Christopher Hitchens … Cheers

I just learned that Christopher Hitchens has passed away on December 15.  Apparently, he was struggling with cancer.  I was completely unaware.  God rest his soul.

For one reason or another, I have always been attracted to “the new atheists.”  I don’t know why.  I like their honesty.  I like their devotion to reason.  I like their British accents.

Here and there, I have struggled with atheistic tendencies.  Not too serious, I imagine.  But maybe serious.  I don’t know how to compare it with others.  Maybe I’m the biggest atheist of all time.  But maybe, on a good day, I’m the biggest freaking, emotionally drenched, God-praising lunatic ever.  Or, maybe, I was always too confused to claim either side.

I think, at the very least, there is something to be gained from Christopher Hitchens … and yes, Richard Dawkins.  I like both people.  There is a reason why they sprouted up and became so popular.  If you have no idea why, then I guess I’m not talking to you.

If Christians don’t regain the sense of clear-cutness that the new atheists have demonstrated, then we are in for a rude awakening.  Hitchens and company have spoken to the hearts of many confused individuals.  And they are confused because the Church has made them confused.  And when I said that, I mean you have made them confused.

Do you really care about reason?  Do you really care about clear, well thought-out truth?  Probably not.  You are probably driven by emotion.  You probably are Catholic (or Christian … or whatever you are) because you feel it to be right.  When it comes to logically defending the reasonableness of your position, you probably will sound like an idiot.  Sorry, but that’s probably the cold truth.  That’s okay.  Most people are probably like that.  Most people are satisfied by that.

But when it comes to the upper echelon of the smart people, they will not be satisfied.  Those people will be attracted to atheism if Catholicism doesn’t demonstrate a systematic consistency with regard to the ridiculous claims that the Church makes.  The faith will simply be seen as … faith.  That is, a trust in something that is not necessarily compatible with reason.  God bless the new atheists for reminding Catholics that reason is important.  Because, frankly, I see no Catholics actually taking reason seriously.  It is a hobby at best for them.  It is a superficial dalliance toward which they nod (maybe) but about which they have no idea.  They probably entertain “reasonable sounding things” just because their parents did or because some smart Catholic did.  But when put to the test, they will sound like a shameless moron.  Do you think I’m wrong?  I hope so.  I fear that I’m probably right.  Most Catholics I’ve met have no idea what they’re talking about, it seems.  They would be raped and devastated under the intellect of someone like Hitchens and Dawkins if they even had the balls to confront them in any way whatsoever.

And yet, I think Hitchens and Dawkins are record-breaking idiots.  That says a lot, considering that most Catholics are far worse.  The claims that these new atheists make are riddled with asinine historical inaccuracies, philosophical laughing-stock absurdities, and even just plain invalid syllogistic fallacies (e.g. “you can’t prove a negative” … um … really, Dawkins? … crack open a book of logic some day … you might learn something).  But such clown-like statements would probably render an average Catholic speechless.  Face it, you probably have no logical response to their accusations against the Church.  You probably will just regurgitate something you heard from Newman … if you even know who Newman is.  Maybe you’re a very educated Catholic … but have you ever gotten anywhere arguing with a new atheist?  Have you even made him understand anything you even said?  Or did you just regurgitate terminology foreign to the modern ear (but felt pretty important saying it)?  Yeah, that’s probably what you did.  If you did anything at all, that is.

But, hey, don’t worry.  Most people are probably not called to engage the new atheists.  The new atheists, after all, are a small percent of the population.  They are, in fact, a dying breed.  At the very least, they have done little to reproduce themselves.  The countries that new atheists claim as their allies are usually ones that can’t sustain their population (Sweden is a dear one to them).  For some reason, they have a problem with that meddlesome business called sex.  As much as they bow before the great Darwin, the more they fail to fulfill Darwin’s great commission.  It’s actually pretty hilarious.  I’m not against evolution (hell, it predates Darwin).  I’m against whatever the heck secularism is doing, since it seems to inhibit actual reproduction.  It seems that not being a Darwinist makes you have a chance in that great game of “survival of the fittest.”  Honestly, atheists, at least try to have babies.  They’re not going to eat you.

