Monday, August 04, 2008

Eating The Eggs While Killing The Chicken

I noticed in Slate that Christopher Hitchens has written an appreciation of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Russian writer (who died over the weekend) who exposed the atrocities of the Soviet gulag in the 20th century. Of course, Solzhenitsyn was a great man and a true hero. But there's an irony in Hitchen's eulogy. He writes:

This is a kind of fortitude for which we do not have any facile name. The simplest way of phrasing it is to say that Solzhenitsyn lived "as if." Barely deigning to notice the sniggering, pick-nose bullies who followed him and harassed him, he carried on "as if" he were a free citizen, "as if" he had the right to study his own country's history, "as if" there were such a thing as human dignity.
The irony is that these "as ifs" were produced by Solzhenitsyn's strong Christian faith. Hitchens' belief system not only has no basis for producing such behavior, but none for even consistently praising it. Hitchens, in his radical atheism, believes that human life is nothing but the product of energy, time, and chance. We are, at bottom, nothing more than atoms banging together. Yet he lauds Solzhenitsyn for living "as if" there were such a thing as human dignity. If Hitchens believes there is such a thing, he didn't get that from his atheism--and is actually being inconsistent with it.

The irony is that, while Hitchens commends Solzhenitsyn's stand against the gulag, it was the gulag that was produced by Hitchens' atheism. Solzhenitsyn's stand on human dignity was produced by the Christianity that Hitchens hates, which views people not only as if they had inherent value, but as actually having it.

No comments: