My take: My love/hate relationship with Hitchens
December 17th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

My take: My love/hate relationship with Hitchens

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.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN)–My love/hate relationship with Christopher Hitchens started when I read “God Is Not Great.” Before that, he was a hero of mine. I loved his slashing style, his intelligence, his learning, his self-possession and, above all, his passion. But I hated this book.

So I panned it in the “Washington Post.” “I have never encountered a book whose author is so fundamentally unacquainted with its subject,” I wrote, before taking Hitchens to task for demonstrating one of his own pet themes: “the ability of dogma to put reason to sleep.”

I panned the book because I knew Hitchens could take it, and because he deserved it. But what really motivated me was disappointment. I had disagreed with him before, of course. But in every other case I had the sneaking suspicion he knew more than I did about the subject. And even if he didn’t, I didn’t care, because he was always so much fun to read.

(Did he really call Mother Teresa "a lying, thieving Albanian dwarf"? Yes, in a book called "The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice.")

Everyone has a blind spot, however, and for Hitchens it was religion. I remember being confused when I began reading “God Is Not Great,” chiefly because I agreed with virtually everything he was saying. Of course, religious institutions have visited all manner of horrors on humanity. Of course, theological writing is often literally incredible. And yes the whole enterprise can be poisonous.

But what I finally saw was that Hitchens wasn’t really dynamiting, as he believed, the whole world of “religion.” He was just blowing up, over and over again, his little corner of a little vacant lot in his own little neighborhood and imagining he was leveling Mecca and Rome.

The problem with Hitchens’ writing on religion is that he did what many preachers do; he let his emotions get the best of him, and then he started preaching to the choir. In the process, he helped to lead a whole generation of New Atheists down a rabbit hole of their own imagining.

Inside that fantasy world, the atheists are always the smartest boys in the class, and around every corner there is a new religious sin to sneer and chuckle at. In the real world, there are millions of intelligent Christians and Muslims, Hindus and Jews sneering and chuckling at precisely the same stuff. The criticism of religion begins, believe it or not, with embarrassment in the pews.

After my review of "God Is Not Great" appeared, there were various efforts by various people to arrange a debate. I don’t know what I think about God, and I'm not in any hurry to clarify the matter. But I would have welcomed the opportunity to joust with Hitchens on the vices and virtues of religion. Do his critiques apply to Buddhists and Daoists, for example, or to Christians for whom Christianity is something you do on Easter and Christmas, and Hindus for whom Hinduism is something you do when you are getting married or starting a new job?

There was an offer to appear with Hitchens on some show involving Roseanne Barr. I declined. For some reason I didn’t think that talking over her was going to make for good conversation.

Then there was an event involving the two of us set for November 2010 in New York. But Hitchens got sick and had to cancel at the last minute.

It would be fun to rip Hitchens here. It might even qualify as a tribute of sorts, since he had a well deserved reputation for speaking ill of the dead. He called televangelist Jerry Falwell “an ugly little charlatan” just after his passing, adding acidly that “if you give Falwell an enema, you could bury him in a matchbox.” But I do not come to bury Hitchens.

I have been doing some research recently on Thomas Paine, whose “Common Sense” (1776) may well be the most influential piece of writing in U.S. history (second, I say, to "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe). Paine died penniless and disgraced, however, largely because he decided to air his religious heterodoxy in “The Age of Reason" (1794-95).

Paine and Hitchens share much. Each bravely rejected the religious orthodoxies of his time, and did so publicly and without equivocation. Each wrote in a fighter's style intended both to cut and to bleed. So it did not surprise me to come across a 1987 essay in which Hitchens calls Paine “the greatest Englishman and the finest American.”

Hitchens, who was born in England but made America his home, was a pretty great Englishman and a pretty fine American himself. He will always be one of my favorite writers, and I am missing him today a lot more than I imagined I would.

But he didn't know the first thing about religion, so whenever he wrote or spoke about it he made himself look stupid. I suppose I should give him credit for that. It's not an easy thing to do.

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

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Uncategorized

soundoff (369 Responses)
  1. Mildred the Mouth

    Hey b4,
    There are two unanswered questions which you conveniently neglected to answer down the thread, from last night.
    1. Bucky asked you if you believe the "source material" for Genesis. Well ? At what point during it's oral tradition development did it become "the word of god" ? Do you have a date for that ? There are at least 4 sources that we know of for Genesis, which were combined, and compiled, (for example there are really 2 creation stories..if you have ever really read Genesis). Which one is the real one ?
    2. Your comment about a "kingdom" he answered sarcastically, but you did not reply. Is a kingdom the best way Ho'm'o sapiens can arrange their political lives ? Why didn't the bible promote democracy, or even some other completely different system of government we have never imagined ? Unless you can refute it, his statement that everything in those texts is culturally based seems to valid.

