Christopher Hitchens supported—and for all I know continues to support—the war in Iraq. I am vehemently opposed to this war. Hitchens is, in my opinion and judgment, wrong about the war. There are many atheists who, like myself, oppose this war on principle, not just on the incompetence with which the
Peter conflates confidence and decision with certainty and arrogance.
Christopher is not tentative about his view on God. He describes himself as an "anti-theist", so certain of his, er, faith that he wars with bitter mockery against those who doubt his truth.Peter speaks of Christopher's "certain knowledge of what is right and wrong." But Peter does nothing to substantiate his charge of certainty. A certain belief is a belief in principle absolutely incapable of change. It is not a belief confidently asserted. A belief substantiated on facts or personal experience cannot be in principle absolutely incapable of change: New facts, new experiences, even one's own subjective consciousness can always in principle change, and any dependent beliefs can change.
(Indeed, even the most "certain" of religious beliefs are mutable. People switch religions, deconvert, or reinterpret their religion all the time. The assertion of "certainty" of even the most fundamentalist, extremist religious believer has a hysterical, defensive ring to it, as if by repeatedly declaring their certainty the could somehow persuade themselves to become certain.)
There seems to be a common theme in critiques of atheism by soi disant "moderate" religious believers, that confidence, decision, definiteness (at least in atheists) are intellectual vices and indecision and skeptical nihilism intellectual virtues. Peter boasts about his own doubt, and religious doubt, as if doubt itself were the goal of thought:
But it is obvious to anyone that vast numbers of believers in every faith are filled with doubt, and open to reason. The Church of England’s greatest martyr, Thomas Cranmer, was burned at the stake for changing his mind once too often. ...But doubt is a tool, not a desired state. We doubt, and then we resolve our doubt—with reason and evidence—and then we doubt again.
Did the Supper at Emmaus really take place? How I hope that it did, but I do not know that it did...
For all I know, Christopher is absolutely right – my prayers are pointless and a meaningless oblivion awaits.
Naturally such religious "moderates" are no less confident and definite when enumerating the moral and intellectual failings of atheists or their own ethical beliefs. What is missing in Peter's review is the connection between doubt and its resolution. To an atheist, reason provides this connection. Reason is never certain, but we can be confident about reason, because it is public. If I believe something according to reason, my reasons can be examined by anyone, criticized by anyone, and if my facts are false, if my reasoning is fallacious, if my theory is extravagant, these criticisms can be proven.
But where is the connection between doubt and its resolution for the moderate theist? They say remain "open to"—but not committed to—reason, but never so much that expose their doubts to reasonable resolution. Why does Peter hope that the Supper at Emmaus took place? Reason demands not just agnosticism, but that we we positively disbelieve this story as fact: People do not rise from the dead; the gospels are clearly fictional; and the resurrection was tacked on long after Mark was written, making this part of the story doubly fictional.
To the theist, reason can establish doubt, but never resolve it. But people cannot live with nothing but doubt; to resolve doubt, the honest believer relies on
 To avoid confusion, I will refer to Peter and Christopher Hitchens by first name.
 In my usual sense of "religion" as "making shit up and calling it true."
 A. J. Ayer notwithstanding, there's nothing at all wrong with fiction per se. It is the belief—even the hope—that fiction is real which is an offense against reason.