typical christian hypocrisy.

    December 17, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Rob

      Christian....sorry for the typo!

      December 17, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  14. David

    Religion is not the cause for this world's problems, but rather human nature it's self. if say one was to get rid of religion, would people stop lying to each other, would people stop being poor? Would people stop stealing from each other? Of course not! People divided each other by race, class, where they live and who they know. I laugh at atheist who say Christians should be killed when most likely the higher ups in the goverments don't give two cents about the atheist either. They just care about the end game, and they don't care about you either.

    December 17, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)

      This is a truly ridiculous comment.

      Atheists don't want to see religious people killed, you wing nut.

      Would all the world's problems stop without religion? Of course not. No atheist thinks that. The question is to whether there would be less ignorance, intolerance, war, misogyny, and better science. Most atheists think the answer to that more reasonable question is "yes".

      December 17, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Atheist 1#

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pBtsIm2k5E&w=640&h=360]

      December 17, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • Observer

      David,

      You might want to actually READ the blog before making up comments. Most, if not all of the "death" threats have come from believers.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • Jake

      True, the world would still have problems. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't fight for something better. Religion is often used as an excuse to do terrible things and it is an excepted excuse to many people. Even worse, religion teaches children (at an age where they're being shaped as humans) that it is ok to believe things without questioning them, even when they make no sense, seem wrong and even when there's clear evidence against it. That is a very dangerous way of thinking and the fewer people who think like that, the better off the world will be.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Jake

      (should have been "accepted excuse")

      December 17, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  15. Atheist 1#

    CNN is so anti-Atheist! WHAT'S WRONG YOUR 2 THOUSAND YEAR OLD BELIEF DOESN'T HOLD WATER AGAINST SCIENCE,LOGICAL THOUGHT OR THE FACTUAL LAWS THAT GOVERN OUR UNIVERSE?

    December 17, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • David

      Buddy, i would not put your faith in science if I were you, nor so called logic. As we know from history these things are always changing. Yes science has helped us a lot, but it's not something i would put my whole faith into. And here some logic for you, everything that you own has been created by someone, so what makes the earth and the universe any different? everything has a creator, nothing can not create something, other wise things would be popping up all over the place

      December 17, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)

      David,
      I own a blackberry bush in my backyard, but it was not created by anyone. It was not planted. It grew because a bird pooped in my yard, after eating the blackberries off another plant. The bird did not poop because he thought that my back yard needed a blackberry bush.

      Every thing that exists was not created by an intelligence.

      By the way, you don't need to put "faith" in science. If you want to do the legwork, you can read science books and reproduce experiments yourself, to convince yourself of their veracity. No faith required.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • James

      Yes, yes....place all of your hopes in "science"....it never changes and its adherents always agree with its objective conclusions.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • tallulah13

      The most important aspect of science is that it is self-correcting. When a theory that has been believed true by generations is proved to be wrong, that theory changes or is thrown away. Try that with religion.

      Science is about finding true answers, not comforting ones.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  16. Beatrice

    Finally interesting and intelligent people from different views respecting each other. I am a Christian. I respect others beliefs and even the point of view of atheists. But a lot of them ridicule us (and members of other religion). They think we believe in fairy tales and they miss the point. There is more in those fairy tales than their think. They should have an open mind. After all they don't have the proof that God doesn't exit.

    December 17, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • GodofLunaticsCreation

      I look at the fables in a Jungian way. To me, they say more about the minds of their authors than the Universe. To me, they are a tool for sharpening ones wit, just as the Cynics of ancient Greece were required to argue both sides of the coin. I have to tell you that the ridicule is well earned considering the hatred that is imbued in the bible and the actions taken because of that fact.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • JT

      They should have an open mind. After all they don't have the proof that leprachauns do not exist.

      See how silly the above sentence is? Should we believe in everything without proof or only in your particular god?

      December 17, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Every true believer of every religion since the dawn of humanity has had the same conviction of faith that you have. That's thousands of gods and millions of believers. And there is not a single shred of evidence to support the existence of any of those gods. One by one, those gods have been rejected, replaced or forgotten. If humanity survives long enough, your god will join the others on the scrap heap.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Herf

      One is not required to prove a negative because it cannot be done. The person making a claim has to support the claim with logic and evidence.

      This is Philosophy 101 stuff here.

      December 17, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  17. James

    I would like to think I am a God-fearing Christian. However, I actually find a lot of Atheists to be more refreshing to speak to. Sure, our conclusions are not the same. However, I find that Atheists ponder the doctrines of Christianity more than most self-professing believers do. Additionally, I also find the vast majority of the denominations of men to be wholly inadequate in answering "the big questions" or relavent topics of the day. "Praise Jesus" and "The Bible is inerrant" will not suffice. I believe in God, the mission of Christ and the Bible....I'm just horrified how they have been manipulated by self-serving men.

    December 17, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • racer x

      Why would you "like to think" that you fear something that does not exist?

      December 17, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Observer

      Good for your open-mindedness. Keep it up.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I respect those who truly think about and question what they believe, even if it leads them right back where they started. Blind faith isn't faith at all.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  18. WhatWhatWhat?

    Having a debate with a religious delusionist is technically accepting that their delusions have merit, as if it's only up to the observer to decide which of the two "truths" they will accept. Since religion is NOT a truth, you are effectively comparing reality to delusion, and saying that they hold the same value, which, in itself, is delusional. Therefore, debating religious delusionists should not be undertaken, as the simple act of doing it is delusional. The proper response to a request for such a debate would be public ridicule of the non-event, so that the requests diminish and eventually cease. Thank you.

    December 17, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • JT

      Yes, I agree with you. I've mentioned something similar numerous times. It's like a non-believer in fairies debating someone who does believe in fairies. The fairy believer will eventually turn the debate into an argument of what color the fary's wings are.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  19. jh

    Thank god for religion... and Pat Robertson.

    December 17, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • Observer

      lol. Good one.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  20. AtheistDude

    it is funny how this preacher or whatever only like Hitchens because he hated muslims!! what does that say about the hate filled nature of this "man of christ" all religious leaders are corrupt charlatans!

    December 17, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • RealityDude

      AtheistDude – It's shallow analysis and superficial comments like yours that add absolutely NOTHING whatsoever to the on-going civil dialogue between various worldviews. For instance, is it objectively true that "ALL religious leaders are corrupt charlatans." Can you demonstrate this in any legitimate way? Or do you know Larry Taunton well enough to make the bold assertion that he truly has a "hate filled nature?" Your above rant has all the mental depth and articulateness of a 3rd grader, and sounds more like a emotional temper tantrum rather than an intelligent, well thought out comment that could actually contribute to the discussion. Superficial comments such as you made do far more to drive religious fundamentalists into their caves of unreality than their nutty preachers ever will.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Rocco P

      I didn't see even a hint in this article that a "hate of muslims" held these two together. Are you hallucinating? About the only thing you can contrive here to be a slight against muslims, is that Hitchens opposed imposing Sharia law in England. That's not hate of muslims, but rejection of a repressive system. Even most muslims don't want to live in a country dictated by sharia law, but prefer democratic based civil law.
      Sharia calls for the execution of "Murtad" (apostates from Islam). It also imposes a death sentence if anyone speaks negatively of Moh am med. It is not hateful to oppose such a system. In fact love for mankind compells one to reject such a system.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:53 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.