    December 18, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • gman

      there is no agreement on the amount of sources for Genesis (the theory of 4 has been heavily reputed). There is no second creation story between ch1. and ch2. Simply more details are added just as in modern literature as you progress.
      Why not attack other ancient literature with such veracity? Have you turned your investigation on the new testament yet?
      Let's discuss the historical accuracy of the NT and the extra biblical accounts of Jesus -for that is all that matters.
      Many of the ancient locations mentioned by Luke, in the Book of Acts in the New Testament, have been identified through archaeology. "In all, Luke names thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities and nine islands without an error."

      December 18, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • Mildred the Mouth

      Ok, you're on gman. What day did Jesus die ? On the Day of Preparation, or the Day of Passover. The gospels conflict. They cannot both be true.
      What does "heavily reputed" mean ? Did you mean heavily "disputed" ? If so, you are wrong. Who exactly disputes the sources ? And even if there was such a dispute, which there is not, the question remains. When exactly in it's development did it turn into the "word of god" ? One day it wasn't and the next it was ? I don't think so.

      December 18, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • gman

      Mildred – you are full of questions but if we are going to play your game then you must answer the ones I propose. Also, as I type fast and am not in the need of a grammar nazi I will grow tire of this exchange if we must point out mistypings and the like. To my earlier question, Have your read other ancient literature – do you attack the vedas and the sumerian account of the flood with such veracity? Or do those accounts read like mystical writings and are in stark contrast to the ancient books of the bible.

      December 18, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Yet Spideman lives in New York city. Why should we find it surprising that the NT contains references to actual places. The authors are bound by their knowledge of their locals. Did you think we argue about the veracity of the Bible because it describes events taking place in fictional locals? No...we argue against the claims of miracles and the reliability of anecdotal information regarding the messages spoken by the players involved. The NT didn't just appear out of a vacuum. It was written with the OT in mind and tailored to align with it. That's why it has so many internal inconsistencies.

      December 18, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • gman

      I would like to continue this exchange later – I must run now. As for the last point about inconsistencies – I would hope some inconsistencies would appear as they are separate authors and this only proves that they did not conspire. As for the fundamental message about the Gospel and the creed of Jesus' life and resurrection – that is well attested to be before 50AD and covered in Paul's writings.

      December 18, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • Mildred the Mouth

      "Repute" and "dispute" is not a typo. It belies a command of English that you lack. It makes one doubt you know anything. "Acttacking with veracity" also makes no sense, grammatically. Yes I have read the other Ancient texts, but noone is claiming they are the "word of god". The Gilgamesh Epic predated the Noah flood story. There were many flood stories. Only one is claimed to be THE one. What does the fact that the writers of Luke naming cities have to do with the accuracy of the gospels anyway. Rome. There. Now I accurately named a city. So every thing I say MUST be true.

      December 18, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • llɐq ʎʞɔnq

      Yo Mildew. Hey girl friend. I laugh every time I see that name. Who would name their baby.... Mildred....?? heh heh ... I see you've been a busy girl this morning. Since this place seems to be in good hands, I'm headed out. We're in Snowmass at the unc's for Christmas. Once down the hill, in for a drink, once down the hill, in for another. Just kidding. Happy Happy to you sweetie. See ya when you get back to school. 8)

      December 18, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • Mildred the Mouth

      Hey Buckminster,
      (Sounds so British) Thanks darlin. Have fun skiing. Oh BTW, we were watching you on TV two weeks ago for your "downhill trials". The girls in the dorm said "Who is THAT", when you took your hat off. I told them, and they went nuts. Are you really headed to the Olympics ? Stop by the "other" place later. A good discussion going on there.

      December 18, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  2. TruthPrevails

    CA is constantly stating how Canadian's do not merit an opinion on Christopher because of the fact that apparently Christopher was a USA citizen, totally forgetting of course that Christopher was also a citizen of England and an Atheist! CA is christard who on the matter of anything that has to do with Atheists gets no opinion either. CA has yet to enlighten anyone with why it hates Canadian's so much. We're not hateful people as a rule but CA makes the USA look bad and I feel pity for the good people of the USA who have to endure this foolish child making them look bad. CA is like a broken record that just screeches and does not good in this world for the benefit of anything.
    Keith said we attack CA not realizing that had CA not started, we would not have gone after it. Using the alias captain america is offensive to my good neighbor's to the south.
    We're not going anywhere and only want our freedom of speech recognized. Neither Keith nor CA seem to have clued in to what both our countries do for one another or the importance of each to the other. Maybe when they learn some history and get their collective heads out of their books of fiction will they start to live in the 21st century.
    To the rest of the USA citizens...we feel for you having to deal with the likes of these two fools and we have nothing against you as a whole.

