But this sober conclusion, objective as it is, is surely preferable to the delusion that we have been created diseased, by a capricious despot, and then abruptly commanded to be whole and well, on pain of terror and torture.
I actually agree with Mr. Hitchens. His statement is indeed the product of a delusional mind. Fortunately, Christians are not as delusional as Mr. Hitchens would have you think, and do not believe the tripe he assigns to us.
- To begin with, we do not believe that man was created diseased. Man was created in the image of God and it took an act of will to fall from His grace. Man chose to place his will before the will of God, a choice Mr. Hitchens is obviously quite familiar and comfortable with.
- Next, while God may be described as a despot, His nature is anything but capricious, unless you define capriciousness as laying out in great detail the future events of the world, the correct actions to take to prosper spiritually, the consequences of failure to follow His plan,and then following that plan to the letter over several thousand years.
Personally, I have a somewhat different definition of capricious. And so does the Merriam Webster Dictionary, which defines it as "impulsive, unpredictable, and inconstant."
Mr. Hitchens may not like the rules of the game according to God; what he cannot claim is that God has broken those rules.
- Next, we are not "commanded" to become whole and well; we are invited to do so.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. John 3:16,17
Man placed his will over God's and in so doing turned away from God. But God wasn't willing to let that be the last word. Instead, He became man, and took our sins upon Himself, so that we might turn back towards Him. God could have commanded our obedience; instead, he asked for it. He is still asking for it.
- Finally, our belief is not driven by fear of pain and torture; in fact, unlike Muslims, Christians recognize that coerced belief is not true faith. However, the consequences of unbelief are real, and must be mentioned.
Mr. Hitchen's mistake is to try and equate "goodness" with "godliness," which is a very common error, even among Christians. I'll demonstrate.
How many of you out there, by a show of hands, believe that as long as the good you do outweighs the bad you do, that you are a good person,and will go to Heaven?
I see an awful lot of hands raised.
The problem is that this isn't what the Gospel tells us. In fact, Jesus preached that man can never earn his way into heaven through doing good workss because God's standard is perfection. The Law must be kept perfectly in deed, in word, and in thought in order to be righteous in the eyes of God. No human can meet that standard; we all fall short. That was the whole reason for the Incarnation and Crucifiction of Jesus; his sacrifice shields us from the absolute justice of God the Father.
Hitchens lists the long line of evils perpetrated by religious men, and uses that list to condemn a belief in God. His underlying assumption is that any immoral act performed by a Christian disproves Christianity. This assumption is based on a distortion of the Gospel.
A Christian is still a sinner. Aided by the Grace of God and the Holy Spirit, we fight our sinful nature, but becoming a Christian doesn't mean we've flipped some magical light switch that makes us better than we were before. We still sin in thought, word, and deed. We're still capable of doing wrong.
Not only that, but evil men can act under the cover of religion. Even though God is perfect, man is corrupt, and any organization of men will eventually be corrupted, even religious organizations. The Bible even tells us that evil men will come and claim they are working in he name of the Lord, but that they will be deceivers and the faithful are warned to watch carefully and verify their words against the Scriptures to discern whether they are false or true. Evil men always seek to hide behind virtues. That does not reflect on the validity of that virtue. Many dictators take power under the guise of providing security. Does this mean that security is illusory?
I'll just give one more example of Mr. Hitchens's many mistakes. Michael Gerson says this:
On evidence found in every culture, human beings can be good without God. And Hitchens is himself part of the proof. I know him to be intellectually courageous and unfailingly kind, when not ruthlessly flaying opponents for taking minor exception to his arguments. There is something innate about morality that is distinct from theological conviction.
Mr. Hitchens replies with this:
However, it is his own supposedly kindly religion that prevents him from seeing how insulting is the latent suggestion of his position: the appalling insinuation that I would not know right from wrong if I was not supernaturally guided by a celestial dictatorship...
Hitchens is responding to a charge that Gerson not only did not make, but refutes himself!
I don't know why Mr. Hitchens is so zealous an atheist. But based on this article, it is clear to me that his perceptions of Christianity are based not on Scripture, but on a distortion of Scripture.