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August 6, 2007 / compassioninpolitics

Christopher Hitchen’s “God is Not Great”: A Hollow Atheist Thesis without Justification…

A Book Review and Criticism of Christopher Hitchens “God is Not Great”

The State of the World in 2009: The Political and Social Crossroads of Us
The moral and spiritual core of America is slowy being eaten away. In our inner cities, gang life is tearing our neighborhoods limb from limb. In our more affluent neighborhoods tragically broken homes and broken lives are eating away at our spiritual cores. Isolation and spiritual decay almost seems like the new norm. In our corporations, although GDP continues to chug along, below the surface corporate corruption festers and employees fear if their job will be next in line for offshore outsourcing. Internationally, waves of environmental destruction, sexual slavery, and infectious disease are destroying the last vertiges of human life in the developing world.

In this context, Hitchens wrote God is Not Great to blame the tragic ills of society on religion. Fortunately, his criticism of religion is dramatically misplaced on Christians. Any normative system can be warped, abused, misinterpreted. Our constitutional liberalism is as guilty and certainly humanism is as well. Both the Crusade and Iraq were justified on humanitarian and “we will humanize them” and “we will democratize them” rhetoric as well. To lay these societal and biological maladies as the doors of religion is simply dishonest in the face of the truth of the Congressional testimony.

History of Science and Atheism in Oppression
The scientific alternative to Christian faith is equally problematic. Science unchecked by ethics is a nightmare transcending the likes of Brave New World. Tuskeegee and the Nazies aren’t exactly examples you want to be defending. Hitchens misidentifies the source of society’s decline. Its actualluy men’s quest for power and domination, not faith or Christianity that is the root cause of all the problems he identifies. Religion was just the rhetorical baggage that was attached to the misguided efforts of power hungry humans. That is where the poison truly lies. Please, be a little more honest and not so glib, Hitchens.

Epic FAIL: Lack of Truth in God is Not Great: Your Syllogysims Don’t Pass Logic 101
In addition to Hitchens misidentification he also falls prey to two significant logical fallacies. First, is the poisoning of the well. It’s the logical fallacy that says that Jimbo is an insane liberal, so all liberals must be insane. This makes his book fail on its face in its own rational humanist terms. Actually I’m really curious how the Unitarians, who I can’t imagine his book deals with are reacting to his stridently discriminatory hate speech directed at religious and cultural minorities.The notion that MLK did his acts despite his religion is preposterous. First, if you read his books you would know his passion for religion was the heartbeat of who he was. Second, he was able to mobilize hosts of church folk behind him. Mother Thereas and Ghandi are sizable counter-examples.

Christopher Hitchens: Opps I Did it Again
Next, Hitchens falsely accuses religion of totalitarianism. This isn’t an example for you as Hitler, Stalin, and Mao are hardly applications of Gods love or a fair application of the Golden Rule. His work is dramatic act of prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination. The worst outgrowths of hate and intolerance.

Totalizing and Essentialism = Game Over for Hitchens New Atheism
The leftist academics should rightly label his work as essentialism and totalizing in the same way he criticizes Christians for being so. First, hes just using the metaphor of religion and the religion of a bygone era. Also, the small group movement is an counterexample to this other abuses Hitches and others falsely apply to the church. William Wilberforce’s struggle against slavery and the civil rights movement is a radical counterexample.

Cognitive infallibility? Reason, science, liberalism and humanism all claim supposed infallibility and engage in the same solipsims he lays at the feet of religious theology. The new generation’s Christians only provincially adopt doctrine and constantly re-birth their faith by re-interpreting the text.Increasingly, religion and more specifically Christianity is seeing the error of its ways and moving beyond the top down and exclusionary practices of the past. Its including the issues of the environment, poverty, social justice and AIDs as backbones of the Church. In this ways its going back to the church and re-birthing Jesus’s church in the 21st century. Hitches comes off as a snide misanthrope in interviews, perhaps if he found the love of Jesus in his heart, he might actually learn to show compassion, love, and a smile now and then. Instead, Hitchens is content to rig the intellectual game in his favor by dismissing mainsteam counter-examples like Ghandi, Mother Theresa, and King.