And yet, the atheists grow in number because of converts.  That is because of the failure of Catholics.  If you rely on faith alone, like a Protestant, you can expect a growth in atheism, just as we saw with the rise of Protestantism.  Catholics must undertake that foreign task of actually educating themselves … in history, philosophy, theology, and probably even science.  If you are unable to do this, that’s fine.  At least pray for Catholics who can become educated and take on this last remaining modernist onslaught which is called atheism (or secularism … whatever you wish to call it).  The atheists have done a good job, and we are naive to say that they haven’t.  The only chance of victory we have is to say that we have much to learn from them.  That is the only chance of redemption we have.  Lying to ourselves about this will just be another pitiful defeat.

So, how should we proceed from here?  I suggest looking in the place which is immediately most problematic … namely, yourself.  You probably have latent atheistic temptations that you’ve never fully dealt with (and if you don’t … well, then, nevermind).  The thing is, if you are tempted to be an atheist, and you’ve been so all your life, then you are probably called to fight atheism.  The reason why God gave you such a disorder is for you to overcome it in yourself … and then to overcome it in others.  But first you must overcome it in yourself.  You must acknowledge that Hitchens is you.  Dawkins is you.  However, you are probably less intelligent … and definitely less honest.  Fight the battle within you … or else you will not win the battle outside you.

I’d like to say that I’m not speaking hypocritically.  But I probably am.  I’ve spent hundreds of hours duking it out with atheists, getting in their minds, and I’d like to say that I have some insight into how they think.  But really, the only battles I’ve won are with the atheist inside myself.  And he is not yet defeated.  That is why I liked Hitchens.  He is me.

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About Remus

I am a teacher at a High School in Minnesota. I've taught History, Philosophy, Literature, and Psychology. That's about it.
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22 Responses to Christopher Hitchens … Cheers

  1. Sylvia says:

    I don’t think we, as Catholics, should argue with atheists. I think we should try to seduce them.

    • Remus says:

      Seduction is good. You can’t argue with that.

      However, I figure intellectual atheists are the least susceptible to such noble strategies, due to their prejudice against emotion. But, heck, it can’t hurt to try.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Man, if you’re on a crusade to make friends, I think you’ve boarded the wrong bus.

    That said, great essay. I’m sick of dealing with feel-goodedness, both within myself and in the Church in general. We’ve got a fantastic improvement on language entering the English-speaking liturgy right now, but no one can appreciate it worth [unladylike word] because they’re all too busy being sad about whateveritwas that has gone away. On top of it all, we’ve got [unchristian word] music, which hangs on because it is familiar and makes people feel good. And THEN people are so horribly, terribly, unprecedentedly, irreparably uncatechized, that literally all they have to go on is feelings. So if you take away what feels good, they don’t even have a prussian-style memorized, lock step, uninformedly pious Catechism background to fall back on.

    But what to do, Jules? How do we fix it? Feelings are nice, and they are easy. And they come naturally, whereas rationality and logic apparently do not (certainly not for women). My only personal solution is to read any and all saints who spoke on spiritual dryness. Because once you let go of the feelings, the desert is an awfully long way across.

    • Remus says:

      “That said, great essay.”

      Thanks. I was really worried that everyone (including me the next day) was going to unconditionally hate it beyond my emotional fortitude.

      “My only personal solution is to read any and all saints who spoke on spiritual dryness. Because once you let go of the feelings, the desert is an awfully long way across.”

      Yes, that is the key. Dryness is the solution to the exact thing I’m talking about. It will ensure that your faith is not just an emotional lie. That’s really the only answer unfortunately. And it goes back to making sure that you get rid of your own faults before you’re able to get rid of other people’s. Also, I don’t think you need to cross the whole desert before you, even without realizing it, start bettering other people. So don’t stress out too much about the long road … because heading for the goal is already attaining some of it.

