Virtual Voices

Death of an atheist

Religion

Perhaps not since Madalyn Murray O'Hair and Carl Sagan has there been such an "evangelical" atheist as Christopher Hitchens, the writer and social commentator who died last week after a long and public battle with esophageal cancer.

Hitchens railed against those who believe in God. While an original writer, and smart, there was nothing original about his unbelief. Such views have been expressed since the dawn of humanity. They have also been answered by some of the wisest people who have ever lived. There is a difference between "smart" and "wise." As that Scripture in which Hitchens disbelieved says, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10).

I have always found atheists to be interesting people because they just may be the world's smallest minority group, one that gets smaller still as its members pass on and meet God face to face. Still, atheists demand physical proof of God's existence, as if they could bring God down and make Him into their image. What kind of God would that be? He would be their equal and, thus, not God at all.

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Evidence, alone, has never moved anyone from unbelief to faith. If proof were enough, all of the unbelieving contemporaries of Jesus (and Moses) would have believed in God because of the miracles they performed. Two people presented with exactly the same information can respond in opposite ways. Faith is not based solely on facts. It is a gift from a God who exists.

Hitchens wrote a book called God Is Not Great. It's a clever title, but how would he have known, since they had not been properly introduced?

C.S. Lewis, once an atheist and thus conversant with the subject, wrote after his conversion, "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."

Some people exist, however nervously, believing that this life is all there is. The late singer Peggy Lee put the result of such faith this way: "Is that all there is? If that's all there is to life, then let's break out the booze and have a ball, if that's all there is."

Why contribute to charity, or perform other good deeds? Without a source to inspire charity, such acts are sentimental affectations, devoid of meaning and purpose. If survival of the fittest is the rule, let only the fit survive. That was the sentiment of Ebenezer Scrooge before his visitation by those three spirits and his subsequent transformation. Let the poor and starving die, he said, "… and decrease the surplus population." Who is to say such a notion is wrong without a standard by which to judge wrong.

To object to God is to create morality from a Gallup Poll. In Gallup We Trust doesn't have the same authority.

Hitchens was a gifted writer, but who gave him the gift? Why was he not a gifted actor, surgeon, or athlete? Why was he not talentless? Was it an evolutionary accident, which would mean his gift and his life were meaningless and merely a "chasing after the wind"? (See Ecclesiastes.) Apparently he thought so.

An atheist will tell you he doesn't need God in order to be good, or perform good works. Maybe not, but the very notion of "good" must have both a definition and a definer. "Only God is good," said Jesus. (Mark 10:18)

Who is the author of evil? And if God is nonexistent, why do we call it evil? Is one person's evil another person's good? Does such a view lead to ethics that must inevitably be situational?

Scripture warns, "The fool has said in his heart 'there is no God.'" (Psalm 14:1)

In this season when many celebrate the object of their faith, there is no joy in the death of one who had faith that God does not exist. Hitchens now knows the truth and that can only be the worst possible news for him.

As for the atheists still with us, Christmas is a reminder there is still time to believe and receive the ultimate gift.

© 2011 Tribune Media Services Inc.

Cal Thomas
Cal Thomas

Cal, whose syndicated column appears on WORLD's website and in more than 500 newspapers, is a frequent contributor to WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Cal on Twitter @CalThomas.

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