Archive for the ‘Christopher Hitchens’ Category

It’s That Man Again

June 21, 2007

So Christopher Hitchens continues to promote ‘God is not Great’ otherwise known as ‘Why I am Smarter than God.’ I saw this statement he made in a recent Q&A session in the Times newspaper.

‘I have a challenge that I have issued in America which I’ll put to you. You have to come up with a moral statement made, or a moral action performed by a believer or a person of faith, that could not have been uttered by an unbeliever. I haven’t so far had anyone come up with an answer to this and I’m genuinely interested to see if they can. My point is therefore that religion is optional and if you say, “Well I think we should free the slaves because Jesus wants it”, I think it is a fatuous thing to say but it is not a wrong thing to say. It ought to be enough to say “I think we should free the slaves.” There is no scriptural authority of any kind for freeing the slaves, none, but there’s a good deal of scriptural warrant for slavery, which is why it lasted as long as it did and why it persists, especially in the Muslim world. Because it is indeed warranted by the text, which emancipation is not. It is a very important question. In my book there is a good deal of material about the conditions under which Jews can have slaves and what they are allowed to do to them. A lot of it is in Leviticus and Exodus, I believe.’

Obviously Hitchens thinks this is the Gordion Knot revisited. Rather it is as usual good knock-about stuff. Also as usual it misses the point. No-one denies that an atheist may perform a moral action or make a moral statement. The real question is what is it that determines the morality of an action? When an atheist performs a moral action whose code of morality is it according to?

As for the comments about slavery he as usual doesn’t bother too much about facts or context. A careful reading of the OT would show that slavery was only regarded as a temporary condition and often regarded as a means whereby a man could regain economic independence. Furthermore slaves had rights under the OT law and could not be mistreated. Slavery is recognised as a social reality and not an ideal. In the NT it is again clear that slavery is never regarded as ideal. A slave should gain their freedom if they can. A Christian slave owner should respect his slaves. And slaves should respect their masters because in serving their masters they are in fact performing a service to Christ who is the great liberator. Of course Hitchens skilfully forgets that the impetus to end slavery came not from humanism but Christianity.

But of course we’re getting into facts again. Sorry Christopher.

Contemporary Blog Atheism

June 15, 2007

Recent post on Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins introduced me to the world of discussing atheism in this blog and elsewhere. And it has been an eye-opener. It was an eye-opener because I was regularly hearing Christianity(or religion- atheists seem incapable of distinguishing between the two) roundly condemned as ignorant and intolerant. So I was expecting to hear enlightened, reasoned, sophisticated arguments from the atheist community. What did I find? I found ignorance, arrogance and stereotyping. You may of course argue that Christianity can be guilty of all of these- which of course it can. My point is that I was having it stuffed down my throat- to use a favourite atheist description of expressing the Christian viewpoint- about how superior atheists were. And what better people they were.

I found ignorance-of Christianity, of the distinction between religious beliefs, of a fundamental understanding of history and indeed the case for atheism

I found arrogance- anyone who is not an atheist must be an idiot- as I was called on one occasion. Obviously Western civilisation began with Dawkins! No atheist has ever said anything stupid or done anything wrong

I found stereoptying- obviously every Christian approves of everything that has been done in the name of religion from the Crusades to 9/11

One other thing. Much of the discussion in which i found myself involved centred around the issue of morality. The atheist answer to the basis for morality is that society tells us what is right and wrong. No-one has been able to give me an answer to the question of what happens when whole societies get it wrong, i.e. in Nazi Germany. No-one has given an adequate answer to the question of why this society was wrong and those who opposed it were right.


June 5, 2007

Sorry. I know I have broken my own dictum about saying nothing about Christopher Hitchens because he does not deserve to be taken seriously. And now I am about to break it again. I can’t help myself, his writings are so ludicrous.

