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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. Matt

    All I want to know is why do we all need to wear our faiths on our sleeves and keep trying to bring people to our side? I became an Atheist all on my own, I didn't need any help. But I don't go around advertising it, or pushing it on anyone. Why is the News Media constantly advocating for Christianity rather than pointing out the benefits and pitfalls of ALL religions? CNN, stick to news, and stay out of faith/faithlessness. Yeah you generate a ton of comments, but the nature of all Cable News nowadays is that there has to be two sides, and one has to win. learn to live together and let it be already!

    December 20, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  2. catholic engineer

    The more I read about Mr. Hitchens, the better I liked him, though obviously I can't agree with his religious stance. He was rightfully outraged on numerous subjects. But Prothero struck a chord with me. Hitch did seem to be controlled by his emotions far too often for someone who is promoting reason. If God exists, S/He would be the purest form of Intelligence. God would not be numbered among the things of the universe because God is outside of the universe, yet completely infuses it at the same time – a paradox. God therefore has no parts and "there are no shadows in Him". Only perfect, pure reason could contemplate such a Being. And the reasoning power of the most brilliant human is neither pure nor perfect. It is always diluted by personality, emotion, cultural factors, what not. His very humanity gets in the way. THis proves nothing, of course. But I have to ask: do atheists have a clear concept of the God which they refute?

    December 20, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • JohnQuest

      catholic engineer, your question Presumes that God actually exist and we Atheist are just denying that central fact, that's not the case. Are you just denying that the God Ba'al exist (but believe he/she does exist)?

      December 20, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • catholic engineer

      JohnQuest

      Yes. I deny the existence of Baal. That God, and many others have been outgrown. Man's thinking has matured over the ages in science, philosophy, and theology. Much of theology is finding a language to discuss God and establishing parameters in within which this can occur. Within the ranks of believers, theology is defined as "faith seeking understanding."

      Have a good one.

      December 20, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • ThinkForYourself

      "THis proves nothing, of course. But I have to ask: do atheists have a clear concept of the God which they refute?"

      Well, I think we refute all gods. gods take different forms – the concept of a god or gods is different to different people, so I find that awfully hard to answer. Your comment about outgrowing a god, though, reminds me a favorite quote from Thomas Jefferson, though:

      "And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors."

      December 20, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • catholic engineer

      @ThinkforYourself Well, I respect what you and Thomas Jefferson could see through your own windows. For me, it's like this: Jesus was quoted as asking "who do you say that I am?" I can't resist the question. Millions of people can't. And my inquiry has been like peeling an onion. Only with God, it's an onion of infinite size so I don't expect to reach the innermost layer.

      Now, Think, that's My Take and I'm sticking to it for the time being.

      December 20, 2011 at 10:54 am |
  3. JohnQuest

    faith and reason, that is an interesting argument about Agnostic vs. Atheist. The only issue is, that same argument would work for any God, Fairy or myth. Consider the Following, are Devout worshiping Christians Agnostic about Ba'al, Zeus, Cloven Bullfoot, of The Tooth Fairy? They all are as believable the God of Abraham and for thousands of years they were worshiped and sacrificed to.

    I would agree to be Agnostic toward the Christian God\s if Christians would agree to be Agnostic about any other God\s, but you see the issue. If a Christian could agree that other God could exist (but they just don't know) that would destroy Christianity (an ethical Monotheistic belief). (NOTE: Agreeing is not the same as believing).

    I think other than ones own religious belief none of us are Agnostic we are Atheist. Christians "Know" that there are no other Gods but "God", I "Know" that there are no Gods Period. To say that I am wrong is to say that Christians are wrong (since we are both using the same argument and reasoning).

    December 20, 2011 at 9:00 am |
    • PDavis

      Many of these comments affirm what Prothero has written–most people don't have a very deep understanding of the breadth of Christian–and other– belief systems. There are countless Christians who don't necessarily believe in God and, if they do have an understanding of God, don't insist that "their God" is the only one. Christian clergy have a great variety of beliefs, often depending upon their seminary education, their denominations and their personal experience. Hitchens and many other atheists, all of whom have in some ways done religion a favor, consistently set up God as a caricature and then proceed to attack what they have created. Yes, some people do believe in that caricature, but don't put us all in a tub and throw us out with the water. Religion has too much influence, positive and negative, on our cultures and our politics to understand it so shallowly. Our ignorance is what makes it dangerous.

      December 27, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  4. JohnQuest

    J.W, I have heard that argument, it just doesn't make any sense to me:

    Cosmological Argument:

    Premise 1: Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
    Premise 2: The Universe (life) began to exist.
    Conclusion: Therefore, the Universe (life) had a cause. And that cause is God!!!!

