NYT recap: Hitchens versus Sharpton on the existence of God; Update: Hitch versus Douglas Wilson at Christianity Today

With Ayaan Hirsi Ali at ringside! And I wasn’t there. Alas.

I’ve been beating you guys over the head with the religion posts lately so I won’t belabor this one. Sharpton’s argument is interesting, though: he claims Hitchens has plenty to say about religion and its holy texts but nothing much at all to say about God, whom Sharpton says he knows by experience, not logic. A Christian friend of mine says the same thing. There’s no disputing a subjective feeling, so the debate effectively “ends” there — although Reverend Al does stick with it long enough to impugn Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. I guess Mitt’s subjective experience is disputable. Fancy that.

Sharpton does recommend Hitchens’s book, though, as do I, especially the surprisingly weak chapter in which he tries to rebut the counterargument about godless communism’s enormous death toll. He resorts to arguing that Stalinist Russia, like North Korea and other totalitarian systems, functioned as a religion — which, conveniently, means it’s really that old primitive God-bothering instinct that’s to blame, not atheism. But in that case, Sharpton’s right: Hitchens’s problem really isn’t with God, it’s with idol worship generally and the privileged place it’s had as a social and institutional organizing principle. I guess that explains his famous iconoclasm, right down to the references in the book to Orwell as “my hero, if I had any heroes” or something to that effect. What’s odd is that he essentially reduces belief to a problem of evolution, not logic — as he puts it, it’s a product of our frontal lobe being too small and our adrenal glands being too big. But if that’s true, then even if he was able to convince people God doesn’t exist, wouldn’t the idol worship come back in some other form thanks to that poorly designed lobe and glands? In the end, I’m not sure what, precisely, he’s objecting to.

Still, the man gives good dialogue, so do read the Times piece and this interview in New York magazine from last month. Exit question: Does Karl Rove really consider it unfortunate that he’s not a person of faith, or is that a “we can’t afford to lose South Carolina” sentiment?

Update: I hate to break it to you guys but Rudy says he’s run his abortion stance by the man upstairs and, well, he seems to be okay with it.

Update: I meant to link this, then forgot, and now I’ve been reminded by reader Al S. Hitchens is a doing a Slate-ish public correspondence with Douglas Wilson, author of “Letter from a Christian Citizen,” all this month at Christianity Today. I haven’t read the first exchange yet but I’m looking forward to it.

Update (Ian): Video:

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