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« Testimony & Argument | Main | Federal Judge Strikes Down Prop 8 »

August 04, 2010


Generally one wishes a sick person a speedy recovery - probably that is what his family wishes Hitchens - rather than a death-bed conversion.

I'm no fan of Hitchens, yet I feel a deep sadness for him. He has spent a lifetime distancing himself from God and stands on the verge of being granted that the ultimate sense.

Its not to late for him, but time is running out.

I agree with you totally RonH. The man is possibly dying and you call for a deathbed conversion? Wouldn't that make for great headlines.

If being converted is better than not being converted, then a "deathbed conversion" is better than no conversion at all. Considering that Mr. Hitchens' time may be short, the idea is especially timely and relevant.

What would be timely and relevant used to be called common decency.

RonH, why do you think the wish for a death-bed conversion is odd? Think about this: If Brett is sincere in his faith, the two options for Hitchens are:

1) Remain an atheist
2) Become a believer.

Whether or not he is cured to add say another 30 years to his life is meaningless if what is at stake is eternity in the presence of God in heaven or away from God in hell. Given that and given that sickness if often the best reminder of our mortal selves, our infirmities and our imperfections, physical sickness can be a great opportunity for self-introspection for Hitchens and conversion to Christendom.

So what is your beef here?

RonH, why does it have to be either/or? Can't it be both? Brett said, "Count me in with the 'astonishing number of prayer groups' on his side. I want him to beat cancer." It sounds like Brett is wishing for him to recover.

Wishing for him to recover looks like this:

Here's hoping--and praying--for a speedy recovery.
See the difference?

Here's hoping the post gets taken down. I'm not going to look at it anymroe.

Well, RonH, I can't think of a more cynical interpretation of Brett's post that the one you came up with. But I have no reason to share your cynicism.

Someone who has a speedy recovery will inevitably die at a later date. Conversion has lasting benefits. As in, eternal. Wishing someone eternal life is better than wishing a mere extension of life on earth. Plus, one does not preclude the other.

In my 30 plus years as a professional therapist I have watched the controversy over alternative lifestyles and same sex marriage grow to the point of changing the template for what is healthy and balanced in marriage and family relationships. In the last 10 years I found it necessary to drop membership in two professional organizations because of their growing encroachment on my Judeo-Christian values. When such organizations refuse to hear or publish scholarly presentations that support a Biblical world view, it is time to leave. I thank God for organizations like STR and the American Association for Christian Counselors where knowledge and truth can be declared to a dark world. Indeed, now is the time for Christians to rise out of their slumber and take a stand for reason.

Ah, yes. I know this game like the back of my hand as a former Christian. Life without God is all gloom and doom, isn't it? After all, how can there be any real meaning to life without a transcendent, supernatural reality? Speaking as a former Christian I can tell you that you can walk and even run without the fanciful crutch of religion. Here's a novel idea: find and create your own meaning in life. There's nothing whatsoever inconsistent about that position.

And not that I'm surprised, but you conveniently cherry-pick Russell's words. The completion of the quote is: "...all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built."

Russell's point is that true meaning is borne out of actual reality rather than fantasy. So you see, Hitchens stands in parallel with Russell. Perhaps the most relevant quote from Russell on this topic is:

"Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cosy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigour, and the great spaces have a splendour of their own."

So is there hope for Hitchens? Damn right there is. I hope he survives the cancer and that he beats it quickly. And I hope that his suffering is minimized as much as possible in the process. And if he doesn't survive it, I hope he lives his life to the fullest until the very end, that his suffering is minimal, and that he finds maximal comfort in his family and friends and the legacy he will leave behind. But that's too hard for people of faith to accept, because your faith is pro-death. All that really matters is the afterlife, so why would you hope to extend a man's earthly life?


But how can we determine such things are objectively good in an atheistic world devoid of objective Good?

I’m no atheist, but what really is being said here? Is the view that, if one is not a theist, one cannot rationally believe in objective values? What think that’s true?

Aristotle, Plato, the Stoics, and virtue ethics generally have taught that virtue and morality is very similar to health. According to Plato, an action is good if it proceeds from and leads to psychic health and harmony. According to Aristotle, an action is good if it proceeds from or constitutes human flourishing. According to the Stoics, an action is good if it proceeds from or constitutes inner-equilibrium. Why think that in a non-theistic world, one can’t make sense of psychic health, human flourishing, or inner-equilibrium?

Now perhaps you think that these folks are just wrong, and that virtue does not consist in this. Or perhaps you think that the goodness of flourishing itself needs to be explained and can only be explained via theism. Plato himself, for instance, posited the Good as a mind-independent objective feature of the world that good particulars participate in. That permits him an explanation of the goodness in the world but not via theism.

Besides, when the theist is asked to explain God’s goodness, she will reply, “It is simply God’s nature to be good.” Similarly, Aristotle and Plato can reply, “Well, it is simply the nature of health and flourishing to be good.”

Your point becomes far weaker when it is taken not as a question about metaphysical grounding, but about epistemology. The fact of the matter is that a person can know that flourishing is good even if that person doesn’t have a metaphysical account of goodness.

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