    December 18, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • captain america

      Or is it that true Americans know exactly what you stand for and want no part of it. Ist amendment rights in canada? You qu eer ass hole. There's your sign.

      December 18, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      please enlighten us as to what we stand for and btw: after this you no longer exist...I have no further intention of debating your stupidity...you waste my time constantly. However, that said I am going no-where...get it straight now....your hatred is futile and childish and it is highly suggested that you grow up...I have a 1 year old niece who is more mature! It is quite clear that CNN allows hate against Canada and word of mouth is a wonderful thing...with so many media outlets available people will soon know what CNN allows and hopefully their number of viewers will decline just as FOX news has.

      December 18, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • Suvara

      I am of the strong opinion that c.a. is either that rabid Canada-hating woman from that link or a "christian" troll who hates you guys for winning arguments and is stalking you and pretending to be a Canada-hater. The only third option would be a second actual Canada-hater like that old woman. She is the prime suspect and example.
      Solutions: partial. Stop responding to this troll who does not show sanity. Change your names and do not reference anything Canadian here but continue to make good posts. Ignore blithering idiots like this troll regardless. Getting a rise out of you is all they probably want anyway.

      December 18, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I am American. I am also a US citizen, CA. You don't speak for all "Americans", so knock of the "we" bit.

      December 18, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • tallulah13

      Truth, most citizens of the United States appreciate our good neighbors to the north. I suspect captain america really likes Canada but lacks the maturity to say so. He's acting rather like a third grader with a crush.

      December 18, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • captain america

      Any phony american kissing foreign butt should have their canadian keysters run north to see what they've really been kissing. There's Your sign.

      December 18, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • TruthPrevails

      To Suvara, Tom Tom and Tallulah: Thank you. It does get to me...I would never treat anyone anywhere the way we have been treated by this person and so I can't comprehend judging a person based solely on their locale in this world.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:00 am |
  3. Primewonk

    Your god, by virtue of him claiming omniscience, knew Hitch was an atheist. Your god knew Hitch would die an atheist. Your god knew these things about Hitch even before he decided to create the universe. There was no way Hitch could fool your god, or show up where your god knew he wouldn't show up. Thus, your god created Hitch for the sole purpose of torturing him for all eternity. Your god does the same thing with billions of other humans.

    This kinda makes your god a sadist.

    December 18, 2011 at 9:12 am |
    • gman

      time is a creation of God – therefore God is outside of time and transcends it – knowing the end from the beginning. This does not negate the fact that we have free will. Hitchens suffered from the sin of pride – he thought his limited reasoning as a human being would put him above God and even without the need for a God – the same as the first sin of mankind

      December 18, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • Lana

      Adam and Eve gained the knowledge of good and evil. This made God mad because he is evil and wanted to see naykid people running around with their junk bouncing and flapping. He was mad that they wore clothing.
      Adam and Eve knew the difference between what is good and bad. They did not choose what was bad after they gained this knowledge, but only ran naykid when they were as dumb as animals and ignorantly grabbed some knowledge.
      This is not a sin unless your God is evil. Punishing people for knowing the difference between good and bad is EVIL!
      Genesis does not make any sense at all anyway. Basing your ideas of "original sin" on Genesis only shows that you haven't really read it very closely or objectively. God could not have reasonably expected Adam and Eve to follow his commands when they didn't know the difference between good and evil in the first place. They did not commit this "crime" knowingly, so they are innocent and always were innocent of wrongdoing. Genesis is a bunch of crap.

      December 18, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Primewonk

      gman, kindly provide the citations to the valid peer-reviewed scientific research that states that any version of any god created time and exists outside of it. Without that evidence, you don't have a leg to stand on. And all you have is yet more mythology.

      December 18, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  4. Rev. Parson

    And the horse you rode in on young one.

    December 18, 2011 at 8:48 am |
  5. Rainer Braendlein

    I guess, one of the best proofs for the truth of the Christian doctrine is the reality of the so-called sin.

    Imagine, tomorrow afternoon you would leave your office and would go to the place, where you have parked your car. You arrive at the parking place and notice that your car has vanished. Someone has stolen your car.

    Would you rejoice or would you get annoyed? Of course, you would get very annoyed, and there would be no need that someone needed to tell you that you became victim of a heavy sin. You would get annoyed, even if you would not no the word sin and even if you had never heard the commandment: "you shalt not steal!"

