Answering Christopher Hitchens

Invasion of Iraq Better Behavior
Slobodan Milosevic Morality
Parasites Separation of Church and State
Demonization Divide and Conquer
Turn Right on Red Lynch Mob
William Jennings Bryan Inexorable Logic
Charles Darwin the Liberator Honorary Atheists
Wildly Divergent Accounts Bart Ehrman
Ancient of Days Slavery
Walk the Walk Court-Martial
Vast Erudition Substitutionary Atonement
Bible Study Sabbatai Sevi
Sympathy for the Devil Challenge
Age of Faith

Invasion of Iraq

Christopher Hitchens was one of the 'New Atheists' who came to public prominence as vocal supporters of the unprovoked invasion of Iraq. Part of his indictment against the Christian faith is that: "Most churches opposed the effort to remove Saddam Hussein, and the pope disgraced himself utterly by issuing a personal invitation to the wanted war criminal Tariq Aziz..." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 34). No doubt wanted war criminal, and nominal Christian, Tariq Aziz presents a problem for a man who is obliged to pretend that Saddam Hussein was a Muslim fundamentalist:

Although he has passed away from esophageal cancer, I've left this page up lest anyone mistake his still-in-print musings for incisive reasoning. This author's enthusiasm for war follows in part from his contempt for humanity and his low estimation of the worth of his fellow man. Like Colonel Robert Ingersoll, he despises Christian morality. Though it was not Jesus but Moses who said,

"You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD." (Leviticus 19:18).

Like Colonel Ingersoll, he'll have none of it:

  • “The order to 'love thy neighbor as thyself' is too extreme and too strenuous to be obeyed, as is the hard-to-interpret instruction to love others 'as I have loved you.' Humans are not so constituted as to care for others as much as themselves: the thing simply cannot be done (as any intelligent 'creator' would well understand from studying his own design).”
  • (Christopher Hitchens, god is not Great, p. 213).

So after all the necessity that 'regime change' can only be brought about by the sacrifice of tens of thousands of innocent lives is not his problem; he loves his own precious life, not theirs.

Christopher Hitchens wants it understood that, because Saddam Hussein's secular socialist government took on some of the trappings of Islamic fundamentalism, though without any of the substance, Iraqis in general thus took on the negative worth he assigns to confessing Muslims. He imagines that not many young men serving in Iraq's conscript army actually lost their lives vainly resisting foreign invasion:

"When the Coalition forces crossed the Iraqi border, they found Saddam's army dissolving like a sugar lump in hot tea..." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 26)

Would that it were so, but if the reader credits published reports about the casualties suffered by immobile Iraqi forces in face of a technologically vastly superior foe, for example in the fighting over the Baghdad airport road, then we killed a great many brave young men doing no more than defending their country. What right had we to do that? Why was it necessary for democracy of Iraq to rise upon a pile of corpses of young men whose only crime was patriotism?

Noticing that post-invasion Iraq was not the democratic flower garden he and his fellow war promoters promised, he explains that this is because "religion poisons everything."

Better Behavior

Mr. Hitchens fondly hopes that atheism, should it catch on, will inspire people to behave better:

  • “We are reconciled to living only once, except through our children...We speculate that it is at least possible that, once people accepted the fact of their short and struggling lives, they might behave better toward each other and not worse...And we know for a fact that the corollary holds true — that religion has caused innumerable people not just to conduct themselves no better than others, but to award themselves permission to behave in ways that would make a brothel-keeper or an ethnic cleanser raise an eyebrow.”
  • (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' pp. 5-6).

Unfortunately, history, no sentimentalist, gives no one any reason to expect atheist states of the future will behave any better than their predecessors, who inflicted upon the world unprecedented scenes of horror. Was Christopher Hitchens' youthful inspiration, Leon Trotsky, troubled by the body-count the Bolsheviks racked up? To the contrary, Leon Trotsky, born Lev Davidovitch Bronstein, differed from the other Bolsheviks in that he wanted 'permanent revolution,' whereas they were open to the possibility of peaceful co-existence with capitalist countries. Neither faction of Bolsheviks was ever troubled by how much red Russian blood they left staining the snow. If this recalcitrant, unrevolutionary mass ever got in the way of their "Messianic" dream, line 'em up and shoot 'em.

"One of Lenin's great achievements, in my opinion, is to create a secular Russia. The power of the Russian Orthodox Church, which was an absolute warren of backwardness and evil and superstition, is probably never going to recover from what he did to it." (Christopher Hitchens, 'Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism,' Interview.)

Christopher Hitchens has not abandoned Marxism: "I still think like a Marxist in many ways. I think the materialist conception of history is valid." (Christopher Hitchens interview, The Contrarian, by Deborah Solomon, June 2, 2010, New York Times Magazine), though he does not stress these views, perhaps because they would not be popular with his new set of friends. If Trotsky's former disciple and his fellow war enthusiast Sam Harris are typical, the new wave of atheism will prove no more of a blessing to humanity than the last:

When we count up the sheer numbers of victims, unprecedented in human history, which the atheist monsters Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Enver Hoxha, Josef Stalin and their ilk wracked up during the twentieth century, we must agree with Christopher Hitchens that:

"It is certainly true that emancipation from religion does not always produce the best mammal either." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 250).

Mr. Hitchens' former hero, Leon Trotsky, never made it up into the socialist pantheon of really high body-counts, but only because his goal of "permanent revolution" struck even the other Communists as blood-thirsty and inhuman. In his hit obituary on Jerry Falwell, Christopher Hitchens treated Rev. Falwell's early racism as, not a mistake on which he later turned his back, but as an abiding temper diagnostic of trouble to come. In a similar vein, Mr. Hitchens' readers must never forget how much stomach for killing it takes to be a Trotskyite. Mr. Hitchens proved himself fully capable of adopting a political program which requires a massive indifference to human life. Later on in his career, he would pretend an interest in human rights and international law. But how little anything had really changed became apparent when the invasion of Iraq loomed on the horizon. Realizing the folks on the ground where the bombs would soon start exploding were predominantly Muslims, a populace he hates, he couldn't wait for the killing to start.

Mr. Hitchens' defense of the atheist body-count is the common-place one: a confused, churning effort to show that communists are really religious people, therefore not his kind of people at all. There is a kernel of truth to this; as Mr. Hitchens himself explains, Marxism is a "Messianic" movement. The only difference between this little "Messianic" cult and other similar ones was their sheer willingness to kill people. The "Messianic" Bolsheviks came into conflict with a people, the Russian Orthodox, who did not share their paradigm. These stubborn people, who were convinced the Messiah had already come, didn't get it. But they proved vulnerable to bullets. To be a Trotskyite you must be willing to snuff out innocent human life. This author was, and is; there is no 'new birth' narrative in this dark life.

The kind of atheists Christopher Hitchens wants to defend, it turns out, are atheists of a kind the world has never yet seen. To the mind of the 'New Atheists,' all religious people are just the same, probably they even look the same. But atheists are quite different from one another and must not ever be lumped together. This is the kernel of a good idea, indeed a Biblical idea. People should be held to account for what they do and say, not for what 'people like that' do and say. 'People like that' is the closest focus atheist judgment can attain, though they will not tolerate being judged by the same standard: 'You did nothing wrong, though someone I think is like you committed a crime. You Baptists burned no heretics, but Torquemada did. He reminds me of you, so you are found guilty.' This is the justice of a lynch mob.

Former Bush speech-writer Michael Gerson praised Christopher Hitchens as "an atheist who is also a moralist." Of course, they all were; no one outdid the Communists for deadly moral earnestness. As Mr. Gerson puts it, "All this fire and bleeding passion would seem to require a moral law, even a holy law. But Hitchens produces outrage, empathy and solidarity without it." (Michael Gerson, 'Christopher Hitchens: A humanist at heart,' The Washington Post, October 15, 2010.) This same "outrage, empathy and solidarity" left behind an unparalleled pile of corpses in the twentieth century. Whence comes it? From no "holy law"; it wells up from the subterranean regions.

When Christopher Hitchens was still a Trotskyite, he was not 'idealistic,' he was not 'well-meaning.' These people saw humanity as fuel for the fire; there was no limit to the number of murders they were willing to commit to feed their insatiable hatred. They were monsters, and no one should ever forget. The Christian who has difficulty hearing the 'New Atheists' say anything other than 'I hate you' is hearing the same old song, but with different verses:

Slobodan Milosevic

Christopher Hitchens offers Slobodan Milosevic, a genocidal monster, as proof that "religion poisons everything:"

  • “Elsewhere in Bosnia-Herzegovina, especially along the river Drina, whole towns were pillaged and massacred in what the Serbs themselves termed 'ethnic cleansing.' In point of fact, 'religious cleansing' would have been nearer the mark. Milosevic was an ex-Communist bureaucrat who had mutated into a xenophobic nationalist...These gangs were made up of religious bigots, often blessed by Orthodox priests and bishops....”
  • (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 21).

In point of fact, as Christopher Hitchens, a professional journalist, is undoubtedly well aware, Slobodan Milosevic was a committed atheist. No preacher spoke at his funeral:

"There were no clergy at the ceremony because Milosevic was an avowed atheist."
('Milosevic buried in quiet ceremony in his hometown,' Last Updated: Saturday, March 18, 2006, CBC News).

The conflict between the Orthodox Serbs and the Bosnian Muslims did originally begin as a religious conflict. Some people saw advancing Islam as the wave of the future and joined their Muslim conquerors; others resisted and remained true to Christianity. Originally, if I am correctly informed, there was no ethnic nor linguistic distance between the Bosnian Serbs and the Bosnian Muslims; these two travelling parties parted ways at the fork in the road made by militant Islam. The Serbs did their duty and remained faithful to God even when that meant suffering. These two groups, whose paths diverged at the road-block of Islamic imperialism, remained estranged even after circumstances changed. Decades of state-sponsored atheism did nothing to reconcile them or patch up their differences. But after long years of repression under an officially atheist regime, the number of baptized Christians in the population is not that impressive. What makes people like the atheist Slobodan Milosevic continue tribal quarrels, not lackadaisically at the age-old tempo but with a renewed vengeance freed from any moral constraints? Why doesn't he look at his neighbors casting hostile and suspicious glances at one another and say, 'I don't have a dog in that fight?' This monster, atheist that he was, never said that. Why not? Why is his tribe good, the other tribe bad?

If I were a Darwinist like Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, perhaps I would say 'the selfish gene.' Disadvantaging, or indeed eliminating, those who are genetically dissimilar from oneself, and giving advantage to those genetically similar, is the way to win this game. Since these authors want to base morality in part on Darwinism, one wonders why they object to genocide. Christopher Hitchens is aware that ethnic loyalties and hostilities continue to hold the field, religion or no religion. He himself tells the story,

  • “In Belfast, I have seen whole streets burned out by sectarian warfare between different sects of Christianity, and interviewed people whose relatives and friends have been kidnapped and killed or tortured by rival religious death squads, often for no other reason than membership of another confession. There is an old Belfast joke about the man stopped at a roadblock and asked his religion. When he replies that he is an atheist he is asked, 'Protestant or Catholic atheist?'"
  • (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 18).

The young hoodlums manning the roadblock care no more about the motorist's religion than Adolf Hitler cared whether the Jews he was gassing had converted to Christianity. They were not asking about religion ultimately, but whether the motorist was the descendant of autochthonous Irish settlers (Catholic) or carpet-bagging English imports (Protestant). They are asking, do you belong to my tribe or a different tribe? Are you like me or unlike me? They do not seek to convert the other group to their viewpoint, they seek to disadvantage the other group in the competition for slices of the economic pie in a stagnant economy. An atheist like Slobodan Milosevic has not discarded his tribal loyalties nor his ingrained tendency to favor those people who are most like himself. Christianity cannot accept the blame for every atheist mass murderer who belongs to an ethnic group some members of which are Christians. It's not even very many of them any more!

One must concede to Christopher Hitchens there would be less disagreement about religion if everyone became an atheist. This is true. It is also true there would be less disagreement about religion if everyone became a Catholic, or a Salafi Muslim, or a Christian Scientist. All religions happily embrace their own converts. It is an extra benefit if, unlike the 'New Atheists,' they can also get along with those outside. The Trotskyism Mr. Hitchens at one time embraced envisioned a monocultural world. They wanted the revolution to triumph, not in one region at a time, leaving a measure of diversity and pluralism to the rest, but in the whole world; it had to be everything, or nothing. One shudders to think of the extreme violence that would be required to force people, against their will, to stop being what they now are and become something else. But Christopher Hitchens did not shudder. It is probably true that a world painted all in one color would be a world with less conflict. At least for a while. If the whole world were conquered by Salafi Muslims, how long would it take before one dissident sect was fighting another? It did not take long for the guardians of Marxist orthodoxy in the Kremlin to 'excommunicate' the heterodox Marxists who followed Mao Zedong, and Russia and China settled into the stance of hostile powers, for all the world as if communism had not eradicated war. In the wake of the brutal killing fields of World War I, Marxism enjoyed a vogue amongst those disgusted by the slaughter. The Marxists boldly promised the end of war, claiming, as they did, that all wars are produced by greedy capitalist profit-seekers. That was the promise, but the accomplishment fell somewhat short. Even in those regions over which they exercised absolute control, they put a lid on ethnic conflict, they did not resolve it. And the means by which they achieved even this intermission was relentless repression, a world of secret police and concentration camps. As soon as communism fell and the lid fell off the cauldron of differing ethnicities which is Europe, ethnic conflict resumed as if it had never stopped.