If you want more information, I invite you to sample the relatively robust discussion on this thread and to read the scathing criticism of Hitchens in Commonweal. Also, I wrote two responses in the comments section yesterday afternoon which dovetail and substantiate the positions I’ve advanced here.Hope you enjoyed these initial notes! Have a great day!

So what do you think? What are your feelings? Do you see Christianity as on balance good? How about atheism? Is there a spiritual yearning in society? Is materialism the answer?

thanks to Jane Dahlin for the flickr photo

8 Comments

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  1. Rodger / Aug 8 2007 1:53 am

    I’m not exactly following your post. Given it’s a draft as identified, I’m sure revisions and a more focused treatise is forthcoming. But let me touch on an idea that seems to be a theme of your post.

    That Christianity isn’t the problem and neither is God. I agree that there are other forces at work contrary to God’s force — human will and misinterpretation of Holy text is chief. And latter-day “Christianity” is, in fact, the problem.

    There are several movements underway in mainstream Christianity:

    1. Health/Wealth
    2. Seeker/Renewal
    3. Fire’n Brimstone

    Of these the Renewal movement is the most accurate of biblical teaching — the others are grossly flawed and are primary causes of many social, political and economic issues facing Americans today.

    The Renewal movement is steeped in rigorous academic study and reflection on biblical text. With a sense of humility that is derived from what the Bible teaches, the Renewal movement is one of primitivism — getting back to the basics.

    While, one the other hand, the Health/Wealth movement is self-centered and self-seeking — it’s rooted in the Enlightenment philosophy of life, liberty, and the of happiness.

    Without going to deep, adjusting the course of understanding on a grand scale is a matter of reframing biblical teaching to fit current understandings and perceptions of the world.

    What’s failed is the Christian scholars and pastors across the land have let the faith evolve unchecked — and most of use have bought into and applied lies to our pursuit of what is true, only to discover that what we thought to be true, perfect and pure, is actually gross falsehood that have wrecked homes, businesses and if we’re not careful, an entire country.

  2. compassioninpolitics / Aug 8 2007 5:45 pm

    Roger,

    Sorry if anything was confusing. I hope the new name helps with the clarification. I hope to post a more edited version at a later date.

    I largely agree with your rubric. Its good to know that all of the three groups you identified generally have the same goal in mind, even if they might not go about it using the same method we might think is best.

    You point out:
    Of these the Renewal movement is the most accurate of biblical teaching — the others are grossly flawed and are primary causes of many social, political and economic issues facing Americans today.
    The Renewal movement is steeped in rigorous academic study and reflection on biblical text. With a sense of humility that is derived from what the Bible teaches, the Renewal movement is one of primitivism — getting back to the basics.

    From what I can tell there is a split in the renewal movement between the revival of originalism (or primitivism) as you described it and a more modern service. Also, the renewal churches have a whole spectrum of different perspectives when on the issue of cultural engagement vs. cultural confrontation. (although the two aren’t entirely mutually exclusive)

    Thoughts?

  3. Rodger / Aug 11 2007 12:05 am

    Well, I have been attending a Renewal church for about 2 years. The concept was new to me, and I haven’t detected any split — but my perspective is limited — so I’ll take your word for it.

    Every Wednesday morning a group of 5 – 6 guys from the church meet for Bible study. We’ve been reading and discussing Whitlock’s “The Spiritual Quest.”

    From that, I can tell you that my church practices cultural engagement. Which is, on the surface, a grand plan. But I can see problems when and it runs amuck. And I think that’s where the Health/Wealth movement sands today. Those that believe that and practice it are seeking their self-interest and that is clearly an Enlightenment philosophy espoused by some of America’s foremost founders — Jefferson in particular.

    More on the split you speak of, I’m not sure what you mean by “cultural confrontation.” Seems a bit, well, confrontational, which is less God like if we look at the fruits of the Spirit.

