Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Peter Hitchens: Atheists want all the joys and advantages of Christianity but don't want to pay the dues...

Peter Hitchens writes:

"I called my book on the New Atheism, ‘The Rage Against God,’ because I was repeatedly struck by the fury and resentment shown by the enemies of Christianity. Of course, I know perfectly well there are plenty of reasonable, courteous atheists. I make a point of referring to one such, Professor Thomas Nagel, in my book.  But they are not typical of this strange and rather lucrative new wave as seen in Richard Dawkins and my late-brother Christopher​, who are full of mockery and spite. I argue with them mainly on my blog, where the most oblique mention of religion can bring them swarming like mosquitoes, often within a few minutes. It is actually tedious and disappointing to have to read their contributions. Even the learned ones contain the same arrogant assumption of perfect certainty, not coupled with any sense that their certainty might require proof. 

This puzzles me, because since returning hesitantly to faith from my days of atheism, I have been determined to keep my position within the strict bounds of reason, based upon a foundation of testable fact, not on emotion or superstition. This leaves many of my more conventionally Christian friends and acquaintances regarding my religious opinions as "feeble," and not much of an improvement from agnosticism. They are right in that facts and logic by themselves cannot take anyone past that point, everything else beyond requires faith. Yet, most of us feel it within ourselves to choose between theism and atheism, between existence and non-existence. Both are impossible to prove.
I concede to my atheist opponents that belief or unbelief is a choice. As a choice, it is based upon desire. I desire, and therefore choose to believe in, one kind of universe, one that has laws and purpose with justice woven into its very fabric. The unbeliever desires, and therefore chooses to believe in, a chaotic universe where the dead remain dead and actions have no effect beyond their immediately observable consequences.
I accept that atheists may be right in their summation of the universe, and I only ask they be prepared to allow me the same in return. A tolerant person would surely accept such concession from their opponent. ​
They do not.
The truth is that modern atheists have constructed their position very carefully so that they can never be asked why they hold it. Like the annoying Christian who declares he’s had a "special" religious experience that has wholly persuaded him of the Gospel’s absolute truth, the New Atheist declares that his entire life and education is an "anti" religious experience, which proves, without further discussion, that there is no God. Any evidence the believer suggests that there might be a God is dismissed by the New Atheists as not being evidence at all.
This close-minded attitude makes a rather dismal statement about where the debate stands: He who does not believe in the existence of God requires no evidence to reach his conclusion.
In their view, there is absolutely no equivalence between the person who, after much examination, prefers the theistic explanation of the universe, and the other person who, with exactly the same experience, prefers the atheistic explanation.
There are many ways in which this formula is unsatisfactory, but its one major strength is that it excludes any discussion of motive. As I point out in my book, Somerset Maugham beautifully encapsulates the atheist’s motive in his autobiographical novel ‘Of Human Bondage,’ where the hero, Philip Carey, counts himself freed from all kinds of restraints on his behavior when he decides to abandon his faith. My "liberated" feelings were nearly identical in my own atheistic mid-teens.
What Maugham wanted, and what I wanted in that hedonistic era, was personal autonomy, to be that common misunderstanding of J.S. Mill’s theory of liberty that I could live as I wish, provided I “thought” I was doing nobody harm.
The problem with this system is that it tends to define “harm” in a rather self-serving way. All non-theistic moral systems (and there are many) allow the individual to set his own weights and measures without an objective scale to gauge it on. This even applies to the Golden Rule, which some Christians unwisely forget that it begins, above all things, with loving God himself, before moving on to our neighbors. In a Godless universe, what is the difference between doing unto others that we would wish them to do unto us, and merely appearing to do unto others that we would wish them to do unto us? The answer, alas, is that if there is no God who knows the secrets of our hearts, it is all too easy to appear to be good, and even to do formally good deeds, all of which are empty of real goodness.
So what are we left with in such an world? One where our natural tendency to selfishness reigns supreme. Fundamentally, once our society has dispensed with the concept of God we are left with nothing. The modern atheists don't wish to discuss this because they are very well aware of the implications of what I'm saying for society in general. They know perfectly well that if everybody didn't believe in God, the comfortable lives they live in extremely agreeable suburbs, where they can trust people not to cheat them and rob them and mug them and rape them, would come to an end. They want to keep the secret to themselves. They want to have all the joys and all the advantages provided by Christianity, and not pay the dues. 
They are, in moral terms, children clamoring for their own desires, but children who have grown large and articulate in the years they might have learned true adulthood and full humanity. That is why they rage against God."