The Nazis perceived enmity on the part of the Catholic bishops: "The Catholic clergy is collaborating with the enemies of our country in a truly treasonable manner." (The Goebbels Diaries, edited by Louis P. Lochner, p. 429). Meanwhile, readers dependent upon atheist authorities like Richard Dawkins learn that Hitler was a devout Catholic. What is the truth of the matter?

Why did atheism not 'work' for Slobodan Milosevic? Why did he continue, liberated from any influence from religious 'poison,' to champion his own ethnic group above all others? But when did atheism ever 'work' for anyone? Are the 'new atheists' remarkable for their love and acceptance of people who are not just like them, or are they not rather remarkable for their corrosive, insatiable and unappeasable hatred of people who are not like them?

What, after all, fueled their enthusiasm for a war that was not in our nation's interest? Honesty and integrity compel us to disclose our vested interests. If I own stock in XYZ Corp., then when I praise the company to the skies and recommend the stock to potential investors for its limitless potential, I ought to disclose my own holdings. People have the right to know, so that they can evaluate my comments in light of my own interest in the rise or decline in the stock price of XYZ Corp. Back when the mainstream media were cheerleading shamelessly for the Iraq war, they used to drag out Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens with the breathless introduction, 'Isn't this wonderful? These men are atheists, but they're 100 per cent for this marvellous war!' They should have explained, in the interests of full disclosure, that both these men are of Jewish ethnicity. Though neither follows the Mosaic religion, there is nothing to prevent them from emigrating to Israel, because they are eligible. At least some of those who favored this unjust, unprovoked war were influenced by the fact that Iraq's very large conventional army, though no threat to the United States, was a bona fide threat to Israel. Weakening this potential adversary, which was fully accomplished in the opening days of the war, met their war aim. Degrading the war-making capability of a potential adversary is a classical war aim; it is something, unlike bringing in peace and democracy, which military might can actually accomplish. Pointing this out about the 'Neoconservatives,' who championed the same policies and displayed the same demographic profile, was neither unfair nor out of bounds; pointing out potential bias is a legitimate concern. Do atheists Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, like the atheist Slobodan Milosevic, continue to think that their own people are worth just a little bit more than others who are not like them? That people to whom they are related are more sympathetic than strangers? Do they protest that, being atheists, they cannot be suspected of tribal loyalties? Then neither can Slobodan Milosevic, and Ramsey Clark must have been right about him. Why doesn't the media, when they bang the drum for war, ever point out the vested interest of their pets and favorites? When being sold a war, the public, the buyer, has a right to be skeptical; questions that would otherwise be rude and impertinent ought to be asked. The next time they come up with a penny-bright, shiny new war that will accomplish wonderful things, the public ought to just say no.

The next time these two men stand up to demand we start a war not in our national interest, hopefully the media will find the courage and integrity to do their job. Who can doubt they're going to try it again? Iran is next up at the plate: "On arrival, Ahmadinejad took a scroll of paper and thrust it down the aperture, so as to update the occulted one on Iran's progress in thermonuclear fission and the enrichment of uranium." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great, p. 279). Although admittedly an accusation of bias rests uneasily seated next to self-loathing,-- the astonished reader can only gasp at "Sniffing this insanitary barbarian, etc." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 275), nevertheless it ought to be disclosed. Neither Harris nor Hitchens can in the end be thought motivated by philosemitism, given that their 'religion poisons everything' condemnation falls with equal vengeance on the Hebrew religion as on any other. So what motivates them to bang the war-drum? To be sure, the continued assault by Muslim terrorists against humanity frustrates us all. But the answer cannot have been the Iraq War, which did nothing to weaken Muslim terrorism. Their love for war is powered in the end by hatred of the other. Isn't this where we came in? How can the remedy for the disease possibly be a larger dose of what caused it?

If the autochthonous Irish and the immigrant Irish of English background were both of the same confession, peace between them would be easier to achieve, because there would be active pressure for peace from the church. If both groups were Roman Catholic, or if both were Anglican, peace likely would long ago have been attained, because the church would have worked for it, as Paul encouraged Euodias and Syntyche to patch up their quarrel: "I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord." (Philippians 4:2). No one likes to see brethren quarrel. The same is true of Islam, which is a force for peace amongst Muslims, though not outside. The Christian church advocates for peace also outside, but not as forcefully. If Euodias were quarrelling with a pagan woman, Paul would not likely have taken the time to mention it. When two rival sects do not see each other as part of the same body, then their witness for peace is muted. One could wish that the church in Northern Ireland were a consistent witness for peace, rather than, as it sometimes is, the welcoming home of demagogues. The conflict between the original inhabitants and the new-comers cannot be blamed on religion; the Helots didn't hate and fear the Spartans because they practiced a different religion. The Helots knew they were there first and would always know that; the Spartans could not turn their backs on them because they knew it too.

The fact that there are two different groups of people living in Northern Ireland with two very different histories and gene pools is in part a legacy of excessive entanglement between church and state. But recall, the advent of atheist school instruction and propaganda in Yugoslavia did not extinguish the ill feeling between the descendants of those who had resisted the Muslim conquerors and those who had cooperated and benefited. All it did is remove the religious penumbra from these occurrences, so that people no longer felt it enough to say their ancestors had died as martyrs. If Christopher Hitchens' dreams came true and Northern Ireland adopted atheism en masse, would there be any Slobodan Milosevic waiting in the wings to release the moral brake and take the conflict to new heights? Lacking any evidence that atheists do not engage in tribal warfare, and in the face of considerable evidence to the contrary, the 'sectarian' conflict in Northern Ireland cannot be taken as proof that "religion poisons everything."


In his debate with Christopher Hitchens at the New York Public Library, Rev. Al Sharpton wondered from what source, if not God, morality would flow:

“'If there is no God and if there is no supreme mechanism that governs the world, what makes right right and what makes wrong wrong?' Mr. Sharpton asked. 'Why don’t we just go by whoever is the strongest in any period in history?'”

“He added, 'On one hand, we’re going to argue God doesn’t exist; on the other hand we’re going to call people wicked. Wicked according to whom, and according to what? It would be based on whoever has power at that time.'”

(May 7, 2007, 9:59 pm, 'Hitchens, Sharpton and Faith'
By Sewell Chan, New York Times blog)

Christopher Hitchens' view of nature is bleak; he sees it as hostile and amoral:

  • “I had not then visited scenes of nature where almost everything was hideously indifferent or hostile to human life, if not life itself.”
  • (Christopher Hitchens, god is not Great, p. 3).

Inasmuch as he imagines us to be the product of random mutations interacting with this bleak and hostile environment, his hope that his emptiness can produce morality seems fond and foolish indeed:

"Now at last you can be properly humble in the face of your maker, which turns out not to be a a 'who,' but a process of mutation with rather more random elements than our vanity might wish." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 9).

How will nature red in tooth and claw produce the 'better behavior' for which he hopes? He hates most of the people on this earth and nature besides, yet he hopes for better things? On what basis? His book is filled with imprecations against his fellow man, like "...from the patterns of behavior that are observable, we may infer a design that makes planet earth...a prison colony and lunatic asylum that is employed as a dumping ground by far-off and superior civilizations." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great, p. 81). When he feigns compassion for some afflicted group, the reader is bound to suspect it is only in hope of putting some other group in a bad light, because that is what he lives for; vitriol is his mother's milk.

Like Colonel Robert Ingersoll, Christopher Hitchens despises Christian morality. He perceives the aspiration after inward purity as "tyranny:"

"The essential principle of totalitarianism is to make laws that are impossible to obey...The commandment at Sinai which forbade people even to think about coveting goods is the first clue. It is echoed in the New Testament by the injunction which says that a man who looks upon a woman in the wrong way has actually committed adultery already." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 212).

But he does not want to do away with all morality; he wants to retain the prohibitions against murder and theft, while eliminating all rules on consensual sexuality except 'anything goes.' His supporting argumentation on this latter point is an 'Emulate the Hero-Worker' campaign like the Maoists used to run. They used to bring to the public attention someone or another who had done an exemplary deed, and exhort all and sundry to emulate that person. The hero-worker we are to emulate is, oddly enough, the British philosopher A. J. Ayer, the man who made the great discovery that philosophical questions are language errors. People who ask, 'Is there a God?,' are deceived by the surface resemblance of that question to 'Is there a tea-cup on the table?,' into thinking they are asking a meaningful question, but the question is, as A. J. Ayer discovered, meaningless because not empirically verifiable. So the response British academics were thenceforward to make to any philosophical question was Miss Grundy's scold, 'But we don't say that, dear.' With this insight British philosophy reached the point of utter nullity, having voiced the boxer's cry, 'No mas.' People went on asking these questions, as they always had, while neglecting to involve those British academics who had made it clear they had nothing to contribute to the discussion. Questions of faith are more like the question, 'What is on the dark side of the moon?' They are empirically verifiable, but not immediately nor easily. The empirical protocol to follow runs,

  1. Wait 500 years.
  2. Look around.
  3. Do you see flames?

It comes as surprise to discover that someone like A. J. Ayer possessed sufficient imagination to lead a sexually immoral life, but he did, according to Christopher Hitchens:

"Now, Freddie had certainly broken most commandments respecting the sexual code as adumbrated from Sinai. He was, in a way, justly famous for this. But he was an excellent teacher, a loving parent, and a man who spent much of his spare time pressing for human rights and free speech. To say that his life was an immoral one would be a travesty of the truth." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 186).

Since it remains an utter mystery why anyone would want to emulate A. J. Ayer, this argument cannot be characterized as compelling. Can Mr. Hitchens possibly believe there is a 'political activist' exception, so that anyone who spends his "spare time" agitating for a political agenda, even a confused, self-contradictory and immoral one like his own, gets a free pass to join the celestial choirs?

Thus is discarded sexual morality. And not for Christopher Hitchens, a war enthusiast, any principle that makes for peace, not even 'Don't commence unprovoked military aggression against a sovereign nation which has not attacked you.' None of this 'turn the other cheek' stuff, forget about loving your enemy. He will keep only the bare minimum without which civil society cannot stand: no murder, no theft. On what basis can he retain even this minimalist subset of Christian ethics? He offers no rational explanation; when push comes to shove he reverts to the children's song, 'Let Your Conscience be Your Guide:'

"Ordinary conscience will do, without any heavenly wrath behind it." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 214).

Now the Christian who hears in his conscience the voice of God implanted within us, "the work of the law written in their hearts" (Romans 2:15), has reason to heed this inner voice. But why those of his tendency should pay heed to the fictive voice of an imaginary god he does not trouble to explain. If I heard a voice in my head telling me what to do, I would inquire 'who are you, and why should I listen to you?' By what authority does this inner voice, the conscience, so deeply embedded as not to need any auricular manifestation, issue its commands? If I should for one moment suspect my guiding voice was the 'selfish gene,' I would protest, 'Pardon me, but aren't you the party who told the parasitic wasp to lay its eggs inside a living creature?'

Given Christopher Hitchens' Darwinism, one cannot imagine who he thinks speaks through the inner voice of conscience other than the 'selfish gene.' When this imaginary interlocutor speaks, counselling us to sacrifice ourselves for two second-cousins and one great-aunt, should we, as reasoning beings, listen or cover our ears? Then was Alcestis, who sacrificed herself for a husband, an unprofitable vehicle and a fool? He is adept at silencing the voice, because it really does say a lot more than just 'don't murder, don't steal.' But when not silencing it, he promotes it as the atheist's answer to morality. How does he know what it is? What does he think it is? On those occasions when he listens, is he unwittingly following God's commands? What you serve and follow, whose dictates you unquestioningly obey, that is your Lord and Master; heaven help you if it's a dollop of protoplasm, a 'selfish gene.'

The Beauty of Holiness

Christopher Hitchens is aware of the beauty in the world, indeed, he imagines himself something special because he sees this:

  • “If you will devote a little time to studying the staggering photographs taken by the Hubble telescope, you will be scrutinizing things that are far more awesome and mysterious and beautiful -- and more chaotic and overwhelming and forbidding -- than any creation or 'end of days' story."
  • (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 8)

  • “The eyes were adjusted to nature, and not the other way about.”
  • (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 3).

