Hitchens vs. Hitchens: Peter on Christopher

THIS is indeed a refreshing assessment of Christopher Hitchens’ latest book.


~ by heatlight on September 5, 2007.

2 Responses to “Hitchens vs. Hitchens: Peter on Christopher”

  1. I just wanted to let everyone know the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies will host the Hitchens brothers as they debate on faith, politics, and war.

    Date: Thursday, April 3rd
    Location: Fountain Street Church
    Time: 7:30 PM
    Cost: $15.00 each, tickets available through http://www.startickets.com, keyword: Hitchens

    If you can’t make it, we’ll have a live webcast!

    For more information, visit http://www.allpresidents.org or call the Hauenstein Center at (616) 331-2770.

  2. In “Uncomfortable Unbelief,” Wilfred M. McClay suggested that, ‘Unbelief would be untenable without the moral and metaphysical capital created and banked by the belief it displaced.”

    He asks, “Can there be unbelief without religion, or without a religious point of view that is being negated? After all, our understanding of ourselves as secular is undergirded by a powerful conviction that ‘we have come to be that way through overcoming and rising out of earlier modes of belief.’”

    “In other words, we have liberated ourselves. Will not God and theism therefore remain a necessary reference point? It may be possible to imagine a society in which the idea of God would not even have been a discarded image, never having been on offer at all. But such a society would clearly be very different from the one we actually inhabit, or any we are likely to experience in the foreseeable future. Part of the passion animating the new atheists is their sense of themselves as “having overcome” the foolish and destructive irrationalities of the past. Without that sense, their passion—and perhaps the cogency of their project itself—recedes.”

    Hitchens’ book, (like Harris’ and Dawkins’ books) are full of moral appraisals and readers are somehow obliged to see things through their moral grids. They should be pressed hard to tell why their moral positions are superior. They typically avoid this question by changing the subject. Yet they often write as if an absolute standard of goodness and duty exists. They want to tell us that such a standard is possible without God but they really don’t offer a well-reasoned explanation for this view.
    The case in point is that without God, all moral conclusions are merely subjective human opinions without any binding authority beyond what culture attributes to them. And, at this point the question, “Who are you to impose your morality on another?” becomes fair game. Who is qualified to declare his opinion superior to another? And, on what basis would he do this? Why is peace better than war or love better than hate? If I say one is superior, does that make it right? If I get enough people to agree with me, does this make it true for all? Is it all a matter of what increases happiness and decreases suffering? If so, whose happiness?

    Reading these fellows, I continually found myself asking. “Says whom?” Their statements about right and wrong are simply alternative choices without moral superiority. If they were logically consistent, they would suppress all notions of moral superiority—something they are clearly unwilling to do. In fact, these men really assume a moral framework that implies higher understandings of morality and humanity. In fact, they consistently (and illogically) borrow the assumptions of theism to argue against it. They also reject things in the bible considered by them inhumane and expect us to assume a basis for their moral conclusion. Worse yet, they use biblical categories of morality to reject the bible.

    If they followed their logic, I think that they would have to admit that evil is only an illusion made up by humans. For there to be evil, there must also be some real, objective standard of right and wrong. But if the physical universe is all there is (as they believe), there can be no such standard. How could arrangements of matter and energy make judgments about good and evil true? So, there are no real evils, just violations of human customs or conventions. How hard it would be to think of murderers as merely having bad manners.

    I think that atheists must equally admit that human beings are not importantly different from other animals. Consistent with their views, humans are simply the result of blind chance operating on the primordial ooze, and differing from animals by only a few genes. Yet, here is where beauty and the wonders of human achievement along with the moral dignity we ascribe to human beings just doesn’t fit with the claim that we are no different than the animals.

    These realities fit better with the scriptural conclusion that humans are creatures uniquely made in the image of the benevolent and righteous God.

    The bible these men reject speaks openly of both evil and benevolence. One does not need to upgrade her view of the world when reading scripture. No rose colored glasses are needed. Yet the scripture offers a larger and more satisfying frame of reference for understanding the complexities of the world. It reveals a world God prescribed (the goodness and innocence of Eden); one he permitted (the violence and rebellion of Cain) and a world he will providentially make new (the new heavens and earth).

    Steve Cornell

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