    This small story is a clear proof for the existence of sin and for the fact that sin is something very unpleasant. It is actually not necessary that in addition to it God condems theft as sin by saying: "you shalt not steal!" Even if there would be no divine commandment against theft, you would get annoyed, when you would notice that your car had been stolen.

    In a word, the reality of sin is independent from the Christian doctrine. Sin simply exists, and that cannot be denied. Maybe, assumed there would be no Bible, we would use another word for the issue of sin.

    It is clear that there is something wrong with our world and we cry for help. A certain kind of madness has befallen the mankind and thus we neglect, deceive, insult, humiliate, hate and even rob and murder each other.

    Heavy sins are called crimes and get punished by the authority. But many sins like insulting and humiliating will never get punished by the authority, although they cause much mental harm.

    This fits together with the Epistle to the Romans, Chapter 1. We get born into this world and instead of adoring the Creator, whose Creation we see every day, we occupy ourselves with everything (eating, TV, work, etc.), but not with God. Outside the sphere of God's peaceful, lovely presence we are damned to commit every kind of evil.

    Epistle to the Romans by St. Paul, Chapter 1:

    18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

    However, God wants to give us a second chance. He increased his revelation by the Creation by his own arrival in Jesus Christ. God himself visited the earth in Jesus.

    December 18, 2011 at 8:47 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein


      December 18, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      Epistle to the Romans, Chapter 3:

      There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: 14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: 15 Their feet are swift to shed blood: 16 Destruction and misery are in their ways: 17 And the way of peace have they not known: 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes. 19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. 27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. 29 Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: 30 Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circu-mcision by faith, and uncirc-umcision through faith. 31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

      December 18, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • Mildred the Mouth

      So let me get this straight. Rainer is saying that because something annoys him, THAT is proof of his convoluted "salvation" system, and just because my car is missing, (BTW it COULD have been towed for a variety of reasons), but assuming someone took it, all that implies is that we have a concept of private property, and when our cultural norm of private property is offended, we get angry, because we have come to expect others will honor that concept, and there might/should be consequences for not doing so. It in no way "proves" the christian pay-back scheme of "sin" and the need to appease the angry gods for breaching that cultural concept. Rainer, please stop quoting bible verses at us. It proves NOTHING. Use your head, and think for yourself. It's called "circular reasoning".

      December 18, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      @Mildred the Mouth

      You would not get annoyed, if your car had been stolen?

      Ridiculous and out of touch with reality!

      December 18, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • Mildred the Mouth

      Of course I would. You did not answer the questions. My being annoyed does not prove "sin". The one has absolutely nothing to do with each other. Anytime you get annoyed, does that mean someone is sinning ?

      December 18, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • Brad

      Good morning Rainer: Is sin intrinsic to us or is it something that lives within us apart from our nature? As Lutherans we confess that "we are by nature sinful and unclean." Paul seems to begin with this idea, but finishes with something different:
      "For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it."
      Is Paul's nature sinful or is there an independent sinful nature living within Paul?

      December 18, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      @Mildred the Mouth

      "cultural norm of private property"

      That is a poor statement (sorry). My car is not important for me, because there is a cultural norm of private property, but because I need it for daily use like all the other objects, which I possess.

      Most people buy a car, because they need it to come from A to B. Assumed their car is stolen, they lose there transprot mean, in order to come from A to B. That is a great damage for them. Raw materials and working hours are limited. That causes that one, whose car had been stolen, must earn new money again for buying a new car. For example, a carpenter has to make some new roofs again until he can afford a new car. You got me?

      Economy is not more than a constant exchange of goods. One produces shoes, the next one wheat, the next one cars. We serve each other by the things, which we produce or by our services. In that way property emerges. The whole society produces a certain amount of goods every day and this goods get distributed again. Everyday the society bakes a big cake and everybody is allowed to cut out pieces of the cake according to his performance. Performance is assessed by money.

      Theft is, when someone takes any object of the millions of objects, which are produced every day, without putting in a object, which he has produced (no counterperformance).

      If we all would easily take objects, but not produce objects or goods, economy would collapse immediately, that is clear.

      December 18, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Good post Rainer. Remember what we are dealing with 2 Timothy 4:3-4

      3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
      4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

      Always the circular arguments with the atheists on this site stemming from false confidence believing they learned scriptures correctly from unbelieving teachers who twist and contort Jesus' truth.


      December 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • Mildred the Mouth

      No Rainer. That is only because society has agreed in the concept of private property. What about the early Christian community? They agree that they held all things in common. "All that believed were together, and had all things in common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need."(Acts 2:44-45) ou are annoyed because you have the expectation that your car will be there when you get back, because you think EVERYONE has agreed to respect the private property rule. You are surprised when they don't. Rainer being surprised, and/or annoyed that people don't follow HIS rules, doesn't mean there is sin going on.

