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.
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.
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.
“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.
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Jesus was a man who was killed for lying.
"While you and I can agree that religion is fool’s gold, there are many who, for lack of intelligence or by virtue of despair, do need religion."
"But I don’t see the harm in these churches building community and doing good things for others. I can live with it."
I would ask you to google bigotry in the bible/koran then to google evil in the bible/koran and then to google crazy stuff in the bible and the koran. Then you might see and know the harm they do. It is evil stuff. People are still being put to death for witchcraft. Yes both the bible and the koran not only believe in witchcraft but both give a death penalty for doing it. It is a long long list of other crazy evil and bigoted stuff that these books have in them. Add to that it is all a lie and then you might understand the harm.
After reading through a lot of these comments, I have to say that a lot of you are missing the point of this article. For the love of all that is sane, could you please just check your religious arguments at the door. I found this article so touching. It is simply the story of two men with beliefs on the opposite ends of the spectrum, becoming friends and having a mutual respect for one another. They may not have agreed with each other, but they were able to debate and discuss their beliefs without arguing and name calling. Read and learn, people.
Where's a 'Like' button when you need one....
You are absolutely right, Krystal. But it's not just religion that has moved beyond rational discussion. I remember a time when you could discuss politics with someone who didn't necessarily agree with you, and it was an actual DISCUSSION – not some screaming match. Maybe civility has gone by the wayside. Or maybe the majority of people are just too unintelligent to know the difference between a debate and a fist fight. Either way, we lose the opportunity to hear, and possibly consider, another point of view.
Your post speaks the truth. What a great tribute this essay is to a friend. If we could all agree to amicably disagree, what a wonderful world we would live in.
Why should we have to depend on others to prove that there is a God! Experience it yourself. Try seeking God, if you do not find Him, that is different. But, if you do not make an attempt to invite God in your life, it kind of feels stupid. If you want to be healthy, you go to the Gym and work out, not listen to other people who can say that working out is useless
I recently visited a cathedral in Spain and looked for god – he was not in residence and the dude nailed to a cross didn't move a millimeter when I gave him the one finger salute.
It's scientifically proven that working out helps your health....If someone said otherwise they'd be lying...
But there's no scientific evidence god is real.... Your analogy is false.
All Atheist are Theologians. almost all Atheist started in a faith, whether going to church ,or praying and reading the bible.But in the end most people couldn't get over the reality that the bible very heavily contradicts it's self. AND WHEN YOUR HOLY BOOK IS INSPECTED UNDER SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND THE LAWS OF REALITY, THE BIBLE IS LEFT COMPLETE DEBUNKED AND WITHOUT A FOOT TO STAND ON. WITH THE BOOK BEING CONTRADICTORY AND FALSE THAT MEANS INEVITABLE BAD NEWS IS TRUE. THERE IS NO GOD!
All atheists are cowards who don't endure to the end. You're so busy scoffing at Jesus, refusing to apply His wisdom to your lives to come to righteous conclusions in all that you do. It's a crap shoot out there what any of you will think or do. My guess, most of you will do no good (aka evil) because it's all about you, you, you. No breaking mechanisms at all incorporated into your lives.
@Heavensent: Nice to hear from you. I hope all is well.
What the Hell are you talking about "Heavensent"? It's Republican who want people to die who have no health insurance. it's Republic that want the 1% to own an EVEN LARGER PERCENTAGE OF AMERICA'S WEALTH. It's Republicans that want to let corporations pollute our clean air, water and land. All while pushing how much they love Jesus to draw idiots like you into the fold.
Analysis of atheist1 post shows that it is not bull sh it. Bull sh it has been found to have some fertilizer value and it would therefore insult bull sh it to associate it with this post. Consensus opinion is that this post and author rate well below bull sh it.
Cowards? We are not the ones begging for forgiveness from the celestial virgin boinker, pendejo
"All atheists are cowards who don't endure to the end."
Cowards? That's really funny. Christians cower in fear they will upset a God they are afraid to question. At least atheists have the guts to put "eternity" in jeopardy for what they believe in.
