Thursday, November 5, 2009

A disjointed melange of notes and rants on Christopher Hitchens' crusade/jihad against religion pt. 1

From part 1 of Hitchens talk in Sydney, Australia on Oct 06 2009, just a month ago.

DELIGHTING IN THE INEVITABLE AND OUR OWN DEMISE OR OBSOLESCENCE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMbOKxRV_BI&feature=related
"[Nevil Shute could write about] the inevitable, and about the possibility of extinction, in other words [part 1 6:50] that nature might not know we were here. A great challenge to our self esteem, to our solipsism, that there could be a point in evolution where evolution, that hadn't noticed that we'd arrived, wouldn't even notice that we had gone either" "and beautifully done...by Stanley Kubrick on the screen where, as the inevitable gets nearer all the time, the churches decide it's time for a moment of uplift, and out come the Salvation Army girls with their tambourines and their tins and the churches throw open their door and there's a big banner saying "Repent, There Is still time, brother." It mocks what's coming... and at the close the streets are empty ...but the banner 'There is still time brother' is still flapping in the wind to mock all our illusions" 7:53 "And it's the attempt to live without illusions that I believe is the most dangerous but the most worthwhile and in some ways the most enjoyable undertaking despite its risks, of all, and that's why I'm here." 8:06
[[WHY IS IT THAT "ILLUSIONS" ARE ALWAYS PLEASANT ALTERNATIVES TO AN UNPLEASANT "REALITY?"]]]

I lived "without illusions" in the sense he means it for thirty years (45 if you include the first 15 when I was sort of a nominal Christian who just about never gave it a thought) before I found the REAL Reality in Christ, and I cannot say I found it in the slightest "worthwhile" or remotely "enjoyable" to think of myself as a piece of flotsam burbled up by the Great Evolutionary Experiment into a vast cold universe. I'm not a mammal. I don't even want to say "not merely a mammal"; I am NOT a mammal; the term defines me not. Tell me what are the characteristics of mammals and I will devote myself to being as unmammalian as you can imagine, something a mammal cannot do. I will become as bad a specimen of mammal existence as possible. Same with primates. Does any mammal or primate have such an option? I will prove to you that I am NOT a mammal OR a primate, I am a human being.

[CHALLENGE TO OUR "SELF ESTEEM" --- WHY DO PEOPLE SAY SUCH NONSENSE? WHAT DOES SELF-ESTEEM HAVE TO DO WITH IT? SUCH IDEAS DON'T CREATE HUMILITY IN US, THEY CREATE ANXIETY OR DEPRESSION AND INSECURITY. THEY ARE A "CHALLENGE" TO OUR VERY HUMAN NATURE. WE'RE SUPPOSED TO TAKE IT ON THE CHIN LIKE A "GROWNUP" AND SUBMIT TO IT IN THE INTEREST OF HONESTY AND INTEGRITY, SUCH IDEAS AS DESTROY OUR VERY HUMANNESS. BE HONEST: THERE IS NOT ONE SHRED OF ANYTHING IN THESE IDEAS TO BRING US JOY. IF THIS IS TRUTH, IT IS NOT A TRUTH TO MAKE US HAPPY, AND STOP PRETENDING IT IS.
"Cosmology ... has been making it ever harder for us to think too highly of ourselves..."
He seems to delight in this owlish sort of platitude.

HE ADMONISHES US THAT EVOLUTION AND THE VAST COLD UNIVERSE ARE TRULY AWE-INSPIRING WHILE THE BURNING BUSH --- EH, NOT SO MUCH!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTrVPaoLuu8&NR=1 (in part 2 of this video presentation Hitchens is saying how "genuinely awe-inspiring" it is to think that in a few billion years there will no longer be any human beings, we will have evolved into something as far from ourselves as we are from bacteria. And this is supposedly "awe-inspiring" as compared to say, "a burning bush."