      December 18, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  6. Reality

    Hitchens, Prothero, Crossan, Ludemann, et al in summary form thereby saving you from anymore time thinking about religion:

    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.


    December 18, 2011 at 8:05 am |
    • .........

      hit report abuse on all reality repeat bull sh it

      December 18, 2011 at 8:31 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      it would appear that '.........' is actually captain america...same way of writing and nothing useful to say

      December 18, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • captain america

      It would appear that canadians just can't mind their own f'n business. Of the two of you who post which plays the woman? There's your sign

      December 18, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      CA: what is not our business exactly?? It appears that you are the most hateful person to ever be brought in to existence! We're still here loser!!

      December 18, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • GAW

      Dr Copy and Paste (aka Reality) strikes again!!

      December 18, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • captain america

      What is not canadian business? Anything 54 40 and below and damn little above. There's your sign.

      December 18, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  7. onehippypoet

    There once was a man name of Hitchens
    He drank smoked and lied
    And one day he died
    Which put an end
    To his b itchens

    December 18, 2011 at 7:16 am |
  8. An inconvenient truth

    Hitchens, gone to God, oops!

    December 18, 2011 at 7:01 am |
  9. b4bigbang

    fred You mentioned "the fact that u will never be able to prove/disprove god via science isnt an accident,"
    Exactly what or why is that no accident and what blocks reason from reaching God?"

    Excellent questions! This is the way i see it, many Christians will prob agree, some disagree, but the reason i believe that God will never allow himself to be proven scientifically is because the Scriptures declare first and foremost that God is holy. In Biblical terms this means 'withdrawn', 'separated from' or 'cut off', ie, he has hidden himself from us [because of our sin and unbelief]. Therefore I believe it would be illogical for God to suddenly turn up in a test-tube like some new species of bug. Sorry, he aint playing along with that kind of thing.

    Ah, as to reason reaching God, yes, yes, the God of the Bible is reasonable! Indeed, our faith is ultimately reasonable:

    Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Isaiah 1:18

    Not to mention the fact that it is reasonable to believe eyewitness testimony.

    Oh, another thing re reason reaching God, i do remember hearing of a couple of top scientists believing in God because of reason. One was, Smalley the Nobel-winning so-called father of nanotechnology.
    Another was a famous atheist that believed in ID before his death because of certain scientific problems i am unable to fathom with my biz degree mind.

    So I'll say that yes, God is quite findable using reason, if a person approaches the question from a position of open-mindedness.

    In other words, looking at the evidence for a moment from the other side's perspective ("devil's advocate?"), but not in order to win a debate, but in order to seek knowledge, truly unbiased.

    That's how it worked for me, a former agnostic....

    December 18, 2011 at 6:45 am |
  10. b4bigbang

    For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

    For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

    And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.

    We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:

    Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

    For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake [as they were] moved by the Holy Ghost.

    So you see, here is just one of the several eyewitness accounts mentioned in the new testament. Also note that the eyewitness is also saying in his eastern way "dont believe just one source [ie my eyewitness testimony], but also believe because of combined sources of evidence [eg, the old testament prophecies fulfilled]."

    December 18, 2011 at 5:18 am |
    • Mirosal

      A "propphecy" is NEVER evidence. And NO AUTHOR in the New Testament was an eyewitness to anything that jesus did. Not one author had ever met him, or interacted with him. 2nd 3rd 4th and 5th hand stories were passed along, and finally written down. That isn't evidence, that's called hearsat, and it's inadmissible

      December 18, 2011 at 5:31 am |
    • Mirosal

      * – hearsay

      December 18, 2011 at 5:32 am |
    • Alfred E Neuman

      What you are claiming as fact, is theory only.What you describe as hearsay is theory as well and has been proposed in ignorance since the beginning to discredit the way. This liars theory was more difficult to sustain in the beginning because the actual authors ,those who walked with Jesus were still alive. This did not prevent a heretic in Rome from using the argument you have proposed, because the authors would have originally been thousands of miles distant in Jerusalem. Today the authors are simply thousands of years distant and other than the writings they left are unavailable for personal contact. You are either mistaken, duped or a liar.I have read your posts an additional option remains, you are an idiot.

      December 18, 2011 at 6:32 am |
    • Mirosal

      To whom are you referring, Alfred?

      December 18, 2011 at 6:46 am |
    • Alfred E Neuman

      That would be you. I see by your reply that my last assessment of your character was the most accurate interpretation.

      December 18, 2011 at 6:54 am |
    • Mirosal

      Show me the biographies of these authors, with their birth/death dates.