    Cultural engagement seems more appropriate. As a public relations professional and scholar of message framing an strategic communication campaigns that fuels grand-scale social change, I can see the importance and power in cultural engagement.

    From this point, I could launch into one example after another that illustrates how cultural engagement, no matter who’s engaging, has its effect. They lynchpin is hoe message are framed and communicated which causes social change. What I think, however, it that the Church is so fragmented (as prophesy has told us) that grand scale social change will only happen after the Tribulation.

    Again, that’s cause for another discussion.

  4. compassioninpolitics / Aug 11 2007 1:40 am

    Enjoying the ongoing conversation…

    Let me rephrase. You point to the Seeker/Renewal movement. Its actually the Seeker movement and not the renewal movement that I believe has a split that I described above–although not necessarily a big one. In fact, my guess is there are several offshoots of the seeker movement that I’m not considering…and I’m by far not hyper-informed on these issues.

    I agree on your larger point of engagement. I find myself erring on the side of engagement, but I think that we have to confront greed, lust for power, and toxic hierarchies that are part and parcel of our cultural legacy. However, perhaps in the context of framing we’re on the same page.

    As a communication grad and ongoing scholar, I’m a big advocate of the framing issue.

    Hope your study of “The Spiritual Quest” is going well…

  5. Rodger / Aug 12 2007 10:08 pm

    Engagement is an interesting phenomena. As is framing too. Let me go off discussion and tell you a story you’re sure to appreciate.

    About three years ago, I learned a dirty little secret about the word ‘not.’ Whenever we same such in such is not X, we in advertantly repeat X which strengthens its salience. In fact, by using the word ‘not’ in conversation in which we want to communicate something other than ‘not’ X, we rarely communicate the other effectively. And even if we did, by saying ‘not’ X, whenever X has already been uttered gives the X frame a 2:1 advantage of being remembered over the new one.

    So I did an experiment to see if this actually workd. It was unscientific, nonetheless, but I took two of my clesses which had basically the same level of writing students and taught one without using ‘not’ to reframe or communicate anything. In the other class, I did not change my teaching style, nor how I answered questions. In otherwords, I answered questions using ‘not’ to reframe and present new information.

    Before class began, I had selected certain items from the syllabusbthat were important and students should master before moving on.

    In the class where I refrained from using ‘not,’ student learned the selected material 2:1 as compared to the other class where I reframed information with ‘not.’

    I’m not intelligent enough to speak on a split in the seeker movement. But as for engagement versus confrontation. That is classic framing.

    While engagement carries more benign connotations, confrontation is less so. Yet both communicate the same message.

    In war, “we engage the enemy.”

    In the Christian faith, “we confront evil and resist it.”

    Since an “enemy” is, from our perception, “evil” the message is really the same. Yet, we would never “engage evil” would we?

  6. compassioninpolitics / Aug 13 2007 12:55 am

    I wonder what quantitative studies say about the matter. I know that rhetorical scholar Judith Butler talks about the re-enforcement effect in her book Excitable Speech. Also, saying “don’t think about the white bear” inevitably causes you to think about the white bear. Paul Roberts has a great article in Psychology Today about Wegner’s experiments here:
    http://psychologytoday.com/articles/pto-19950501-000028.html The application of Wegner’s studies in this manner, however, seem to be empirically denied to the extent that people have actually have quit a whole range of addictive activities.

    Perhaps an example would help sort out my questions about:
    While engagement carries more benign connotations, confrontation is less so. Yet both communicate the same message.
    Can you explain this in the context of engaging in globalism vs. confronting globalism by not buying products at Walmart?

  7. Rodger / Aug 13 2007 2:05 pm

    Do me a favor and e-mail this post to my Your PR Guy account.

    I think this will need more treatment than what’s given in a comment here.

    I’m at work today, so I only read the first page of the article you linked to. Very interesting! Get into it later this evening!

  8. Rodger / Aug 13 2007 2:05 pm

    Comments too…

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