Saturday, December 17, 2011

Peter Hitchens Remembers His Brother Christopher

In Memoriam, my courageous brother Christopher, 1949-2011
By Peter Hitchens
16 December 2011 (7:40 PM)

How odd it is to hear of your own brother’s death on an early morning radio bulletin. How odd it is for a private loss to be a public event.

I wouldn’t normally dream of writing about such a thing here, and I doubt if many people would expect me to. It is made even odder by the fact that I am a minor celebrity myself. And that the, ah, complex relationship between me and my brother has been public property. 

I have this morning turned down three invitations to talk on the radio about my brother. I had a powerful feeling that it would be wrong to do so, not immediately explicable but strong enough to persuade me to say a polite ‘no thank you’. continue reading here

See also WorldNet Daily's article today "Christopher Hitchens, God's Favorite Atheist?," written by Art Moore who comments on the those on the Christian side who knew Christopher personally sharing their thoughts about their encounters in debates and dialogues with Christopher.  

I don't agree with his worldview.  At the same time, I am not one who is not rejoicing in the loss of this man was hostile toward the Christian worldview and message.   I also enjoyed watching him struggle with those who debated and continued to pray for his redemption as the Lord brought me remembrance to pray for him.  As I heard him speak, read his writing, or watched a debate with him against one of God's ambassadors, I continually wondered what will it take for him to come to faith, and how he could reject the truth given by faithful the witnesses and defenders of the faith; folks like Bill Craig, Doug Wilson, Frank Turek, Dinesh D'Sousa, along with the others.   He grew up in the Anglican Church hearing Bible verses as a kid.  He heard the message from so many, given with gentleness and respect.  All I know and truly believe is that God will be just, and will not compromise His justice in meting out Christopher's eternal destiny.  Sola Deo Gloria.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Passing of One of the "Four Horsemen"

Back in April of this year, I posted a blog on Christopher Hitchens' defiance of God and the afterlife in the face of death.  We have just received the news from some in our apologetics community that Christopher has passed.  Even though Christopher was an ardent defender of the "new atheism" we are saddened by his passing, and can only hope that his physician treating him for his esophageal cancer was able to share why he believed in the truth of the Christian faith.  He will be missed even by those of us on the side of  believing faith. 

Our prayers go out to the family and those who are today mourning the loss of Christopher Hitchens (
13 April 1949 – 15 December 2011).  The following is the article from Reuters bringing the news.

(Reuters) - British-born journalist and atheist intellectual Christopher Hitchens, who made the United States his home and backed the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, died on Thursday at the age of 62.

Hitchens died in Houston of pneumonia, a complication of cancer of the esophagus, Vanity Fair magazine said.

"Christopher Hitchens - the incomparable critic, masterful rhetorician, fiery wit, and fearless bon vivant - died today at the age of 62," Vanity Fair said.

A heavy smoker and drinker, Hitchens cut short a book tour for his memoir "Hitch 22" last year to undergo chemotherapy after being diagnosed with cancer.

As a journalist, war correspondent and literary critic, Hitchens carved out a reputation for barbed repartee, scathing critiques of public figures and a fierce intelligence.

In his 2007 book "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything," Hitchens took on major religions with his trenchant atheism. He argued that religion was the source of all tyranny and that many of the world's evils have been done in the name of religion.  See the rest of the article here

Read:  "Christopher Hitchens STILL Defiant in the Face of Death" (April 25, 2011)

NPR:   Writer Christopher Hitchens Dies at 62
NY Times:   Polemicist Who Slashed All, Free, With Wit. . .