      December 18, 2011 at 6:57 am |
    • Keith

      Mirosal, Are you comfortable this morning? Hitchens isn't. He won't be comfortable this afternoon either. Nothing but flames for him. Have you ever burned any part of your body? Now, can you imagine that on your entire body forEVER? It's not too late for you to flee the wrath to come. I would advise doing so.

      December 18, 2011 at 7:07 am |
    • Alfred E Neuman

      The farther you go the more you confirm your ignorance of the topic you chose. By your last request we can deduce that you are totally unaware of first century writings,archaeology or records. Care to offer additional proof of your idiocy?

      December 18, 2011 at 7:07 am |
    • Mirosal

      Typical. Using scare tactics to get someone to convert. Gee what a novel concept. I think that's been tried before."Better get right with 'god' or you'll be punished!!" uh-huh ... I'm all a-quiver. Do what I say in my book or I'll send you to a place of pain suffering torture anguish and suffering ... well, my only response would be "Nein mein Fuhrer!" I'm still waiting on those biographies. Oh, and just for the record, I was educated by Jesuits, I know what's in your little book.

      December 18, 2011 at 7:18 am |
    • Alfred E Neuman

      We have already established what you "know".

      December 18, 2011 at 7:23 am |
    • Mirosal

      Your 'god' is just one of myriad deities invented throughout human history.Their only purpose was to explain that which man did not yet understand. Ever wonder why there are no more gods of thunder or lightning? Or harvest? Wine? The seasons? Volcanoes? Sun? Moon? In time yours will be relegated to the realm of mythology as are all the others. So tell me, oh great fountain of first-century knowledge, exactly WHICH New Testament authors walked along side of jesus to write first-hand accounts?

      December 18, 2011 at 7:43 am |
    • Dodney Rangerfield

      Mirosal if they told ya they'd have to kill ya. Catch a clue. you get less respect than I do. Somebody turn on the light for mirosal and I thot my wife was bad off sheesh this one walks alone. look out its ALIVE.

      December 18, 2011 at 7:51 am |
    • Mirosal

      Yes I am alive, and free to go about my life without having restrictions placed upon me by some guy wearing robes, standing at a pulpit, telling ME how HE thinks I should live MY life. If this 'god' of yours knows-all and is-all, then 'it' will know whee to find me. I fear no god, and I fear no devil. They should both be afraid of me, for it is within all humans to "kill-off" any deity. It's simple... stop believing and they go away. Just ask any number of 'gods' from days gone by. If you have to effectively scare someone by telling them they'll burn if they don't commit, then there are serious flaws in your little group. Just like any other cult, they are all nice sweet and gentle, then you sign up. Oops, now you're trapped within rules and regs, and if you don't follow them, eternal pain torture and suffering await. Answer me this... according to your own "faith" .. are Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Atheists, Agnostics, Shinto, Buddhists and people who have never heard your supposed "good word" all doomed for eternity because they didn't follow your leader?

      December 18, 2011 at 8:01 am |
    • Mirosal

      Yeah .. uh-huh ... the answer is ZERO... even religious scholars (in addition to secualr researchers) will tell you that the earlist of those gospels were written at least 30 years AFTER your cult leader was hung out to dry, so to speak.

      December 18, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • Rev. Parson

      You'd best git a life young one, the horse you were riding died some time ago.

      December 18, 2011 at 8:38 am |
    • Mirosal

      Rev ... get a real job instead of standing at a lectern bilking people out of their hard earned money they WORKED for. Let me guess, evey Sunday, you throw up the collections in the air. What 'god' wants, 'it' can catch and keep. Amazing that 'It' never takes a cent ... but you do .... What say I call the IRS and have them audit your books under 501(c) ... ALL non-profits ARE public record y'know.

      December 18, 2011 at 8:45 am |
    • Rev. Parson

      Misplaced my post ,busy this am
      once again to you
      And the horse you rode in on young one.

      December 18, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Is your kid sick again, Keith?

      You have no idea what happens after death to anyone. Unless you have proof other than the Bible, your pronouncements do nothing more than confirm your standing as a fundie nut-job.

      December 18, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  11. racer x

    I don't care about your imaginary "love/hate relationship" with Christopher Hitchens, Prothero. Does anyone else care? This is no time for hacks like you to insinuate themselves into Mr. Hitchens's too brief existence. Begone, Prothero! Leave us to our fond memories of a courageous defender of truth, and to our drink if we damned well feel like it.

    December 18, 2011 at 4:40 am |
    • GAW

      Welcome to the internet. If you don't like it then log off. Just be lucky Westboro Baptist doesn't plan on protesting his funeral.

