Bill Murchison
The death of the world's leading self-styled atheist (may his soul rest in peace) occasions reflection about his, shall we say, firm convictions regarding the truth of religion -- any religion.

Christopher Hitchens, the English-born polemicist, was against 'em all, or at least said he was. The title of a best-selling book he published several years ago was, "God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything."

Everything. Well, that's a little stiff, but Hitchens always pursued his ideas to the horizon and beyond. Among his various notions, some of which were relatively "conservative," was that religion was a fraud, to be shunned by the wise and the honest. One problem with such a stance was its dogmatism. If you think, say, that Christians are dogmatic -- inflexible in views that are open to question or, anyway, examination -- what about dogmatic atheists?

"Hitch" (his nickname) had been brought up, I think, in the Church of England. He decided there were no two ways about this religion business. The world had got it wrong. There were no gods. None. Who said so? Christopher Hitchens said so. Wasn't that enough? Hmmm....

This is no time or place to open up, surgically, the atheist movement that seems to have gained footing over the last couple of decades. It is fair, maybe, to suggest that Christianity -- I leave out its co-partners in worship of an/the Almighty -- has maybe actually facilitated the atheist movement.

How? you say. By downplaying, I would say, its own truth claims while up-playing its social conscience and good works. This leaves the impression on minds inside and outside the church that faith in Christ, while possibly a good idea, is just a good, modern-style choice -- take it or leave it. The drama of the faith thereby loses its drama, its pull and its intensity. Is it just a choice? OK. Which is where the atheist fraternity rushes in, expostulating about the stupid things Christians have done -- e.g., kill and persecute each other -- and saying, what person of sensitivity could believe in such stuff? Q.E.D., end of debate -- assuming there ever was one.

The over-arching, all-consuming factuality of the faith is the point Christians tend to leave alone, out of fear they might hurt the feelings of non-believers or out of -- I hate to say this -- their own waning conviction that it's really, deep-down true, hence inescapable.

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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