    We all know what the problem with this line of argument is:

    Premise 1: if God exist then what caused God. If God does not have a cause then Premise 1 is FALSE which negates the entire argument.

    Even if the entire argument works it still not a logical conclusion that "God" is the first cause.
    Even if a being was powerful enough to be the first cause, would that in it self be reason enough to Worship it? I think not!!!

    December 19, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • Evan

      "If God does not have a cause then Premise 1 is FALSE which negates the entire argument"

      That's false. 1) says "whatever beings to exist". God, as an eternal being by definition, never began to exist. Thus, no cause is needed, and the argument still stands.

      "it still not a logical conclusion that "God" is the first cause"

      No, the first cause must be timeless, spaceless, immaterial, and uncaused, given the nature of causation and the universe. The only two examples that would fit this are abstract objects or an unembodied mind. Abstract objections, such as numbers, do not have a causal relation with anything. Thus, it follows logically that the first cause is an unembodied mind. All other possible explanations do nothing but push the chain of events one step further back in the past.

      December 19, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      Evan,

      That's false. 1) says "whatever beings to exist". God, as an eternal being by definition, never began to exist. Thus, no cause is needed, and the argument still stands.

      Answer: If it is true that something can be eternal it is more likely that the Universe has always exist (in some form or another), perhaps the singularity is eternal never needing a cause. (I know currently, there is no evidence of this but there is no evidence of God either)

      No, the first cause must be timeless, spaceless, immaterial, and uncaused, given the nature of causation and the universe. The only two examples that would fit this are abstract objects or an unembodied mind. Abstract objections, such as numbers, do not have a causal relation with anything. Thus, it follows logically that the first cause is an unembodied mind. All other possible explanations do nothing but push the chain of events one step further back in the past.

      Answer
      There are more then just two possible causes, String Theory leans toward a third cause, there could be causes that we have not yet thought of, assuming of course they the universe needs a cause. As you stated, something could exist without a cause.

      Even if true, does the creator of the universe deserve worship just because it is powerful? I think to be consider God something will need more than just power, there is nothing in creating the universe that leads one to think that the source of that creation is good, just or moral.

      December 19, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • faith and reason

      "There are more then just two possible causes, String Theory leans toward a third cause, there could be causes that we have not yet thought of, assuming of course they the universe needs a cause. As you stated, something could exist without a cause."

      String theory does not explain the universe without a cause. As far as something we haven't thought of, why is that an argument against God, especially given evidence for God and Jesus' testimony and resurrection. It's true you may not have thought of the reason, but that's because the reason is God. Finally, the universe does appear to have a beginning and cause. I find it odd you would be willing to believe all that energy and matter just popped out of nowhere. Why hasn't it happened since?

      "Even if true, does the creator of the universe deserve worship just because it is powerful? I think to be consider God something will need more than just power, there is nothing in creating the universe that leads one to think that the source of that creation is good, just or moral."

      Well I certainly agree with the first part power alone does not imply deserving worship. Indeed an evil being could be powerful but we would not worship it. But creation is good, morality shows there is good in creation. Surely you would agree life has great value. If someone murdered your family member, would you not want justice? Why? Obviously because that person had great good, great value, great worth. So how can you say creation is not good? Of course it is. Hence this shows directly our creator is good and deserves our worship.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Evan,

      You can't solve an argument by saying "since god is an eternal being..." without prior knowlege that:
      1. There is a god.
      2. That this god is eternal.

      Without any information whatsoever about the existence of this creature, or its attributes if it does exist, using the claim to support another claim, is fantastically ridiculous.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • Rick

      Evan: How does someone make the logical leap from a creator to a being which judges "sin"? It seems to me that (perhaps) creation is evidence of a creator, but the everpresent judge thing is cultural mythology which varies depending on where you are on the earth

      December 20, 2011 at 4:48 am |
    • Jen

      Regarding the first cause argument, this entire argument has already been thoroughly leveled by modern physics. Stephen Hawking recently published a great book for the lay reader that details the formation of matter (currently happens at the quantum level quite regularly) and our universe's "movement" through an upper dimension, which we experience as linear time. Outside of this movement, all time and possible time is simultaneous. As we wind back down maximum entropy, we will enter something quite similar to that original state. No higher being or designer is required or even suggested. In fact, all physical evidence points decidedly in the opposite direction.

      December 21, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  5. Bus2

    I wonder how long ago Prothero wrote this article? You can bet that he wouldn't have had the balls to post this while Hitchens was still alive...

