Famed “new atheist” author, Christopher Hitchens, is among a handful of well educated, articulate and challenging authors who have recently seen fit to launch an all out attack on the philosophical concept of the existence of God. Whether they have been successful in that attempt depends on who you ask, but the cabal has certainly reignited the debate and has brought it into the mainstream giving impetus to movements like The Blasphemy Challenge of a few years back and the current anti-theistic bus billboards dotting major cities.
The title of Hitchens’ best selling, god is not Great, reveals almost all you need to know about his thinking, and the subtitle, How Religion Poisons Everything, reveals the rest. For instance, Hitchens lists his four objections to religion on page 4:
There still remain four irreducible objections to religious faith: that it wholly misrepresents the origins of man and the cosmos, that because of this original error it manages to combine the maximum of servility with the maximum of solipsism, that it is both the result and the cause of dangerous sexual repression, and that it is ultimately grounded in wish-thinking.
And that might be considered, by an objective reader, as his greatest compliment toward religion. Consider:
Religion spoke its last intelligible or noble or inspiring words a long time ago: either that or it mutated into an admirable but nebulous humanism, as did, say, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a brave Lutheran pastor hanged by the Nazis for his refusal to collude with them. We shall have no more prophets or sages from the ancient quarter, which is why the devotions of today are only the echoing repetitions of yesterday, sometimes ratcheted up to screaming point so as to ward off the terrible emptiness.
The book is replete with certainties that “god” is not needed to help people live ethical (not “moral”) lives and, indeed, the belief in the existence of a deity probably hinders from that effort rather than helping it.
It is his disdain for religion in general, Roman Catholicism in particular, and any omnipresent, omniscient, omnisupreme being (“Big Brother,” to his way of thinking) that causes him to not capitalize references to a supreme being. All references, unlike those of his compatriot, Richard Dawkins, begin with a lower-case “g” as in “god” rather than an upper-case “G” as in “God.”
So let me be clear: I agree with Hitchens. There is no god. I repeat it for absolute clarity: I do not believe in god. I do not believe in the “god of the Grammys” or the “god of the Oscars” who shows up during award shows to legitimize every kind of obscene and profane behavior. I do not believe in the god of the American civil religion in which a geopolitical entity has claimed for itself a designation reserved for the church, “a city set on a hill.” I do not believe in a god who tells people to blow themselves and others to smithereens to secure 72 virgins in the afterlife, but I also do not believe in a god who sent “crusaders” a thousand miles to secure Jerusalem at the cost of many lives. I do not believe in a god who is so passive that he will not engage people, so impotent that he cannot do so or so detached that he finds no reason. I do not believe in a god who cannot control that which he creates, nor do I believe in a god who laughs at injustice, mocks the cries of the abused, ignores blood screaming from some dung laden patch of ground in Darfur or a sterile operating room floor in Manhattan, overlooks the undisciplined earthly extravagance of the super wealthy or the unchanging earthly impecuniousness of the poorest poor.
Therefore, I cannot be compelled to believe in god. I may have at one time in my life, but I never will again. I am not a theist. I am not a deist.
I am a Christian. I believe, not in a god, but in the God and Father of my Lord Jesus Christ. I believe only in the God of the Bible. In other words, if Jesus Christ is not God who died for me, then I have no interest at all in any other god and would not convert to Islam or Judaism. I’m not afraid of atheism, but find it lacking and false.
The new atheists argue that all Christians are atheists to a point: we all disbelieve Zeus, Apollo, Poseidon and the other gods of mythology. The new atheists then assert that they merely take their disbelief one god further. Leaving off for a moment that they are actually taking it many gods further since the concept of “god” is so widely defined, this philosophy is fraught with a major glitch: if you are denying the existence of the true God, then you are not merely taking a lack of belief to another of the same pantheon of fictional deities, you are denying gravity while calling it spontaneous generation. It is for this reason that the psalmist said, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.'”
In a debate with Oxford professor John Lennox, atheist Michael Shermer was asked, “What would it take for you to believe in God?” He gave a Woody Allen reply, “Twenty million dollars deposited in Swiss bank account,” laughing at his own response. The problem with Shermer’s answer is that he was lying. He would not believe in God if twenty million dollars or any amount were deposited in a Swiss bank account, a Cayman Islands account or fell in bags of pennies from a passing 777. He’d simply say, “Well, that money obviously was deposited by someone who just chose to remain anonymous. There is no miracle or mystery.” Shermer, Hitchens, Dawkins, et al do not believe because they cannot find enough evidence for God or because they find too much evidence against Him. They do not believe because they will not believe, even if all the evidence in the universe stood on the other side. And it does.
John R. W. Stott once wrote, and I paraphrase, “I would find it hard to believe in God at all if not for the cross.” I myself would find it impossible to believe in God if not for the incarnation. Far from distancing Himself from the plight of humanity, He plunged headlong into it. Opposite being detached, He became firmly entrenched.
Welcome Christmas, but while you do, be sure to jettison belief in a vague, generic god. In fact, celebrate the fact that there is no god. Reserve yourself only and wholly for the God who revealed Himself in Jesus the Messiah, who invaded our space 2,000 plus or minus years ago and continues to do so today.