Monday, January 25, 2010

Forgiving atheists

I like Alice Thomas Ellis. Reading her book, God Has Not Changed, made me laugh and I cannot resist quoting from it again (see last Tuesday's post below). In this piece Ellis is talking about Christopher Hitchens' infamous book on Mother Teresa, The Missionary Position, which she was asked to review. Ellis provides some useful insights into the atheist mindset:

'He [Hitchens] goes on to mention a documentary on her [Mother Teresa's] work that he and others made called Hell's Angel: "Her response was to say that she 'forgave' us for making it." And here Mr Hitchens displays ignorance of the tenets of Christianity. He says that was odd since he had not sought her forgiveness, and it was odder still if you were inclined to ask "by what right she assumes the power to forgive." The only petition in the Lord's Prayer that carries a condition is the petition for forgiveness: 'Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us';and as Christ said to Peter, who had asked how oft he should forgive his brother: 'I say not unto thee, until seven times seven, but until seventy times seven'. Mother Teresa was following orders, and you would have thought that anyone of Mr Hitchens' age who had passed through the school system might have some glimmering of awareness of these well-known quotations. The blurb of his book says, as blurbs will, that he is 'One of today's most devastating polemicists.' But he does not sound very well educated and his reaction to Mother Teresa makes him seem slightly unhinged. Goodness in others is perceived by some individuals as an affront and we should understand and forgive them, not only because it is incumbent on us, but because we know - God forgive us - that it will annoy the hell out of them.'

Alice Thomas Ellis, God Has Not Changed, London 2004, pp.175-6

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