Obviously, many of the posts I’ve been seeing on Facebook and Tumblr this morning have been responses to the passing of Christopher Hitchens. I must admit that I have never read any of his books, nor have I taken the time to read any Dawkins. I started to read a Sam Harris book, but it got boring really fast, rather, I should say it became predictable. So, being that I haven’t read any full texts, this post will obviously not be a critique or celebration of his work. I’ve seen clips of interviews, and much like Dawkins, he comes off as snide, arrogant, and suspiciously certain of his existential condition. I am envious of it. I would love a quick wit that can bite just in the right place at the right time. I don’t care to analyze his arguments because they all, at least in general, make perfect sense. It does not take much to realize that what he is saying has value. This school of new atheists, beneath the sensational distractions that come as a result of their elitist charm, I believe serve a good purpose on two levels. First, they can bring an otherwise complacent christian to assume more responsibility and accountability for their faith. Second, they address the absurd priorities of religions and society at large, and remind us that the our role in the world must always be examined.
So, what should Christians learn from Hitchens? It’s easy–quit assuming that you can beat them at their own game. There are, without a doubt, brilliant Christian apologists, but to argue, not only for the existence of Christ, but also for the moral justification of a belief in Christianity, is akin to bringing a knife to a gun fight. An atheist isn’t smarter by definition, nor is an atheist more humane, nor is an atheist more rational, an atheist is empirical. (There is nothing more annoying than when a Christian foolishly points how that scientists work on faith as well, of course they do. Although, there is a consequential difference between blind faith and a hypothesis. Blind faith is incorrigible, a hypothesis will be re-worked to reflect new variables, it will adjust itself according to change)
Christianity is, at a certain point, indefensible. Assuming an apologist can hold their own against a figure like Dawkins or Hitchens, and come back punch for punch regarding the application of ethics or the moral teachings as developed from Jesus throughout the course of history, they will always end at the same point–what it takes to be a Christian (belief in a resurrected Christ, and a God who’s will has been at work since the beginning of time), the exclusive nature of this belief and the potential punishment. To argue for Christ in an arena that is governed by ethics which are attuned to a rationality that reflects concepts of justice and equality in a geo-politically and socio-politically, charged context is an argument which must neglect consequential orthodox tenants of Christianity if one is to remain relevant to the discourse. You can justify Christ’s love, but can you justify his mercy and forgiveness in a world that demands retribution based on secular understandings of justice. Furthermore, if we move into qualifications of the church, which in many cases manipulates the teachings of Jesus, well then it just does more to reveal the inherent difficulties in Christianity.
The sooner we learn that Christianity requires a suspension of rationale, the sooner the discourse can become better focused. Christian/Biblical scholarship serves a role that is better served in the church because these are issues that Christians have to reconcile personally, or perhaps as an institution. The bible holds no water to those who don’t believe, and ironically enough, it serves their interests in a debate. Christians role in the world is pertinent regardless of how it is understood by unbelievers, we shouldn’t need a rational defense. A faith which only arrises after enough evidence has been provided is not faith at all. Those who so humbly request a sign from God are not displaying an honest or earnest desire to believe, they are displaying a desire to remain safely apart self-sacrificing devotion. The minute God’s existence is justified rationally is the minute that all of his teachings submit to rationale, at which point anything can be argued, contextualized, remitted, reformed in favor of a nicer story. Reason, while it is a deterrent to faith, is not the most damning, rather, the most damning deterrent is the threat Christ presents to one’s self-autonomy.
Let Richard Dawkins write his books, and listen to his points, watch his interviews..all of that is of no concern to a true believer who should have no vested interest in what someone’s own experience led them to say, rather he or she can only assume a responsibility that reflects duties in relation to God, not a society which demands a satisfying reason for that relationship.
“To defend Christianity is to betray it.”-Soren Kierkegaard