We don't see nature as beautiful because we have adjusted to it, but because it is objectively so. Isn't this an odd thing: a wondrous work of art, stunning in its beauty, staggering in its unending and gratuitous order, yet without any artist to take a bow! To credit a 'blind' process with producing beauty is much like crediting a blind artist for a masterwork of painting.

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

"Wherefore then did He make them so beautiful? That He might display His own wisdom and the excellency of His power; that from everything we might learn His glory. For not “the Heavens only declare the glory of God,” but the earth too; and this David declared when he said, “Praise the Lord, ye fruitful trees, and all cedars.” For some by their fruits, some by their greatness, some by their beauty, send up praise to Him who made them: this too being a sign of great excellency of wisdom, when even upon things that are very vile (and what can be viler than that which today is, and tomorrow is not?) He pours out such great beauty." (John Chrysostom, Homily 22, Matthew 6:28-29).


People like Christopher Hitchens congratulate themselves when they look over the shoulder of some Christian artist or poet and experience a little thrill up the spine:

  • “To us no spot on earth is or could be 'holier' than another: to the ostentatious absurdity of the pilgrimage, or the plain horror of killing civilians in the name of some sacred wall or cave or shrine or rock, we can counterpose a leisurely or urgent walk from one side of the library or the gallery to another, or to lunch with an agreeable friend, in pursuit of truth or beauty.”
  • (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 6).

Do they linger long at the lovely Socialist Realist works with their loving depictions of tractors and farm-hands with massive fore-arms? I suspect not. Atheist art must ever cry out for government subsidy, flourishing best when viewers are coerced. Atheists are people who cannot produce the only thing they value in life; they borrow from others the beauty they flatter themselves for appreciating. They depend upon the people they hate. What should we call such people, but 'parasites'?

Christopher Hitchens and like-minded people latch not only onto Christian culture as unhelpful parasites, but also onto Christian morality. Though there is much of Christian morality they want to discard, for instance most everything pertaining to consensual sexual behavior, there is also much they want to retain. Societies derived from a Christian heritage are kinder and gentler than autonomous pagan societies, much less the killing fields of atheism. There is often something about this they like, though they cannot justify these usages from their own principles. It remains to be seen whether Christian civilization can continue indefinitely suspended in thin air, resting upon nothing, though some of the European countries are now performing this experiment.

Christians have always summoned the testimony of nature of behalf of their cause: "David says that the heavens declare the glory of God. And how do they do that? for the heavens do not speak. It is the beauty of the heavens and the firmament, for they invite men to admire the greatness of God and preach His wonderful works." (Francis de Sales, Sermon for the Feast of Pentecost, The Great Orators of the Reformation Era, Kindle location 2104). Is this all a misunderstanding?:

Gratuitous Order Definition
Design and Tracery Tiny World
Picture-Book Unknown God
Pearl of Great Price

Separation of Church and State

This atheist author is a wonderful argument against State-sponsored faith. He is the product of a system where religion was "compulsory and enforced by the state." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 2). He observed at a young age the hypocrisy of those state functionaries compelled under this system to serve as his tutors in religious matters:

"The headmaster, who led the daily services and prayers and held the Book, and was a bit of a sadist and a closeted homosexual...was giving a no-nonsense talk to some of us one evening." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 4).

When people who have no Christian testimony to give are left in charge of religious instruction, what result could be expected? He noticed likewise the "obvious fact that religion is used by those in temporal charge to invest themselves with authority." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not great,' p. 4). Certainly Caesar's imposition upon the church produces monsters:

Though he is a best-selling author, Mr. Hitchens imagines that somebody wants to oppress him; he demands, "that they in turn leave me alone." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 13). Attacking religion has made him wealthy; does he really want to be left alone? He parasitically enjoys the freedom earlier generations of Christians won when they restored Caesar to his proper place. This man, who hates those who are unlike him and misses no opportunity of slander, is no teacher of toleration. If it were left to people like him, we'd be back to the Gulag.

Those Christians who find themselves in his company are the ones who ought to cringe, because statistically Christians are at much higher risk of martyrdom at the hands of atheists than are atheists at the hands of Christians. The Bolsheviks murdered quite a few Christians, as did Mao Zedong; and how many atheists did the Inquisition send to their reward? One springs to mind, Giordano Bruno, and even he denied he was an atheist. He did however identify God with the universe, or indeed with matter, which the Inquisition perceived as a semi-transparent cloak for atheism. The overwhelming majority of victims of the Inquisition were theists. Indeed, those Christians who ventured to translate the Bible into the vernacular fell victim, because these same Inquisitors understood that, once that got out, their days were numbered. On what basis does Christopher Hitchens appropriate to himself the sufferings of a group of people he despises, namely theists? He might as well bewail the Holocaust; that is, if he can stop telling tall tales about Jewish sexual and sanitary habits long enough to find time to do so. He blames the crime victims for their own victimization; a style of polemic with a long, but not pretty, history.

Christopher Hitchens transports us to a land of make-believe where the Inquisition is a historical fact, but the only historical fact. The people who defied the Lord's commands are marked down as His truest followers, indeed His only followers, even while they were murdering those walking the way He laid down. A church like my own Baptist church, which set out to follow the Lord's commands and thus founded no Inquisition, is attached by his violent hands to the same Inquisition which murdered their precursors, sewn up into their side willing or not. The actual history of this blood-drenched globe, in which the atheist regimes of the twentieth century racked up a body-count of Christians orders of magnitude higher than any body-count of atheists ever compiled by theists, falls by the way-side. Christians should loudly protest this gross and deliberate slander. If he will not answer for the atheist crimes of the twentieth century, because he does not agree with those people (he preferred Leon Trotsky's call for 'permanent revolution' to the Bolsheviks' peaceful co-existence), fine; neither can he call Christians to account for acts they neither commit nor condone.


Though his Christian neighbors have done him no harm, Christopher Hitchens is convinced that they want to kill him:

"The true believer cannot rest until the whole world bows the knee. Is it not obvious to all, say the pious, that religious authority is paramount, and that those who decline to recognize it have forfeited their right to exist?" (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 31).
"All religions take care to silence or to execute those who question them (and I choose to regard this recurrent tendency as a sign of their weakness rather than their strength.)" (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 125).

One is reminded of Adolf Hitler's conviction that Germany's Jewish population represented a threat against which Germany must defend itself. The way to incite a pogrom is to awaken fear, not contempt.

And what, let us remind ourselves, is so bad about religion? Why, that it facilitates demonizing people:

"...[R]eligion has been an enormous multiplier of tribal suspicion and hatred, with members of each group talking of the other in precisely the tones of the bigot. [...] Catholics are dirty and have too many children. Muslims breed like rabbits and wipe their bottoms with the wrong hand...And so it goes on." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 35).

Indeed it does go on, in the 'new atheism.' The precursors for the school of literature which Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens practice is the old hate literature, whose authors admonished the public to hate and fear black people, Jews, Chinese people, etc. One cannot locate any other precursor for a moral discourse in which the guilt of any crime committed by by any member of a large group ('religious people') is ascribed to each individual member of the group, guilty or innocent.

Incidentally, it isn't 'religion' which ever taught the problem is Northern Ireland is that the Roman Catholics residents breed like rabbits. That would be his hero, Charles Darwin, the Great Emancipator:

"Thus the reckless, degraded, and often vicious members of society, tend to increase at a quicker rate than the provident and generally virtuous members. Or as Mr. Greg puts the case: 'The careless, squalid, unaspiring Irishman multiplies like rabbits: the frugal, foreseeing, self-respecting, ambitious Scot, stern in his morality, spiritual in his faith, sagacious and disciplined in his intelligence, passes his best years in struggle and in celibacy, marries late, and leaves few behind him. Given a land originally peopled by a thousand Saxons and a thousand Celts- and in a dozen generations five-sixths of the population would be Celts, but five-sixths of the property, of the power, of the intellect, would belong to the one-sixth of Saxons that remained. In the eternal 'struggle for existence,' it would be the inferior and less favoured race that had prevailed-- and prevailed by virtue not of its good qualities but of its faults.'" (Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, Chapter V).

Divide and Conquer

Jesus prayed for the unity of His disciples:

"And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:..." (John 17:22).

But this unity is often not apparent, as the adversary has noticed;

  • “Religion is man-made. Even the men who made it cannot agree on what their prophets or redeemers or gurus actually said or did...I leave it to the faithful to burn each other's churches and mosques and synagogues, which they can always be relied upon to do.”
  • (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' pp. 10-11).

Turn Right on Red

We learn from Christopher Hitchens that the larger circle of Christian morality, which envelops his smaller circle of 'don't murder, don't steal,' has attained its circumference because the law-giver,— Jesus, Moses?— has "a repressed desire to participate:"

  • “Nothing optional -- from homosexuality to adultery -- is ever made punishable unless those who do the prohibiting (and exact the fierce punishments) have a repressed desire to participate.”
  • (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 40).

So presumably the Solons of those states where it is still illegal to turn right on red have a repressed desire to turn right on red. But why is it repressed, when they have the god-like power to make it OK?

It will not astonish the reader to discover that Christopher Hitchens does not apply this reasoning to those few optional behaviors which he himself condemns, such as, for example, child molestation. He does not believe that those who condemn child molestation secretly want to rape children, or that they criminalize this behavior in order to repress their own desire to engage in it. Why not?

This paradigm of 'repressed desires' comes from Sigmund Freud, a quack taken very seriously by the atheists, even though his 'talking cure' cured no one. Atheists, it seems cannot ever get enough of pseudo-science:

'Dr.' Freud had a problem: his disciples were all Jewish! His fair-haired boy, the exception, Carl Jung, proved a disappointment when he veered off into theosophy. Why were these ideas widely accepted only in this subset of the population? Because that is where they came from in the first place, but from cultic religion, not 'science.' There were several false Messiahs of a prior era, like Sabbatai Sevi and Jacob Frank, who attracted a following, which perhaps they subsequently disappointed. Sabbatai Sevi, for instance, apostatized to Islam. Nathan of Gaza, his 'prophet,' rationalized Sabbatai's very real failings by explaining that the way down is the same as a the way up, that sin is, not damning, but the road to redemption. If you believe that, and some people did, Freudianism is no stretch. It only is for rational people.

Though an immoral person by normal standards,-- he freely admits he lies when convenient, for example, converting to Greek orthodoxy in order to marry,-- Christopher Hitchens wants it understood he draws the line at child molestation:

"I do not set myself up as a moral exemplar, and would be swiftly knocked down if I did, but if I was suspected of raping a child, or torturing a child, or infecting a child with venereal disease...I might consider committing suicide whether I was guilty or not." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 52).

Why this obsession with child molestation? Or is it an obsession with celibacy (p. 55)? There is a larger circle of Christian morality in which he has drawn a smaller circle. In his impoverished moral subset he has eliminated purity of thought, forsaking all others in marriage, sexual morality exclusive only of child molestation, loving your neighbor as yourself, etc. To be sure these things are only possible by the grace of God. He retains such prohibitions as are barely sufficient to sustain civilization: don't murder, don't steal. Yet when Christians say 'don't murder,' 'don't steal,' they say that because they secretly want to murder and steal. When he says 'don't murder,' 'don't steal,' 'don't molest children,' he does not say this because he secretly wants to murder, steal, and molest children. This is anomalous.

Lynch Mob

The closest paradigm for understanding the 'new atheism' is the old 'hate literature,' directed against blacks or other groups. The bigot's logic dictates, 'My neighbor was mugged by a black man. Therefore all black men are muggers.' A lynch mob metes out justice by large category: hearing a murder or rape has been committed, and the suspect sought is a 'black man,' they grab the first black man who crosses their path and string him up. That's close enough for lynch mob justice.

Christopher Hitchens' category is 'religion.' It is the 'religious' person he hates and fears. His typical 'religious' persons, the gold standard who define the category, are the 19 hijackers who murdered three thousand persons on 9/11. Every ill deed done by one member of this large group falls to the account of every other member of the category. If Hindus in India engage in unsanitary practices, then the ill repute of those practices fall upon Christians, who do not engage in them. Why? Because both are 'religious.' His accusation is cumulative: all religious people inherit the guilt of all crimes committed in the name, or not in the name but by nominal adherents, of all religions:

"Violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children: organized religion ought to have a great deal on its conscience." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not great,' p. 56).