  3. Emily Sparks says:

    Sorry to be harsh, but here is what this sounds like in a nutshell:

    “Though I don’t even know who is reading this, I know you have a pathetic faith based on emotion and wouldn’t know a basic logical premise if it hit you on the head. I know this because I am like Hitchens, much smarter and deeper than you.”

    IMHO, you can do a bit better. Most serious, devout Catholics have had struggles with Faith. Sometimes these struggles are in the sphere of reason, sometimes they are in a more practical area, but give other Catholics a bit of credit. Most real struggles aren’t often talked about.

    I would like to read a thoughtful and insightful piece on Hitchens. Perhaps you or Romulus could give it another try.

    • Jennifer says:

      But most Catholics are neither serious nor “devout”. That would be my first answer to your [very valid] point. I’m just conceited enough to think that I have a very good view of the “average” Catholic. These people are not from Christendom, have never heard of Christendom, don’t know any Latin other than “Adeste Fideles”, don’t like Latin anyway and if they did they’d go to Spanish Mass (actual quote), wouldn’t know a four-part hymn if it smacked them on the side of the head, think that gay people are just nice people who live differently, encourage their daughters to be altar girls because it’s a good way to love Jesus, attend Mass because their parents or grandparents did, teach CCD because a friend is doing it and it sounds like fun, wail and mourn when the “mean new priest” quits calling the children up at the end of Mass for a special talk and blessing, are still uneasy about Confession because it doesn’t make sense to talk to a priest when God knows everything, and (yep yep yep) can neither spell nor implement logic or reason.

      I deal with them every weekend, and I dealt with them one-on-one in RCIA for a year. They aren’t logical. Their faith isn’t even Faith–it’s feelings. They’re good people, and they’re trying, but the MEANING of Catholicism, the discipline and doctrine and hard work that make it actually count, is utterly nonexistent in their lives because it’s never been taught to them. The MEANING that renders apologetics effective and evangelization efficacious is absent within the minds of these people.

      Meanwhile, the serious and devout Catholics who do have the struggles you mention are invisible! Where are they? Where is there example? What are they doing to demonstrate that (a) hey, life is hard, and (b) look, I’m having a tough time, too? The insularity of devout Catholic communities is unhelpful to the struggling masses in general…meanwhile the athiests blog, write, commentate, and generally appear in public to be thinking and functioning real people. Thus they win converts, which I think our inebriate author is completely correct about.

  4. Remus says:

    Thanks for you honest commentary, Emily. That’s what I’m talking about.

    For what it’s worth, I wrote this after drinking half a bottle of cherry wine, half a bottle of elderberry wine, and half a bottle of dandelion wine … within … a reasonable period of time.

    “Sorry to be harsh, but here is what this sounds like in a nutshell:
    ‘Though I don’t even know who is reading this, I know you have a pathetic faith based on emotion and wouldn’t know a basic logical premise if it hit you on the head. I know this because I am like Hitchens, much smarter and deeper than you.'”

    Dang. You hit it on the head. That’s exactly what I was shamefully feeling at the time. You’re freaking telepathic. And I’m not proud about it.

    I suppose I don’t know for sure that all the readers have “a pathetic faith based on emotion.” However, I would nonetheless assume that anyway. You see, everyone’s faith is pathetic. To say otherwise about one’s own faith is prideful. I mean, right?

    “I would like to read a thoughtful and insightful piece on Hitchens. Perhaps you or Romulus could give it another try.”

    I could see that happening … maybe the post really did suck and I’ll realize it in a few days. Once again, thank you for your honesty. It is welcome.

    • Emily Sparks says:

      I understand better what you were getting at now. Perhaps it would help to differentiate between devout Catholics and the average non-practicing Catholic? These days, most Catholics are non-practicing. (USCCB survey reveals that one quarter go to Confession once a year, and about 15% attend Mass on Holydays.) I think these days that most Catholics who follow the Church’s teachings have more than just emotional fuzzies, since there are so few of us and it is so countercultural to do so. I assumed that practicing Catholics were your audience, but now that I see it is more cafeteria Catholics, I understand you better.