Other reflections from Christians, especially those involved in Christian apologetics:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Destroy Christianity": Richard Dawkins' amazing claim in the New Statesman

by Rev. George Pitcher
from Mail Online Blog, George Pitcher's Blog
December 14, 2011

[Editor's Note:  If Richard thinks that he is going to succeed in eradicating Christianity, he either has not read history, or he is ignoring history.  I don't think we have to worry about "Richey" snubbing out Christianity.  I mean after all, Nero, Trajan, and even Voltaire tried to kill Christians (Nero, Trajan and Domitian) and Voltaire said that he was going to rid the Bible of the face of the earth.  
      Let's see, Christianity expands under intense persecution, and America has not seen what out brothers and sisters overseas are experiencing, at least not yet.  There is a French Bible Society and printing press to publish Bibles in Voltaire's former house.  Um, I don't think we need to worry about anything so long as we study, defend, and then lovingly and graciously and firmly present the truth claim of the Christian faith.  Enjoy and engage the article.  -- RL]

My old friend, Professor Richard Dawkins, is guest editor of the Christmas double issue of the New Statesman. And he makes a very decent fist of it. His is a light touch to the magazine; a column on Islamism here, a piece by Rabbi Jonathan Romain on faith schools there. Prof. Dawkins himself pens a leader column as an open letter to David Cameron. It's rather rambling and seems to forget from time to time that it's addressing the Prime Minister, as the good Professor describes, I think, how he loves carols and secularism equally.

It's unlikely to cause the political stir that Dr Rowan Williams' contribution to the New Statesman generated last June. The Archbishop of Canterbury's edition was the biggest seller since the one that directly followed 9/11. I know, because I organised it. Still, Prof. Dawkins has a whole fortnight over Christmas to make up ground.

But the centrepiece of this Christmas edition is the main coup for the New Statesman - an interview by Prof. Dawkins with Christopher Hitchens, the great polymath who is suffering from terminal cancer. It's a fascinating read over three double-page spreads. Not least because Prof. Dawkins reveals a charming humility, allowing Hitchens to show his intellectual superiority at his own expense. Hitchens is thoughtful about CS Lewis and Christianity and rather leaves Prof. Dawkins floundering in his wake, occasionally interjecting little assents to show that he's stil there, as he struggles to keep up.

But one of these interjections is most revealing. About half-way through, the Prof gets this in edgeways: "Do you ever worry that if we win and, so to speak, destroy Christianity, that vacuum would be filled by Islam?"

So, "if we win...and destroy Christianity." True, there's a "so to speak" in there, but it doesn't do much. Try "If we win and, so to speak, kill all the Jews" as an alternative. Doesn't really work, does it? And Prof Dawkins can hardly claim that he was misquoted or taken out of context. He was editing the magazine, after all - there's even a picture of him doing so, pen poised masterfully over page proofs.

For all his claims that Christianity has been a brutal force throughout history, I'm sure Prof Dawkins' attitude, revealed here, isn't reciprocated. I don't recall Rowan Williams talking about "destroying atheism".

So it's good to know, at last, where Prof Dawkins really stands - and, incidentally, it's not where the gracious, generous-spirited and libertarian Hitchens stands. Hitchens hates totalitarianism. And it's totalitarians who have tried and failed throughout history to "destroy Christianity". Dawkins now sees that as a measure of winning. Good luck with that, Richard. And happy Christmas. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Is it still wrong if another culture says it is right?

[Editor's Note:  Denyse O'Leary has hit the ball out of the park on this one.  During a few conversations with some folks, this article is one that needs attention for it very well could be a foreshadowing of what our culture will look like or is beginning to look like -- RL]

by Denyse O'Leary

Recently, a Canadian high school teacher broke the silence about where cultural relativism really leads.

Update: When we celebrate “diversity,” what exactly are we celebrating?

We are told that it means that everyone will accept people of other faiths and sexualities. But what can that mean when it is unpacked?

In “Moments of startling clarity: Moral education programming in Ontario today,”* Stephen L. Anderson recounts what happened when he tried to show students what can happen to women in a culture with no tradition of treating women as if they were fellow human beings with men:

I was teaching my senior Philosophy class. We had just finished a unit on Metaphysics and were about to get into Ethics, the philosophy of how we make moral judgments. The school had also just had several social-justice-type assemblies—multiculturalism, women’s rights, anti-violence and gay acceptance. So there was no shortage of reference points from which to begin.

