17 December 2011

Rick Warren reveals, in less than 140 characters, an astounding arrogance.

(Clicking on the title will take you to Rick Warren's twitter account)
Rick Warren, author of the calamitous The Purpose Driven Life and friend to the many anti-human, anti-gay elements in Uganda and other developing African nations tweeted this weekend about the death of Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011). Like all tweets it was 140 characters or less, but it imparted the maximum of arrogance that such a terse package could bear. There is a special irony in this and one I think it is safe to say Christopher Hitchens himself might have appreciated. Warren's tweet manages to make an elegant point, while building in a handy deflection atheists may want to note. But do lets see the tweet.
"My friend Christopher Hitchens has died. I loved & prayed for him constantly & grieve his loss. He knows the Truth now."
-Rick Warren via Twitter

The elegant point -as if you could miss it- is the identification of the arrogant party in this debate, and Warren's tweet reveals, in its stark twittery brevity, that real, awe-inspiring, arrogance is the province, the haunt of the evangelical. Warren begins nicely enough but it all falls to pieces with the close. "He knows the truth now." The implication couldn't be more clear coming from a mind addled as it is with the standard, and odious fundamentalist theology common among so many American Christians. Hitch (I hope he would forgive the familiarity) has come to the Judgement Gates, and his life of unbelief will avail him not. How can Warren know this? How can he arrogate such authority? Of course he can't know anything like what has happened to Hitch's consciousness now that he has died. Warren in this, as in all things, makes an array of absolute truth claims, based on no evidence whatsoever that he expects us to just accept. I suppose he thinks he is granted this license by an ancient, contradictory text that is often at odds with history. Warren's sentence betrays the fact that he thinks he has all the answers. That isn't hyperbole. That is fundamentalist Christianity. It is also often liberal Christian Theology, though to a much lesser extent.

And therein lies the deflection available to all atheists whenever we are accused of being shockingly, offensively, un-apologetically arrogant by believers. Atheism is simply the acceptance of the null hypothesis. There is no positive evidence for God, not just the Abrahamic iterations, but any gods. Until such evidence is adduced for the God Hypothesis (There is a God) we have no choice, we cannot reject the null hypothesis (There is no God). Atheism is not a claim of absolute knowledge. It is the stance that the universe compels us to take. Atheism is the admission that there is no (good) reason to believe any of the world's mythologies in any literal way, or accept the authority clerics grant themselves based on these stories.

So who is more arrogant? Is it the Rick Warrens, they who not only claim to have all the answers, but also arrogate the authority to tell you how to live your life, what you can read, what you can eat, who can sleep with, and when you can sleep with them, and how you can sleep with them, and who tell you that if you do not listen to them not only will you not go to heaven, but that you will burn eternally in hell, tortured for a crime in which you had no part? Contrast that with atheism which simply says we have to accept the null hypothesis until good evidence comes in. True the existing evidence does away with literal readings of all religions, all our origin myths must, it appears, become allegory. But on the more open ended God question all we really say, all that can really be said, is there is, as yet, no evidence for any such being, and no reason to believe in or on such beings, or to accept the authority people give themselves in the names of such beings, or on the basis of ancient, and often foggy texts.
Arrogance? Atheists and agnostics just cannot compete.