From today’s Washington Post, by Michael Gerson, under the headline, “What Atheists Can’t Answer.”
I’ll take up that challenge. Gerson’s text in italics :
British author G.K. Chesterton argued that every act of blasphemy is a kind of tribute to God, because it is based on belief. “If anyone doubts this,” he wrote, “let him sit down seriously and try to think blasphemous thoughts about Thor.”
I no more think “blasphemous” thoughts than Hitchens or Dawkins or Harris do. Blasphemy is a term meaningful only to believers. It certainly does presuppose belief, but since the definition of blasphemy lies wholly in the believer’s mind and forms no part of the atheist’s thoughts, the writer is simply revealing that Chesterton was a prisoner of his own unexamined presuppositions.
By the evidence of the New York Times bestseller list, God has recently been bathed in such tributes. An irreverent trinity — Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins — has sold a lot of books accusing theism of fostering hatred, repressing sexuality and mutilating children (Hitchens doesn’t approve of male circumcision). Every miracle is a fraud. Every mystic is a madman. And this atheism is presented as a war of liberation against centuries of spiritual tyranny.
I don’t doubt that the boys revel in the notion of an “irreverent trinity.” In fact, as I see it, there are gradations within this trinity. Not all of the three fit into Gerson’s parodistic summation. But, okay, what the hell, close enough. Unsaid here is the fact that if Gerson is like the vast majority of believers, he also believes “every miracle is a fraud, every mystic is a madman,” except for that minority of miracle workers and mystics who happen to have the imprimatur of his particular faith. In other words, while Hitch is 100% faithless, Gerson is, say, 80% faithless.
The rest at Sideways Mencken.