I decided to open by simply displaying, without comment, the photo of Bibi Aisha. Aisha was the Afghani teenager who was forced into an abusive marriage with a Taliban fighter, who abused her and kept her with his animals. When she attempted to flee, her family caught her, hacked off her nose and ears, and left her for dead in the mountains. After crawling to her grandfather’s house, she was saved by a nearby American hospital. I felt quite sure that my students, seeing the suffering of this poor girl of their own age, would have a clear ethical reaction, from which we could build toward more difficult cases.

The picture is horrific. Aisha’s beautiful eyes stare hauntingly back at you above the mangled hole that was once her nose. Some of my students could not even raise their eyes to look at it. I could see that many were experiencing deep emotions.

But I was not prepared for their reaction.

I had expected strong aversion; but that’s not what I got. Instead, they became confused. They seemed not to know what to think. They spoke timorously, afraid to make any moral judgment at all. They were unwilling to criticize any situation originating in a different culture.

They said, “Well, we might not like it, but maybe over there it’s okay.” One student said, “I don’t feel anything at all; I see lots of this kind of stuff .”

Another said (with no consciousness of self-contradiction), “It’s just wrong to judge other cultures.”

Anderson reflects,

While we may hope some are capable of bridging the gap between principled morality and this ethically vacuous relativism, it is evident that a good many are not. For them, the overriding message is “never judge, never criticize, never take a position.”

One reason might be this: For thousands of years, most thinkers assumed that virtue was something specific; it could be described, and could be distinguished from not-virtue (vice). Courage, for example, was a virtue—a cardinal virtue. Cowardice was a vice. One ought, they said, to aim for courage because it is intrinsically worthy, and avoid cowardice because it is intrinsically a disgrace. Those thinkers are—in the students’ terms—judgmental!

In recent decades, a new view has taken root. The new view is that courage and cowardice have no intrinsic reality. Neither does the classical virtue of justice or the vice of injustice. It all depends on how you feel about things, which in turn depends on your culture. That underlies the students’ inability to move from “I feel bad” to “This is wrong.”

One outcome has been the popular convention that all cultures are of equal value. If Afghan men see their treatment of women as just, then it must be so. We lack any legitimate basis for saying it isn’t. One common way of putting it is that our ancestors were bigoted imperialists who didn’t see the worth of other cultures.

How would a traditional philosopher respond to that? Well, if he believes that virtue and vice (right and wrong) exist in some sense, even as abstractions, he would likely say that most cultures excel in some virtues but not in others.

The Afghan culture, for example, excels in the virtue of courage; it produces many brave suicide bombers. But it falls behind in the virtue of justice, especially where women are concerned. The traditional philosopher would insist that this is an objective assessment, based on evidence, and that no one who makes it can properly be called a bigot.

A different culture may excel in justice, but fall behind in courage. That is a particularly unfortunate combination because people vaguely understand that when a woman is mutilated for running away from an abusive husband, a terrible wrong has been done. These students, after all, were not a Taliban mob, cheering the mutilators on. They do not speak up for fear of criticism for the one remaining sin—passing judgment. Again, from the traditional perspective, it is not bigotry to say that their cowardice is a vice. It is a vice.

The students could not go from their vague discomfort to a rational ethical conclusion because they have never learned traditional philosophy of ethics. Therefore, their objections have no force and, for all that they sense injustice, they will likely do very little good in the world. And the “accept everyone, accept everything” assemblies they attend unwittingly feed the problem: They learn to accept gay rights in North America and stoning gays in Afghanistan.

Theirs is an education to avoid at all costs.


*Education Forum (Fall, 2011); pp. 27–29. Education Forum is a publication of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation. Stephen Anderson is also a PhD candidate in the Philosophy of Education at the University of Western Ontario.

Denyse O’Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.