I can tell from your posts you know nothing about atheism, have probably never met an atheist, and are a small-minded, sad, individual.
Is there some wisdom in the bibe? Of course there is, just as there is some wisdom in Buddhist scriptures, the Qu'ran, and pretty much any other Holy book. These are books of wisdom. But just because the authors of the bible saw fit to put in nuggets of wisdom here and there, does not mean in any way that the magical aspects of the bible are real. It's a fairy tale on par with Aesop. You can learn much about morality reading the fables, but no one in their right mind would say that there were actually talking foxes and frogs. Wake up man! God is the adult version of Santa! When you were a child I'm sure you felt in heart that Santa was real. You may have written letters to him, set out cookies and milk, tried to catch a glimpse of him on Christmas eve. You should know by now that just because you want something to be real, just because there is something inside you that says it's real, does not and never has been an accurate indicator of what is ACTUALLY real.
Disbelief in god = smart
Belief in god = dumb
My opinion = facts
Mr phd, I can’t disagree or agree with you. I will say this though:
While you and I can agree that religion is fool’s gold, there are many who, for lack of intelligence or by virtue of despair, do need religion. Let me ask you this question and you tell me what is wrong with this scenario:
My Mother (step mother actually) Lost her son (only 40) and then her mother (in her 90’s) in close proximity to one another. This was a devastating time for her. She was a Lutheran already, but these events ramped up her church time considerably. She now spends a great deal of time helping the elderly at her church, bringing them food, providing transportation, etc. All of this while she herself is fighting cancer (both breast and skin).
In her mind, the church gives her strength and community and has helped her through these difficult times and she knows that favor will be returned when it is her turn. She also was able to turn my alcoholic Father into a much more reliable fellow and a member of the church too. This is one of millions of examples of how church can be positive. Not to mention their reach out programs helping the impoverished all over the world.
Can these things be done without church? Of course. But I don’t see the harm in these churches building community and doing good things for others. I can live with it.
Ungodly we all know you don't need to be religious to be a nice person.just like we know you don't net to be Jewish,or Muslim or Hindu. i thin the Chinese said it best with Yin and Yang. All Humans Possess both good and evil traits.
Ungodly, God Bless your mom in all she does. I hope she asked the elders in her church to bless her with the anointing oil in Jesus Christ's name.
Atheist 1#, you wrote "Ungodly we all know you don't need to be religious to be a nice person.just like we know you don't net to be Jewish,or Muslim or Hindu. i thin the Chinese said it best with Yin and Yang. All Humans Possess both good and evil traits."
Answer: You wouldn't know what was good or what was evil if it weren't for God. Traits of humans are learned. That's why Jesus' truth explains why you should shelf that evil ego, shut up, and listen to Him teach you the righteous way to live. He also explains outcomes of those that refuse to learn His truth what evil can/ will occur.
P.S. A1, nice people raise their children. Evil, selfish, self centered people leave their children without food, clothes, shelter or toss them away. Thank God your parents were nice so you were allowed to be raised ... aka meaning, your theory doesn't hold water.
i thin he is being fecitious (sp)
I have to assume you are just looking for a wild eyed response to your assertion your opinion = facts; I would say you are not an actual phd, but with the arrogance of elitist libs I am forced to think maybe you are.
And Hitchens' words will continue on as noted below:
Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" are converging these religions into some simple rules of life e.g. "DO NO HARM".
No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, popes, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired.
Ditto for houses of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues.
Reality, I see you post this often and now I understand. I have to be honest, I did not know these where his words. May he Rest in Peace and his message be heard for generations.
Or may he rot in hell as a lying drunk, it is all in perspective. One thing for sure the throat he used to blaspheme chocked him to death at an early age.
Alfred E Neuman - Ah, then I suppose that you will soon contract leprosy and your fetid fingers will fall off...
Not as long as there is a Jordan River to dip in.