What does he find so enjoyable about that comparison? The burning bush wins for me every time. There is simply NOTHING of any HUMAN interest in the vastness of the universe, its silent cold black distances dotted with barren twinkling orbs of burning matter, the impersonal pyrotechnic displays of its galaxies and suns. The universe is inhospitable to human life everywhere except on this planet. It's awesome enough in a purely spectacular way, as long as we may contemplate it from a secure and cozy base, but there's nothing to attract the human soul beyond cold dazzlement.

It takes a philistine of the crassest order to speak of the burning bush in the same breath, if you ask me, let alone make such an invidious comparison as Hitchens makes. The burning bush is something utterly unknown to, utterly beyond the physical universe. It doesn't burn up as all things material do -- Eh, nothing awesome there. And it served as focal point for a meeting between God and man, spirit to spirit, soul to soul, mind to mind, God who is outside the material universe, beingness outside the cold expanse of mere physical space. I AM that I AM, I change not. Eh, Hitchens prefers the inhospitable incommunicable galaxies and black holes.

Blech.

Hitchens' idea of awe and wonder is paltry and mean. The universe is empty and dark and inhuman. I have NO desire to visit those inhospitable reaches. I have no wish to test the limits of my humanness, to see how much I can endure for the sake of the thrill of going into anti-human regions, snake pits, hanggliding off sheer cliffs and whatnot, and that's the only motivation I can imagine in the astronaut too.

And he actually thinks we should be overwhelmed with wonder at the thought of our demise and replacement by some other species altogether in the distant future? To him this is "mind-expanding" and "awe-inspiring" -- to contemplate those creatures as far removed from us as we are from bacteria. And if you don't see it this way, he says, "then you don't have the capacity for awe and you won't be able to get it from a holy book either." ... truth [can't] come from "desert revelations made to schizophrenics and epileptics." [and the audience laughs and applauds this rank stupidity.]

For someone who holds up the banner of man as the measure of all things it takes a very strange lack of human empathy to say something like that.

But the audience applauds.

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THEN WE ARE TREATED TO HIS STRAW MAN IDEA OF GOD'S DESIGN OF NATURE

Another silly point comes next on this part 2 of this talk. Big Bang, expansion of the universe, more nothingness is coming at us and Andromeda is coming straight for us, and he asks "now is this the plan and whose plan is it?,"
"....but we know this much [the universe is] blasting apart very very fast. A great deal of nothingness is certainly coming to us. [8:06] There's an enormous and utter nothingness in our future. And even if we're not prepared to wait for that or wait for a species change to overtake us, we can see already in the night sky the Andromeda galaxy on collision course with our own [I always thought material in the universe was flying AWAY from each other; whatever happened to that model of the Big Bang and the expanding universe as material on the surface of a balloon that's being blown up? I guess I'm behind the times as usual] That's certainly going to happen, whether we destroy ourselves or the sun blows up or not before that probably not. Collision course. Now, is this part of a plan? You certainly have to ask yourself, Is that part of a plan? If so, whose plan is it? That so much nothingness is built right in and is headed straight for us. So anyone ... if you think all this is going on with you in mind, then you really do have a self-centeredness problem."
There are serious answers to all these charges he just flings out right and left as he goes galloping on, but he seems to be content with amusing the uneducated who don't know anything about any of it either. There's a HUGE area of thought about this that also answers many other charges he makes, that involves the Fall of mankind in Eden -- That the entire physical universe CHANGED at that time is implied in scripture. That is, what we see in this physical universe is NOT the original plan, it's the effect of sin entering into the creation, sin being a severance from God that drastic. Of course the original creation is still present, but in distorted forms; the image of God in man is still present but in distorted form. Exactly what changes occurred we can only speculate about, but we know they are in the direction of death and destruction and inhospitality to life because that's what scripture identifies as the consequences of sin; but the point is that NOTHING we see now, nothing in the living world and nothing in the entire cosmos can be assumed to straightforwardly represent the original Creation. This is also why the Mrs. Watts of his childhood was off base when she assured her young students that the greenness of foliage was clearly a proof of the goodness of God toward us, and so many other Christians who also seem to forget about the Fall when they rhapsodize about the beauties and comforts of this earth. Which is NOT to say such things aren't ALSO real and apparent in our current cosmos, but it's not obvious in most examples, and there's a LOT that needs sorting through in this view of things. It cannot be done justice by a short rant like this one. The Fall is also the framework for the answer to all the questions about suffering and death in this universe. I don't understand why so many of Hitchens' debate opponents have avoided getting into this with him. Have they simply not thought through the implications of the Fall themselves? Have they given in so far on theistic evolutionism that they CAN'T think about the Fall? Are they afraid of it?