All religious persons are the same; none can be any different, despite their feeble protests. One wonders, in his eyes, do they all even look the same? Charles Stanley is a "demagogic imam," (p. 35), like any other. By the same logic, of course, the ill deeds of every atheist who ever lived, from Josef Stalin to Pol Pot, must fall upon Christopher Hitchens and his peers. Because the atheist Slobodan Milosevic was a genocidal killer, therefore Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris must also be genocidal killers at heart, even if they have covered up and repressed this impulse to this point. Christians, however, are forbidden this logic, as we shall see.

'Religion' is a very broad category. Practically all of the human beings who have lived upon this globe are 'religious persons' by Christopher Hitchens' category. The word is notoriously difficult to define. Some lexicographers hazard a theistic definition:

"Religion...The feeling of reverence which men entertain toward a Supreme Being; the recognition of God as an object of worship, love, and obedience; piety; any system of faith and worship..." (Webster's International, 1965)

But this leaves out Buddhism, whose founder was agnostic. Buddhists imagine the world to be an illusion, and once one frees oneself from this illusion, it will go away. The set of ideas Buddhists teach, including transmigration of souls, are nearly identical to the set of ideas Pythagoras preached, and he is often classed as a 'philosopher.' Pythagoras, it would seem, was a Buddhist. The historian Josephus is often scolded for classing the various Jewish sects as schools of philosophy. Some think this a category error. But many of the ancient schools of philosophy looked much more like religious cults than the modern academic pursuit which has discovered that philosophical questions are language errors.

People within the Christian orbit are accustomed to hearing 'religion' denounced in sermons and tracts, testifying that 'I gave up religion when I found Jesus.' 'Religion,' it is alleged, is a man-made, artificial system designed to maintain distance between man and God; its overthrow is accomplished by the revelation of God in Christ, who promises personal residence not mediated through any clerical system: "Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." (John 14:23). But the New Testament authors are willing to use words like 'religion' and 'piety,' which might also have been used by pagan authors, in a positive light:

"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." (James 1:27).

So one need not agree with these tract writers, that the category 'religion' is fallen, wrong-headed, and altogether useless to the Christian, pointing more toward outward observance than to inward fellowship with God. If one might define it more tactfully,

Religion...that project or enterprise which seeks to answer questions of ultimate importance, not only by theorizing but by praxis.

By our definition, this enterprise may, or may not, be entirely man-directed and unillumined by God's light. Now, Christopher Hitchens is well aware that, when he attacks 'religion,' no voice will rise in its defense, because the answers which 'religious' people offer to these ultimate questions are different, indeed mutually contradictory, and the practices derived therefrom are mutually incompatible. You can't turn the other cheek to your enemies and also fly airplanes into their buildings. You can't worship Baal and also Jehovah. You can't avoid blood and dead bodies, as required by Moses's purity code, and also engage in Hindu religious practices. Christopher Hitchens' Christian readers will not defend unsanitary practices engaged in by Hindus in India; to the contrary, they may well see these shameful and shocking pagan practices as evidence of this religion's distance from God. Perhaps Mr. Hitchens imagines the Babel of voices thus raised will cancel each other out, and his readers, perceiving that 'religious' people disagree with one another, will conclude his accusations are justified. But they are not. How can people be held guilty of crimes they neither condone nor commit? Let us turn to a better way, the way shown by God Himself. This revolutionary idea is due process:

"One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established. If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, then both men in the controversy shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days. And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you." (Deuteronomy 19:15-18).

Make "careful inquiry." Did he do it, or didn't he? By this God-given principle, this violent man, Christopher Hitchens, will have to answer for the bloodshed he wanted unloosed on Iraq, but those of his fellow atheists who did not want to see blood run in the streets will not have to answer for it. But this way, Christians cannot have every shameful and unsightly pagan practice dumped on their door-step, because they neither defend nor practice these things. In short, this whole body of literature, the 'new atheism,' will be eradicated by one simple principle: hold people accountable for what they themselves do and say, not for what others members of a large category to which they belong (blacks, 'religious people') do and say.

William Jennings Bryan

Christopher Hitchens' writing is relatively free of the gross misstatements of fact about religious doctrine and practice found in other atheist offerings,-- but only relatively. One misrepresentation worth correcting is his claim that William Jennings Bryan was a young earth creationist:

"If we use the word 'time' wrongly, we shall end up with the infantile computation of the celebrated Archbishop James Ussher of Armagh, who calculated that the earth...had its birthday on Saturday, October 22, in 4004 BC, at six in the afternoon. This dating was endorsed by William Jennings Bryan, a former American secretary of state and two-time Democratic presidential nominee, in court-room testimony in the third decade of the twentieth century." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' pp. 57-58)

William Jennings Bryan thought it presumptuous for man to declare what a 'day' was for God; he left open the possibility, in his Scopes trial testimony, that the 'days' of Genesis could be millions of years long. Like all thinking persons, William Jennings Bryan rejected Darwinism, but not because he believed the world began in 4004 B.C.:

  • “DARROW: Would you say the earth was only 4,000 years old?

    BRYAN: Oh no, I think it is much older than that.

    DARROW: How much?

    BRYAN: I couldn't say.
    DARROW: Do you think the earth was made in six days?

    BRYAN: Not six days of twenty-four hours.

    DARROW: Doesn't it say so?

    BRYAN: No, sir.
    HAYS: ...Mr. Bryan has already stated that the world is not merely 6,000 years old, and that is very helpful to us. And where your evidence is coming from, this Bible, which goes to the jury, is that the world started in 4004 B.C.

    BRYAN: You think the Bible says that?

    HAYS: The one you have taken in evidence says that.

    BRYAN: I don't concede that it does.
    DARROW: ...All right. Does the statement "The morning and the evening were the first day" and "The morning and the evening were the second day" mean anything to you?

    BRYAN: I do not think it necessarily means a twenty-four hour day.

    DARROW: You do not?

    BRYAN: No.

    DARROW: What do you consider it to be?

    BRYAN: I have not attempted to explain it. If you will take the second chapter -- let me have the book. The fourth verse of the second chapter says, "Those are the generation of the heavens and of the earth, when they were erected in the day the Lord God made the earth and the heavens." The word "day" there in the very next chapter is used to describe a period. I do not see that there is necessity for considering the words, "the evening and the morning" as meaning necessarily a twenty-four hour day in the day when the Lord made the heavens and the earth.

    DARROW: Then when the Bible said, for instance, "And God called the firmament heaven, and the evening and the morning were the second day," that does not necessarily mean twenty-four hours?

    BRYAN: I do not think it necessarily does.
    DARROW: You think these were not literal days?

    BRYAN: I do not think they were 24-hour days.
    DARROW: You do not think that?

    BRYAN: No. But I think it would be just as easy for the kind of God we believe in to make the earth in six days as in six years or in six million years or in six hundred million years. I do not think it important whether we believe one or the other.

    DARROW: Do you think those were literal days?

    BRYAN: My impression is they were periods, but I would not attempt to argue as against anybody who wanted to believe in literal days.

    DARROW: Have you any idea of the length of the periods?

    BRYAN: No I don't.
    DARROW: The creation might have been going on for a very long time?

    BRYAN: It might have continued for millions of years.”
  • (Testimony at the Scopes Trial).

Bryan, whose political philosophy was premised on the notion that the strong should help the weak, had no more sympathy for Darwinism than for Trotskyism, both brutal ideologies: "'The Darwinian theory represents man as reaching his present perfection by the operation of the law of hate—the merciless law by which the strong crowd out and kill off the weak.'" (William Jennings Bryan, quoted in Summer for the Gods, Edward J. Larson, p. 39). It is really undeniable this this is so, and an earlier generation of Darwinians had the intellectual honesty to follow their own logic to its conclusion:

  • “This hypothesis, however, does incalculable harm. It teaches that Christianity impairs the race physically. That was the first implication at which I revolted. It led me to review the doctrine and reject it entirely. If hatred is the law of man's development; that is, if man has reached his present perfection by a cruel law under which the strong kill off the weak—then, if there is any logic that can bind the human mind, we must turn backward toward the brute if we dare to substitute the law of love for the law of hate. That is the conclusion that I reached and it is the conclusion that Darwin himself reached. On pages 149-50 he says: 'With savages the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the progress of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick; we institute poor laws; our medical experts exert their utmost skill to save the lives of every one to the last moment.'”
  • (William Jennings Bryan, In His Image, Chapter IV).

William Jennings Bryan

The school textbook at issue in the Scopes trial helpfully explains that, of the five races of man, "Caucasians" are the highest: ". . .and finally, the highest type of all, the Caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America'" (George William Hunter, Essentials of Biology, 1911, quoted in Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, Kindle location 7764). Why should non-white students attending Scopes' school, if any, have been exposed to that kind of gratuitous insult?

The conflict between H. L. Mencken and Willing Jennings Bryan did not begin that hot summer in a Tennessee courtroom. Bryan got in some body blows of his own at the outset; he might even be fingered as the aggressor, when the whole story comes out. His crusade to criminalize the sale of alcoholic beverages won popular acclaim and was added to the U.S. Constitution, modern readers might be surprised to discover. To an alcoholic, it is hard to imagine anything scarier than to learn your access to the poison you believe to be your life-blood is threatened. Mencken and Darrow's hatred of William Jennings Bryan was unfeigned and very personal. It is to be expected that people will report that their own favored side 'won' the debate; they generally do this, even if no one on the other side can see what they are pointing to. But the insistence of atheist alcoholics that their boys H. L. Mencken and Clarence Darrow 'humiliated' William Jennings Bryan for all the world to see is perplexing. What prohibitionist ever looked at any drunk with anything but withering contempt? If the movement is to be blamed for anything, it is precisely for its self-righteousness. They did not look upon alcoholics and perceive their common humanity, because they were more focused on their failings and their degradation. Who today can bother to plod through Mencken's childish insults? How many fourteen-year-olds running amok on the internet produce comparable material, yet no one thinks them brilliant? Does Mencken's shrill and desperate mud-slinging really look like cogent reasoning to any unimpaired reader?:

It is astonishing the way modern writers who might have been expected to aspire to objectivity instead recycle the alcoholic vituperation of that era, as if it were all true down to the last syllable. For example, we do not usually make fun of people who are unwell. Yet Bryan, suffering from Type II diabetes at the time of his death, a disease not well understood nor effectively treated at the time, still must have his symptoms described as if they were evidence of moral failure, down to this very day. Why? When will it stop?

Mr. Hitchens would rather keep rolling along the atheist propaganda of 'Inherit the Wind' than get the facts right. Other errors seem to be inadvertent. Where did he get the impression that the sixth-century [A.D.] Talmud is the "holy book in the longest continuous use"? (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 54). Or that "[E]ven the stoutest defenders of Bible story now admit that if Jesus was ever born it wasn't until at least AD 4"? (p. 60). Perhaps he means 4 B.C.? From time to time he lapses into gibberish, like, "...this time much more recently than the frantic early church councils that decided which Gospels were 'synoptic' and which were 'apocryphal.'" (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 117). It hardly needs stating that no church council ever decided that the first three gospels were "synoptic." I suppose we should be grateful he doesn't intone that it was Constantine who discovered, or declared, these three gospels "synoptic." He is unaware the Samaritans follow Moses, accepting the Pentateuch:

"The same unanswerable point can be made in a different way about the alleged later preachings of Jesus: when he tells the story of the Good Samaritan on that Jericho road he is speaking of a man who acted in a humane and generous manner without, obviously, ever having heard of Christianity, let alone having followed the pitiless teachings of the god of Moses, who never mentions human solidarity and compassion at all." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' pp. 99-100).

Moses it is who said, "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD." (Leviticus 19:18). The Samaritan in the story might well have learned this lesson from Moses, though he also could have learned it directly from God: "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:..." (Romans 2:14).

Just as he makes the nineteen hijackers the gold standard of 'religious' people, so he makes Roman Catholicism the gold standard of Christianity. But Christians who are not Roman Catholics, but Baptists or Pentecostals, are not after all very likely to share distinctively Roman Catholic viewpoints or practices. From the standpoint of these churches, Roman Catholicism is not so much the bedrock of Christianity, as a mutable and unstable church which has adopted novel ideas not characteristic of apostolic belief and practice. The Roman Catholics have, or used to have, a sacrament called 'final' or 'extreme unction,' requiring a priest to attend the bed-side of every dying person. But Protestants, noticing that the Bible texts offered as instituting this sacrament are not talking about the same situation, perceived no such sacrament instituted by Christ or the apostles. Nor do they see the value in the 'sacrament's' attendant ideas like Purgatory. Even Catholics no longer talk about 'final unction,' though I am not sure if they have just changed the name or if they have come over to the Protestant side on their understanding of these texts. But Christopher Hitchens proposes to test whether America's Founding Fathers were Christians as opposed to Deists or atheists by this index: whether a priest was called in to attend their death-bed!