I feel the most exciting thing about atheism (weak atheism in my case, or Temporal Agnosticism) is that no possibilities are ruled out. One can revel in the cosmos and the joy of learning without the burden of guilt. Just as Einstein, Hawking and many other thinkers of our time and space, the universe still holds many secrets, and those secrets are far more enjoyable when you don't have a pre-disposition to a belief in any God; whatever shape that may take. How can we think freely and explore scientifically the theories of the multi-verse, string theory, intelligent life on other planets, space travel and what preceded the Big Bang when we are anchored to the Earth by a ball and chain called religion. It is enough to look up at the Milky Way and say, here is my church. I am not commanded to worship. I am COMPELLED to be astounded by its magnificence. And no matter what you believe or say, none of us has the slightest idea what will happen when we die. So live and learn, then die knowing you have embraced life. Be nice and fear not.
Love this response. I too am a student of life... magic or no magic, I await to see what happens! Let's be good to one another as we are all in this together...
Thanks Q for adding the clarification, you are absolutely right. I tend to try and stick to general concepts here. Thanks for the introduction to Abiogenesis, I plan on reading further. I have had some graduate course work in Biochemistry. Enough to be dangerous, and to satisfy my desire to understand how mutation and evolution are responsible for the processes of life. I would also like to thank all the thoughtful posters on this tread, believer and non-believer, Hawkeye, Jennifer, Derek and Bob Crock. I can think of no better way to honor Mr. Hitchens than through a healthy discussion of religion. Thanks!
I like it when obese welfare mammies roll around in the middle of the street after the police kill their offspring. "D'Andre, they done kill D'Andre! They kill my boy!!!!!" Blacks are such primitive beasts. Is it so wrong to take pleasure in their sufferring?
Regardless of what you think about their culture, speech etc, it is just inexcusable to speak with this hate and you need a shrink. They are PEOPLE with a different character and traits, that's all.
Yes, Mark, an extremely violent character and "traits." That's all. Being deliberately oblique does not make you morally superior. The real shame of my post is that it has nothing to do with Mr. Hitchens.
Is there an afterlife? I don't know. But I do know that we can only make the best of that life which is the here and now. Christopher did that.
RIP Christopher. You know what awaits us now. You were a gift to us in this world and will be badly missed.
Hitchens was more than his atheism. I don't know why so many are making his atheism a big issue or the only thing he was known for. The man had views on politics, and almost everything under the sun. It wasn't JUST atheism, Hitch was so much more about so much more.
So, people, stop it. He's gone now, you can debate existence of a god all you want or demonize and hate atheists all you want, you're not getting it. Focusing on only atheism and religiosity is foolish, narrow minded and ignorant, the things Hitch fought against.
"A blow with a word strikes deeper than a blow with a sword."
I dislike the way Mr. Taunton paints the atheist community as "just trying to get a picture with Hitchens to brag about later"... Many of these people traveled far and wide to see a brilliant man in his dying days. A man who inspired and gave hope to those who see religion as a relic of the past, deserving of ridicule and harsh criticism. It's time to grow up and see religion for what it really is, our first attempt(s) at understanding the universe. There is no magic. There are no gods or demons or unicorns. Only us and this peculiar universe we find ourselves in. We have to come together, and bass our societies on demonstrable truths, not sectarian faiths.
Very well said.
I don't understand were "atheism" has become religion-like. If you don't "believe" thats already placing "non-beleivers" in a convenient negative. If some one does not believe in what you do – thats all there is to it. They aren't "non-believers" as if thats a bad thing. Foolishness, but thats perhaps what great minds like Hitch and Dawkins and others of their stature expose.
If you are looking for answers or maybe someone to talk to let me know, i know the uncertain may seem overwhelming so neglecting a possible seems comforting but if you can keep your mind open to love and the things ordinary people do to help out humanity is it so crazy to belive we have inhereted this tendancy which yes our every action may seem demeaning and feel like when we make efforts or attempts they all seem like failures but there is a reason for that and belive it or not there is a reason for you on this planet more than just what you think is just to take up mass in the world you have a purpose my friend and chose to belive in God is your choice but remember your purpose is one humbling request away from the Lord and all your uncertainty about this cruel world that seems so scary and hopeless will be revealed to your heart so that you can carry on your days with a purpose towards a goal not towards an existience towards death thank you have a great night!
