Yesterday, Christopher Hitchens entered into eternity at age 62. The celebrated atheist succumbed to pneumonia, which was a complication associated with his esophageal cancer. If Hitchens did great harm by his atheism, it is also certainly true that his atheism was the rhetorical wet stone used by a generation of Christian apologists.
Among the positions staked out by Hitchens, Wiki reports succinctly:
“He argued that the concept of god or a supreme being is a totalitarian belief that destroys individual freedom, and that free expression and scientific discovery should replace religion as a means of teaching ethics and defining human civilization.”
I often wondered if Christopher Hitchens and I inhabited the same planet. Scientific discovery does not teach us ethics. It can’t. Science is performed by human beings operating within given systems of human anthropology. How we define ourselves, a priori, determines how we do science, and how we utilize the results. That there are hundreds of thousands of scientists bringing to their research dozens of anthropological perspectives only muddies the waters.
Hitchens knew this.
It is an odd thing that Hitchens, born four years after World War II, should have equated religion with totalitarianism, when in fact Stalin and Hitler were the Continent’s totalitarian criminals who made war on Judaism and Christianity, seeing faith as the obstacle to their totalitarian designs.
The Third Reich, Tojo’s Japan, and Soviet Stalinism would employ the most barbaric, cruel, and sadisdic scientists to further their twisted anthropology and its aims. Herein may lie the key to Hitchens.
Hitchens’ father was a navy Commander and his mother a navy WREN during the war. His father saw great action, and was also a part of the planning for the failed raid on Dieppe, which was a bloodbath. How were his parents, as well as the rest of the continent, sculpted by their wartime experiences? Judging from the complete moral implosion of Europe in the decades following the war, it’s safe to say that Hitchens was not alone in being contaminated by the war’s fallout.
Lord if you had been here, our continent would not have died.
Hitchens’, and Europe’s, embrace of radicalized autonomy was perhaps a failed attempt at ensuring that no fascist dictator could ever again get a nation goose-stepping into the total oblivion that was visited on the continent during a war that claimed well over 50 million lives. Creeds, praying in unison, codes of conformity, etc.. may have been more than most could have accepted.
But the unanimity of individualism was spoofed in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, where Brian is being acclaimed Messiah in Jesus’ day. Brian tries to disabuse the crowd:
Brian: Please, please, please listen! I’ve got one or two things to say.
The Crowd: Tell us! Tell us both of them!
Brian: Look, you’ve got it all wrong! You don’t NEED to follow ME, You don’t NEED to follow ANYBODY! You’ve got to think for your selves! You’re ALL individuals!
The Crowd: Yes! We’re all individuals!
Brian: You’re all different!
The Crowd: Yes, we ARE all different!
Man in crowd: I’m not…
The Crowd: Sch!
Hitchens never learned that authentic human freedom consists in doing what we ought to do, not what we wish to do. Autonomy permits us a response to God and His creation. It does not permit us to each determine what is or is not worthy of dignity.
Hitchens’ Europe, and its Union, is a totalitarian state that devalues the human person, the sanctity of the human life every bit as much as Hitler and Stalin did. They just do it in the name of individualism and freedom. It’s Brian’s Palestine with a deadly twist.
Hopefully, Jesus came to Hitchens before his last breath with the offer of authentic freedom which, paradoxically, requires complete surrender.
Let’s pray that he’s free at last.