By his own admission, Christopher Hitchens was genuinely startled to discover that some Christians do not consider Mormons to be Christians. It's more perplexing why any do. In the list of Socratic questions, 'what sort is it?' comes before 'what is it?' Christians intend to be monotheists, Latter Day Saints do not. If two things are not even the same sort of thing: if Christianity is a monotheistic religion and Mormonism is not,-- then how can they be the very same thing?

It is always better to know what you're talking about, than not. As always with this class of literature, let the reader beware.

Inexorable Logic

Christopher Hitchens is certainly no logician. If his vitriolic screed has value at all, it is as humor; he is an entertaining writer. For example, he wishes to refute the proof from design. This proof seeks to establish God's existence by examining those characteristics of nature which, it is thought, demonstrate intellect in operation. Specifically, he responds to Whittaker Chambers' abandonment of atheism when he looked down at his little daughter's ear, and realized this beautiful and intricate thing had not been formed by chance. Christopher Hitchens' refutation follows:

  1. His own little daughter's ears need cleaning (I'm not making this up!)
  2. Ears look mass-produced;
  3. Older people's ears look funny;
  4. Some animals have lovely ears, and keen hearing besides.

Readers who think I'm making this up to make Christopher Hitchens look foolish should consult page 79 of 'god is not Great.'

To clinch the argument, he points out that the image in the back of your eye is "upside down and backwards" (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 82). Well, that's poorly designed, isn't it! Actually any camera obscura has the same property. Perhaps he has in mind Richard Dawkins' criticism in the 'Blind Watchmaker' of the wiring of the photocells, but his version of this argument complains that the light must pass through the "cornea" and "lens" (p. 82)-- as if it could be done otherwise! In his version of the argument, it is, not the retinal wiring, but the entire eye which is "upside down and backwards:" "...why would an intelligent designer have built an eye upside down and backwards?" (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 82, quoting Dr. Michael Shermer). Presumably in his, and Dr. Shermer's, improved design, the light-sensitive cells will be right up front where they can do the most good, dispensing with all that bulky image forming machinery! How that will work at all is left unexplained. What kind of doctor "Dr." Shermer is he does not say; one must fervently hope he is not an ophthalmologist.

The argument continues, at times confused to the point of incoherence. He argues against Intelligent Design by pointing to animals who are stronger, faster, and keener-sighted than man, as if that theory had propounded, 'man is stronger, faster, and more keen-sighted than all the animals in the zoo.' But no man hitched to a wagon is going to out-pull a Clydesdale, nor will the man engaged in a stomping contest with an elephant bring down more and bigger trees. Should they ever open the Olympics to our animal friends, pity the poor wrestler matched against a grizzly bear, or the boxer sparring with the lion. When the referee complains, 'No fair! The rules say, no scratching, kicking or biting!,' the lion will eat him too. The gliding albatross will wink at his human competitor in the long jump, finally bringing down his toe far across the continent. The keen-sighted eagle, soaring aloft, can see a mouse scurrying through the grass, and reportedly some lizards can distinguish more colors than we. But what does this have to do with anything? The thesis of Intelligent Design does not say that men are stronger or swifter than cheetahs and buffalo. Because of this incoherent thinking, his book is not likely to persuade any theist; perhaps all this bellowing and bombast is only intended to make his fellow atheists feel their backbone?

Charles Darwin the Liberator

In Christopher Hitchens' eyes, Charles Darwin was a great emancipator of mankind, excelling even Abraham Lincoln:

"Charles Darwin was born in 1809, on the very same day as Abraham Lincoln, and there is no doubt as to which of them has proved to be the greater 'emancipator.'" (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 66).

What does Charles Darwin's emancipation edict mean to you and me? Let us hope, dear reader, that you are not physically or mentally imperfect, because if you are, Charles Darwin hoped you would die before being allowed to breed:

  • “With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.”
  • (Charles Darwin, 'The Descent of Man,' Chapter V).

This was not an idle wish, it turned into fact under National Socialism, because some people took Charles Darwin seriously. But so long as this country is still a democracy, they'll always meet resistance here. Too many Americans remain unpersuaded by Darwinism. Christopher Hitchens hopes for further advances along the evolutionary pathway:

"If our presence here, in our present form, is indeed random and contingent, then at least we can consciously look forward to the further evolution of our poor brains, and to stupendous advances in medicine and life extension, derived from work on our elementary stem cells and umbilical-cord blood cells." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 94).

Does he hope to achieve this great evolutionary advance in brain-power the time-honored way, by sterilizing people with low IQ's? Evidently not; even his stunted moral sense perceives it is wrong to murder the weak and sickly merely because they are weak and sickly; he denounces the Darwinist policies of the National Socialist state as "hideous eugenic culling" (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 237). Why the harsh language? They were only doing what his 'Great Emancipator' commends as prudent herd management.

He tries to make Darwinism plausible in the usual way, by lengthening out the process to imperceptibility: "The time involved is more like that of a glacier than a storm." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 87). He is aware that compressing the time line makes the Darwinian thesis absurd on its face:

"'Do you know of any building that didn't have a builder?
Do you know of any painting that didn't have a painter?
Do you know of any car that didn't have a maker?'

"...the ignorant creationist sneer...compares evolution to a whirlwind blowing through a junkyard of parts and coming up with a jumbo jet." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 86).

Lengthening out the time line does not solve the problem, but only hopes to extenuate it into invisibility. It is as if one were to propose, 'The melt-water from the glacier first hovers in the air, then sprays outward in a fine mist.' 'How could that possibly happen?' 'Very, very slowly.' Since we don't see it happen, any preposterous sequence can, it is imagined, be smuggled in. Christopher Hitchens occasionally invokes William of Ockham's razor, but is by no means committed to it. Let us make a few slashes:

  • An army of chimpanzees sitting in an office filled with type-writers will, sooner or later, type out Shakespeare.

Slashing with William of Ockham's razor leaves, 'The army of chimpanzees are unnecessary entities. The office filled with type-writers is an unnecessary entity filled with unnecessary entities. The astonishingly long time horizon is an unnecessary entity. Whatever the reason that some people prefer the army of chimpanzees, the most parsimonious explanation for Shakespeare is, and always will be, that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare. One entity, not ever-expanding crowds of entities proliferating over vast time spans.' People who use William of Ockham's razor in good faith can believe nothing else. Unfortunately, sometimes this author seems to have no real idea what William of Ockham's razor, whose definition he quotes without understanding, requires of us; he flounders about, saying,

"Once again the razor of Ockham is clean and decisive. When two explanations are offered, one must discard the one that explains the least..." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 148).

...which isn't it.

Honorary Atheists

Christopher Hitchens perceives human history as a great morality play, in which the forces of scientific atheism combat the backwardness of faith, with its ever-present attendants of dirt, disease, and contagion. The proof that the forces are arrayed in just this manner is that some Hindus and some Talmudists engage in unsanitary practices. He has enough knowledge of the history of science to be aware of Louis Pasteur:

"Even today, the balance between Homo sapiens and Louis Pasteur's 'invisible army' of microbes is by no means decided..." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great, p. 90).

...The same Louis Pasteur who died clutching a crucifix, the same Louis Pasteur who said, "The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator." It was theists like Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister who taught surgeons to wash their hands. You would think the atheists could at least be grateful.

He likewise herd Deists, pantheists and other miscellaneous 'theists-but-not-Christians' into the atheist fold, without any evidence they want to be there. Is it not apparent that, if a pantheist believed in Hitchens' reductive materialism, then he wouldn't be a pantheist? He ought to have enough respect for these people not to assign them beliefs they never held. He claims they are dissembling; how does he know? It is as if he is preparing for the public demand, where is all the great atheist art? Where is the great atheist literature? He ought to just admit there is none, and get over it. That is more honest than stocking the halls with statues of honorary atheists.

Wildly Divergent Accounts

Christopher Hitchens makes the allegation that the Bible contradicts itself:

  • “This is, all of it, quite evidently a garbled and oral-based reconstruction undertaken some considerable time after the 'fact.' The scribes cannot even agree on the mythical elements: they disagree wildly about the Sermon on the Mount, the anointing of Jesus, the treachery of Judas, and Peter's haunting 'denial.' More astonishingly, they cannot converge on a common account of the Crucifixion or the Resurrection.”
  • (Christopher Hitchens, god is not Great, p. 112).

Is this accusation well founded or evidence of careless reading?:

Christopher Hitchens charges God with carelessness for 'losing' "Q:"

"The book on which all four may possibly have been based, known speculatively to scholars as 'Q,' has been lost forever, which seems distinctly careless on the part of the god who is claimed to have 'inspired' it." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 112).

This is par for the course for our author: blaming God for losing an imaginary book.

Bart Ehrman

Bart Ehrman is a best-selling author who serves up the same product as does Christopher Hitchens, namely books debunking Christianity. This is the type of thing Bart Ehrman says about the God of the Bible:

"There is not literally a place of eternal torment where God, or the demons doing his will, will torture poor souls for 30 trillion years...What kind of never-dying eternal divine Nazi would a God like that be?" (Bart Ehrman, 'Jesus, Interrupted,' p. 276).

Christopher Hitchens is sufficiently disingenuous to pretend that Bart Ehrman's writings against Christianity can be taken as an 'admission against interest,' as if they were written by a Christian:

"Many years after C. S. Lewis had gone to his reward, a very serious young man named Barton Ehrman began to examine his own fundamentalist assumptions...I have again selected my source on the basis of 'evidence against interest:' in other words from someone whose original scholarly and intellectual journey was not at all intended to challenge holy writ." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' pp. 120-122).

The reader may perhaps be interested in examining the character of the literature here pretended to be "evidence against interest:"

This author, a one-time disciple of Leon Trotsky, is so gullible he imagines Bart Ehrman discovered the old controversy about the ending of Mark:

"One of Professor Barton Ehrman's more astonishing findings is that the account of Jesus's resurrection in the Gospel of Mark was only added many years later." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 142).

The two sides to this controversy line up according to whether they think it likelier, the ending to Mark's gospel having been lost in some communities, people would have sought to have it restored by a.) the original ending, still doubtless available or b.) a spanking new one. As to why the ending was suppressed in the first place, to this day some people take the language about drinking poison and handling snakes as if it were a command: 'You are to drink Drano and handle snakes.' Not only is this language not a command, but there is a counter-command in the Bible: "Do not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah." (Deuteronomy 6:16 NRSV).

Ancient of Days

God is the "Ancient of Days:"

"I watched till thrones were put in place,
And the Ancient of Days was seated;
His garment was white as snow,
And the hair of His head was like pure wool.
His throne was a fiery flame,
Its wheels a burning fire..." (Daniel 7:9).

More than very, very old, God is eternal: "For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy..." (Isaiah 57:15). While, no doubt, His words are ancient words, there need be no concern about them ever going out of style: "Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven." (Psalm 119:89).

Christopher Hitchens, however, is greatly concerned that the Word of God has fallen out of date:

  • “One must state it plainly. Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody...had the smallest idea what was going on. It comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge (as well as for comfort, reassurance, and other infantile needs). Today the least educated of my children knows much more about the natural order than any of the founders of religion....”
  • (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 64).

Since God was not an infant at the time and did know what was going on, this concern is groundless. What is odd is that Christopher Hitchens' own creed, Darwinism, is also an ancient viewpoint, younger than the Pentateuch, but older than the New Testament. The idea that things come about by chance, without rhyme or reason, and some survive, others perish, is stated by Lucretius, a Roman poet who summed up the thought of several pre-Socratics, as clearly as Darwin ever stated it. This ancient error has been repackaged as 'modern science,' because that is a fast selling brand. Christopher Hitchens has actually heard of this author, describing Lucretius as "the most charming of the founders of antireligion" (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not great,' p. 258), but seems to find the antiquity of his own viewpoint no bar to its truth:

On the
Nature of Things

If we must resuscitate one of the Pre-Socratics, though unsure why thought must remain bound within the circle of antique error, let's make it Anaxagoras, the pioneer of Intelligent Design:

“And when Mind began to cause motion, separating off proceeded to occur from all that was moved, and all that Mind moved was separated apart, and as things were being moved and separated apart, the rotation caused much more separating apart to occur.” (Anaxagoras, fr. 13).


This author sets a new, low standard even for atheists:

  • “A young black pastor named Dr. Martin Luther King began to preach that his people -- the descendants of the very slavery that Joseph Smith and all other Christian churches had so warmly approved -- should be free.”
  • (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 173).

Is this statement actually true, that "all other Christian churches" had "warmly approved" of slavery? Of course not. Many American churches were riven down the middle into a Northern and Southern branch in the years building up to the Civil War, as any real student of history would know, because so many Christians thought it their duty in following the Lord to combat this institution. This is typical Christopher Hitchens, false as to fact, and bordering on incoherence: African-Americans are the descendants of 'slaves' not of 'slavery.' This sterile and immoral institution produces no offspring. This author never lets truth get in the way of a good slander.