      • Remus says:

        I was mainly addressing people like cafeteria Catholics, yes. However, I was, in perhaps a more indirect way, also speaking to those who are faithful/practicing Catholics as well. I believe that most practicing Catholics aren’t saints (not too big of an assumption, right?). And if that’s the case, it is probably the case that most practicing Catholics do not have a pure love of God … that is, they are running on a more superficial desire … an emotional one. While they no doubt have a certain amount of true love, there is still much work to be done on their souls. It seems that even many saints, who have suffered years of purifying spiritual darkness, were still convinced that their love was still too superficial and simply emotion-driven. So, in a way, my point was to make people, no matter how devout they are, be aware that they are still not perfect … that their love of God could be in a lot better shape.

        But maybe, despite all that, I made my point to harshly. I could see how that could be the case.

  5. John says:

    Most certainly an interesting essay. I agree that most people have “faith” for emotional reasons – including (as contradictory is this sounds) atheists. I am an atheist. I was raised in a conservative Catholic family and struggled with Catholicism for years. I left the Catholic Church for emotional (90%) and cognitive (10%) reasons over a decade ago. The last years have been a journey for me. I have read Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and others. I read the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I read some Escriva. I have talked to Catholics and the intent of my conversation has evolved from conversion to understanding over the years. I still don’t get it. I don’t understand how an articulate, intelligent person can be a devout Catholic. It seems completely counter-intuitive to me. Perhaps this makes me stupid or a snob but it is honest. I do care about reason and truth and I have found neither in Catholicism. When I say that I mean in the parts of Catholicism that seemingly require the suspension of both – things like virgin birth, supernatural beings, transubstantiation etc. Obviously Catholicism has a lot to say that I agree with but that is more the fluffy “do onto others” type stuff and it is stuff that is common in many religions.

    If you ever figure out how to sell Catholicism Hitchen’s Style, I’m all ears – like you, I quite liked the guy. Unlike you, I don’t think he was a “record-breaking idiot”. Just in case you’re wondering who the hell I am – I’m good buddies with Romulus’ older brother and the brother-in-law of his even older brother….

    Keep it coming – I love the mind stretching – perhaps a little less dandelion wine next time…

    • Remus says:

      Thanks for the comment. It meant a lot.

      Would you call yourself an “agnostic atheist”? That is, do you accept that God might exist, but since you see no proof, you take the position that He doesn’t? Or do you think God is a logical absurdity? In which case do you think He most certainly does not exist? Likewise, for you, would the virgin birth, supernatural beings, and transubstantiation fall under “unproved” or “logically contradictory”?

  6. John says:

    I think I can safely say I’m an “atheist” atheist. The probability of anything resembling a God existing is pretty much zero. I obviously cannot prove he doesn’t exist but I am satisfied that his existence is extremely improbable. The Catholic God is one of logical absurdity but I don’t think he has the market cornered on that absurdity. The other things I mentioned are both unproven and logically contradictory….

    • Remus says:

      “I obviously cannot prove he doesn’t exist but I am satisfied that his existence is extremely improbable.”
      Some atheists would call this position “agnostic atheism” (i.e. you can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, but since you can’t prove that He does, then you don’t believe in Him) as opposed to “gnostic atheism” (i.e. you CAN prove God doesn’t exist, thus you must believe positively that God doesn’t exist). Most atheists I’ve met fall under the former category and thus would NOT say that “I believe God doesn’t exist” but rather WOULD say “I do not believe God exists.” See what I’m saying?

      “The Catholic God is one of logical absurdity”
      As opposed to a kind of philosophical, non-religious idea of God? What doctrines of Catholicism make God absurd? You don’t have to name all of them. But you can if you want. You might have a long list.

  7. John says:

    It is extremely improbable that dragons exist or ever did but I can’t prove it. I would still consider myself an “atheist” when it comes to the existence of dragons. I can confidently say “I believe God doesn’t exist” as I can confidently say ” I don’t believe Zeus exists.”