    December 19, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  6. J

    I didn't like this article because Prothero doesn't know the first thing about writing opinionated articles.

    See what I did there?

    December 19, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • gman

      for more information on why Hitchens was fundamentally flawed when writing about religion try http://www.thenewamerican.com/opinion/selwyn-duke/10238-christopher-hitchens-godlessness-is-not-great-how-atheism-poisons-everything

      December 19, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      gman, you've done it again, made a claim, present corroborating evidence for the claim that does Not support your claim. I have read the article, nothing in it shows that Mr. Hitchens was flawed, at best, it states that the author did not agree with Mr. Hitchens.

      If he was flawed please point it out, by the way, being flawed means more than "I disagree with you because I want to".

      December 19, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  7. Chuckles

    I think what really irks me about this article is that Prothero wants to talk smack about Hitchens and claims that he has no idea what he's talkng about. This is a common tactic from most believers I've seen and sometimes very appropriate, in this article particularly though, Prothero doesn't use even one example and instead opts to just state over and over again how he feels about Hitchens rather than attack Hitchen's arguments themselves.

    This article was more than anything else a way for Prothero to basically say, "Hey Hitch, F.uck you! No offense!"

    December 19, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  8. derp

    Jesustard Prothero didn't like Hitchens' book criticizing religion.

    Wow, I'm shocked.

    December 19, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  9. DesignedByGod

    Here's a question: WHY is Atheism more "reasonable?" EVERY worldview takes some pretty wild presumptions. I don't see how atheists are any different.

    Religion is based on ancient ideas... Atheism is based on supposedly "modern" ones... when compared to the vast ocean of undiscovered knowledge, both are equally presumptuous. The arrogance often drawn from scientific ideas is entirely unfounded. The true discoverer's of any field - science, religion, art, technology, etc - are able to look past what is accepted, and open new doors.

    December 18, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
    • HellBent

      I generally think that atheist DON'T presume to know – we leave that to our religious brethren. You presume, despite lack of any actual evidence, that there is some deity out there. We atheists tend to be skeptical. Though I don't know who made the original quote off hand, it is apt in this case (paraphrasing): 'I contend that we are both atheists. I simply believe in one fewer god than you. When you understand while you dimiss all other gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."

      December 18, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • tallulah13

      @DesignedByGod

      Science is observable and verifiable. If a theory is wrong, it is replaced. If it is incomplete, it is built upon using replicable results. On the other hand, humanity has created, then rejected, forgotten or replaced thousands of gods. Yours is no different, for one simple reason: There has never been any evidence that any god has ever existed.

      The only arrogance I see is the arrogance of people who think that there is an all-powerful being - capable of creating the universe - who watches to make sure that they perform bronze age rituals and will let them live forever in a special paradise if they promise they love him best.

      December 19, 2011 at 12:39 am |
    • JohnQuest

      DesignedByGod, "Here's a question: WHY is Atheism more "reasonable?" EVERY worldview takes some pretty wild presumptions. I don't see how atheists are any different."

      The only "wild presumptions" Atheist make are "to the best of my knowledge there are no God\s" and\or "if there were such a being that could do all the theist claims (create the universe, cause earthquakes, and raise the dead etc...) these powers in and of themselves would not be enough to generate "Worship".

      I (as a non-believer) think for a being to be called God and thereby becoming worthy of human worship, not only will such a being have to be as powerful as theist claim but be kind and good (as we humans define the terms) more so than other humans. The issue then is, the God\s current theist believe in are not kind nor good, therefor even if such a being were real it would not be worthy of worship consequently, as powerful as such a being would be it would not be "God".

      Thank "God" no such being exist, as far as any of us can tell, even Theist would have to admit this if they are honest with themselves.

      December 19, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • gman

      there is abundant proof of 1 God through inference of reason. We know the big bang occurred and 10^80 particles appeared out of nothing in an expanding state. We know there are at least 30 finely tuned to many trillionths of powers of coefficients making life possible – we know Ockmans razor tells us from philosophy not to expand explanations beyond what was needed (hence 1 god and not 300MM like Hinduism). We have letters, books, roman books, greek books all within one hundred years of the person of Jesus Christ – we have this same person fulfilling conservatively 55 prophesies (arguably 110+) written hundreds (yeah 1400 in some cases) before his life and death. Alternatively we have no known scientific proof of life generating spontaneously and instead we have the pure mathmatical odds of this so astounding that even atheists like Fred Hoyle does not believe life started on the earth or that MACRO evolution occurred.

