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Elgin’s Books


  • Christianity and Secularism

  • Evidence for the Bible


  • Hitchens – God is not Great XIII

    Listen to the MP3

    Continuing my extended review of Christopher Hitchens’, “God Is Not Great,” I come to Chapter Five where Hitchens asserts that the Metaphysical claims of Religion are False.  He begins the chapter with one of his typically broad attacks, that a Faith that can stand up to reason, “is now plainly impossible.”  In very limited way there is some truth in Hitchens’ claim. Christianity, as a rational system of thought, does have some problems; there are questions for which we do not have completely satisfactory answers.

     

    Now while the atheist may pounce on this as evidence that Christianity can’t stand up to reason, it is in reality little more than an admission that Christians do not have all the answers, which is hardly surprising, for nobody has all the answers.  It is just a fact that all major systems of thought have some problems for which they do not have the answer.

     

    This is why the atheist’s frequent demands for proof are at their core irrational. There are many problems with the atheist’s demands for proofs, but one is that when comparing major systems of thought to demand proof is absurd for nobody has it.

     

    Atheists attempt to avoid this little problem by declaring that they are the default view, and as such don’t need to provide proof, but this is at best a little self-serving. After all a Christian could just as easily declare that Christianity was the default view, and demand that atheist prove their claims.

     

    A much more rational approach is to realize that demands for proof are out of place when contrasting world views. Instead of who can prove what, a much better approach is to compare the evidenced pro and con. Instead of who can prove their system, which system of thought has the best explanation.  When this is done Christianity comes off quite well, and in fact I believe, though this is hardly surprising, does the best. This may perhaps be why atheists I have talked to so dogmatically insist on proof.

     

    From there Hitchens begins to savage and ridicule believers in the past in his typical fashion which seems founded more in hatred that in reason.  The best that can be said of it is that it is distorted slanting, that is, when it is not straying into the irrational fallacy of ad hominem attack.  It may please the atheist choir, but argues against Hitchens for those seeking a serious rational discussion.

     

    But Hitchens does eventually finish his rant and come to a coherent point, which in this case is “One must state it plainly. Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody … had the smallest idea what was going on.”  From which he concludes “All attempts to reconcile faith with science and reason are consigned to failure and ridicule.” (pg 64-5)

     

    Well in terms of a scientific understanding of the physical laws of the universe, Hitchens premise is correct. And for those religions with a large and significant focus on the problems of nature, the advancement of science is a significant problem and reconciliation is impossible. 

     

    However neither Judaism nor Christianity are focused on these natural problems but on the human condition, how it is broken and particularly in the case of Christianity, how it can be fixed. These are spiritual issues about which science is as silent as the Bible is on quantum mechanics.

     

    Some atheists claim that the behavioral sciences have shown that religion is not needed to explain human behavior, but such arguments are based more in the philosophical/religious view call scientism, and on writing off all problems as either not important, or with the atheistic catch all, we figure it out some day.

     

    For example, naturalistic science cannot even explain the phenomena of consciousness, or explain how we have free will and some have written these off as illusions. But real problems remain. For example, why are atheists trying to encourage people to abandon their belief in God, if people don’t even have a choice in the matter?  

     

    And while Hitchens can point to the absurd beliefs held by Christians in the past, did these beliefs come from Christianity, or from accepting what was the science of their day? Then again, Christians can point to the absurdities of secular belief today, such as the belief that there is no real difference between men and women which is behind much of current secular thought.

     

    One of the problems with science is that it frequently confuses ignorance of a subject with a lack of evidence.  For example, science saw no reason for biblical view of sex, therefore it must be false and based on superstition, something Hitchens frequently claims.  This despite all the visible problems of unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, broken homes and the other problems that are conveniently just ignored.   But now recent studies on the brain are showing the casual sex with multiple partners does have detrimental impact on brain development. (See Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children).

    Science may have the best answer for how an apple falls when dropped, but when it comes to issue of good and evil or how we should live our lives, Christianity still have the best answers. Perhaps this is why in studies, religious people are happier.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.  

