Upclose With Peter Hitchens

by | May 17, 2010 | Old Magazine Articles

British journalist Peter Hitchens believes faith is reasonable, and that’s no small feat. The brother of popular God Is Not Great author Christopher Hitchens embraced atheism as a teenager and burned his Bible when he was 15. But at age 30, he began to drift slowly back toward Christianity. Now part of the Church of England, Hitchens says there is “a good, firm, reasonable case for belief in God,” which he explains in his newly released memoir The Rage Against God. Recently he talked with Charisma about his book, his journey to faith and the future of Christianity in Britain.

Do you see others in your generation returning to faith?
I think my generation is particularly hostile to faith in Britain. There’s something about the way they were brought up, the circumstances they were brought up in. It’s one of the big differences between not just Britain and the United States, but Europe and the United States. The huge damage which the early part of the 20th century did to religious faith in general, particularly the First World War, it just went very deep. And we caught a sort of rather large after shock of that, I think. When I go to church now, there are people there who are older than me and there are people there who are younger than me, but very few are the same age. Mine is just a particularly secular generation. And it’s one that’s been very lucky so therefore not as most generations in human existence have been compelled to confront the sort of things, which make people think about the broader, deeper subjects which lead you toward faith. We just haven’t needed to. Now that we’re all approaching the grave, it might become more urgent, but I think most people would say I don’t practice. I don’t think it will really come to it. You’ve got an awful lot of British people who don’t know what it means declaring that they’re atheist these days, of my generation. It’s a matter of pride and something that distinguishes them in some way.

Do you think younger generations will bring a shift back toward faith in Christ?
To some extent. There’s been quite a big evangelical revival in Britain, and most of the churches that are full are part of the exuberant, evangelical type. Possibly this stems from the Billy Graham tour to Britain in the 1950s, which began that revival, which is half in and half out of the established church. It’s now there’s been a very successful thing called the Alpha Course, which was devised by a church of England vicar called Nicky Gumbel in London, which has spread out which very much appeals to people in their 20s. A lot of their children are going to go to church and they’re going to see full churches and see Christianity as a normal thing in their lives in a way that wouldn’t have been the case perhaps 20 or 30 years ago. So to a limited extent. But I think a very large part of the country is now secular not through hostility but through hostility and ignorance. They simply have been brought up in schools sand families where religion is not mentioned, where it’s not a feature of life. They go past churches without any clear idea what goes on inside them. They are in that rather dispiriting expression unchurched.

Do you see similar trends in the United States?
I don’t know. I could be very prejudiced by the experience when I came over to debate with my brother a couple of years ago in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They’d come to hear him because he’s a superstar, but I had thought there would be a part of this rather large audience who would be sympathetic to the religious case. And I got the impression not. It seemed to me there must be an awful lot of people going through college who are much more sympathetic to what Christopher is saying. His own accounts of the audiences he gets seem to suggest there is a very large anti-God wave among the college generation. I’m not surprised by that particularly because I think that a lot of the purpose of college is to alienate young people from their parents and from tradition and from their upbringing and to expose them to radical and revolutionary thought, and its’ quite effective in doing that. They’re suddenly taken away from home life and all the restraints and influences of that and given the impression that they’re independent when they’re not really. College courses are full of atheistic radicalism in their very nature, so I wouldn’t be a bit surprised. Universities as at present constituted, certainly in Britain and America, places where people are taught not to believe in conservative things.

The burning of your Bible was sort of a dramatic expression of your atheist belief. Was there a moment for you when you realized you had become a Christian?
The burning of the Bible was a culmination in itself. I had been for some time developing the view that I didn’t really believe all this stuff, then I got to the stage where I wanted to make a sort of noisy public demonstration of this. The supposedly dramatic moment almost always follows a long period gestation, where it wouldn’t’ have been obvious to anyone else that it was going on. But it was clear to me that something was going on. They were both culminations.

It would never have occurred to me to embrace any other kind of identity, given my upbringing as a Christian. That stuck. So when I eventually came back, it wasn’t a question, shall I be a Buddhist or Muslim or a Hindu or a Jane or anything else. Christianity would be the unquestioned route that I was bound to take because quite a lot of what I had been taught had gone pretty deep and was familiar and in some ways inescapable. Was there a moment? No I can’t describe a particular moment. But you spend a lot of time when you don’t want to believe in something fending it off. That’s what I did. I didn’t really welcome this. It wasn’t a wholly voluntary process. I was at the mercy of facts and reason, which I think are things which ultimately led me to where I am. It just seemed to me I’d been hiding various facts from myself and also concealing from myself the ultimate destination of the logic of what I was observing, which a lot of people do. I think I say in the book that people deceive themselves all the time. And they deliberately shut down thought processes which they instinctively know will lead to places they don’t want to go.

