Sunday, January 1, 2012

Mom, Mohler, and Hitchens

We had a lovely Christmas this year, my first year as being an out atheist to my family. No one brought it up and no one seemed to care overmuch. It simply wasn't important to our family celebration...at least, on the outside.

On the inside, I know my mom cares very deeply and that she deals with the truth by pretending it doesn't exist most of the time. I have learned to accept that because how she copes with that truth is not my responsibility. 

Nevertheless, I was quite proud of how she dealt with things at Christmas. I knew deep down she had some things to say but I did not know if, or how, she'd say them. Based on the past, I could have expected that she might make pointed jabs or make some kind of scene. She didn't do that and I'm very proud of her for it. What she did do is include in one of my gift boxes a copy of The Baptist Record with some articles marked that might be "of interest." I'm actually quite fine with this approach because it's far more adult than what I've come to expect and I enjoy reading religious publications because they give me something to consider.

And so it was with this issue of the paper. The third article was a large, 3/4 page write-up on the death of Christopher Hitchens. It gave a little background about him and his "new atheism." It quoted a few religious folks who were mostly oozing with sympathy and sorrow over his demise. But it was the tweet by Alfred Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, that really caught my eye:

The death tonight of Christopher Hitchens is an excruciating reminder of the consequences of unbelief. We can only pray others will believe. The point about Christopher Hitchens is not that he died of unbelief, but that his unbelief is all that matters now. Unspeakably sad.

The first thing that grabbed me was this idea that Hitchens died because of unbelief. Notice Mohler didn't say he died "in unbelief" but "of unbelief." There's a big difference there that's worth mentioning. Mohler seems to suggest that Hitchens' death was directly attributable to his unbelief in the Christian god. Did he mean that only unbelievers die of cancer? Surely not. That's demonstrably false. Did he mean that unbelievers die because they aren't praying? Surely not. That's stupid and false as well. So what exactly did Mohler mean by his statement?

Second, is this idea that only Hitchens' unbelief matters now. That seems to really wrap up the fundamentalist Christian viewpoint to me. No matter what you did in life, it's only what you believed on your deathbed that counts. Hitchens spent his entire life examining the world and sharing with us what he saw in it. Most of the time I think he was spot on. Sometimes I wondered what he was smoking. But I never doubted for one second that he wasn't brutally honest and passionate. Yet none of that matters to believers like Mohler. Nothing Hitchens did in his life is worth anything - it's only the fact that he died in unbelief and is now in Hell. What a degrading and disgusting dogma!

If my mom wonders why I can't accept Christianity in general and the Southern Baptist denomination in particular, she need look no farther than that one article to know why. I do not believe that there are any tyrannical deities in the sky waiting to punish us for the most trivial of offenses and neither do I believe that the sum of our lives is no more than whether we got one answer right or wrong at the end. I find that to be vile doctrine, cruel and stupid, that I can never again adhere to. I would rather die now as a person of honesty, passion, and dignity like Hitchens than to live a full lifetime of irresponsible musings, blind faith, and the pale immorality that Mohler espouses.