It’s Dark Down Here

Christopher Hitchens is facing death. The famous atheist recently lost his voice in his battle with esophageal cancer, and it appears that he will not be with us for much longer. Yet he remains steadfast in his atheistic convictions. He recently wrote to some of his fellow atheists: “Our weapons are the ironic mind against the literal; the open mind against the credulous; the courageous pursuit of truth against the fearful and abject forces who would set limits to investigation (and who stupidly claim that we already have all the truth we need).” The letter was also posted on The Richard Dawkins Foundation website.

Reading the above, I could not help but be reminded of an insight that came to me some months ago, inspired by the much publicised rescue of the trapped Chilean miners at the time. I wrote a newspaper column about it, which I gladly post:

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world… He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. John 1:9-11

The rescue effort of the trapped Chile miners glued the world to their television screens this week. One could almost hear a global sigh of relief with each spectacled miner emerging from underground.

As I watched the footage in the comfort of a living room filled with natural light and lots of oxygen, and with a view of a garden and blue sky outside, my mind drifted. There was a world of difference between my environment and the one these men had been confined in. Yet, after only 69 days, they had adapted themselves to their strange surroundings in a remarkable way. Their eyes had become accustomed to the absence of light, hence the sunglasses. They had settled in an odd routine with a variety of diversions to keep them busy and sane, and so they were scheduled for therapy to ensure a safe reunion with people who knew nothing about living in darkness.

And then I wondered: What if their wives were with them and children were born and raised down there? And what if those children eventually had children? How long would it take for any memory of blue skies and green forests to vanish completely, and for such references to be dismissed as “pie in the sky”? (You can’t prove it, so it cannot exist!).

And what would they do to a stranger who claimed to have been sent from above to save them out of the darkness, especially if he instructed them to leave their old lives and everything associated with it behind as the way of escape was extremely narrow?

They would label him insane. And so they did.

2 thoughts on “It’s Dark Down Here

  1. Chris Lovie-Tyler May 4, 2011 / 9:11 pm

    Wow. That’s a great insight, Tobie!

    I’m actually in the middle of reading Christopher’s book, ‘god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything’. He’s a great writer and a smart man—very funny at times, too—but he cannot, or will not, see anything in religion but darkness. And I can see why: critiques of Judaism and Islam aside, he has focused on the worst excesses, the darkest moments of the Church, largely ignoring the light reflected in her best moments, and more importantly, the light-source himself, Jesus.

    To him, every ‘rescuer’ who has dropped down into our cave is just another snakeoil salesman who has found a way through from another cave. None offer ‘hope’, or speak of a true place above ground.

    I pray he will reconsider his position, and that God will enable him to trust The Rescuer, before the kerosine in his lamp runs out.

  2. naturalchurch May 6, 2011 / 5:58 am

    Thanks for the comment, Chris. I, too, found myself praying for him yesterday. You never know what may happen in a man’s last hours (regardless of any life he has lived!).

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