Christopher Hitchens once argued in a public debate with his brother, Peter Hitchens, that to believe in God means believing that for the first 95,000 years or so of human history (since humans have been a distinct species for between 100,000 and 200,000 years), God watched terrible suffering by humans “with folded arms,” only deciding to do something a mere 5,000 years ago in a desolate part of the Middle East. How do we reconcile such a portrayal of history with a loving God?
I’m not sure on what Hitchens would base the idea that God did nothing until 5,000 years ago. The Scriptures show us that God was involved with humanity from the very beginning (Adam & Eve). As Catholics we do not take the fundamentalist view that the world was created in 6 days and that the earth is only 6000 years old. However in Genesis there is never a time from the creation of the first persons that God is not involved with humanity.
Hitchens’ use of time frames is the same fallacy that caused humans to think of the earth as the center of the universe. Hitchens would appear to be thinking that the current era is hugely important or the focal point. However time and eras are all relative. Using Hitchens numbers, if humanity went 100,000 years before God acted but humanity then went on for a million years after that, then God’s actions at the 100,000 year mark would mean that God acted (relatively) **early **in the history of humanity. Simply pointing to a certain number of years as “early” or “late” is purely subjective.
As to his argument that it happened in a “desolate part of the Middle East”, I’m not even sure how that is in any way relevant. The revolution of democracy in the modern world began amongst 13 rag tag colonies along the east coast of the massive New World. Where something happened has little to do with its importance. Secondly, to call the Middle East desolate is rather silly. The Middle East was the intersection of trade and travel routes between Africa, Europe and Asia. In fact some historians argue that Christianity appeared at the absolute perfect time in history to be spread throughout the world on the roads and trade routes the Romans had established.