     

    3 comments on “Hitchens – God is not Great XIII

    1. Pingback: Running Toward the Goal » Blog Archive » Hitchens - God is not Great XIII

    2. “…when comparing major systems of thought to demand proof is absurd for nobody has it. Atheists attempt to avoid this little problem by declaring that they are the default view [but] a Christian could just as easily declare that Christianity was the default view, and demand that atheist prove their claims.”

      Christians could demand that. Atheists would direct these Christians to read Christopher Hitchens’ book. Before writing an review of a book, you should probably read said book to try to make the article less terrible.

      “A much more rational approach is to realize that demands for proof are out of place when contrasting world views. Instead of who can prove what, a much better approach is to compare the evidenced pro and con. Instead of who can prove their system, which system of thought has the best explanation. When this is done Christianity comes off quite well, and in fact I believe, though this is hardly surprising, does the best. This may perhaps be why atheists I have talked to so dogmatically insist on proof.”

      I mean this in the best possible way– take a grammar class. This entire paragraph is unintelligible gibberish. What does the “best explanation” even mean? If it means the “best outcome,” that would most certainly not be the system that is responsible for the deaths of millions of unbelievers. If by “pro and con” you mean the results of these schools of thought, the system that is responsible for the violence in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, and many other regions every day clearly does not “do the best.” If you want evidence, Hitchens has given you an entire book. However, you have yet to offer a single logical, let alone evidenced, refutation.
      “… Judaism nor Christianity are focused on… the human condition, how it is broken and particularly in the case of Christianity, how it can be fixed. These are spiritual issues about which science is as silent as the Bible is on quantum mechanics.”

      Actually, science does a rather nice job of fixing the human condition. It’s called psychology. Unsurprisingly, it is much more effective at curbing mental disorders than praying to yourself.

      “For example, naturalistic science cannot even explain the phenomena of consciousness, or explain how we have free will and some have written these off as illusions. But real problems remain. For example, why are atheists trying to encourage people to abandon their belief in God, if people don’t even have a choice in the matter?”

      Are you capable of putting together a coherent sentence? I suspect that you have lived under a very large, heavy rock for quite some time. It’s hard to explain what a brain is to someone who doesn’t have one, but brains consist of neural connections and electrical impulses that cause consciousness. You don’t understand what you jabber about. The school of thought you describe believes that while humans may believe whatever they choose, their actions are predetermined either by factors like genetics and environment or by the human impulse to act selfishly. Atheists are encouraging people to abandon their belief in God to stop the kind of condescending, false morality that this article reeks of.

      “And while Hitchens can point to the absurd beliefs held by Christians in the past, did these beliefs come from Christianity, or from accepting what was the science of their day?”

      A great being watching over us, loving us so much that he condemns us to an eternal pit of burning, screaming pain at the least provocation? Someone who watches over us every moment but tells us that we are never, ever worthy of his time? Yeah, that’s from the absurd religion of Christianity.

      “… Christians can point to the absurdities of secular belief today, such as the belief that there is no real difference between men and women which is behind much of current secular thought.”

      We all know your argument is dead when sexism is your best shot at atheism. While secular belief believes that there are no significant difference between men and women when it comes to logic or intelligence, it recognizes the obvious anatomical differences. This tangent tries to distract readers from the knowledge that you have no real arguments against secular beliefs (other than that non-believers will burn H-E-double hockey sticks forever).

      All in all, I believe I’ve lost a higher than average amount of brain cells in the process of reading this biased, illogical “review.”

      • Catherine,

        “Before writing an review of a book, you should probably read said book”

        Perhaps you did not realise that you were reading only one part (part 13) of a very detailed, 32 part review of Hitchens book. In fact this particular post was the latter half of a discussion of the issues Hitchens rasies in chapter 13. So perhaps your confusion over the arguements being made stem from your coming into the middle of the discussion. Here is the summary of what is in each part of my review (http://hushbeck.com/blog/?p=336) Considering I only skipped chapters 9 (dealing with the Koran) and 14 (dealing with eastern religions) it is really hard to argue that I did not read the book before writing my review.

        “We all know your argument is dead when sexism is your best shot at atheism.”

        Nice mixing of a strawman arguement with an ad homenim attack, but then this sort of response, combined with statement of disagreement (as opposed to rebuttals) pretty much sums up your reply.

        But I thank your for your response.

        Elgin

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