Peter Hitchens

Well lo and behold, irony is still alive and well (even outside hipsterdom). Apparently Christopher Hitchens, famed Evangelical Atheist and author of God is Not Great, has a brother who is not only a Christian, but just as smart as Christopher himself. In a recent article in London’s Daily Mail, Peter Hitchens talks about his upcoming book The Rage Against God (trailer below), the end of his nearly lifelong feud with Christopher, and his conversion from atheism.

But my point in bringing this to your attention is not to say to all the Christians out there “Rejoice! We have another smart British guy on our side!” or “That’ll show that stupid atheist.” I think we too often mistakenly use the presence of faith in those we put on various societal pedestals to assuage our own doubts and fears (in Britain it may be Peter Hitchens; in America it’s Tim Tebow). I also think we get far too offended by some of the more rabid atheists out there, causing us to pray for their conversion not necessarily so they would return to the Maker of their souls, but so they can feel the sting of having to admit they were wrong.

I want to bring attention to a couple of very surprising and very refreshing things Peter says in this article. Referring to his brother’s atheism, and a hope for his future conversion, he writes:

It is my belief that passions as strong as his are more likely to be countered by the unexpected force of poetry, which can ambush the human heart at any time.

Later, he writes:

Beyond [a hope that Christopher might come to see faith as not being a character flaw], I can only add that those who choose to argue in prose, even if it is very good prose, are unlikely to be receptive to a case which is most effectively couched in poetry.

I love this. Growing up in the world of Ken Hamm, Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, and other “evidentiary” apologists who use “proposition” and “science” to “prove” the validity of Christianity, I have grown tired of the same old 30-year old arguments that no one is talking about anymore. We can give all the “air-tight” reasoning for why people still suffer in a world under a Sovereign God, and it stills feels a bit hollow and simplistic at times. Faith in our current context seems more likely to spring from a deeply existential place in our souls that intellect and reasoning can’t quite seem to get to.

Which is why, I feel, more and more twenty-somethings are returning to early church basics like liturgy and mystery. We need something to touch us far more deeply than over-objectivism and over-subjectivism can, and what can do this more than beauty itself? As Hitchens seems to say, words by themselves can’t do this, but poetry can — words arranged in such a beautiful way that the harmony and dissonance of those constituent parts can create a whole that is far larger than us or this world. The mere facts of Science can’t do it, but art can — the interpretation of the world around us that is simply defined by science. Indeed, it was Rogier van der Weyden’s painting The Last Judgment that played an integral part in Peter Hitchen’s subsequent conversion.

And perhaps this is what was meant by that most forward-thinking of men — a man far beyond his time — Dostoevsky, when he once prophesied: “Beauty will save the world.”

About The Author

Paul Burkhart

0 Responses to Poetry is the Only Thing That Can Save Atheists, Says Other Hitchens Brother

  1. Brittany Petruzzi says:

    It’s so nice to see people catching on to Puddleglum’s way of thinking.

  2. Jon says:

    Wow. I had no idea another Hitchens existed. I have to admit being a reluctant fan, though, of the atheist Hitchens – the way he shoves aside political correctness in a bold way to call out some truly messed up issues with organized religion. Check out his fighting words columns on Slate. Looking forward to getting Peter’s perspective as well.

  3. Great post. Thanks for pointing me towards this book.

  4. Griff says:

    Interesting post – thanks, Paul!

  5. Caleb says:

    Makes me wonder what rhetorical techniques Peter uses in his book then—seems he’s hitting the personal vendetta most atheists have. But he does have that great sense of a Brit about him, which is hard not to love as an American. What’s more, he’s almost pitch-perfect as a voice double for Christopher—something about their tone suggests command, precision, and a no-nonsense approach to life (which could indicate depression or a unique bent on life, who knows). I will say, however, that I AM glad there’s another smart British guy in the ranks, because, be it my sin or not, I’m not convinced by the other 99% of (educated?) Christians out there.

    Note: perhaps the apologists of the last 30 years are hated because one can never imagine them at a bar, or a concert, or making love (not that we’d want to)—conversely—or approaching anything with decorum that doesn’t reek of Christian kitsch.

  6. Caleb says:

    Edit: ever imagine them.

  7. […] editor and several of the authors that Patrol seems to admire (and still others). The first post I ever wrote for Patrol had this same thesis, as well as other posts of mine which they […]

  8. […] ago, I wrote a piece in Patrol Magazine about Peter Hitchens, Christopher Hitchens’ brother. Peter is a […]

  9. […] of noises, words, or paint. As I said in an earlier comment, Christopher Hitchens’ brother even said, concerning any chance of his brothers conversion, “It is my belief that passions as strong […]

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