      December 19, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • EnjaySea

      @gman, the only thing your list proves, is that there are things we don't understand yet. To take the next step and say "oh actually all of the things we don't understand, are god", is absurd. I have no problem leaving it at that - we don't understand them yet, and for some of them, maybe never. I have no requirement that someone make up stories for me to fill in the blanks.

      December 19, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • HellBent

      "we know Ockmans razor tells us from philosophy not to expand explanations beyond what was needed (hence 1 god and not 300MM like Hinduism). We have letters, books, roman books, greek books all within one hundred years of the person of Jesus Christ – we have this same person fulfilling conservatively 55 prophesies (arguably 110+) written hundreds (yeah 1400 in some cases) before his life and death. "

      All you need to do to blow your argument out of the water is to apply Occam's razor to the second part. What's more likely – that the creator of the universe made a bunch of murky predictions to a small group of people over a few hundred years that he eventually decided to fulfill, or that the writers of the gospels decided to write their narrative in such a way that it seemed to fulfill their earlier prophecies – something that would have been in their own best interest to do?

      December 19, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • JohnQuest

      gman, You have made several errors in reasoning. Logic does NOT lead us to a God at best (for your side) it leads us to an "unknown". We do not know what caused the "Big Bang", but because we don't know does not mean we should insert a God (unless you think anything that powerful should be called God, without any moral or value considerations).

      The "Fine Tuning" argument is the same as saying "I am here therefor a God Must exist". If fine tuning is true then God must be a Bacteria (there are a billion times more bacteria than us and they have been shown to live "Everywhere" even floating through the vacuum of space). Therefor the universe was fine tuned to support Bacteria or Black Holes not us humans.

      As far as Jesus is concerned, your "evidence amounts to a circular argument. You believe it's true because it is in the Bible, and the proof that the Bible is true is because it is written in the Bible. You wouldn't believe any other evidence presented in that fashion. The Hindus religious text predate the Bible by several thousand years but that wouldn't be enough to convince you that it is true. Also consider that the Bible (New Testament) was written After Jesus, by Followers of Jesus, is it inconceivable why they wrote that Jesus (their spiritual leader) fulfilled their expected prophecies?

      December 19, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • gman

      be careful believers, atheists are full of mistruths ... we have found a few amino acids in space – non of which are the left handed variety needed to arrange themselves together to create a useful protein of which we would need 300 proteins to make a simple cell. In short, the atheist lie when they say that humans have discovered bacteria in space http://breakthrough.nsm.uh.edu/2008_11/bell.htm

      December 19, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • JohnQuest

      gman, how do you explain the following article: http://aquapour.com/alien-bacteria-fossils-found-in-meteorite-by-nasa-scientist/556290/

      December 19, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • gman

      recent time magazine article repudiating bacteria in space rocks http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2057461,00.html

      December 19, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • HellBent

      @gman – science changes based upon the most recent and available data. This is the best part about it. Scientists actually admit when they get it wrong. You show your cards when you claim that 'athiests' are 'lying' -both uninformed as.sumptions on your part. Your statement only reflects your own bias.

      December 19, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      gman, I take it you did not read the article you submitted as a repudiation. The second paragraph states

      "It's an astonishing idea, but it's not completely crazy: after all, astronomers have discovered dozens of organic molecules floating in giant interstellar clouds, and meteorites have been cracked apart to reveal amino acids, the building blocks of proteins."

      That by itself proves my point and disproves yours. Secondly, the article dose NOT disprove the claim at all, it ONLY states that other claims have been disproved in the past and people should wait and see if this claim will be disproved. That's the great thing about science, someone makes a claim submits their evidence and others evaluate that evidence. Religion does not stand up to that type of evaluation.

      December 19, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • gman

      JohnQuest, you really should be more informed. You try to call me out on something where you have limited understanding. Organic molecules are worlds away from a functioning cell. In fact, amino acids are worlds away from a functioning protein. The wonderful world of DNA and ribosomes is to create the complicted links of amino acids that create a functioning protein – the force bonds between these links shape the protein into a 3-D form that has a specific function – please go back and take organic chemistry

      December 19, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • gman

      one last note, I love the scientific method, John and others have stated that this is the wonderful thing about science and I agree. Your lot seems to be malinformed on modern science and what has been proven and what has not ... ie if there was a primordial soup then we would have geological confirmation of the highly nitrogeneous content that would have surrounded most of the earth – of which there has been none found.

      December 19, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      gman, I am not a biologist (I am a systems ana-lyst), my knowledge of biology is limited to what I learned in college, but I was not claiming that the article was correct or not (I really don't know). I was not calling you out based on scientific evidence, I called you out on the article you submitted. You made a claim and provide corroboration for that claim, my point is, your corroborating evidence does not support your claim (it does the opposite it actually supports my claim).

