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.