    As far as logical absurdities go – you can guess the list. As a Catholic you must be intimately familiar with the many places your faith contradicts reason. The list is long but would certainly include virgin birth, transubstantiation, the Trinity, resurrection, Ascension etc…. All of these things are impossible and therefor illogical….

    • Remus says:

      “It is extremely improbable that dragons exist or ever did but I can’t prove it. I would still consider myself an ‘atheist’ when it comes to the existence of dragons. I can confidently say ‘I believe God doesn’t exist’ as I can confidently say ‘I don’t believe Zeus exists.'”

      I’ve heard this kind of argument many times among atheists, but I haven’t heard why this isn’t a kind of leap of faith on their part. If something is extremely improbable, it doesn’t follow that it doesn’t exist. Because this is the case, atheists, who reject faith and accept only reason, are forced to admit that they are agnostics at heart (or “agnostic athiests”). The fact that you say you are “confident” that God doesn’t exist is further proof that you have “faith” that God doesn’t exist rather than you “know” that God doesn’t exists. Hence, I think you would reasonable fall under the “agnostic atheist” category.

      As a side note, it’s quite certain that “dragons” were merely the word that ancients and medievals used to refer to “dinosaurs” … since there is evidence that they would occasionally discover dinosaur fossils and even living dinosaurs (like Crocodiles).

      Further, what do you mean by Zeus that makes you dismiss his existence entirely?

      “As a Catholic you must be intimately familiar with the many places your faith contradicts reason.”

      I am aware of those supposed contradictions, yes.

      “The list is long but would certainly include virgin birth, transubstantiation, the Trinity, resurrection, Ascension etc…. All of these things are impossible and therefore illogical….”

      Impossible in what sense? Impossible in terms of the laws of physics or the laws of logic? An apple defying the laws of gravity and flying upwards into the air may contradict our understanding of science, but I don’t see a logical contradiction in such an event. A square circle, on the other hand, is something metaphysically contradictory, but I see no Catholic doctrine that falls victim to such a conflict. It seems you are conflating the two. In particular:

      – I don’t see a logical contradiction between becoming a pregnant and not having sex.
      – If God exists, why is it logically contradictory to say that three persons comprise God?
      – While it seems impossible in terms of the laws of physics that a dead thing suddenly becomes living, how does that defy logic?
      – And why would Christ levitating upward and shifting into another dimension called “heaven” be intrinsically impossible?

  8. John says:

    “If something is extremely improbable, it doesn’t follow that it doesn’t exist.” While this statement and thought process is technically correct, I think it misses the point. For example, I cannot prove that the tooth fairy doesn’t actually exist. I know she doesn’t but I can’t actually prove it. I also can’t prove that there isn’t a replica of myself living in a parallel universe but I certainly won’t live my life worrying about my replica or the tooth fairy. Does it require a “leap of faith” on my part that the tooth fairy doesn’t exist? Perhaps, but I can assure my leap of faith is much smaller then the chasm that is a theistic leap of faith. If humanity devoted its time, in any great measure, to thoroughly investigating things that are extremely improbable at the outset, we would never get anything done but I’m sure we would have a lengthy tome that thoroughly disproved the existence of the tooth fairy.

    I think it was Bertrand Russel that said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” I think he was onto something, and I await the extraordinary evidence.

    If it makes you feel better, you can call me an agnostic but I can assure you that despite the fact that I can’t technically prove the non-existence of God(s) (not because you can’t prove a negative – that is a silly thing to say) I know that God does not exist. I don’t live my life considering the existence of God as even a remote possibility. I remain fascinated by the human condition that seems to require God or gods.

    As far as Catholic breaches of logic go, if you don’t see a logical contradiction in virgin birth then you are being intellectually dishonest. A virgin (especially one 2000 years ago) could not be pregnant without engaging in the necessary activity for this condition. I’m sure a modern day DNA test would establish who Jesus’ father was and I’d bet everything I’ve got it wasn’t God. If somebody presents something that is impossible as fact, how does that NOT defy logic? Things like virgin birth, unassisted levitation (never mind the destination) and resurrection are impossible and, therefore, illogical.