      Am I wrong about your corroborating evidence not supporting your claim?

      December 19, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • J.W

      I think gman is going back to the beginning of life. The first organisms formed by those amino acids coming together. Most Christians I think believe that God set the processes in motion for this to happen.

      December 19, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • faith and reason

      I completely agree with your question, and what is truly sad is a lot of the current dissension and divisiveness is stirred up by mere semantics. The term agnostic was coined by Huxley to stand as simply meaning I don't know. You can go anywhere – go to wikipedia on "atheism" and its definition is a positive assertion that there is no god(s). That is simply not how people are using it. Now I come across more and more people saying, well of course I never said I'm a knowing atheist, I'm an "agnostic atheist." You know what, that term "agnostic atheist" is a newer term. I certainly totally respect agnostics. Einstein said the same thing – you can call him an agnostic but not a "professional atheist" like the kind that go around professing atheism. If you really "don't know" why not just call yourself an agnostic, or if you prefer say "agnostic atheist." And I'm not blaming anyone here on this page of posters, but there are people who just say they are atheist and when someone says why do you claim to know, they jump all over them and say I didn't claim to I'm agnostic. Again, this is pointless argument, pointless confusion, pointless semantics. Just say if you're agnostic or at least say agnostic atheist.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  10. SaalJ

    Model Christian: Commit your life to helping the poor, hungry and sick.

    Model Atheist: Commit your life to witty punditry, become a prolific polemist and die early from cigarettes and booze.

    December 18, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Yet here you are, posting away. Why is that?

      December 18, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • Thackarey

      SaalJ, Bill Gates, an atheist, recently done more for the poor and suffering people of the world than most Christians in history combined.

      And if your god existed with the pleasant characteristics that deluded Christians claim he has, why the heck hasn't your god done away with all that suffering, and why hasn't he provided for the poor?

      Seems like a pretty pathetic, ineffective god that you've made for your foolish self. Try on some reailty next time.

      December 18, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • Thackarey

      SaalJ, Bill Gates, an atheist, recently has done more for the poor and suffering people of the world than most Christians in history combined.

      And if your god existed with the pleasant characteristics that deluded Christians claim he has, why the heck hasn't your god done away with all that suffering, and why hasn't he provided for the poor?

      Seems like a pretty pathetic, ineffective god that you've made for your foolish self. Try on some reailty next time.

      December 18, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • SaalJ

      Who said I believed in god?

      December 18, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • BucketDrop

      SaalJ, you make a fascinating point. "Christian" has a big moral wrapper around the term. "Atheist" does not have this moral wrapper, but simply means someone who does not believe is some deity. So many Christians forget that Atheism does not replace Christianity with any new moral compass. That is Humanism's job (or some other personal moral stance). Better to model the ideal Christian with the ideal Secular Humanist.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • Charlie

      Do the billions committed to charity by Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Ted Turner and other wealthy atheists count for anything?

      Or was I just confused about your message?

      December 20, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • SaalJ

      @BucketDrop Good point. I guess the comparison came to mind because the blog entry spoke of Hitchen's censure of Mother Teresa.

      As far as someone being in the right place at the right time, having a great idea, and making so much money they could never spend it, that doesn't make them a great person. If they donate $100 million to a Haitian charity, someone has to be on the ground doing the work to help others.

      December 20, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
  11. lolo

    He was a great writer. He was thoughtful and thought provoking and always made me smile at his turn of a phrase. I looked forward to his articles and his intelligence. The world is little dimmer in his passing. My thoughts are with his family. I hope he is at peace.

    December 18, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
  12. T

    Isn't it ironic that those that suffer from the delusion of belief in the supernatural need constant reaffirmation. Those that are confident and base their existence on logic and fact, don't need it.

    The fact this writer loved or hated Hitchens, was not especially important to Christopher. Having someone's approval was not needed in the same way the religious require it.

    Hitchens would say, "If you have a personal relationship with an all knowing and personal god, who answers your prayers and gives you personal attention, this should make you happy.....but it doesn't. Because they can not be happy until I believe it too."

    December 18, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • BucketDrop

      Hmm, if Hitchens did say this, then I might have to disagree with him. As an atheist myself, I still see that there is an inherent human desire to make others part of our "in" group or to constantly reevaluate where we are in our thinking. I humbly submit all of our (atheist) posts on this site as partial proof that we, as human beings, wish to socialize our way of thinking.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  13. Asylum52

    First, Stephen got the name of the book wrong that he was supposedly panning – it is "god is not Great" not "God is not Great." Secondly, as is the tendency for so many to do when they belittle the work of others, they just say "I didn't like it" or in Prothero's case, "Hitchens' didn't understand religion." Especially when he has such a profound pulpit to espouse his views, he really couldn't go into some depth about why he didn't like Hitchens' work?