      December 18, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  12. JustaPerson

    When it comes to scientific knowledge, we live in an age unprecedented by any other. But when it comes to spiritual ideas we are still stuck in preconceived notions (whether Atheistic or Theistic.) We argue as if our words can somehow alter what's actually true. This is the problem with the subtle and difficult concept of "truth." We may convince other people, but we can't "convince" nature to change her mode of existence. We can only pick up pieces to an infinitely expanding puzzle. (Isn't it great?)

    Furthermore, contrary to what some researchers or teachers may tell you, there is no such thing as unbiased knowledge. Every conclusion reached or idea preached has the mark of its creator's touch. Therefore, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending how you see it) when it comes to deeper spiritual answers, there will never be one argument ultimately proving one side or another. Because although it is slippery, subjective knowledge is still important.

    Obviously, IF there is NO creator, we will never find Him. And clearly if there IS a Creator(s), he doesn't WANT to be found through "hard" science; but perhaps there IS a greater Divine waiting to be discovered through personal experience and reflection. The only way to find out is to look.

    Some say to trust your mind (logic) , others say trust your heart (instinct or intuition)... I say trust both. The balanced path is almost always the best path.

    ...Just my thoughts...

    December 18, 2011 at 3:22 am |
  13. b4bigbang

    unfortunately gotta go for now. Home is calling and the office's time is done.
    See u guys later g'night!

    December 18, 2011 at 1:46 am |
  14. b4bigbang

    llɐq ʎʞɔnq

    "I believe there will always be knowledge out of grasp of experimental science"
    Exactly, but why not accept that, instead of positing the "God Theory", just because you feel you need the answer. It's unsatisfying. So what ? What not be honest ? Isn't it funny that the god you imagine has ONLY human qualities, (and culturally is ALMOST ALWAYS spoken of as HIM), and none that could possibly be from other beings, or NOTHING unique, that could not have come from a human imagination ? WE MADE IT UP !

    Ya see, your perspective again. Is God known as the king of kings bcause we had kings and made him one (your take), or are there kings bcause we are patterning our lives after a heavenly design?

    December 18, 2011 at 1:45 am |
    • llɐq ʎʞɔnq

      So you want to go back to a monarchy then ?

      December 18, 2011 at 1:47 am |
    • llɐq ʎʞɔnq

      Anyway, god is the queen of queens. Name one unique "revealed" quality god has that man could NOT have imagined on his own.

      December 18, 2011 at 1:52 am |
  15. b4bigbang

    b4bigbang Mattb4, people have not always believed in God. There have been many religions worshiping one or more gods, many of those predating the creation of the God of Abraham.

    See, there's your perspective again. I believe the Genesis account and you believe the accounts of mainstream liberal theology.
    Id advise u not to put too much stock in that, seeing as how the liberal theologians and their group of archaeologists have been embarrased on more than one occasion by later arcaeological discoveries.
    And no laundry list. I have a couple i could share, but if u care that much, maybe u will look the stuff up yourself.

    December 18, 2011 at 1:37 am |
    • llɐq ʎʞɔnq

      So if you "believe" the Genesis account, do you also "believe" the source materials from which it was developed ? Do you know what they are ?

      December 18, 2011 at 1:44 am |
    • Matt

      Wikipedia "monotheism" when you get a chance.

      December 18, 2011 at 1:54 am |
  16. b4bigbang

    GodofLunaticsCreation Im sure we will meet again and we can pick up the conversation from here. Have a good night and glad to see someone who actually has more to offer than "mysterious ways" or "your gonna burn!"

    Thanks, i find those knee-jerk responses boring too....

    December 18, 2011 at 1:31 am |
  17. b4bigbang


    b4, people have not always believed in God. There have been many religions worshiping one or more gods, many of those predating the creation of the God of Abraham. The Bible is not well ordered and there are multiple contradictions in the text, suggesting it is the creation of several humans. As far as eyewitness accounts though, there is a difference between a statement in one book that says there were many eyewitnesses and there actually being several different journal entries saying "I just saw this dude change water into wine."

    So, i guess ya haveta side with the early christians' account or the guys who put Jesus to death. Btw, most of the people who saw the resurrection/ascension allowed themselves to be tortured to death rather than recant their testimony. Btw, that's called a death-bed confession and is considered hard, compeeling evidence in modern courts.

    Re contradictions, i once saw a book that had a laundry list of literally hundreds of so-called contradictions. They were all answered quite well.
    Seriously, have u ever challenged an actual scientist as to "how can u believe when the Bible is 'full of errors'?" If so, what did he/she say in response? (I mention scientists because 1) they believe in testing theories and getting at the truth and 2) athiests arguments usually revolve around science).

