Christopher Hitchens, one of the most celebrated writers of the late 20th and early 21st century, is dead. He was a prominent atheist. Even though Hitchens was an atheist, he was willing to doubt. Hitchens suggested his doubts stemmed from the perfection he saw in the universe. Perhaps that perfect could not be randomly generated.
If the Earth were farther or closer to the sun, or tilted more or less than it does, or rotated at a different rate, or was placed closer inside the Milky Way, etc., etc. etc., life as we know it would be vastly different if it existed at all.
God lets you doubt. And this weekend, we get to one of the two great events in history that generate doubt. The other being a death and resurrection, this event happened to the same man -- a virgin birth.
The story of Christ as a whole is one of the oddest stories in literature. God came down from heaven, arriving via virgin birth. Then, raised a carpenter’s son, began an earthly ministry concluding with a savage beating, his death on a cross after horrific torture and resurrection three days later.
The magician Penn Jillette has a new book out defending atheism called “God, No!” He writes, “There is no god and that’s the simple truth. If every trace of any single religion died out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. . . . If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.”
That is staggering nonsense. Eventually, one would wonder why so many share common morals across the planet. Altruism would still exist and people would wonder why. Over time, as they rediscovered science, they still would wonder what came before the big bang. They would still wonder why one person might lay down his life for another.
After a while, they would wonder about the perfection in the universe and would finally settle on a god of some sort.
But what of the Christ? Many religions have divinity connected to birth, but what a strange anomaly in the history of the world. A religion in a tiny corner of the planet in a desert becomes convinced its God not just came to Earth through a virgin birth but died after savage torture and rose again from the dead saving mankind. People still die savage deaths because they refuse to stop believing it and it became the dominant religion on the planet.
Of all the religions to exist or to have existed, only the Christian faith came up with such an absurd story -- a story of staggering absurdity and yet billions believe it.
Maybe it is so absurd because it is nonsense. But maybe it seems so absurd because truth is stranger than fiction. Few doubt a historic Jesus. And many who reject him as God cling to a view he was a philosopher.
But Christ said he was “the way, the truth, and the life.” No one could come to the father except through him. Christ, does not give you the luxury of thinking he was anything other than a mad man or God. And if mad, billions of people must be insane. They believe a story so preposterous that in the history of man no other religion ever dreamt such a wild story. And it so happens to be the dominant religion on the planet.
For unto us a child is born. Merry Christmas.
Erick Erickson is a CNN contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.