In the same vein he goes on to his familiar contemplation of the evolutionistic idea of how long human beings have been here, not long in evolutionary time, 250,000 years the longest estimate, 100,000 thousand the shortest.
"a hundred thousand years our species has been around on this speck" dying for the first 80% of that time span of the "numerous shortcomings of our design," [part 3, 0:34] "terrible disease, suffering, misery, malnutrition and fear --'Where do the earthquakes come from?' 'Why is there an eclipse?' 'What are the shooting stars doing?' and awful cults of sacrifice to try and ward off what are in fact natural events, and war, and rape, and the kidnap of other peoples ... all of this goes on, gradually gradually inching up to the point where you can brew beer ... domesticate animals, separate one kind of corn from another ... progress, but terrible struggle, sacrifice, pain, misery, and above all fear and ignorance. And -- you have to believe this if you believe in monotheism -- for the first 97, 98 thousand of this heaven watches with indifference 'oh, there they go again.' 'that whole civilization has just died out. Well, what are you gonna do? They're raping each other again. They're poisoning each other again ...Three thousand years ago at the most it's decided, No, we've got to intervene now. "
[It was 4000 (or 3900) back to Abraham] (and the ignorant audience applauds this ignorance)

"You have to believe it" he insists. "And the revelation must be personal. So we'll pick the most backward (compared to what in those days?), the most barbaric, the most illiterate, the most superstitious and the most savage people we can find, in the most stony area of the world. We won't appear to the Chinese, who can already read. We won't appear in the Indus Valley where they already know a thing or two ... No, we'll appear to this brutal, enslaved, hopeless superstitious crowd, and we'll force them to cut their way through all of their neighbors with slaughter, genocide and racism, and settle in the only part of the Middle East where there is no oil. And all subsequent revelations occur in the same district. And without this we wouldn't know right from wrong. 3:06. ... but seriously now, do I seriously misrepresent the situation? You must believe something like that happened, or did not, in order to address the whole question where monotheism comes from. I would say that it can't be proved that that isn't how we came to understand morality and the need for it but I would regard it in the light of the other evidence that I've touched upon as being in the very highest degree improbable that that is the way that we discovered how to think, how to decide how to live with one another, what our duties are to each other, and so forth." 4:09

I wait and wait for any of his debate opponents to answer this one and I am just left waiting. Finally at the Book Expo someone in the audience referred back to it but it didn't really get answered. I started suspecting that the supposed Christians on the panel are all theistic evolutionists. I didn't know Douglas Wilson was but why then didn't he correct the time factor here?

Of course it makes us all look SO foolish to support the idea of a very young earth and that is why so many "Christians" have accepted the evolutionist time frame. They aren't "Biblical literalists" they say. Well, if you aren't a Biblical literalist about Genesis how can you affirm the truth of anything else in the Bible? There is simply no room in Genesis for millions of years no matter how you tinker with allegory and parable and "one year is as a thousand with God" and all that. There is simply no way the narrative in the first chapters holds together at all if you stretch it to millions of years.

For one thing there is the timeline given by the ages of the Patriarchs -- even the most liberal reading of that timeline gets nowhere near a million years and I think it pretty clearly dates the earth to around 6000 years. Oh yes, I'm a total idiot, don't I KNOW what science has PROVED about such things? I'm SO sorry so many Christians have abandoned this obvious interpretation of Genesis because they are intimidated by the claims of science. Let God be true but every man a liar. 1 Corinthians 1:27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; ;

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Where is he getting this idea that the people God chose were particularly barbarian? God started with the one man, Abraham, a citizen of Ur of the Chaldees, in the heart of Sumer, the civilized world of the time. Abraham was about 1900 B.C. WERE the Chinese writing by that time as he says? Not that it matters. Hammurabi's law was already written. A few hundred years later Moses was brought up in the Egyptian court knowing how to read and write.

