The Washington post has a web based forum called: “On Faith” which has guest columnists who touch on all religious and, to their credit, anti-religious topics. Today’s (Sept. 26th) guest columnist, clearly from the anti-religious side, is Christopher Hitchens, the iconoclastic ‘Bard’ of the atheist community.
In Hitchen’s column he gives an example of what he calls the “the recrudescence of ‘faith-based’ teaching in Russian public schools.” Yes, recrudescence is a real english word, but if you read Hitchens it’s like reading The National Review’s William F. Buckley — you don’t go there without either a masters degree in English or a good dictionary (my default weapon of choice is the dictionary). Hitchen’s example of this ‘return’ of faith based teaching is a recent (we are led to imagine) event in the classroom of a Russian school where a teacher set aside regular school work and asked her second grade class: “Whom should we learn to do good from?” Her class, apparently as one, responded by saying: “From God!” After which the teacher told them they were right and continued on to give an example of God, in his incarnation as Jesus, doing something good.
Hitchens continues on to explode with frustration over this possibly fictional episode; he calls it a “grisly vignette, which almost perfectly summarizes the relationship between sadism and masochism in Christian teaching” (no, I don’t get the parallel either but then I don’t ‘get’ many of Hitchen’s references) and goes on to say that this is an example of how easy and “how wicked it is to lie to children when it’s done in the name of the “wrong” faith.”
Well if you know Hitchens, you know what followed, an even more scathing diatribe in which every religious believer is pictured as a fool or worse. That is the point at which Hitchens and I begin to part company. Hitchens makes his living (a very good living at that) trying to convince the religious that they have been ‘duped;’ he is intentionally sensational and insulting because that’s what sells. If he simply stated what he believes, who would care, but playing the attack-dog draws a lot more reader interest. In the title of this post I called Hitchens my “flawed exemplar” and that’s as close as I can come to explaining the paradox that begins with believing as he does and concludes with detesting his chosen public presence as an anti-religious missionary.
I believe, as does Christopher Hitchens, that there is no God sitting in his Heaven judging our actions and, in that sense, the religious have been duped; but I do believe that some God-like force created man (as posited in the Intelligent Design Theory) well before man had the wisdom to create God. Yes, I said ‘the wisdom’!
I believe that there are those who’s entire life is wrapped up in the belief in an omnipresent God and I see no gain in trying to shatter their belief. Then there are those who need that God-vision to simply exist as civilized human beings; without it they would rapidly turn uncivilized and endanger the rest of us. On the other hand there are those who USE the “existence” of God as a tool to get their way and/or as an excuse to commit atrocities — ‘in the name of some God or prophet’ of course.
Washington Post: The Subtle, Lethal Poison of Religion
AllAfrica.com: Nigeria: Religion at Crossroads
From the Blogosphere (on Hitchens):
Atypical Guy: Christopher Hitchens vs. Al Sharpton on God and Atheism
The Domain For Truth: Why Christopher Hitchens Is Wrong About Billy Graham