@Jeff Wow, that is one really long sentance! 😛
My conviction that all religions are man made is as strong as my conviction that each one of us will die someday.
Umm...ok. Anything nice to say about Hitchens or just here to talk about yourself? 🙂
I am not surprised by their friendship. In fact as a life long atheist myself I know that religious people can be good friends. Many of my friends have chosen that path and have managed to remain friends with me despite my indifference to that which their lives revolve around. I have only lost one so-called friend many years ago when she point blank told me that she couldn't accept me as a friend as I hadn't (and will never) accept her lord into my life. I have never felt more betrayed then at that moment but that was the exception. I have counted among my friends (I'm not good at keeping in touch) Jews, Christians of all denominations, Muslims, Buddhists and others. Religion is or should be about personal choice. It should not be a wedge, a blockade or a point of departure for hostilities. I have never been more convinced of this since the arrival of my daughters. I revel in explaining to them the wonders of the world from a scientific and rationalist perspective. I have never felt that my life has lacked in anything without religion and want my children to feel that way as well. If in time they are drawn to a less rationalistic course, as long as it doesn't demean them and become a barrier in their life and dealings with others, I would never dissuade them. Live honestly and help others do the same. Learn – always be open to it but never intimidated by others intellectual terrorism and love – openly and honestly. I am not a perfect human being but I try to be better without selling myself out to appease others. I am now and I have always been and will continue to be a proud but not arrogant atheist. Take pride in who you are but not at someone else's expense. Thank you Hitchens, Dawkins and especially Sagan.
So what do we, who can get along with both sides supposed to do? The ones at the extremes are so busy screaming at each other on places like this. Some of the post I have read, around the internet, there are more extreme Atheist and extreme Religious that are more upset...almost seething that Hitchens crossed some sorta line and had friends on the Religious side or upset that the Faithful actually crossed the same lines and befriended Hitchens? This is getting ridiculous.
Mark from Middle River,
"So what do we, who can get along with both sides supposed to do?"
That's a really tough question because there seem to be a lot of simple-minded people that have to have everything in black-and-white in order to function. It's fine to argue your points from one side, but people need to know when to back off when the other side has valid points. This is where integrity should come in, but frequently doesn't. Without proof to back up claims, people should be willing to see they could be wrong. You never see people here who are cornered by facts, be willing to admit to them. Instead they resort to either name-calling or leaving. It gets to be pretty depressing, and the political climate just makes things worse.
It's good to see someone who is trying to make things better.
I feel relieved that I have finally found some reasonable people on here. It gives me hope. Christians and other religious people need to understand that there is a possibility that God may not exist. At the same time, Atheists need to realize that there is a possibility that God does exist. Live your live with love for others and don't close off your mind.
Majuuj, you, and people like you, are one of the prime reasons the atheists don't like Christians. I implore you to cease your ignorant slurs. If you dare call yourself a Christian, then you're a hypocrite. You have the gall to crusade against the skeptic and his allegedly debaucherous ways, yet your comments portray you as the villain, and not the atheist as you had assumedly intended.
I'll drink to Christopher, and if I enjoy myself, that's what he would have wanted.
There's no arguing with Clark Kent, because you're at a different stage of evolution. Period. And I'm not just talking about your grammar.
typos a plenty....but who cares.....the room is full of atheists...and what do they know
What do Atheists know? We know the truth – there is no "god".
I know it is wrong to argue but let me ask you a couple question kind sir, if their is no God than why do you or other atheist in general have to be so defensive all the time? If you know in your heart what is right and when you see a Christian giving his point of view, why bother with them at all? Why acknowledge it? Do you argue because you are searching for the answers or do you argue to get a rise out of another person? Either way you are arguing because you are uncertain, If argue with a million online users it will bring you no justice my friend, simply read the book of mark or luke before ruling it out, if you get nothing from it its still a great piece of literature. Thank have a great night!
"""Do you argue because you are searching for the answers or do you argue to get a rise out of another person?"""
For me, it arises from a basic aversion to irrational thought by fellow human beings who really should know better.