  9. Remus says:

    “I cannot prove that the tooth fairy doesn’t actually exist.”

    It depends what you mean by this. It may be possible to prove that some mystical creature didn’t replace your dismembered teeth with money while you were asleep … if, that is, you were informed by your parents later on that they were behind it the whole time (unless you don’t accept your parents’ word as proof). But is there some spirit that concerns itself with teeth in some way? Maybe. Personally, I don’t feel obligated to deny the existence of such a being. I would definitely take an agnostic position (same situation with extraterrestrials by the way). But in some way, I admire atheists over agnostics since they deny God’s existence and (most of them) claim that they cannot prove their position … that is, they tacitly accept the validity of faith (i.e. that you can accept some propositions without needing to have proof for them).

    “I can assure my leap of faith is much smaller then the chasm that is a theistic leap of faith.”

    I’m not sure what criteria you are using to measure such chasms. I’m not sure why you think God’s existence is “improbable.” To most people, theism seems perfectly natural. Most people throughout history believe in God as if by default. But I’m not sure what you mean by “chasm.” At the very least, the alleged vast canyon of theism seems easier to leap then the alleged minute pot-hole of atheism.

    “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

    This was actually said by Carl Sagan. I frankly have never understood what this phrase means. I assume “extraordinary” means “supernatural.” In that case, it would be: “Supernatural claims require supernatural evidence.” However, if you are going to deny the existence of the supernatural, then you are going to deny the existence of supernatural evidence. Any evidence presented to you will simply be dismissed as natural phenomenon. So, it’s sort of an unfair test.

    “If it makes you feel better, you can call me an agnostic but I can assure you that despite the fact that I can’t technically prove the non-existence of God(s) (not because you can’t prove a negative – that is a silly thing to say) I know that God does not exist.”

    Of course you can prove a negative. It’s a silly myth made up by skeptics who claim you can’t. No logician thinks that you can’t prove any negatives.

    Here are some examples of negative statements that CAN be proven:
    – The angles of a triangle do NOT add up to 179 degrees
    – Square circles do NOT exist
    – There are NO visible unicorns in my bedroom right now (I checked … didn’t see any unicorns)
    – This apple will NOT fly up into space when I drop it in these next three seconds (I checked … it didn’t fly up into space … thus proven)
    – The first words of the Bible do NOT say “Hocuspocus” (I checked … it says, “In the beginning…”)
    – Atheists do NOT accept the existence of God (I’m pretty sure you CAN prove that … you know, by definition)

    Also, the phrase, “You can NOT prove a negative” is itself a negative statement. So, if that phrase is true (which it most certainly is not), then you can’t prove that you can’t prove a negative … it’s a matter of faith, I guess.

    And even if you couldn’t prove a negative, I don’t see why you think that would help your case because you simply confess that you cannot prove God’s non-existence, and thus reaffirm that your intellectual position rests in the realm of faith, since your position cannot be proven.

    So, by saying, “You can’t prove a negative” in order to try and make your atheism seem more reasonable is … well … not recommended. It really perplexes me why atheists think this fallacy helps them in any way.

    “If you don’t see a logical contradiction in virgin birth then you are being intellectually dishonest. A virgin could not be pregnant without engaging in the necessary activity for this condition.”

    I’m not being intellectually dishonest. You just haven’t thought about it hard enough. Virgin births are not in themselves necessarily miraculous. They are even possible today with in vitro fertilization. If we can can make virgins pregnant, I’m sure God can (if He exists of course). Hence, there is nothing logically contradictory with a virgin birth.

    “If somebody presents something that is impossible as fact, how does that NOT defy logic? Things like virgin birth, unassisted levitation (never mind the destination) and resurrection are impossible and, therefore, illogical.”

    Logic pertains to consistency in the reasoning process from given premises. Hence, even if an argument is founded on untrue premises, if it doesn’t contradict itself, then the argument is still logical, despite it probably coming to a wrong conclusion. This is what every book on logic will tell you.