Leaving actual history behind in the dust, Christopher Hitchens intones, "No supernatural force was required to make the case against racism." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 180). Whether needed or not, the American case against racism came from above. We know from the Bible that we're all one family: "And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth,..." (Acts 17:26). And what, pray tell, does his Great Emancipator, Charles Darwin, tell us about racism? You don't want to ask him; he thinks black people look like monkeys:

"The resemblance to a negro in miniature of Pithecia satanas with his jet black skin, white rolling eyeballs, and hair parted on the top of the head, is almost ludicrous." (Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, Chapter 20).

Walk the Walk

Christopher Hitchens has discovered that Martin Luther King was not a Christian, because he forgave someone who injured and reviled him:

"In no real as opposed to nominal sense, then, was he [Martin Luther King] a Christian." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 176).

Christopher Hitchens' impoverished, minimalist ethics cannot distinguish between these two situations: a.) I warn you, 'your clothing's on fire!', and b.) I splash gasoline upon you and toss a match your way. He blames believers for warning of hell-fire, though they have no capacity to inflict any such punishment; no man does:

"And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28).

Nor is he impressed by the extravagant length to which God was willing to go to save the lost.


Suppose soldiers under orders are straightly charged by their superior officer not to cross the border into a neutral country while out on patrol. Suppose they not only cross the border, but burn down the villages they pass through and massacre the inhabitants. Upon interrogation, the soldiers confirm they understood they were ordered not to cross the national boundary; they explain their actions by saying they did it because they felt like it. Military justice will hold responsible: a.) the commanding officer, who ordered them not to cross the border, or b.) the self-starting and self-motivating patrol, who did what they had been ordered not to do?

If you answer a.), you share Christopher Hitchens' ideal of justice. According to him, Christianity is responsible for the Rwandan genocide, because a majority of the inhabitants of Rwanda are Roman Catholics. Moreover, Christianity is responsible for the depredations of the Lord's Resistance Army, a Ugandan gang of brutalized child soldiers who rape, loot and murder. Here is what the commanding officer commanded:

"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5:44-45).

But that is not what some who claim to serve in His army have been doing. Who is to blame for defiance and disobedience: the commanding officer who gave good commands, which were not obeyed? Or the disobedient foot-soldiers?

While Roman Catholic teaching has its strengths and weaknesses, it has never been Roman Catholic doctrine that Hutus are racially superior to Tutsis, nor that Tutsis are "cockroaches." The Roman Catholic missionaries did not teach these people to slaughter each other. Failure by priests and nuns to live up to their high calling does not justify the outrageous slander he crafts, that it is religion which makes people commit such crimes. He situates Christian morality well below the "human average:"

"The crisis of organized religion in the West, and the numberless ways in which religious morality has actually managed to fall well below the human average..." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 195).
"The worse the offender, the more devout he turns out to be...But the chance that a person committing the crimes was 'faith-based' was almost 100 percent..." (Christopher Hitchens, god is not Great, p. 192).

This accusation is baseless. The Christian gospel did not teach the Hutus to murder their neighbors the Tutsis. It is true of course that the percentage of the people in this world who are atheists is very small. That very small cadre, though, present more than their fair share of genocidal monsters, including Slobodan Milosevic. There are always people, like Christopher Hitchens' one-time hero Leon Trotsky, who just don't see what all the fuss is about in ridding the world of 'cockroaches.'

Mr. Hitchens ropes Joseph Kony of the 'Lord's Resistance Army' into the fold as well:

"His was a fanatical preachment of Christianity." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 189).

The proof of this is that Joseph Kony is a "former altar boy." (p. 19). The fact is, you either preach the Christian gospel or you don't. Two contradictory presentations cannot both be true:

  • “On certain very special occasions, it is asserted, the divine will was made known by direct contact with randomly selected human beings, who were supposedly vouchsafed unalterable laws that could then be passed on to those less favored...several such disclosures have been claimed to occur, at different times and places, to hugely discrepant prophets or mediums...Since all of these revelations, many of them hopelessly inconsistent, cannot by definition be simultaneously true, it must follow that some of them are false and illusory.”
  • (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 97).

Bingo. If Joseph Kony is inspired by God, then the New Testament is not. People who think the New Testament is, are obliged to say that Joseph Kony is not. Shoe-horning a necromancer like Alice Lakwena into Christendom calls for, not a big tent, but a tent without an inside or an outside. When people create for themselves a syncretistic religion incorporating elements of pagan animism, Christianity and Islam, why is the end product classed as 'Christianity' rather than a new thing, which it is? It hardly needs to be stated that our commander, Christ, did not instruct us to set little children to murdering and pillaging:

"But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." (Matthew 18:6).

Vast Erudition

Christopher Hitchens' legion of fans praise his 'vast erudition.' By this they mean more than that he speaks with a British accent. He is wont to go on name-dropping romps through philosophical history, sharing with us, as one example, that Immanuel Kant had no need for the hypothesis of God in his moral theory:

  • “Kant's principle [the categorical imperative] enjoins us to 'act as if the maxim of your action were to become through your will a general natural law.' In this summary of mutual interest and solidarity, there is no requirement for any enforcing or supernatural authority. And why should there be? Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.”
  • (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 266).

It is this type of thing which sets his fan base to rhapsodizing about 'vast erudition,' -- 'Wow! He's read Immanuel Kant!' To those who have read the authors he cites, rather, it is the demonstration that he has not. Why drop their names when this journalist hasn't the time or the interest to read their works? Immanuel Kant's ethical theory is almost precisely the inverse of what he states it to be. As any reader of Kant knows, this philosopher, who chases God out the front door of the temple of pure reason, smuggles Him back in through the back door of practical reason:

"V. The Existence of God as a Postulate of Pure Practical Reason.

"The same [moral] law must also lead us to affirm the possibility of the second element of the summum bonum, viz., happiness proportioned to that morality, and this on grounds as disinterested as before, and solely from impartial reason; that is, it must lead to the supposition of the existence of a cause adequate to this effect; in other words, it must postulate the existence of God, as the necessary condition of the possibility of the summum bonum (an object of the will which is necessarily connected with the moral legislation of pure reason)." (Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, Book 2, Chapter 2).

Readers who object that, while this postulate may be necessary, that doesn't make it true, fail to apprehend what Kant imagined he had achieved in his "Copernican Revolution" of thought. Since the tribe of Christian Transcendental Idealists is, happily, all but extinct, I doubt many people care about Immanuel Kant's moral thought; but why drop his name, only to display utter cluelessness as to his thinking? Why does he want to pretend he has read the Critique of Practical Reason when he has not? Christopher Hitchens accuses Christian evangelists of fraud; there is, it would seem, more than a little bit of projection in our 'erudite' author's accusation.

Substitutionary Atonement

One of the frustrating things about talking to atheists is that many of them, in spite of growing up in a country the majority of whose inhabitants profess Christianity, have no idea what Christians believe. They state as their idea of Christianity a forthright salvation by works program even Roman Catholics would instantly denounce as heresy. Excepting those who have a Christian background, like Dan Barker and Bart Ehrman, this problem is very common. Christopher Hitchens is a welcome exception who is willing to do some research. He has discovered that Christians believe their sins were borne to the cross by a substitute, a 'scape-goat:'

  • “The curse of Abraham continues to poison Hebron, but the religious warrant for blood sacrifice poisons our entire civilization...the idea of a vicarious a further refinement of the ancient superstition. Once again we have a father demonstrating love by subjecting a son to death by torture, but this time the father is not trying to impress god. He is god, and he is trying to impress humans. Ask yourself the question: how moral is the following? I am told of a human sacrifice that took place two thousand years ago, without my wishing it and in circumstances so ghastly that, had I been present and in possession of any influence, I would have been duty-bound to try and stop it. In consequence of this murder, my own manifold sins are forgiven me, and I may hope to enjoy everlasting life.”
  • (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 208-209).

Christopher Hitchens explains that the idea one can take on the sin of another is "immoral:"

"But I cannot absolve you of your responsibilities. It would be immoral of me to offer, and immoral of you to accept." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 211)

On what basis has he ascertained that the Christian promise of salvation is "immoral?" Recall, he bases his minimalist ethics on the maxim, 'let your conscience be your guide.' What access has he offered into this well-spring of ethical information, the conscience? He has very briefly touched upon the old Stoic concept of the common consent of mankind: because most people concur that private murder and private theft are wrong, therefore they are wrong, and no additional revelation is required to establish their wrongness. Do most people who have lived upon this earth concur it is immoral to impose sins upon a scape-goat? To the contrary, very many of the pagan peoples of this world have invented practices of this sort for themselves. These man-invented propitiatory rites do not point toward Christ as do the sacrifices of the Mosaic law, because they lack the warrant of God's revelation. But they singularly fail to back up his claim. So we toss out common consent, but he has offered nothing else.

It's not that it is impossible to construct an atheist ethics. John Stuart Mill made a good-faith effort with utilitarianism. But when put into practice, utilitarianism misfired horribly. All the drifts and piles of bodies stacked up during the twentieth century were left there to build a better world. The idea that any act, however criminal, however wicked, can be justified so long as it leads to greater happiness for the greater number deservedly fell out of favor with the survivors of its application. It appears Christopher Hitchens dislikes utilitarianism, because he quotes with favor Dostoyevsky's test case refuting that atheist ethical system. What he proposes to put in its place he does not say.

God is both the judge and also the injured party in the matter of mankind's sin:

"Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest." (Psalm 51:4).

If God offers this deal, who is to speak against it? Is it fair for my sins, for which I and I alone am accountable, to be laid upon Jesus, who did no sin? Obviously not; who cannot see that the punishment He suffered for sins not His own is undeserved? But God's love accepts this as the answer to justice's demands. Christopher Hitchens votes thumbs down; but two billion Christians vote thumbs up. Exactly why does his subjective account of the contents of his conscience, which is the only moral pole-star he has yet put forth, outweigh everyone else's subjective account?

Jesus is not foreign, alien, and apart from His people. Believers are "in Christ:"

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17).

When the merits of Christ are applied to the saints, these are not the merits of 'another,' because He lives in them:

Bible Study

Christopher Hitchens insists the Bible does not say Jesus intended to found a church:

"There is scarcely a word in any of the later-assembled Gospels to suggest that Jesus wanted to be the founder of a church, either." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 114).

If this meant no more than that Jesus on His part had no desire to secede from the congregation of Israel, that is reasonable, with the proviso attached that neither, as Messiah, would He had acknowledged any right of secession from His commissioned sphere. He does plainly predict a breach. Hitchens refers elsewhere to "his [Jesus'] complete indifference to the founding of any temporal church." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 120). One can't escape the impression he absorbed this factoid from one his favorite authors, of the 'Jesus Seminar' tendency, and does not understand what it means. Of course Jesus does say, in "the later-assembled Gospels," that He wants to found a church:

"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18; see also Matthew 18:17).

For that matter Moses founded a church. The word 'ecclesia,' 'church,' is of frequent occurrence in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, referring to the polity Moses founded:

And the king turned his face, and the king blessed all Israel, (and the whole assembly ['ekklesia'] of Israel stood:)..." (1 Kings 8:14 Brenton Septuagint)

It translates 'qahal,' 'congregation,' a common Old Testament word. Jesus did not aim for His people to be a disorganized dust of individuals.

"Nor would the term 'Church' sound strange in Jewish ears. The same Greek word (ekklesia), as the equivalent of the Hebrew Qahal, 'convocation,' the 'called,' occurs in the LXX. rendering of the Old Testament, and in the Wisdom of the Son of Sirach and was apparently in familiar use at the time. In Hebrew use it referred to Israel, not in their national but in their religious unity." (Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book III, Chapter XXXVII, Kindle location 15196).

Established interests disliked consistent translation of this term in the New Testament, leading to the introduction of a confusing anomaly, the word 'church:' "Fourthly, the [KJV] translators were given certain guidelines under which they were to work...'The old ecclesiastical words to be kept, viz. the word "church" not to be translated "congregation."'" ('The Translation of the KJV,' James R. White, 'The King James Only Controversy,' p. 71). Anyone who has ever attended a church with the word 'assembly' or 'congregation' in its title, like the 'Assemblies of God,' is familiar with the meaning of the word, and thus immune to this confusion.

