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FIRST-PERSON: Not enough faith to be an atheist

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP) -- One of the world's most ardent promoters of atheism has died. Christopher Hitchens succumbed to complications from cancer on Dec. 15. The British-born author and journalist was 62.

If Hitchens was correct in his belief that a supreme being is nothing more than an empty invention of humankind, then he has simply ceased to exist in the material world.

However, if Hitchens was wrong and there is a God to whom all men must give an account, then his eternal soul has experienced a rude awakening.

When it came to religion in general, and Christianity specifically, Hitchens minced no words. He thought both were useless and even dangerous.

The title of one of Hitchens' most recent books succinctly sums up his view of religion. "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything," was not intended to be a hyperbolic title; it accurately conveyed what Hitchens thought about the belief in God. In his memoir, "Hitch-22," he wrote, "Everything about Christianity is contained in the pathetic image of 'the flock.'"

Hitchens dismissed the existence of God by saying, "Exceptional claims demand exceptional evidence." Another of Hitchens' favorite quips was, "What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence."

Hitchens fancied himself a rational thinker who eschewed faith. "Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith. ... We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, open-mindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake," he wrote in "God Is Not Great."

Sadly, Hitchens falls into the delusion of deifying his own intellect. His statement about open-mindedness would be humorous if it were not so tragic. Hitchens was anything but open-minded. He accepted the dogma of evolution and dismissed off-hand the natural world and its intricate complexities as possible evidence for God.


Something Hitchens seemed never to grasp is that it requires faith to embrace atheism and evolution. While I would readily agree that the scientific method cannot be used to prove God or Divine creation, Hitchens would not admit that the same is true for evolution and the non-existence of God.

I am not a scientist or a son-of-a-scientist, but neither was Hitchens. Thus, I feel comfortable in asserting what I do understand about the application of science in the debate concerning evolution and existence of God.

The scientific method demands certain criteria be met in order to arrive at an objective, quantifiable conclusion. First of all, an event or phenomena must be able to be tested. Second, it must be able to be observed in some shape, form or fashion. Third, it must be measured. And fourth, it must be repeatable.

If all the criteria cannot be met, then an event or phenomena cannot be said to be empirically proven. Scientifically, if one of the four cannot be applied, an element of uncertainty must remain.

Despite what intellectual elites like Hitchens try to assert, an airtight, scientific explanation has not been established concerning the origin of the universe. Various theories have been developed and one can subscribe to any or all of them; however, to do so requires some measure of faith.

In the end, Hitchens' life came to a conclusion with him clinging to his faith in atheism and evolution. By all accounts his faith in those two dogmas was strong. If his belief was correct, then he simply no longer exists.


However, if Hitchens' faith was misplaced, if he was wrong, then he is now being confronted with a reality he both denied and denounced. If so, it must be a sobering realization.

In the end, belief in atheism and evolution are embraced by faith. The same, of course, applies to the reality of God and Divine creation. I just don't have enough faith to be an atheist.

Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press and editor of the Baptist Message (, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

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Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press


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