Indeed, atheism is rooted in immaturity.  In his work entitled "Trojan Horse in the City of God," Dr. Dietrich von Hildebrand wrote that, "Incessantly we hear today the self-satisfied slogan, 'Man has finally come of age.' Yet there are so many features of the present epoch - the dethronement of truth by historical relativism, the fetishization of science, the devastation of our lives as a result of the laboratory view, and many others - that make it more than doubtful that modern man has really and truly come of age. There is, moreover, something inherently self-deceptive in the very idea. It is a characteristic symptom of immaturity to feel oneself more mature and independent than men of previous times, to forget what one owes the past, and, in a kind of adolescent self-assertion, to refuse any assistance. One need only recall Dostoyevsky's masterly description of the puberty crisis - Kolya Krassotkin in The Brothers Karamazov, Hypolit in The Idiot, the hero of The Adolescent - to grasp the special immaturity of the man who is convinced of his superior maturity, who thinks that in him humanity has in a unique way come of age, who is dominated by one preoccupation - to show his independence. His ludicrous smallness is manifest as he looks down on everything passed on through tradition, even the most timeless values. The illusion of an historic coming of age is not the exclusive possession of our epoch. In the period of the so-called Enlightenment, man also felt themselves to have come of age and looked down on former times as periods of darkness and immaturity. This illusion is a recurring phenomenon in social history and it bears a striking resemblance to the puberty crisis in the life of the individual person. But the contemporary assertion that whereas this perennial boast was never before justified, it is now really true makes its self-serving character all the more clear.One of the many indications of the intellectual and moral immaturity of the present age is the fact that the percentage of worthless books and articles that captivate the minds of intellectuals seems greater today than in any other time in history." (pp.143-144).

This illusion of man having "come of age" is a characteristic of psychological, spiritual and intellectual immaturity. It is also at the core of atheistic humanism. For atheistic humanism advances the notion, rooted in adolescent pride and rebellion, that the human race has reached a leap of advancement, a new stage of development and enlightenment in which man must abandon any notion of divine authority and rely only upon himself to build a utopia here on earth. A utopia where there are no dogmas, no permanent truths, no objective principles or fixed concepts. In the words of Harvey Cox, "Religion is in a sense the neurosis of culture; secularization corresponds to maturation, for it signifies the emancipation of man first from religion and then from metaphysical control." (The Secular City).

This is America's brand of atheism. It is represented in mythology by Prometheus challenging the old gods and stealing fiery power from them to bring man on earth a freedom from divine authority, liberation from childish beliefs and sexual taboos so that man come of age may create for himself a temporal utopia of plenty and a society of peace. This atheism was advanced in 1933 in The New Humanist magazine in a document entitled the "Humanist Manifesto I," by a group of 34 "liberal humanists." However, forty years later The Humanist magazine published "Humanist Manifesto II." This was necessary because the foolish optimism of the "liberal humanists" regarding the natural goodness of man was utterly demolished by the sheer brutality and horror of the Second World War. Not to mention the savage and evil systems of Nazism, Fascism and Communism.

The adolescent rebellion from God which is atheistic humanism continues. It has not learned anything from the harsh realities of history. It refuses to. And this refusal will only lead to more such disasters in the future for mankind. For as George Santayana reminded us, "Those who will not learn from history are condemned to repeat it." Already we are witnessing the brutality of an atheistic humanism which declares its "love for humankind" even as it approves of the worst form of child abuse - abortion - as well as euthanasia and all varieties of sexual experimentation and immoral "lifestyles" such as fornication and homosexuality. And when those who believe in objective truth and morality object, as did those who opposed same-sex "marriage" in California, Churches were attacked and Christians and Mormons were subjected to violence and intimidation - all in the name of "love" and "freedom."

The atheistic humanists who promise us a utopia of "freedom" and "love" will lead us all back to the Gulag and the concentration camp.

This will be their legacy.


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