I would debate someone re: bigfoot or ghosts or metaphysics (e.g., the law of attraction), etc, for a similar reason.
I didn't know atheist could all die and comeback to life at willl.....how else would they know if there is or isnt a god, aliens, gary busey, etc....
Nope, they dont know...only the dead know the truth
and now Christopher Corpse Hitchens now knows what always claimed to know
lol atheist suck....atleast agnostics are open minded
A lot you know bobo brain, agnostics by default DO NOT BELIEVE IN GOD. It's the same as those that believe in SANTA CLAUS....agnostics are waiting for evidence to come in to support same.
What atheists and believers have in common is that none of them can prove they are right.
"What atheists and believers have in common is that none of them can prove they are right."
That's wrong, Observer. It is the believers that ARE MAKING THE CLAIM. It is up to them to prove their claim.
Same thing if I claim there is a unicorn in the middle of the sun and you don't believe it, are your really required to prove there isn't?! No, it would be up to me to prove my claim.
That's how it works.
Obviously, it's nearly impossible to prove a non-existence. That, however, doesn't make atheists right. There is nothing to say that atheists and believers can't BOTH be wrong. Maybe God doesn't exist, but the universe was created by, say, a committee of zombies.
You said, "What atheists and believers have in common is that none of them can prove they are right."
While that is technically true, that doesn't mean that their positions have equal merit.
Without evidence in support of the existence of gods, the default position is that they do not exist. Assuming they exists isn't reasonable. Atheism argues from the default position.
There are really two basic versions of atheism:
a) Believing there are no gods, and
b) Not believing there are any gods.
Version a is the strong form of atheism and asserts there are no gods. This is a statement of belief, because this assertion is made without evidence that proves there are no gods.
Version b is the weak form of atheism, and is a statement of disbelief. It asserts that there is no reason to believe there are any gods because there is no evidence to support their existence.
As mentioned above, I can't prove there are no gods. I therefor don't dismiss the possibility, however miniscule, that there are any. The complete and utter lack of any evidence in support of the existence of any gods, leads me to disbelieve they exist. When evidence is produced that shows there are gods, I will amend my position.
I consider the belief in gods to be, in essence, the same as believing in the Tooth Fairy. There is equal evidence to support their existence. Equal evidence means equal merit. The fact that I can't prove that the Tooth Fairy doesn't exist, does little to invalidate the disbelief in it.
Claims for the existence of a creature, or a phenomenon, have no merit until, at the very least, a theory is presented that does not conflict with any known fact. Even if this theory is available, that in and of itself doesn't do anything to support the existence of the phenomenon described. For this phenomenon to go from "not impossible" to "probable", evidence is required. The amount and quality of the evidence govern how probable the phenomenon is to exist.
The most rudimentary theory of gods may be consistent with all of the know facts. This pretty much requires that these gods don't, or no longer, interact with our universe. That means that we can't entirely rule out the possibility that they exist. On the other hand, gods that have mutually exclusive traits are impossible to exist. The christian god fits this second category. Mutually exclusive traits make the christian god, as he is most commonly described, impossible to exist.
"Observer, You said, "What atheists and believers have in common is that none of them can prove they are right."
While that is technically true, that doesn't mean that their positions have equal merit."
I agree about the equal merit.
Your definitions of atheists in some ways come close to bordering on agnosticism, which I personally think has more merit.
You said, "Your definitions of atheists in some ways come close to bordering on agnosticism, which I personally think has more merit."
The weak form of atheism (version b above) is an agnostic one when it comes to gods in general. This is simply because we can't know whether they exist if we can't find any evidence for them. But atheism, even the weak form, isn't agnostic when it comes to logically inconsistent gods.
@LinCA What mutually exclusive traits make the "Christian God" impossible to exist?
@Joxer the Mighty
You said, "What mutually exclusive traits make the "Christian God" impossible to exist?"
The christian god is said to be all-knowing and all-powerful. If he is all-knowing, he will know the future. If he knows the future, he knows what he will do in the future. If he already knows what he will do, he has no choice but to do it. If he has no choice but to do what he must, he isn't all powerful.