Hitchens Nails “Liberal” Christianity

Christopher Hitchens, the famous (or infamous) atheist and self-proclaimed “anti-theist,” recently articulated quite well what is at stake in Christian belief and why liberal Christianity is, in essence, not Christianity at all, in his interview with the liberal Unitarian minister Marilyn Sewell in Portland Monthly.  Here is my favorite and, I believe, most potent part of the conversation.

Sewell: The religion you cite in your book is a generally fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make any distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?

Hitchens: I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.

Sewell: Let me go someplace else. When I was in seminary, I was particularly drawn to the work of theologian Paul Tillich. He shocked people by describing the traditional God—as you might, as a matter of fact—as “an invincible tyrant.” For Tillich, God is “the ground of being.” It’s his response to, say, Freud’s belief that religion is mere wish fulfillment and comes from humans’ fear of death. What do you think of Tillich’s concept of God?

Hitchens: I would classify that under the heading of Statements That Have No Meaning—At All. Christianity, remember, was really founded by Saint Paul, not by Jesus. Paul says, very clearly, that if it is not true that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, then we the Christians are of all people the most unhappy. If none of that’s true, and you seem to say it isn’t, I have no quarrel with you. You’re not going to come to my door trying to convince me. Nor are you trying to get a tax break from the government. Nor are you trying to have it taught to my children in school. If all Christians were like you, I wouldn’t have to write the book.

Read the entire interview here.

3 thoughts on “Hitchens Nails “Liberal” Christianity

  1. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think Hitchens is trying to “nail” liberal “Christianity.” To be perfectly honest, I think he’s praising it, in his mind. (Although, of course, I don’t really think Sewell would see it quite that way, considering that he says her statements “have no meaning.”

    1. I certainly don’t think he’s praising liberal Christianity at all. His tone certainly doesn’t lend itself to that in the audio of the interview. If you listen to or read the entire interview, he is very adamant that someone who believes what Sewell does cannot possibly be a Christian. When I say he “nails” it, I simply means that he gets it right. Hitchens articulates to a T the crux of the issue. Liberal Christianity is largely, or completely (depending on the individual) not Christianity at all. Therefore, when I say he nails it, I’m simply saying he hit the heart of the issue.
      Hitchens has a deep respect for his frequent opponent Douglas Wilson because Wilson believes fervently in Biblical Christianity and articulates it as someone who truly does believe it. Someone, even such as Hitchens, can have little respect for someone who claims to be part of a belief system and then rejects its basic tenants, such as Sewell. To Christopher Hitchens, religion is a terrible thing, and what is worse than someone being part of a religion who does not truly believe in it?

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