    December 18, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
  14. just helping out

    EvolvedDNA, As I understand it I think Captain America is suggesting you eat dog waste. Kind of appropriate considering your previous reply. Hope this helps you understand.

    December 18, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • evolvedDNA

      JHO..Found your reply still not sure what capo is on about though...what i was trying to convey, perhaps not that well, was that with out a dog having a movement.. lets say for the sake of civility, the dog would die,, so dog waste is relevant to the dog at least. Why capo thinks i want to eat it is bizarre.. i have had Saint Bernards and Newfoundlands so never ask for s stool in my house, always a chair! captain america is not always coherent or on message and just fires of at random times for no reason.

      December 19, 2011 at 12:52 am |
    • captain america

      bon apet ite. There's your sign

      December 19, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • EvolvedDNA

      @ca..bon jour mon amis

      December 19, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  15. Cdonnelly

    If anyone needs help with Hitchens and other'nonbelievers' (dummies like Dawkins-sic) just see the lovely religious mind behind theirrationale. A fan of Falwell no doubt.

    December 18, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • just wondering

      Where did Irrational state their beliefs?

      December 18, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  16. Brad

    I found Christopher Hitchens interesting and challenging, and I'm all the better for having heard what he had to say. What I wish for him now is all the best: grace and mercy from God. May he receive it just as I hope to.

    December 18, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Mercy? If your god is a judge, then the fact that he's missing should disqualify him from the bench.

      December 18, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • o.k.

      @Enjay...God's not missing...your're just not looking.

      December 18, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • Elwood P. Dowd

      o.k. -

      Yep, "God" is standing right there next to my invisible 6' 3.5" tall rabbit named Harvey... you just gotta look.

      December 18, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Thanks for the pleasant notion @o.k., but I've looked for decades. You don't think that's the first thing I tried? I looked, and there's nothing there. If he exists, and cares whether I think he does, then he knows what to do. The ball is in his court.

      December 18, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • Thackarey

      Elwood, great comment. And I bet Harvey has better hearing than Christian god, who seems utterly and completely deaf as well as being silent and inactive for thousands of years, the lazy swine.

      December 18, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
    • TR6

      @o.k.:”@Enjay...God's not missing...your're just not looking.”

      UFOs are real…your’re just not looking

      December 19, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  17. TheRationale

    So perhaps atheists think they're smarter than religious people. Alright, perhaps they're pompous. Let's investigate why. Why do they feel smarter? Because they don't believe in magic, nor do they believe things for which there exists no evidence.

    I think their smugness is a bit justified. Just a little bit.

    December 18, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • TheIrrationale

      Young Christopher Hitchens is looking real smug. Oh wait, that's a permanent expression, that lying suc ker is dead.

      December 18, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Answer

      @TheIrrationale

      It's good that you admit that Christopher's life had a huge impact on your life. I'm glad he p-i-s-s-e-d off so many of you religious freaks. 🙂

      December 18, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • TheIrrationale

      Never heard of him until he showed up dead on these blogs. That would be zero impact, even less for you.

      December 18, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Rainer paints himself into a corner

      Anyone who never heard of Hitchens should crawl back into their hole. Some people are too stupid to live.

      December 18, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Getting hold of God

      There is plenty of evidence for the existence of God - the kind of evidence that is used in courtrooms every day. It's the testimony of witnesses. I'm not saying you have to believe it, but that's no reason to sneer at people who do. Too many of the posts on this blog project the impression that the debate is between idiots and morons, because that's what you keep calling each other. Peace, people. http://gettingholdofgod.wordpress.com

      December 18, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • TheIrrationale

      At last report it was your boy Hitchens who is in need of a hole.

      December 18, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • TheRationale

      Ah, the old witness testimony defense of God.

      Well then, by your logic, we should believe in Allah and Vishnu and Zeus and Thor. They've all been given plenty of witness testimony.

      December 18, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Answer

      You religious people should watch the video wherein "Hitchens debates Frank Turek : (Topic) does god exist".

      There is a hilarious statement made by Turek in that he asserts (around the 1hr and 9 minute mark) that when the projected heat death of our universe comes to be – that a being (his reference to god) will intervene on our human behalf. It's so hilarious that people in religion can make these crackpot assertions without proof. The need for salvation is so clear.