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Anyway, Hitchens' complaint about the indifference of God dissolves within the PROPER time frame of Genesis. There were no generations of humans before Adam and Eve, let alone 100 million years of them. There couldn't have been: Before Adam and Eve sinned THERE WAS NO DEATH IN THE UNIVERSE, therefore there was never any evolution at any time. Everyone who had been born before them would still have been living. There would have been no misery and suffering of any kind for God to be indifferent TO. Animals would also have lived forever. Long long long before a hundred million years had passed the planet would have been so overpopulated its inhabitants would have been capable of populating hundreds or thousands of other planets in the universe along with Earth. Also if there had been no sin there would have been no need for redemption, so the idea that after such a long period of indifference God finally intervenes with the hope of Christ is likewise irrelevant in the context of the Biblical account.

Shall I go on and imagine into the idea that Adam and Eve came AT THE BEGINNING of the hundred million years? Then there would have been SO much death no creature would still be living after a much much shorter time than that.

God promised the Seed of the Woman, the Messiah, as their salvation already in Eden, right after the Fall. He went on promising His salvation and preparing people for it until He finally sent Him to die for us. Believers before Christ's actual advent WERE saved by anticipating His coming. God was NEVER indifferent in all that time -- but Christ would have had to come within a few thousand years of the Fall. Things would not hold together longer than that. I'll have to refine this scenario some time.

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There's really no need to quote Hitchens at such length but I'm too overwhelmed with all this stuff to try to edit it at this point. Maybe after I've posted it I'll do some editing; it's easier then for some reason -- I KNOW anyone reading it just LOVES me for doing it this way but sometimes it can't be helped.

Anyway he's done this same routine on many debates and talks in somewhat varying forms. His latest example of God's immoral indifference to suffering was the Austrian man's imprisonment and rape of his daughter for 24 years, and also Auschwitz. This was on the panel of the Book Expo in Dallas sometime this year, with Douglas Wilson and William Lane Craig and a few others I'm not so familiar with. Wilson gave a great answer about how Hitchens has no foundation for his moral tirades, they just come down from the sky or something like that, which I think Hitchens actually misunderstood as implying there is no material universe or some such weird idea. Others had been giving the predictable answers: we were given free will and God doesn't want automatons but free-willing worshipers and so on.

But NO-ONE got anywhere near what it's REALLY all about, which is that the cosmos is shot through with sin and its consequences misery and death, because of the sins of humanity.

I'm sure Hitchens would wax apoplectic at such an idea, which may be why it was so totally avoided, but it's the only TRUE answer and it needs to be given a chance to be explored at some length. Hitchens denounced Jerry Falwell in the most scathing terms he could think up for calling the WTC attack the consequence of our embracing of abortion and gay rights or something like that, during the event itself, and what I'm saying is a species of that explanation. HOWEVER, I do think Falwell's timing was lousy, we ARE to concern ourselves first with the victims of God's judgments and of sin after all, and then when you are in the right time frame to bring up God's judgment it's about a lot more than abortion and gay rights in any case. The sins of this nation go back a long time and would make a long list. And Hitchens of course now wants to know how I know this, since another thing that gets his dander up is Christians claiming to know God's will. The panel was pretty good at answering that one though they should have been more assertive about it -- We know what we know of God's will through His revelation in His written word which is accessible to us by the Holy Spirit through prayer. Hitchens has thrown out most of the Bible as a pack of lies so of course THAT isn't going to convince him of anything, but we shouldn't be concerned to convince him or anybody, just with getting the truth said as well as possible.

[MORALITY????? Christianity is not about morality, why is that always the theme?]

