What are Atheists So Afraid Of?
The late Christopher Hitchens was one of the world’s foremost and most committed atheists. You may remember him for his best-selling, outrageous polemic against monotheism: God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Hitchens, who died of esophageal cancer in 2011, was one of the sharpest public intellectuals in the world. Hitch was master of quips such as “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence,” and “Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.” In his rampage against the Christian faith, Hitchens lustily debated some of the world’s greatest Christian apologists.
And one of them was my friend Larry Alex Taunton. Larry is on the best-seller lists because of his sensitive and powerfully written new book, The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist. He’s also in the news. And that’s because the book’s depiction of Hitchens as someone who took Christians and the Christian faith seriously is dangerous heresy for many who see the New Atheism as the only acceptable orthodoxy.
Monday I told you about the book itself, which describes Larry’s unlikely friendship with the famed atheist, including two long road trips in which they actually studied the Gospel of John together. (Taunton drove while the ailing Hitchens read aloud and drank Scotch.) Some who knew and debated Hitchens, such as Doug Wilson, say that the book is spot on.
But I want to focus for a minute on the response of the critics — or trolls, is more like it. For example, avenging anti-God hordes have crashed the book’s Amazon page, fulminating with one-star reviews labeling the book as “tripe” and “dishonest” and “morally reprehensible” — accusing the author of merely riding the beloved Hitch’s coattails “to make a fast buck.” But it’s pretty obvious that none of these “reviewers” has actually read the book. The question is: why haven’t they? What are they so afraid of?
Do they fear that Taunton is some Bible-believing Svengali, whose nefarious power over their ailing colleague was crass opportunism? Are they afraid that actually engaging with him and his ideas would put them in the same danger as their dear departed ally?
How can people so vocal about believing in “evidence” and “reason” behave like this? Yet there they are, posting their angry, one-star reviews, and then clicking away in an indignant huff. Yes, they are afraid — of where the facts might lead them.
One example was a BBC “conversation” with Taunton, which seemed disturbingly like a Saturday Night Live parody, with the ultra-smug host seated imperiously on an onyx-colored set, from which he asked withering questions. Then he turned to atheist activist, Laurence Krause, who actually claimed Hitchens was not Taunton’s friend at all, but was only paid to be in Taunton’s company! Of course Krause neglects to mention that apart from the “paid” debates between them there was all that time together on those two long, voluntary road trips. And then there was the fact that Hitchens actually slept in Taunton’s home. But to know this, one must actually have read the book.
Perhaps these folks should listen to Hitchens when he said, “We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, open-mindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake.” The intellectually dishonest critics, however, are doing what they say they most despise in Christians — attempting to shut down uncomfortable ideas and yes, debates, that contradict their own beliefs.
I get into much of this in a new op-ed just published in The Wall Street Journal. I’ll link you to it at BreakPoint.org. And while you’re there, we’ll tell you how to get Larry Taunton’s great new book, The Faith of Christopher Hitchens, for yourself, or for a searching friend.