      In science we can "predict/project/plan out/figure out" the trajectory of the oncoming collision between our Milky Way galaxy and the Andromeda galaxy and the eventual heat death of universe but the religious crackpots will make a "for certain" assertion that humans will survive with an intervention from a divine being in that time. Just for our sake! That is too rich.
      Can you actually believe that is the new believe in christian religion? I didn't even know that.

      No one can even be certain that we as a species will be "human" nor will we even have religions! Yet they want to secure -not only their own deaths- but to make a plea for a long future oncoming generation (yet to be born) – beyond a million generations in the future- that they will be given an intervention! How silly are those religious folks?

      Here is the link for that full length video to watch: http://vimeo.com/1904911
      I can clearly say that religion is for those really insecure.

      December 18, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Get hold of god, are you auditioning for both lead roles in the next Dumb & Dumber movie? Testimony is not evidence! Testimony backed up by verifiable independent factual evidence might sway a judge but there is none of that when it comes to religion in general and The Babble specifically.

      December 18, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Yes gman, there are mysteries on the periphery. And that's the precise border that christians and other religions cross - into the unknown, and then synthesize and fabricate a story about what's over there. And then they confidently assert that what they've invented is the truth.

      I'm not bitter, I just take issue with that worldview trying to inject itself into the government of the country in which I live. Otherwise I'd have nothing whatsoever to say about it. It's more like a concern - not a bitterness.

      December 18, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • Thackeray

      gman, you said "The Christian worldview most things are explained cogently through science,reason, history, and experience but there remains unkowns at the periphery".

      That's a statement I'd like to agree with, but I can't because the Christian worldview is very plainly at odds with science, reason, history, and experience. Christian doctrine even contradicts itself on most issues or just doesn't get into specifics and is pretty muddy and subject to interpretation. So, you can find support for pretty much anything you want to find in it, as the more extreme folk often do. As for the unknowns, simply admitting that they are unknowns would be a big step forward in religions generally.

      I appreciate your need for wishful thinking, but I think you need to look more carefully your religious beliefs. I really don't think you'll find any science in there, at least, not any that would stand up to basic peer review processes.

      December 18, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • TR6

      @Getting hold of God:”There is plenty of evidence for the existence of God – the kind of evidence that is used in courtrooms every day. It's the testimony of witnesses”

      There is also extensive eye witness evidence for the existence of UFOs, big foot, the loch Ness monster, ghosts… and I put your god on the same list as everything else that has NOTHING but eye witness evidence.

      December 19, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  18. Rainer Braendlein

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Q8ESzK5pCw&t=2m7s

    December 18, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Congratulations! Looks like your indoctrination is complete. You will be a steady source of income to the church for years to come, and all they had to do was to make up a bunch of stuff.

      December 18, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • gman

      enjay, "make a bunch of stuff up" ... hmmm like most atheist you sound bitter. For Christianity joy is the central reality and sorrow is the periphery – for atheists it is just the opposite. The Christian worldview most things are explained cogently through science,reason, history, and experience but there remains unkowns at the periphery

      December 18, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • Mildred the Mouth

      gman,
      The Christian myth may explain most things, but the explanation, fundamentally is based on a myth, or it would not require faith. You choose to abandon reason. But as long as you're joyful, (happy), that's what it's all about, isn't it. Whatever makes you feel good. That's the bottom line.

      December 18, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  19. Reality

    Hitchens, Prothero, Crossan, Ludemann, et al in summary form thereby saving you from anymore time thinking about religion or buying books on said topic, Happy Winter Holidays to one and all !!!!:

    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 11:53 am |
  20. Rainer Braendlein

    @Brad

    "Is sin intrinsic to us or is it something that lives within us apart from our nature?"

    Hypothesis:

    Adam and Eve committed the first sin, when they were not yet in the sinful state like we. That is hard to understand. However, yet before the Fall of Man something was wrong with Adam: He felt lonely and God had to make the animals and Eve for him. Maybe the whole misery began, because Adam did not maintain his relationship with God. Assumed, Adam had maintained his relationship with God, he had never felt lonely, because God's presence is fully sufficient to make someone happy (the only joy of eternity will be God himself and there will be no more marriage and gender).

    We get born into this world and behave like Adam. We don't seek God's countenance, but we focus on earthly things. Thus, not living in connection with the source of life, which is God, we are damned to do works of death, which are called sins

    December 18, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • Mildred the Mouth

      How could something possibly be wrong with Adam before the Fall ? God must have made a defective creature ? No ? And did you read the part where god paraded all the other creatures before Adam ? Genesis says "yet none of them proved to be a acceptable mate for him". Sounds like he had a good time checking out the possibilities.