Was it difficult for you to acknowledge, even to yourself, that you no longer disbelieved?
Immensely, yes. There’s always this difficulty of being unable to acknowledge that you’ve been wrong about something. And it’s one of the greatest difficulties we all face, actually saying sorry properly is one of the hardest things to do even if it’s over some quite minor domestic squabble, it takes a lot of effort to do. And it’s the same process, isn’t it, realizing deep down that a lot of what you’ve been saying and thinking and the basis of your behavior has been wrong and you as a result have been doing wrong things. Even today, at the end of an evening, I examine as I try to do, my behavior during the day. I quite often find things that I’m reluctant to admit were wrong, even though I know they were. That never ceases. Obviously, human pride is always there. I think I use the word arrogant quite a lot.

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

Is He a God of Wrath or a God of Love?

Is He a God of Wrath or a God of Love?

Do you think the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath, and the God of the New Testament is a God of love? The truth is that God is the same throughout the entire Bible. His wrath and His love are revealed in both the Old and the New Testaments. So why, then, did...

How You Can Have a Perfect Heart

How You Can Have a Perfect Heart

Your heart is the most important part of you. It’s not only a physical organ that keeps your blood pumping, but when the Bible refers to the heart, it’s talking about who you really are. Each person has an inner and an outer life. There’s the person we show to...

How the FBI Raid on Mar-a-Lago Is Spiritual Warfare

How the FBI Raid on Mar-a-Lago Is Spiritual Warfare

It's been a few days since the FBI raided President Donald Trump's home in Mar-a-Lago, and the Biden Administration has yet to explain to the American people why they did what's never been done in American history—the government raiding the home of a former president....

How the Holy Spirit Can Restore Your True Sanity

How the Holy Spirit Can Restore Your True Sanity

Most of my life I tried to avoid one thing—being crazy or insane. When I was growing up my mother had emotional issues and saw a psychiatrist regularly. She was on medication which only seemed to make her mood swings worse. She had high highs, and low lows. When I...

Israel Prophecy: The Enemy is Stirring an Unimaginable Conflict

Israel Prophecy: The Enemy is Stirring an Unimaginable Conflict

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJFFqAgykmU A cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militants took effect late Sunday in a bid to end nearly three days of violence that killed dozens of Palestinians and disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israelis,...

RECENT ARTICLES

Why Partial Obedience to God is Disobedience

My husband had a saying for our children growing up. “Partial obedience is disobedience.” He wanted them to understand that doing half the plan would not get them the full reward. Another reminder...
Kingdom Economics: Why is America Declining Spiritually So Quickly?

Kingdom Economics: Why is America Declining Spiritually So Quickly?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released a surprisingly strong July Employment Report.  Total nonfarm employment was 528K (398K previously, 250K expected).  Private nonfarm employment was 471K (404K previously, 230K expected). The headline unemployment rate dropped to...

Can You Discern Spiritual Wind?

Can You Discern Spiritual Wind?

The wind is a funny thing. We do not know where it comes from nor where it goes. We cannot see it, but we can see and feel its effects. Wind can be gentle and refreshing, cold or hot, strong, and dangerous, and everything in between. When the wind blows, we must...

Messianic Rabbi: He That Has an Eye, Let Him Hear

Messianic Rabbi: He That Has an Eye, Let Him Hear

It is interesting that, as a Messianic rabbi the question I am asked most often by Christians is if I believe that they as Christians have to celebrate, or observe, the biblical Holy Days. They are usually asking about those days listed in Leviticus 23: Shabbat, Yom...

How the Holy Spirit Is Preparing America

How the Holy Spirit Is Preparing America

As the crackdown against Christianity in America grows, it is a cycle believers have seen before. While no one celebrates their religious freedom coming under attack, God has used this persecution to great effect throughout history. Over the centuries, there have been...

Dealing Effectively with the Dynamics of Change

Dealing Effectively with the Dynamics of Change

Change can be challenging. Some people look forward to change and embrace it. Some people dread change and try to avoid it. Since change is inevitable, so here are some of the dynamics surrounding change and the specific strategies to deal with change more...

God’s Holy Interruption Is Coming Soon

God’s Holy Interruption Is Coming Soon

This past weekend I preached at The Roads Church, a charismatic congregation located in the tiny town of Norris City, Illinois. Located amid cornfields, the population is only 1,325, but almost that many people visit the church on weekends. They come from all over...

Pin It on Pinterest

[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]