    December 18, 2011 at 1:29 am |
    • Matt

      b4, cool, I'm enjoying this debate.

      I don't see why I have to side with the early christians. I know what they believed, but I don't believe that they actually witnessed the events described in the Bible. Word of mouth tends to exaggerate facts and it was several decades after Jesus's death that the Gospels were actually written. People of the time also were more willing to believe that miracles were possible.

      People have died for many beliefs. It is only representative of their beliefs and not necessarily the truth, sad as that may sound. A death-side confession would have match the physical evidence to be compelling in court. I doubt any judge would convict based on a death-side confession and no actual evidence.

      My answer to "how can u believe when the Bible is 'full of errors'?" (I just graduated with a BS in physics and biochemistry) would be it makes me doubt the truth of the rest of the Bible. Not that it would necessarily make me question the existence of God (I doubt because of other reasons), but it would make we question whether or not this is truly the word of God. I've never really had a problem with religion, but people telling me and others how to live their lives. Atheist arguments tend to be based in science because a lot of religious arguments involve the physical world.

      December 18, 2011 at 1:52 am |
    • i wonder

      b4, "most of the people who saw the resurrection/ascension allowed themselves to be tortured to death rather than recant their testimony."

      Are you sure about that? Records for these people's lives are either absent or are wildly conflicting.


      December 18, 2011 at 2:17 am |
    • Mildred the Mouth

      Why is it there just happened to be no "eye witness" who did not like Jesus, or who was not a believer ? If someone actually rose from the dead, it would have made such a huge commotion, that vast crowds would have been involved.

      December 18, 2011 at 9:04 am |
    • Sue

      Mildred the Mouth
      Lots of people seemingly "rise from the dead" daily because they weren't really, truly dead to begin with. Considering how Jesus supposedly died on the cross after mere hours when the expectation was that he would last much longer, perhaps he wasn't really dead dead, woke up in the tomb, and escaped?

      December 18, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  18. b4bigbang

    G'night GodofLunaticsCreation, get some rest, see ya next time.

    December 18, 2011 at 1:19 am |
    • GodofLunaticsCreation

      Im sure we will meet again and we can pick up the conversation from here. Have a good night and glad to see someone who actually has more to offer than "mysterious ways" or "your gonna burn!"

      December 18, 2011 at 1:23 am |
  19. b4bigbang

    correction: "accident or purpose". sorry

    December 18, 2011 at 1:14 am |
  20. b4bigbang

    GodofLunaticsCreation You are misrepresenting string theory. It is not on the level of religion. The only reason it is called a philosophy by some is because we are unable to test it currently due to technological limitations, not because it is totally untestable, ie God.

    I knew that, not because im so smart but because i watched Green's show re strings. I didnt mean to misrepresent, but rather to illustrate how there comes a point where science doesnt have the answers, so u have to work with something else.

    Seriously, do u really believe there will come a day when a photo taken thru some special instrumentation will finally answer the big question, ie how exactly did everything begin and was it an accident of purpose?

    I believe there will always be knowledge out of grasp of experimental science.

    December 18, 2011 at 1:12 am |
    • GodofLunaticsCreation

      Without the unknown, what would be the purpose of science? I have read many books on string theory and like I said, it is a technological limitation. We just recently tested one of Einsteins theories and found it to predict correctly. We will always be learning more as technology advances, if the religious or depraved don't kill us all first.

      December 18, 2011 at 1:18 am |
    • Matt

      b4, that is the very definition of the "God of the Gaps." And if you watched the Nova show on string theory, you at least got a basic introduction into quantum mechanics - not that this is definitive proof of "intent" or "lack of intent", but the utterly chaotic and unpredictable world of quantum mechanics makes the existence of "intent" really unlikely.

      December 18, 2011 at 1:25 am |
    • llɐq ʎʞɔnq

      "I believe there will always be knowledge out of grasp of experimental science"
      Exactly, but why not accept that, instead of positing the "God Theory", just because you feel you need the answer. It's unsatisfying. So what ? What not be honest ? Isn't it funny that the god you imagine has ONLY human qualities, (and culturally is ALMOST ALWAYS spoken of as HIM), and none that could possibly be from other beings, or NOTHING unique, that could not have come from a human imagination ? WE MADE IT UP ! 8)

      December 18, 2011 at 1:35 am |
    • Sue

      "but rather to illustrate how there comes a point where science doesnt have the answers, so u have to work with something else."
      Science doesn't have the answer YET, you mean. In the meantime, why limit yourself to religion to fill in the gaps? Why not use philosophy, poetry, or something else that purely relies on the imagination like religion?

      December 18, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
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About this blog

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.