      December 18, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Rainer. the whole misery began because humans invented gods and then later invented sin to control the masses. Religions are death cults that enjoy condemning those who do not believe as they do to "eternal damnation". Add that to the fact that religions discourage discourse about their positions, because has been shown here there is no evidence of any of it, it is easy to see why people can be encouraged to believe. What you claim is only based on what you have read, not on any evidence or proof.. yet you talk like it is fact...those who are easily scared will fall in line...

      December 18, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • tallulah13

      It sounds more likely that you are making up sins so that people will guilted into following your particular brand of religion. There were thousands of gods before yours even popped up on the scene, and as many creation myths as there have been cultures. Yours is just another story created by people who could not understand how we got here. We have a better understanding of the nature of existence now, so any point about Adam or Eve is moot, because they didn't exist.

      December 18, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      @Mildred the Mouth

      We have to accept the fact that Adam was not content with the mere presence of God. That is a mystery.The whole content of the Bible makes it clear that there is actually no greater joy for a man then God's presence. Adam failt to enjoy God.

      Genesis 1: 18:

      And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

      That does not mean that God's Creation was not very good or not perfect, but obviously Adam felt lonely. Adam did not enjoy the greatest good of all goods, which is God himself. This was Adams decision as a free human being. God had not created a human robot, but a free human being with a free will. Regretably Adam neglected his friendship with God and that caused that he could be seduced by the serpent together with Eve.

      December 18, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Rainer..so your god creates a human, then thinks "Oh dear hes lonely better do some thing else forgot about that!....lets invents another being.". why did not god make him perfect to start with .. perhaps with out the need for company, or food ( that eliminates starvation right there) God could, according to you do what ever he wanted with a human creation, yet he creates a being that can be explained using evolution...far from perfect. And the serpent... sorry Rainer, you are a product of generations of those who do not question.. a snake come on ...The god you have invented is such so inept.

      December 18, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      @EvolvedDNA

      "perhaps with out the need for company,"

      That would have been a soulless human robot. A world of human robots? How nasty!

      I thank God, that he has given me a soul and longing for company.

      December 18, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Sue

      @Rainer Braendlein
      "We have to accept the fact that Adam was not content with the mere presence of God. That is a mystery."

      "We" don't have to accept this as fact. Only people such as yourself who assume it must all be true, and ultimately make sense, MUST accept that this is actually a fact. Nice that you can push off any sparks of doubt that your mind may have by rationalizing illogical things such as this as a "mystery".

      December 18, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Rainer..human robots.. if that were the case you would not know the difference anyway..the point is that god according to you created "Adam" ( male first ummm...) then after this figured he needed a woman "Eve".... I would have thought that god being perfect would have figured that out in the first place. The longing for company is also evolutionary.. we survive better in a group than individuals...nothing to do with a "soul". If you were correct that would mean other animals alsohave souls, a concept you reject to give humans the superior place in the universe.

      December 18, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Mildred the Mouth

      So he was a fallen creature before the Fall, and was intrinsically defective. That is heresy, good friend. You are saying god makes imperfect creatures. Think, before you talk, sir. BTW, I like the video, but am shocked that someone from a country the produced Beethoven could think that crap is good music. I am thinking that what, in the end , you are saying, when all is said and done, your experience of the universe is a positive one. I think I can "translate" the religious rubbish, and get to that point. I just wonder why some people need all the baggage to say that. Happy Holidays.

      December 18, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Rainer paints himself into a corner

      Evolved DNA is correct. If god is omniscient, then why did he find out after he made Adam, he was lonely ? Shouldn't he have known before, and remedied the situation "apriori" ? The human robot statement is pure Rainer. He generalizes human emotions onto the rest of the universe, including god. What will he say when aliens are found that are both se'xes, and reproduce ase'xually, and do better in isolation ? And what about the Christian hermit saints ? bla bla bla bla.

      December 18, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • captain america

      canadian opinion has all the relevance of dog sh it on these blogs sidewalks. There's your sign

      December 18, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      captain america .. dog sh– is relevant, with out it the dog would die, similar to what appears to be happening to your brain.

      December 18, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • captain america

      Evolved dna , you like it? You eat it, I don't need to step in it. There's your sign

      December 18, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      @ca..ironic name rerally..you may not get it though... anyway not sure what you are really talking about and of what relevance it has to anything. You may have taken one to many of your troll booths on your way to school....

      December 18, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • just helping out

      EvolvedDNA Never wrote here before. Was trying to help you understand and the message ended up by itself.Sorry, hope you find it and it helps.

      December 18, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • Q

      "There's your sign." Really?? Fluffer of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour?

      December 19, 2011 at 12:05 am |
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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.