Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
September 15, 2003
God exists, say Dante, Milton, Pascal
U.S. author decries religion
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
In a recent essay on slate.com, columnist and author Christopher Hitchens, commenting on the fight in Alabama over a monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments recently removed from the state courthouse in Montgomery, indulges in a prejudiced and supercilious deconstruction of the divine Decalogue, summarizing that: "The true problem is our failure to recognize that religion is not just incongruent with morality but in essential ways incompatible with it."
Ah yes; Christopher Hitchens, a talented writer and I quite enjoy his screeds on most topics so long as he steers clear of religion, for which he has a virulent hatred and little erudition. This is a guy who devoted a whole book to accusing the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta of "crimes against humanity."
Hitchens contends that God "exists only in the minds of his worshippers." Well, Christopher, we shall see in the fullness of time. I'm reminded of an evangelical tract I saw some 30 years ago in which the subject departed this vale of tears only to find not oblivion, but the Judgment, and responds: "I refuse to believe this is happening to me."
As Blaise Pascal put it in his famous wager backing Christian belief: "If I win, I win everything; if I lose, I lose nothing." If, for argument's sake, Hitchens were right about God, all he gets out of it is . . . nothing. If he's wrong and I'm right, he's going to encounter his Maker sometime before this century is out, and will be obliged to account for himself and his unbelief.
GOD SAYS TO JOB . . .
If God is real, as I profoundly believe he is, then it is futile, to say the least, to critique his moral pronouncements. As he said to Job: "Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man. I will question you. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth?"
One of my favourite literary Christians, Malcolm Muggeridge; author, journalist, and sometime British Intelligence operative, who started out in life as an atheist, raised in an atheist family, but became one of the 20th century's most articulate Christian apologists, contended: "Who would not rather be wrong with St. Francis of Asissi, St. Augustine of Hippo, all the saints and mystics for 2,000 years, not to mention Dante, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Milton, Pascal, than right with Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Karl Marx, Nietzsche, the Huxleys, Bertrand Russell (and I'm sure Malcolm would have been happy to add Christopher Hitchens), and such like?"
Of course, neither Muggeridge nor I thought/think there is the remotest possibility the second group was right, but I second his observation.
Hitchens' brand of stark rationalism is so, well, tiresome and boring. Faith is much more fun. Even from a pragmatic perspective, controlled studies consistently find that devout Christians are happier, enjoy better mental and physical health, recover faster and more fully from serious illness, live longer, have a lower suicide rate, and have better marriages and more fulfilling sex lives than non-believers.
JOY OF ORTHODOXY
Or as G.K. Chesterton wrote: "People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy. It was sanity: and to be sane is more dramatic than to be mad. . . . The orthodox Church never took the tame course or accepted the conventions; the orthodox Church was never respectable. . . .
"It is easy to be a madman: it is easy to be a heretic. It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one's own. It is always easy to be a modernist; as it is easy to be a snob. . . . It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands.
"To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to avoid them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect."