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Hitchens v Hitchens: trivial atheist scorn

Further to my post on Peter Hitchens on Q&A: I did some You Tubing and found this remarkable debate between the two brothers, Christopher the atheist and Peter the former-Marxist-now-Christian. The debate is in two parts; the first, on the Iraq war, is a little dated – although I think I was won over by Christopher Hitchens on this one (as I have been by other of his political arguments over the years). The second part is on ‘Does God exist?’ and it starts at 32 minutes:

My dominant impression from this debate was of the stunted theological development of Christopher. He rages with neurotic intensity against a childish cardboard cut-out ‘god’ and thinks he has said something worth saying. Strangely, if you listen closely, he seems to concede the merit of the deistic position (like that of Einstein and other agnostic scientists – see my menu heading ‘Ultimate matters’). What he sneers against and spits upon is a naive notion of a meddling and malicious Big Man with a Beard. Christopher is compelling as a speaker, intense and eloquent and obnoxiously self-satisfied, but I was hoping for some argument a little more challenging from one of the New Atheist High Priests. It was philosophically puerile.

Peter was less compelling, although up to the modest task of deflecting his elder brother’s scorn, and it strikes me that his defence of Christianity is too much about its social utility. Sure, a bit of religious discipline seems to help social order and ‘civilisation’, but that is no real reason to adhere to a faith. What matters is whether the faith’s “Grand Unified Theory” of life is true (to use a refreshingly bracing word): in this case, that Christ is indeed the expression into human history of that ‘Mind of God’ which the deists speak of; that indeed “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth”. If enough people are convinced that such a claim is true, then of course a culture will grow around that conviction; but it seems a forlorn task to argue for a faith to be preserved for the sake of preserving the culture it gave rise to. Once the original conviction has gone the cultural conventions must eventually go too.

The task, of course, is to revitalise the original conviction. Nobody does that better than Robert Barron, and I will give him the last word on the Hitchens v Hitchens phenomenon, because his comments are as entertaining and eloquent as those of the atheist brother (without the self-satisfaction).

First, soon after the death of Christopher, Fr Barron’s explanation of why he, too, loved to listen to Hitchens, and why – provocatively – he considers Christopher Hitchens to have been “a religious man”:

Second, on Peter Hitchen’s response to his brother in the book, “The Rage against God”:

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