What an atheist is.

There has been a great deal of praise and ecomia expressed at the death (not passing) of Christopher Hitchens. I really cannot imagine that “Rest in Peace” or “RIP” is appropriate for an outspoken atheist.

Our euphemisms for death and matters related to it are really strange. When I “rest in peace,” it means a nap upstairs and no one using the infernal leaf blower for an hour while worrying one errant leaf into the pile. When I rest it means I’m coming back; I’ll be up and around. If I don’t return from my rest, it will be a sad day for my family because I will have “passed” (died) in my rest. I pass when I drive, or I pass a test. When I am dead, please don’t consider me as having “passed.” Also, I will not be “resting” in viewing room number 4 down the hall at the local funeral home, er, “family centre” as they are now called. All that will be there is the stuff I leave behind.

As for Hitchens, he’s not resting either. By his own insistence, he does not exist at this time. As an earthly being, he’s stopped completely–with the exception of decomposition; this can be speeded up by cremation. The atheist’s view is that it is really Over. Hitchens denied the reality of God, afterlife, resurrection and all that, so “resting,” being a temporary state, is not possible.

In the case that he was wrong about all that and Christian Theism is correct, his after-death existence is not likely restful either.

I sometimes found myself agreeing with Hitchens on some political issues. Common Grace is like that. But I’ll leave his praises for others to manage. I want to remind Christians of a few other things:

If the Bible is true, factual, then these things must also be true:

The atheist is a fool:

Psalm 14:1 (ESV): 1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.

The atheist is a liar in that he suppresses the truth:

Romans 1:18–22 (ESV): 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,

The atheist is an idolater, replacing the God of Scripture with himself:

Romans 1:25 (ESV): 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

The atheist, while claiming wisdom, lives in intellectual darkness:

Romans 1:21 (ESV): 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

With the “New Atheism” getting so much attention today it might be wise for Christians to consult the Scriptures about the “old atheism.” This is really nothing new; just more populist packaging. If  the Christian remembers that he has a place to stand that is not dependent upon himself, ie., God’s Word, the intimidation factor of an expert atheism is defeated.

It might also be good to consider these words of Cornelius Van Til:

The point of contact for the gospel, then, must be sought within the natural man. Deep down in his mind every man knows that he is the creature of God and responsible to God. Every man, at bottom, knows that he is a covenant-breaker. But every man acts and talks as though this were not so. It is the one point that cannot bear mentioning in his presence. A man may have internal cancer. Yet it may be the one point he will not have one speak of in his presence. He will grant that he is not feeling well. He will accept any sort of medication so long as it does not pretend to be given in answer to a cancer diagnosis. Will a good doctor cater to him on this matter? Certainly not. He will tell his patient that he has promise of life, but promise of life on one condition, that is, of an immediate internal operation. So it is with the sinner. He is alive but alive as a covenant breaker. But his own interpretative activity with respect to all things proceeds on the assumption that such is not the case. Romanism and evangelicalism, by failing to appeal exclusively to that which is within man but is also suppressed by every man, virtually allow the legitimacy of the natural man’s view of himself. They do not seek to explode the last stronghold to which the natural man always flees and where he always makes his final stand. They cut off the weeds at the surface but do not dig up the roots of these weeds, for fear that crops will not grow.

The truly Biblical view, on the other hand, applies atomic power and flame-throwers to the very presupposition of the natural man’s ideas with respect to himself. It does not fear to lose a point of contact by uprooting the weeds rather than by cutting them off at the very surface. It is assured of a point of contact in the fact that every man is made in the image of God and has impressed upon him the law of God. In that fact alone he may rest secure with respect to the point of contact problem.40 For that fact makes men always accessible to God. That fact assures us that every man, to be a man at all, must already be in contact with the truth. He is so much in contact with the truth that much of his energy is spent in the vain effort to hide this fact from himself. His efforts to hide this fact from himself are bound to be self-frustrative.

Only by thus finding the point of contact in man’s sense of deity that lies underneath his own conception of self-consciousness as ultimate can we be both true to Scripture and effective in reasoning with the natural man. Man, knowing God, refuses to keep God in remembrance (Romans 1:28)

Van Til, Cornelius. The Defense of the Faith. The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Philadelphia, 1955.

Christopher Hitchens

Perhaps the best way to honour the late Christopher Hitchens is to forget him entirely. This, at least, is consistent with his philosophy. According to his worldview, the universe has already done so. In cosmic time, each living being’s time is infinitesimally brief, so brief as to be virtually non-existent. Writings, contributions, memories, fame, fortune, deeds good and bad (as if those categories can even exist in Hitchen’s universe) have no lasting impact or meaning. The universe forgets us all, for it never knew us.

There’s another explanation, of course.