It is not only New Testament doctrine that the Messiah will have a congregation; the psalms place the Messiah in the midst of the assembly of the children of Israel: “For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying: 'I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.'” (Hebrews 2:11-12). This is a quote from the Messianic psalm 22, "I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise You." (Psalm 22:22). In the Septuagint the words "in the midst of the assembly" are 'εν μεσω εκκλησιας,' 'ecclesia.' No first century reader would hear in these familiar terms any Gothic, servile, barbarous, Catholic meanings that would later be shipped back in time from the dark ages. The 'church' is the assembly of the faithful. It may be that only a remnant are faithful; that has happened before. First century Jewish author Philo Judaeus also uses the word: "For they know that they have not in themselves any organ which can be worthy of God who is giving laws to his church [ἀξιόχρεων ὄργανον θεοῦ νομοθετοῦντος ἐκκλησίαν]; nor, indeed, could even the whole world, both land and sea, contain his riches if he were inclined to display them. . ." (Philo Judaeus On the Posterity of Cain and His Exile, Chapter XLIII (143).)

Since Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, the anointed king predicted in the scripture, He is of the necessity of the case laying claim to this congregation, indeed to an even larger one, because the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament assign suzerainty over the nations to the Messiah. Presumably, in identifying Himself as the Messiah (which even some atheists are wide awake enough to realize He did), He laid claim to this population as well. Whether His kingdom is understood to be notional, or not of this world, or political, or sacerdotal, or however it is understood, He's got an ecclesia, an assembly; it comes with the job description. It is not like this information is esoteric or unavailable:

"We should not close our eyes to the patent fact that the name “Church” (Heb. qahal, rendered ekklesia in the Septuagint) is applied to Israel in the Old Testament repeatedly, Josh. 8: 35; Ezra 2: 65; Joel 2: 16. The fact that in our translations of the Bible the Old Testament rendering of the original is “gathering,” “assembly,” or “congregation,” while the New Testament rendering of it is “Church,” may have given rise to misunderstanding on this point; but the fact remains that in the Old Testament as well as in the New the original word denotes a congregation or an assembly of the people of God, and as such serves to designate the essence of the Church. . .Stephen speaks of “the Church in the wilderness,” Acts 7: 38."

(Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology (Kindle Locations 11948-11953). GLH Publishing.)

Rather, we have here an author who does not know how a word in one language might be translated into others, and has chosen to share his lack of information with us. No doubt generations of cheering atheists will celebrate his insights, failing to notice they could have been forestalled by consulting a lexicon.

The ethics of the Sermon on the Mount are sometimes derided as impractical, but that is not the case in a community which has an 'Exit' sign over the door, as does this one:

"And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." (Matthew 18:17).

There is a place, on the outside not the inside, for any psychotic or con man who troubles the peace of the community. It is meaningful to ask what kind of assembly Jesus intended to found, but denying that the Messiah speaks to the congregation is nothing but ignorant. Was Jesus' ideal, perhaps, closer to an Anabaptist community, like the Mennonites, than to the meet-on-Sunday get-togethers which are common today? Then let's talk about what kind of community He envisaged, not whether King Messiah was, and expected to remain, a King without subjects.

Modern secular Bible scholars work their magic the same way a sculptor in marble liberates his statue from the matrix: they chip away everything not seen in their vision. Thus, those who perceive Jesus as a 'Cynic sage' look to His saying about the "lilies of the field," which might well have been said by a Cynic philosopher: they were 'hippie' types who carried around all their possessions in a backpack, or wallet. But His puritanical sexual morality fits poorly with the 'Cynic' theme, because the Cynics believed, if it itches, scratch it: "But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." (Matthew 5:28). And His end-times prophesying fits not at all with anything Cynic philosophers are known to have said. So He never said it. That's how it's done, by subtraction. Why else are all the secular scholars' portraits of Jesus so completely different, sharing almost no point in common?

When Christopher Hitchens reads his favorite authors saying that Jesus had no interest in founding a church, he misunderstands and wrongly assumes the extant Gospels fail to report that Jesus intended to found a church. What it really means is that they've colored those sayings 'black,' not 'pink.' They throw out whatever evidence doesn't fit their picture. "[T]he later-assembled Gospels" do, of course, report that Jesus intended to found a church, though the 'Cynic sage' likely would not have so intended. But the 'Cynic sage' is imaginary; the real Jesus reported His intent to found a church, as every Bible-literate person knows.

Sabbatai Sevi

Sabbatai Sevi is a fascinating figure. This seventeenth century Messianic candidate claimed, like Jesus, to be God. He was probably not influenced by Christianity so much as by the many Old Testament texts in which the Messiah is acclaimed as God, such as,

"Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre." (Psalm 45:6).

However, when this Messianic claimant came to his Gethsemane, he did not march on to Golgotha. He found himself in Muslim custody, facing the choice between torture and conversion to Islam. He folded up like a cheap lawn chair! The strangest part of this story is that some of his followers actually continued, after his conversion, broadcasting his claim to be the Messiah. Christopher Hitchens is not surprised:

"Sabbatai Zevi did what almost any ordinary mammal would have done, made the standard profession of belief in the one god and his messenger and was awarded a sinecure." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 171).

The contrast between this false Messiah and the true could not be more striking. Many of Jesus' first-generation followers were likewise faithful unto death. This is one way of sifting between the phonies, and for that matter the atheists, and the true.

Sympathy for the Devil

Is it an open question still whether Christopher Hitchens deliberately misrepresents his Christian neighbors, or does he simply not understand? Is it possible that Christopher Hitchens, who grew up in the mother country of a disintegrating empire, actually did hear, in his youth, people say 'Religion is a good thing'? Does he seriously believe this is the kind of thing 'religious' people are likely to say in defense of their faith? Surely no; but wait -- President Eisenhower did say something like that, if memory serves, and President George W. Bush used to say things like that all the time. Imagine if somebody had no access to religious talk, except through politicians. It may be that he is genuinely surprised that no one in the evangelical fold wants to argue the point. Of course no Bible-believer will defend 'religion' as such; the religion of Canaan, with its practice of child sacrifice, an offense against God, was the very reason the land spewed those people out. The global defense of 'religion,' any religion, whether Baal-worship or Canaanite child-sacrifice or Wednesday night prayer meeting, cannot be built upon the Bible, which plainly teaches that some of the very worst things people do are 'religious.'

But perhaps the British educational system did so teach. It may be that the one-time colonial masters of the world thought the way to hang on was through flattery. Perhaps they thought if they said, 'Hinduism is good, Christianity is good,' the Indians would not spew them out of the land. But they did anyway, and no doubt they are not sorry they did when they see people like Christopher Hitchens let loose on the world. Perhaps the problem here is just parochialism; this stranger in a strange land does not know what his neighbors believe and lacks sufficient interest to find out.

Is it conceivable that any mass-circulation magazine would offer column space to an author who explains to his credulous audience bizarre, and imaginary, Jewish sexual practices? This kind of thing has a history, and it's not a pretty one. He used to be the darling of the right wing, but it is hard to imagine even they still have any use for him. Where is the common thread in this author's zigs and zags, from Trotskyism to Neoconservatism and then back the other way, like a pin-ball bouncing off the sides of the machine?

But wait: wasn't President Reagan's 'three-legged stool' an odd agglomeration from the start? The war party joined hands with the wealthy. The wealthy at that time were an aggrieved party who wanted their then-ruinous tax rates reduced, because after all the U.S. Constitution forbids involuntary servitude. These first two were not natural allies, because there's nothing costlier a State can do than wage war; Presidents Roosevelt and Truman had left the country with confiscatory tax rates in the upper brackets for that very reason. If you lower taxes at the same time you increase defense spending, the deficit will balloon. And balloon it did! These two oddly matched hand-holders then joined hands with the social conservatives, who brought numbers and voting strength into the mix. The deal looked very much that the social conservatives should vote,— that was their function,-- and then be quiet. Nothing was ever done on their issues, abortion and gay marriage, beyond the symbolic. Did the other pro-war and economic conservatives always share Christopher Hitchens' disdain for this most stout, stalwart and electorally potent leg of the stool, without which they never would have come to power and never could have invaded Iraq? Perhaps he isn't the one who changed, rather certain useful idiots discovered their place.

On the plus side of the ledger:

  • At times he displays genuine curiosity; he seems willing to learn about the world, and even capable.
  • He writes well.

Where he goes from here is anyone's guess. He fastens like a tick on the pant-leg of particular individuals whom he then vilifies and demonizes. If the target of his latest hit piece is President Clinton, the right loves him. Next comes Mother Theresa, whom he hates with a passion. Then it's Sarah Palin...but wait a minute, isn't this where we came in? What happened to his sponsorship of the invasion of Iraq? Has he no constant principles which personal hatred cannot overcome? A lot of people ought to be ashamed they ever made common cause with him. After all, he is really far more consistent than his fans of the day. He is a hard-core, atheist, hater. He hates Muslims, so he delights in the thought large numbers of them are going to die; thus his support for the war against Iraq. But he hates Christians, too,— he hates all 'religious' people,— so he cannot endure the thought of a Christian like Sarah Palin holding high public office. He shares with his fellow atheist Sam Harris the profoundly un-American hope that no one who belongs, or ever has belonged, to a fundamentalist church will ever hold public office. How long is it going to take these people until they figure out democracy does not serve their purposes?


"And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:28-31).

Christopher Hitchens has issued a challenge to believers to name any good thing anyone might do or say which an atheist can't do or say as well. Let us take this opportunity to restore all those ethical norms he has tossed out. Recall, he does not want us to love our neighbor as ourselves; he does not want us to purify our thoughts and desires. The reader will recall these demands set him to ranting about "North Korea." His animus against these commands follows from his conviction they are "impossible:"

"More important, it demands the impossible...One may be forcibly restrained form wicked actions, or barred from committing them, but to forbid people from contemplating them is too much." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 100).

To his mind, it is "immoral" to command what is "impossible," though nothing is impossible to God:

"There are, indeed, several ways in which religion is not just amoral, but positively immoral. And these faults and crimes its original precepts. These include...The imposition of impossible tasks and rules." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' p. 205).

A more systematic thinker would hesitate to class as "immoral" what his 'Great Emancipator' characterizes as the peak of moral culture:

"The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognize that we ought to control our thoughts, and 'not even in inmost thought to think again the sins that made the past so pleasant to us.' [Tennyson, Idylls of the King, p. 244.] Whatever makes any bad action familiar to the mind, renders its performance by so much the easier. As Marcus Aurelius long ago said, 'Such as are thy habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of thy mind; for the soul is dyed by the thoughts.'" [Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Bk. V, sect. 16.]
(Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, Chapter IV).

But this author is a humorist who writes for the aptly named 'Vanity Fair.' Consistency, or even coherence, is not to be looked for.

Of the two commands that head Jesus' list, neither falls within the aspiration of the atheist who follows Christopher Hitchens. But what great treasures he's casting aside! Let us expand the circle back out to its full circumference; let us restore the commands of Jesus and Moses which he has banished, on grounds they are supposedly "impossible," and thus "tyrannical," and regain our full moral heritage.

Even within the diminished little circle of ethical demands which Christopher Hitchens will allow us to retain, carved out from within the larger circle of Christian moral teaching, what is missing, and what God's grace supplies us with, is the means to obey. When Christopher Hitchens issues his challenge, I am surprised no one answers 'sobriety.' It seems a little bit insolent, after all, for a stumbling drunk to claim moral perfection. One must assume he does not want to make himself a public laughing-stock. He does so because he is not free; if he were free, he could do what he wants to do, not be the plaything of forces beyond his control. The harvest the Holy Spirit produces in our lives is this:

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." (Galatians 5:22).

Most of these things Christopher Hitchens does not count as desiderata, but God does. Bring it all back, even the impossible things: "...but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD." (Leviticus 19:18). Do not consent to the atheist shrinkage of the sphere of morality. By issuing his challenge, he narrows the circle to ordinary civic virtue, which is all that seems reasonable to ask of the atheist. But will this even be retained? To 'cheat' and give the novice atheist, giddy with the velocity of his just-begun moral descent, a clue to his final destination, realize the civic virtues are likely to collapse down to holding the 'right' political opinions. The atheist challenge trims the moral drag-net down to a very small radius. Having lowered the bar to eighteen inches, he then triumphantly announces he can clear it just as easily as any pole-vaulter. But how much has been tossed aside? Ordinary sexual morality is discarded, except for the one imperative, that you must not use physical coercion. Even in that we see slippage; watching the flood-gates press open after Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein's fall, does the entire sexual revolution appear as anything more than a rape epidemic? The entire sphere of man's obligation to God has been discarded, as limned in the first commandment, according to which atheism is itself a crime. Man readily consents to this reduced instruction set of morals, but God stands by the original demands:

"If the sinner could by his atheism destroy the God whom he hates there were some sense, although much wickedness, in his infidelity; but as denying the existence of fire does not prevent its burning a man who is in it, so doubting the existence of God will not stop the Judge of all the earth from destroying the rebel who breaks his laws; nay, this atheism is a crime which much provokes heaven, and will bring down terrible vengeance on the fool who indulges it." (Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David, Kindle location 5179).