Hitchens writes, ‘We believe with certainty that an ethical life can be lived without religion.’ In this statement Hitchens instantly runs into the problem of how we decide what is ethical if there is no God. If there is no ethical authority then we either descend into utilitarianism, where morality is governed by public opinion. Or we become our own authority in these matters, in which like Hitchens, we substitute ourselves for God. True morality needs an absolute moral standard. It requires a judge who will ensure that righteousness will prevail in the end.

Hitchens mistakes his personal values for ethics. In reality Hitchens is really more to be pitied than laughed at.

Don’t Confuse me with the Facts

June 2, 2007

I’ve just finished reading an extract of Christopher Hitchen’s ‘God is not Great’ which he concludes with the words, ‘As I write these words, and as you read them, people of faith are in their different ways planning your and my destruction, and the destruction of all the hard-won human attainments that I have touched upon. Religion poisons everything.’ Before coming to this conclusion he runs through the usual ill-defined nonsense. He states there four core arguments against the existence of God. But before that he already tells us that he has decided the case on the basis not of argument but experience. Thus in his investigation of religion he has closed his mind before weighing the issues. But of course he is not like those religious fundamentalists with their closed minds. We know that because he tells us it is so!

Hitchens writes, ‘There still remain four irreducible objections to religious faith: that it wholly misrepresents the origins of man and the cosmos, that because of this original error it manages to combine the maximum of servility with the maximum of solipsism, that it is both the result and the cause of dangerous sexual repression, and that it is ultimately grounded on wish-thinking.’ If I may have the temerity to challenges Hitchens argument, without trying to poison the minds of any-

1. Religious faith does not inherently misrepresent the origins of man and the cosmos. Since not all faiths are agreed upon this. Indeed not all Christians are agreed on the interpretation of the the Bible’s teachings on origins. Some favour mainstream scientific theories being compatible with Christian teaching others do not. But Hitchens spirit of open inquiry is too lazy to actually consider this.

2. I assume in argument 2 we are the ones who are in servility and God maximises the solipsism. This assumes that those who worship God are servile. That is of course Hitchens’ spin rather than the result of inquiry. I like millions of others across the centuries find joy in knowing and serving God. Facts borne out by the hymnology of the Christian tradition.

3. A careful reading of the Bible would clearly show Hitchens that Jesus taught a message of liberation not sexual repression. For example in his teaching on divorce he taught that men could not simply get rid of a wife they no longer wanted by mere casuistry. But again that is a fact that would not fit with Hitchens tilting at windmills.

4. Hitchens explains religion on the old Feuerbach/Freud/Marx idea of wish fulfillment. Again their arguments like his were rooted in their own prejudices rather than any examination of facts. The wish fulfillment theory simply holds no water. e.g. if religion explains our longing for a father figure when then do so many religions not have a father figure?

Hitchens expressed desire to have free inquiry apart from prejudice is just what he says he is seeking to expose- poisonous myth-making.

God is not Great?

May 6, 2007

A confession. I have not read it, nor do I intend to read it. First of all I am choosy about what I spend my time reading. Secondly, this, like Dawkins smacks of the meretricious. I’m talking about Christopher Hitchens’ new book, ‘God is not Great.’ According to Hitchens religion is “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children.” But Hitchens is not a serious voice. Like Dawkins he is an entertainer. There is not serious argument here. Witness his comments on Calvin who according to Hitchens was “a sadist and torturer and killer.’ Hitchens does nothing more here that purport a much travelled myth. If Hitchens cannot be bothered to check his facts why should his argument be taken seriously?

Nor does he take religion seriously as an entity. He does not define religion, a notoriously tricky subject to define. Indeed he bends definitions to suit himself. When confronted with the evils of Hitler and Stalin he redefines the state they created as theocracy to further his arugument.

For a book rooted in modernism it really is singularly unaware of any kind of reasonable argument or evidence.

Don’t waste your time or money on Hitchens’ ravings. The only thing that it really has value for is recycling.