    And, in any case, I’m not sure what “facts” you are referring to when you dismiss unassisted levitation and resurrection. Not only do I not see your reasons for dismissing them as illogical, I also do not see why you dismiss them as going against “facts.” Before, you try and come up with such “facts” that disprove them … remember a “fact” is a thing that is indisputably the case (so, if a theist disputes a “fact” … it is no fact at all in such a debate about God’s existence … you have to use “facts” that both sides accept in order to prove one side inconsistent with things that they themselves accept … that’s how argumentation works).

    And just to point:
    – Virgin Birth is NOT logical/possible/factual
    – Levitation is NOT logical/possible/factual
    – Resurrection is NOT logical/possible/factual

    … all those statements are negative. So, if you still believe that you can’t prove a negative, then you can’t say those things are NOT possible … and thus you need other “evidence” to show why the “Catholic faith is not logical” (and, of course, that’s a negative too). Hence, by your own reasoning, you cannot prove that Catholicism is unreasonable. It’s all a matter of faith, I guess. Is that what you want to say?

  10. John says:

    You need to read more carefully. I said that saying you can’t prove a negative is silly. I never said you can’t prove a negative and I certainly don’t believe that you can’t prove a negative. Not sure who the small “j” john is but it ain’t me. That little misunderstanding caused you to waste a bit of time…

    “But is there some spirit that concerns itself with teeth in some way? Maybe. Personally, I don’t feel obligated to deny the existence of such a being.”

    Their aren’t a good number of incredibly influential people making important decisions based on what a tooth spirit allegedly tells them. If there were, I’m pretty sure your atheism would boil to the surface in a hurry.

    The reason that an atheist can’t prove the non-existence of God(s) is a matter of human limitation. When you consider the supposed characteristics of God(s), it becomes obvious he can’t be “found” so his existence can’t be proven or dis-proven.

    “Virgin births are not in themselves necessarily miraculous. They are even possible today with in vitro fertilization.” This thought actually crossed my mind when I wrote that but I thought it unnecessary to even address it. You disappoint. You are being intellectual dishonest. Mary did not get pregnant via in vitro fertilization. Mary got pregnant the way all women got pregnant two thousand years ago.

    “Logic pertains to consistency in the reasoning process from given premises.” Right, hence the reasons that those things are illogical. Virgins (2000 years ago) didn’t get pregnant to suggest that one did is illogical. Unassisted levitation defies gravity, is impossible and remains illogical. Resurrection etc etc etc…. The facts involved are well established and accepted in various fields including physics and biology. Of course Mary’s case is even more complicated because she was allegedly impregnated by God – it is technically possible for a virgin to get pregnant by engaging in non-penetration sexual activities carelessly – very unlikely but not impossible. Given that, I will clarify: Mary was not a virgin that was impregnated by God. She was definitely pregnant and most probably got that way the same way everyone else does with a slight possibility that she remained, technically, a virgin. That is not what the Catholic Church teaches and that is the reason that the dogma of virgin birth is untrue and illogical.

    “To most people, theism seems perfectly natural. Most people throughout history believe in God as if by default.” This statement is intellectually dishonest as well. Many people, even most people, do believe in some form of supernatural being or beings, their beliefs are nothing resembling compatible. The Hindu god Vishnu has little in common with the Muslim Allah. One need not look far to see the incredible scope of what “god” means to humans occupying the earth at this moment, never mind in the past, the tooth fairy may as well throw her hat into the ring.

    Your use of the word “faith” while clever, is somewhat silly. I take lots of things on faith – before I became familiar with the inner workings of an internal combustion engine, I would have thought it absurd that my car was powered by a hamster running in a wheel. Anyone that suggested the hamster theory would have raised an eyebrow and I would have discounted them, with no further investigation necessary on “faith” that hamsters have nothing to do with internal combustion engines. A silly example to be sure, but it makes the point. I know that God doesn’t exist the same way I know unicorns and winged horses don’t exist. Call that faith if you like but you deceive yourself if you choose to do so. The definition of faith for our purposes should be “belief without proof” and specifically, belief in God without proof.

