The late Christopher Hitchens, who came to great fame late in life as a leader of the “New Atheism,” on the virtues of the Bible:

For generations, [the Bible] provided a common stock of references and allusions, rivalled only by Shakespeare. A culture that does not possess this common store of image and allegory will be a perilously thin one. To seek restlessly to update it or make it “relevant” is to miss the point, like yearning for a hip-hop Shakespeare. “Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward,” says the Book of Job. Want to try to improve on that for Twitter?

At my father’s funeral I chose to read an injunction from St Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” As much philosophical as spiritual, with its conditional and speculative “ifs”, and its closing advice – always italicised in my mind since first I heard it – to think and reflect on such matters: this passage was the labour of men who had wrought deeply with ideas and concepts.

As was said at the passing of another disbeliever, let us hope that God would not deny Himself the pleasure of Mr. Hitchens’s company. Requiescat in pace.

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