And why have 99.99% of all the other species that have ever been created already died out? Part of what plan was that?" [see above] ... The planner must be either very capricious, really toying with his creation, and/or very clumsy, very tinkering and fantastically wasteful -- throw away 99.9% of what you've made -- or very cruel and very callous, or perhaps just very indifferent, or some combination of all the above. [see above] So it's no good saying He moves in mysterious ways or that He has purposes that are opaque to us, because even that kind of evasion has to make itself predicate on the assumption that the person saying this knows more than I do about the supernatural, and I haven't yet met anyone who does have a private line to the creator of the sort that would be required, even to speculate about it. In other words, I haven't met anyone, in holy orders or out of it, who isn't also a primate. And neither have you. [I'm not sure I've ever met a primate, but accepting his term for the moment, I HAVE met "primates" who do have a "private line to the Creator" which He Himself has provided to those who love Him.] 5:51
Then he goes on to quote Australian Archbishop George Pell saying Without God we are nothing, to which he thinks he's so clever to respond, Don't talk to me in that tone of voice. And goes on to insist that such a concept is "totalitarianism."

NONSENSE!!! He says this over and over, this idea of "celestial totalitarianism" based on God's primacy and God's all-knowingness. But NOBODY HAS FORCED HIM TO ACKNOWLEDGE GOD. God hasn't forced Himself on him. He's as free to ignore God as he could ever desire.

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As Doug Wilson said on the Book Expo panel, the argument from design is a very good argument on the face of it and it has never been refuted. Living things show all the marks of having been designed and there is NO way blind evolution is going to get it to look like it was designed. This is a simple observation that if humbly received and recognized could open up vast new worlds undreamed of. But they just say the equivalent of Oh poppycock, Science is True and That is That. Or like Dawkins they imagine Rube Goldberg methods evolution could use to make living things look designed. And not just "could" use. If he can imagine it, that's all it takes for him to declare it dogmatic truth.

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But again, you can't attribute the death and destruction and anti-human things in the universe to the Creation -- these were brought about by the Fall, by sin.

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(And oh lookee here, Mr. Hitchens, this is what Jesus' sacrifice is to save us from, what sin has wrought in our universe and our very souls and bodies, though you by your moral-righteous denunciation of the idea of someone's taking our punishment for us don't seem to have a clue what you are up against. All the suffering in the universe, Mr. Hitchens, and that's just the consequences in THIS world. There IS another world, other worlds, invisible worlds. Jesus took all our sin upon Himself and the pangs of Hell as well. Suffering only gets more intense upon death because this material world is a sort of veil between us and those horrors. It's not so much that God SENDS us there as that it's the NATURAL abode of sin and misery that we brought upon ourselves at the Fall, and this is why God sent Jesus to redeem us -- none of us has the ability to take the punishment we deserve, including you for all your bravado about taking responsibility for ourselves. It's an act of mercy not to be scorned. You underestimate the punishment we deserve. This universe IS run by a Moral Law, like it or not -- Hindus and Buddhists know that much with their idea of good and bad karma they labor to overcome -- and when we violate it we bring on consequences predetermined in the nature of that Law. Don't be so cavalier, Mr. Hitchens; you have no idea what you are asking for.)

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Well I'd better stop here for now. He just goes on and on provoking me with ridiculous statements but there's a limit to what I can handle in one post.

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I apologize for such a disjointed post but I have no other way of getting anything posted on this subject if I don't just put out what I have and hope to straighten it out later.

2 comments:

Brian McInnis said...

I'm terribly sorry you can't bear the thought of learning about genetic evolution or other basic concepts or respond emotionally to any of the infinitude of wonders in the universe or see any problem with Yeshua's endorsement of beating slaves or calling a Canaanite woman a dog to her face for not being a Jew, but you're a mammal because you have mammary glands like every other human, and because you're hairy and endothermic, and because mammalia is the order humans belong to. Apes, gorillas, humans and monkeys are all primates, are extremely closely related and share almost all our D.N.A. For instance, we humans share 99% of our genetic information with chimpanzees - that's one chromosome removed.

Faith aka Connie said...

I DO respond emotionally to it all. As I say in this very old post which I had forgotten but actually enjoyed rereading, you want me to celebrate something essentially anti-human. My emotional response is what it should be to the bleak and inhumane coldness of evolution and emptiness of the universe.

If you don't know how to read the Bible in cultural context there's nothing to say to you about that.