    For me this discussion isn’t about semantics and trickery, it is about truth. Hitch, despite his occasional miserable bedside manner, was similarly focused – I think he was nearer the truth then any Catholic I have ever met….

    • Remus says:

      “You need to read more carefully. I said that saying you can’t prove a negative is silly. I never said you can’t prove a negative and I certainly don’t believe that you can’t prove a negative. Not sure who the small “j” john is but it ain’t me. That little misunderstanding caused you to waste a bit of time…”

      Dang. My bad. I’m a freaking moron. Here I thought I had you good. I was a tad excited and actually failed to read what you wrote. Well, that’s embarrassing. My apologies. You win this round.

      “Mary did not get pregnant via in vitro fertilization.”

      Never said she did. I was just showing that “virgin birth” is not a contradiction by bringing up in vitro as an example. You seemed to say it was an intrinsic contradiction, but since there is one case of it, it ceases being a logical contradiction. A square circle, for example, is intrinsically contradictory … but a virgin birth most certainly is not.

      “Mary got pregnant the way all women got pregnant two thousand years ago.”

      Prove it.

      “Virgins (2000 years ago) didn’t get pregnant … to suggest that one did is illogical.”

      Prove it. You can’t honestly expect a person who believes in the virgin birth to be persuaded by the argument, “Um, no, she wasn’t a virgin.” That’s essentially what you’re saying. You have to show the contradiction in their beliefs … but simply saying “Virgins 2000 years ago didn’t get pregnant” is a premise that Christians don’t accept because they believe Mary WAS a virgin. Otherwise, that would be like me saying, “God exists, therefore atheists are wrong.”

      “Unassisted levitation defies gravity, is impossible and remains illogical.”

      God assists them, so it’s all good.

      “This statement is intellectually dishonest as well. Many people, even most people, do believe in some form of supernatural being or beings, their beliefs are nothing resembling compatible.”

      They are not compatible insofar as those beliefs often contain propositions that contradict those of other beliefs. I obviously agree with that. But they all theistic beliefs and have SOMETHING in common, namely they believe in God, otherwise they wouldn’t be called theistic. Hence, my claim stands, namely, “To most people, theism seems perfectly natural. Most people throughout history believe in God as if by default.” I’m not sure why that statement is necessarily dishonest. I mean, people have different views about the “universe” (some even claim the universe is just a projection of the mind, for example, let alone all the conflicting scientific theories) … does that mean beliefs about the universe are also meaningless as theism is meaningless? I’m not really sure what your point is.

      “I know that God doesn’t exist the same way I know unicorns and winged horses don’t exist. Call that faith if you like but you deceive yourself if you choose to do so. The definition of faith for our purposes should be ‘belief without proof’ and specifically, belief in God without proof.”

      How am I deceiving myself? I’m using “faith” to mean “belief without proof” just as you are. You yourself admitted that you have believed plenty of things without proof. In fact, most of the things you believe are probably without proof. So, I’m wondering, why is belief in God without proof especially taboo? You have offered no criteria why you accept some things without proof and reject others (also without proof).

      “Hitch, despite his occasional miserable bedside manner, was similarly focused – I think he was nearer the truth then any Catholic I have ever met.”

      I won’t doubt it. I also know a number of Catholics that would fall under that category.

      • John says:

        I accept things without proof with the knowledge that I could verify them to my satisfaction if I chose to do so. I cannot do this with God. Nobody can. The reason that belief in God(s) is “taboo” for me is that in a best case scenario it is an extraordinary waste of time and in a worst case scenario, it is lethal. Hitchens once said, “What can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” That mirrors my take on the situation. The onus is not on me, I’m not the one making the extraordinary claim, I’m merely the one asking for the evidence. There are several theories about the human need for God(s) and their subsequent fabrication of them – Dawkins speaks to this quite extensively in his book, “The God Delusion” and does a much better job explaining a pretty compelling theory than I ever could.

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