I’m taking a brief excursion from my normal subject matter to bring up a point about justice that I’ve made in the past, and one that Peter Hitchens makes in the following video clip. For those of you who don’t know, Peter Hitchens is the brother of the notorious atheist, the late Christopher Hitchens, one of the so-dubbed, “Four Horsemen of the New Atheism.”
I’m always fascinated by people’s journey from atheism to faith in God, which is what intrigued me about Peter Hitchens’ story.
Like his brother, when Peter grew up he became an atheist (he also describes himself as a former revolutionary socialist, having spent many years living in the former Soviet Union), but Peter’s journey took him in a very different direction. He has written several books, including one about his journey to faith titled, “The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me To Faith.”
You can watch a YouTube video introducing the book here. In this interview, Hitchens makes an interesting point:
“It’s important for me to say that atheism led me to faith because so many assume that atheism is the final station on the railroad, that you arrive there, that you’ve been through everything else, that the argument is finished, and that you have permanently rejected something which is restricted to the childhood of mankind …You can actually see, from where I sit, that it’s far from being the end of the argument. It’s the beginning of the argument.”
And that argument won’t be over any time soon. Whether we like to admit it or not, everyone exercises faith concerning their worldview. The atheist’s faith may be in naturalism or materialism, even though he or she cannot prove that the physical world is all there is. Certainly science is no help to us in that regard for methodological reasons (see “Science Cannot Replace God.”) The theist has faith that there’s more to our reality than what science can tell us, even though he or she cannot prove that either. In the final analysis, we all choose what we will believe. It comes down to a matter of the heart, for it’s the heart by which one believes or chooses not to believe (Rom.10:10).
The following video clip is taken from a debate Peter Hitchens was part of on the existence of God at the Oxford Union Society back in 2012. Many of the atheist, humanist, and Christian apologists from Oxford and Cambridge were in attendance. Peter’s got his brother’s British wit, and wastes no time laying the smack-down on atheism and justice in the clip, like the following remarks:
“They [atheists] don’t want justice. They do want the dead to be dead. They do want the universe to be purposeless. They do not want their own individual actions to have any other significance than their immediate effect.
But from our side of the argument, what we say is that if we desire justice for ourselves, we also desire it for other people and, likewise, if we desire it for other people, we require it for ourselves, and we bring it upon ourselves. And on the basis of that, we construct, with some difficulty, with a certain amount of historical knowledge, in the case of some of us, with an enormous amount of scientific knowledge of the universe, we construct a belief that helps us to discover, insofar as it is possible, what it is we ought to do and how it is we ought to live, in the belief that there is justice, that there is hope, that death is not the end, that our actions have significance beyond what we immediately do. That is what we are discussing. Do you want it, or do you not want it? If you don’t want it, then you can simply turn with raillery and badinage and mock the beliefs of others.”
Then he goes on to say…
“God is the principal opposition in our societies to lawless ruthless power. So, to the bully, to the autocrat, to the despot, to the criminal, to the person who treats his neighbors like dirt, fundamentally, once we have dispensed with that concept in our society, we are left with nothing….”
Dostoevsky brilliantly makes this moral argument in his classic work, The Brothers Karamazov:
“But what will become of men then?’ I asked him, ‘without God and immortal life? All things are lawful then, they can do what they like?'” *
Here’s the video clip with Peter Hitchens at the Oxford Union Society.
I would like to make one more point about justice. If there is no afterlife, no God, then there can be no ultimate justice. We simply muddle through and then we’re dead. Of course, this may work fine for the privileged, those with good health, the comfortable middle-class living in the suburbs, the rich, the sought-after, the self-indulgent, and all those who get away with their crimes and evil deeds in this life. But, to put it colloquially, it really sucks for everyone else. They have a marginalized life now and then they’re dead. That’s it. No justice.
Even for those who have a reasonably good life, what purpose does it serve? Are we only ultimately here to pass on our DNA, destined to be worm food? Sorry, it’s not an appealing prospect to me. And it shouldn’t be for you either. I will close with Paul’s words of encouragement for us all to consider:
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor.4:16-18 NIV)