In watching the debate between Christopher Hitchens and Dinesh D’Souza at King’s College, I had many ideas of my own.
First of all I think that we on the Christian side of things need to remember the Fatima Prayer – “Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell and lead all souls to heaven especially those in most need of thy mercy”. Obviously, those who directly challenge, mock, and scorn the Blessed Trinity, are in a very dangerous place spiritually. We need to be aware that they are probably causing some “little ones” astray and may be at risk of the Scriptural millstone being tied around their waist and being thrown into the depths of the Sea. So this is serious business for all concerned. We had better go about these informal and formal encounters the right way, in the right spirit.
“Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” 1 Peter 3:15
I have read some of Christopher Hitchens’ books, and I don’t always disagree with him on everything- I thought the book- Blaming the Victims- was well done. But what I like to think of him is captured in his righteous anger shown in this debate that because he believes Christians are lying to their own children about God and the rest, he feels compelled to speak out forcefully aqainst what he believes is “The Truth”. So this is where the engagement must begin.
We have to set aside our personal offense to Hitchens et al’s offensive view of God, of Jesus Christ, and the Catholic Church. We have no qualms about lambasting Hitchens and his ‘gods’, heroes, and saints- so we can’t just go on our feelings and expect that that will somehow win our case for Christ’s side of the argument.
I think Dinesh does a good job for the most part in countering Hitchen’s reasons to be against God and Religion. I’m not sure he was on solid footing when he seemed to claim that Jesus “invented” compassion- that point will need further exploration. Natural Law is written into every human heart, and always has been, so we should expect that pagans of old and atheists of modern-day, would have very real personal connections to proper moral living. Christ and Church have perfected the moral understandings, and Christ has opened the door to Heaven for humanity- but compassion has certainly been in the mix from the Adamic beginning.
Hitchens seems to make the mistake of misinterpreting Catholicism repeatedly- we don’t believe that God made humanity to be evil junk, we believe that humanity and all of Creation was made “Good”, but flaws (concupiscence) came into play with Free Will (Original Sin). Hitchens’ view of a cruel God creating a cruel world is not a Catholic worldview.
I know that D’Souza is attempting to fight the atheist on the level of reason alone, but to make the best case for Christ, we need to have facts like those presented by the Lee Stroebels’ out there in Christian apologetics land. But we also need to point out the spiritual truths and way of the Saints- and the stories of our lives of how many of us have “found” God through prayer- and maintain our relationship with Him in continuing that prayer life. That cannot be overlooked if we want to do more than just score debate points with hardened atheists. We want to help these men and women who have missed in their lives up to now, we must keep alluding to this mystery of prayer so that they will not miss out on just how vital it is in the search for meaning.
I think I can assume that Christopher Hitchens loves his own children, and he should be reminded that if his theory about God not being there is true, then his own children will live lifes and die pretty much as eternally significant as the random insect. Where is the hope in Atheism? Why close the only door that promises more life, more love, and eternal possibilities? Yes, I know that Truth is the thing that must be faced, and for many of us that is the place where my real prayer life began. “God- if you are real, I need to know- I have been making up my own moral way, and it is really not working out- I just need to know if you exist, and if you do- where should I go? What should I be doing”. Many of us can relate to Hitchen’s absolute need for Truth. Many of us get to the point where we humble ourselves and we listen for God, and stuff just starts happening- chance encounters with long, lost friends, recommended books, opportunities to join into some worship experiences, and stuff just keeps happening – pretty much connected up by ongoing prayer and goodwill on our part.
I do think that we need to be calm and address every point brought up by Hitchens’ et al- someone with the brains and heart and time on their hands should dissect this whole posted debate between Hitchens and D’Souza, and answer in detail every charge and attack made by Hitchens- there is no need to play to an audience- we need to play first and foremost to the serious truth-seeking atheist. I don’t know that any one solid answer will win the case- like D’Souza says the problem at root may be one of the morality of Christianity, not the truth of the origins of Christianity. But at least we can try, and we can put into practice our ‘love for our enemies’. God is a really big Guy- he can take the abuse that atheists hurl at Him, but I am worried about the atheist and what he is doing to himself in the name of “truth”. Love can cover a multitude of sins- and it may be the best debate strategy ever devised- show genuine love, gentleness and reverence for the atheists- even as they heap scorn on us, and maybe in the longer cycle we will give an atheist or two pause- and in that silence he may begin the experiment of authentic prayer.
On final note- I would love to see my old professor Scott Hahn in a debate with Chris Hitchens or others- he is one who can bring the apologetics, the reason, the theology, and the love into play all at once while thinking quickly on his feet. Can we start a public movement to draft Professor Hahn into such service?