The affirmative moral demands which God makes upon His creation include worship:

"Of the principal moral obligations in particular. . .Of piety, or men's duty towards God. First, then; in respect of God, the rule of righteousness is, that we keep up constantly in our minds the highest possible honour, esteem, and veneration for him, which must express itself in proper and respective influences upon all our passions, and in the suitable direction of all our actions;--that we worship and adore him, and him alone, as the only supreme author, preserver, and governor of all things;--that we employ our whole being, and all our powers and faculties in his service, and for his glory. . ."
(Samuel Clarke. A Discourse Concerning the Unchangeable  Obligations of Natural Religion, A Discourse Concerning the Being and Attributes of God (Kindle Locations 2640-2643).)

This whole idea of affirmative, positive rather than negative, moral obligations seems to be problematical to the atheist. One of Hitchens' 'Four Horsemen' colleagues, the arrogant druggie Sam Harris, cannot see any difference between the positive form of the Golden Rule (Do unto others. . .) and the negative (Do not do unto others. . .). The one injunction is commonly heard from pagan moralists, the other is more distinctive to Christianity. Can you guess which? This brings us back to where we came in. If you scold an addict or alcoholic,— if you are the sort of troglodyte who has not heard one must offer to such persons nothing other than praise, admiration and sympathy,— 'Why are you wasting your life in this disgraceful manner?' they will reply, 'I'm not harming anyone but myself.' In some cases this is flat-out untrue: they are making life a living hell for a spouse, child, or a long-suffering employer,— but in other cases they have succeeded in socially isolating themselves to the point where indeed no one on earth knows or cares what they do, certainly not the other residents of their single room occupancy hotel. This still isn't good enough for the Christian moralist, who expects them to contribute something positive, to build a life redolent of graciousness and dignity. Merely failing to harm others doesn't make the grade. When the atheists begin to moralize, do not fail to notice what is being lopped off; it is a whole civilized world. Hitchens' challenge, as a practical matter, boils down to, 'Why isn't a habitual drunkard as good as anybody else.' Before hastening to reassure in a matter of obvious importance to him, people should stop to reflect, and be careful to give the right answer.

Hell: Why accept it, when you can write a letter of protest?:

Age of Faith

Evangelicals listen in perplexity to the New Atheists; whatever it is they're talking about is not the Old Time Religion. Some people say, no, they are talking about Catholicism. While it's true their descriptions of Christianity are somewhat Catholic-y, I doubt any Catholic would agree they are offering an accurate description of those doctrines and practices. So what is it they're describing?

Temperance preachers complained, 'Drink is the curse of the working classes,' and Oscar Wilde riposted, "Work is the curse of the drinking classes," and it's true. While still able to take in information, young Mr. Hitchens found himself looking at a school-book entitled 'History of the World' or some such. One chapter was entitled, 'The Age of Faith,' and it talked about the Middle Ages. The book stressed how religious people were back then. Never mind that local European councils forbade them to read or translate the Bible; they were real religious, they were, yes sir. This is the sum and substance of Mr. Hitchens' understanding of Christianity, that it has something to do with 'feudalism:'

"That's why the socialist movement took off, as a vindication of materialism in the minds of the working class. . .So to close that gap in perception was the project. And of course to leave behind such remnants of feudalism that had survived into the capitalist system, such as the monarchy, the nation-state, the church, rubbishy cobwebs from the mental attic of prehistory. As I say it now — what a brilliant idea." (Christopher Hitchens interview, Heaven On Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism, PBS).
"Well, having described how the rise of the industrial bourgeoisie has destroyed feudal property relations, has made old religious superstitions redundant, has broken up with Marx called the idiocy of rural life, the millennial stagnant village existence that so many millions of people have been born into and died out of without even knowing that there was any other kind of world possible. . ." (Christopher Hitchens interview, Heaven On Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism, PBS)

Though American evangelicals know nothing of feudalism, Christopher Hitchens knows nothing more than that of their faith. Is feudalism in the Bible? Not beyond the fact that it's illegal under Moses' law of land-tenure.

This is a common-place amongst the atheists, that the Dark Ages were the apogee of Christianity, and that everything found during that period epitomizes Christian faith. "You find this curious fact, that the more intense has been the religion of any period and the more profound has been the dogmatic belief, the greater has been the cruelty and the worse has been the state of affairs. In the so-called ages of faith, when men really did believe the Christian religion in all its completeness, there was the Inquisition, with all its tortures. . ." (Bertrand Russell, Why I am not a Christian, Kindle location 226). Really, during a period in which the governing church authorities forbade the laity from reading the Bible, they nonetheless believed the Christian religion "in all its completeness"? How would they ever know? Enthusing about "rifled-guns and armored ships," and other wonders of modern times, Draper points out, "How striking the contrast between this literary, this scientific activity, and the stagnation of the middle ages!" (John William Draper, History of the Conflict between Religion and Science, p. 297). The Pol Pot regime shared his diagnosis of the religious malady, though hopefully Hitchens has learned better than to endorse their cure:

"However, in early 1976, the CPK [Cambodian Communist Party) banned Buddhism, closed the village Islamic school, and prohibited prayer. 'They said religion is treachery, treason against the revolution, against the Leninist line, a feudal system. So it was no good, and had to be abolished.'. . .'They had never eaten pork. . .Anyone who refused  to eat it was called an enemy, "a class enemy" is what they said. "You are not shedding the customs and habits of the feudal system. This means you are resisting the revolution."'" (The Pol Pot Regime, Ben Kiernan, pp. 274-275).

One author speaks about "medieval Christian fundamentalism," an oxymoron if ever there was one: "The Catholic Church attempted to stop Lucretius. . .But it was too late. An entire vision of the world that had been swept away by medieval Christian fundamentalism was reemerging in a Europe that had reopened its eyes." (Reality is Not What it Seems, Carlo Rovelli, p. 38). The medievals were not Christian fundamentalists, and Christian fundmantalists as a rule manifest little interest in medieval scholasticism. The grand theories of the middle ages, like the scholasticism of Thomas Aquinas, had multiple roots. Thomas imported Aristotlean physics into his 'theory of everything,' whole, intact, only lightly edited if at all. So he could scarcely be an atomist. Lucretius' atheism and materialism are incompatible at a fundamental level with God's revelation in the Bible, but the atomic theory was not disbelieved for centuries because it conflicts with the Bible. It does not conflict with the Bible. John Wycliffe translated the Bible into English during this time frame. Did he meet with the gratitude from the church then ensconced in power, for establishing their purported Biblical "fundamentalism"? No, they dug up his body (he was fortutiously already deceased) and burned it; the medievals had good reason to be alarmed that the laity might discover, if given the opportunity to read the Bible, that very little of their system of ordering the world was found therein. Basically these revisiionist atheists are saying that the popes were right, in advertising their world view as the BIblical one, and the Protestant reformers were wrong, in making the claim that the Bible did not support the then-prevalent religious system. But the Protestants were not wrong.

Certainly the Middle Ages were a profusely religious time, with hordes of people embarked upon quests after various relics and material objects like the Holy Grail, a religiosity as profitless as it is unavailing. Some Christian authors, however, share Mr. Hitchens' perception that the medieval period was uniquely Christian, perhaps so much so as to serve as a measuring stick or definition:

"But the Christian faith teaches that God has established the world in hierarchal strata. In contrast, the democratic faith teaches that we are all equal and that any child can become president. . .'The modern child is told that he can be anything that he wants to be. The medieval child would have been instructed on how to occupy his station. A moment's reflection should tell us which child is being told the lie.'" (Douglas Wilson, The Case for Classical Christian Education, p. 73).

Indeed. Douglas Wilson, a favored debate partner of Mr. Hitchens, also shared his belief that the Bible endorses slavery.

While Douglas Wilson is an engaging author,— Christians perplexed to wonder why their faith commitment means they are all of a sudden expected to develop a taste for bubblegum music might appreciate his curmudgeonly style,— the views he shares with Christopher Hitchens as to what is, and is not, Christian, mark him out as a useful idiot. It is easy to see why he's such a favored debate partner. And what, after all, is so Christian about the Middle Ages? When the reformers first began to shake themselves awake, translated the Bible and began to read its now living pages, they realized the social structure they had inherited was a castle built upon thin air. There is a law code in the Bible, the law of Moses, but it does not specify feudalism but rather an egalitarian land reform every 50th year restoring the land to independent free-hold farmers, not to a handful of aristocratic land-owners.

Since it is not found in the Bible, historians of the period are obliged to ask, where did feudalism come from? Upon first encounter with Roman imperialism, and civilization, the savage northern peoples were already disposed toward organizing society, insofar as it was organized, along the lines of personal loyalty to chieftains, so, firstly, perhaps to some extent these social arrangements are 'Gothic.' Secondly, a low-security environment will engender warlordism, today in the third world as well as in antiquity, and the collapse of central governmental authority brought in a low-security environment. Even a free peasant proprietor might find it a fair exchange, to trade a percentage of the crop for safety. Thirdly, in the absence of any imposed restraint, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, because it is always easier to make your second million; thus, late antiquity saw a drift towards gigantism, with landed estates becoming immense. More and more wealth was concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, as indeed is happening today, and will always happen unless measures are taken to combat this otherwise inexorable tendency. Fourthly, a 'Christian' empire was under obligation to ameliorate the living conditions of Christian slaves; above all else, these hated to be sold down the river. The former slaves ended up attached to the land; the labor force became immobile and unfree, not a very economically efficient development.

The institution's heritage is mixed, but notice, please, that the Bible and Christianity form no ingredient of the mixture. Christianity doesn't enter into it other than as providing a belated reforming impulse to ameliorate the worst aspects of the system:

"Historians have surmised that the feudal manor was born, in the dark reaches of the past, from the union of two distinct institutions, the Roman estate and the Celtic-Germanic village. The Roman system was based on slavery. Its agricultural techniques were highly advanced, and it produced considerable surpluses intended for sale elsewhere. It presupposed a complex urban society.
"The Celtic-Germanic village was a far more primitive unit. There, a rude agriculture was combined with hunting and animal husbandry. . . It also functioned as a military unit, defending its territories against incursions of other bands. Elements of both institutions can be seen in the early medieval manor. In the course of a millennium, slavery had disappeared, to be replaced by serfdom."

(Winston, Richard. Life in the Middle Ages (pp. 25-26). New Word City, Inc.)

Whatever the reasons this system developed along the lines it did, what is clear is that Christianity had little to do with it; the medieval social system was not Christianity put into practice. To be sure this system, and its competitors, were defended by citation of Romans 13, inasmuch as Christians are not to take up arms. But this is not a prescription for a particular social system, only a limitation on the means available for the disassembly of the present one.

Empires have always sought to harmonize and reduce to uniformity their fractious subjects. Those with a living faith, like the Jews dispersed into Babylonian captivity, continued to perceive themselves as a congregation, not as a disorganized dust of individuals. This is the germ of Mr. Hitchens' claim that 'religion poisons everything:' when the British Empire cannot reduce the population of Ireland to uniformity even though they tried with all their might, breaking upon the rock of the Catholic confession of most of the inhabitants, that is very, very bad, because it leads directly to the troubles of Northern Ireland. People should really be more pliable, then there would be nothing to stand in the imperialist's path and we could even enjoy world government. Their 'heaven' is our hell.

Performance is the acid test. So far as anecdotal evidence can be our guide, let's see whether it's true that 'religion poisons everything,' or whether a better motto might be, 'God preserve us from the atheists' As a former Trotskyite, Christopher Hitchens can hardly have been unaware of the body count his co-religionists have been racking up since the twentieth century; he just didn't much care. One of the atheist killers listed on my sampler (if you had to include every Marxist-Leninist mass murderer, including Wladyslaw Gomulka, Erich Honecker, et al, the list would go on forever) is Abimael Guzman, who believed also in the dictum that Christopher Hitchens accepted in his Trotskyite phase: "Latin America is not enough. Communism is for the whole world or for no one." (Abimael Guzman, quoted in the El Diario interview, at He fully accepted the level of violence it would require to bring this about. Like they say, you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs:

Theodore Kaczynski Paul Jaworski
James Oliver Huberty Carl Panzram
Jeffrey Dahmer David Roland Waters
Craig Stephen Hicks Devin Patrick Kelley
Leon Frank Czolgosz Pekka-Eric Auvinen
Karl Marx V. I. Lenin
Bhagat Singh Mao Zedong
Pol Pot Enver Hoxha
The Derg Che Guevara
No True Atheist Why?
Tu Quoque Prince of Tyre
Atheist Armies Jim Jones
Abimael Guzman The French Revolution