December 2008
M T W T F S S
« Nov   Jan »
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  

Elgin’s Books


  • Christianity and Secularism

  • Evidence for the Bible
  • Archive for December 5th, 2008

    Hitchens – God Is Not Great XXIV

    Friday, December 5th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Listen to the MP3

    I am continuing in my extended review of Christopher Hitchens book “God Is Not Great,” and the question of whether religion makes people behave.   The core of his argument seems to be that religious people do at time behave very badly, while some noted atheists have behave quite nicely.  Therefore religion is not needed to behave.  

    One of the problems here is of sampling.  As the historian Jacques Barzum pointed out, any review of history will show that the acts we like to label as inhuman in their cruelty, are far too common to warrant that label, and in fact are all too human.  Yet, when they are done by the religious, they seem to stand out and thus get more notice, whereas the good that the religious do is often taken for granted, for it is just expected.  But this very expectation argues against Hitchens.

    A key misconception here is that religion does not make bad people good, it can however help and encourage people to be better.  Often the atheist attempt counter this by claiming that such argument mean that atheists must be immoral, and since not all are, such arguments must be false. While there is some  of truth in this argument, it somewhat misses the point. As I wrote in my book, Christianity and Secularism, “a person can be an atheist and still be a very moral person, and a person who does a tremendous amount of good.” (pg 179)

    Ultimately it amounts to a question of foundations.  Where do morals come from. For Christians, morality is grounded in God. Whether one agrees with the Christian view of morality or not, at least for the Christian there is a foundation for their moral views. Atheists are critical of this foundation because they reject the existence of God. But what alternative do they offer?  What is their foundation?  They have none, or at least no consistent foundation.

    Unlike the Christian the atheist is pretty much free to pick and choose whatever view of morality they like.   Again, since atheists often distort this point, let me be very clear, they are free to choose a view of morality that might be considered by most to be good, or one that most would consider bad, or even evil.   Many western atheists have in fact adopted a large part of the ethics of Western Civilization which is deeply infused with Judeo-Christian values. 

    But as Western Civilization moves way from Christianity, and the moral foundation that it provides, as one would expect, the moral standards have weakened.   Atheists and some others would say that this weakening of the Christian view of morality is a good thing, but even if the atheist is correct, it is still a weakening.

    One of the double standards that currently exists is that atheists  feel complete free to question Christian views of morality, and since they are grounded in a belief in God, to reject them as false because they are grounded in error.  But they are never asked to justify their beliefs, or the foundations for them. 

    For example, the current hotly contested moral question is over the definition of marriage. The traditional view of marriage being between one man and one woman, is rejected as an imposition of religion, even thought it has been the virtually the unanimous view of all of human society until the last decade or so. Even cultures like ancient Greece that encouraged homosexuality, still saw marriage as  between an man and a woman.

    In addition traditional marriage is based on a fact, though one that is often denied by the educated elites, that men and women are different.  From this fact flows the idea the best way to raise children is for them to have both a father and a mother in a committed stable relationship.  This was the reason for the government to get involved in marriage in the first place;  i.e., to promote such stable families for the raising of children.

    But deriving from false idea that there is not real difference between men and women, critics argue that the role of father and mother are completely interchangeable. It really makes no difference, as long as there is love.

    While it is acceptable to attack, ridicule and reject the traditional view, it is somehow illegitimate to question the other side, and it is considered especially unfair to point out their logical problems.   If love is all that matters, when why not three people who love each other? Why not a brother and a sister, or a father and a daughter?  Such question reveal the problem with their position.

    But that is the reason for the double standard, for ultimately there is no foundation, and ultimately everything goes. Weaken the foundation and the structure will crumble.   When abortion was first legalized claims that it would lead to euthanasia were rejected as silly, though now we have euthanasia in various forms.  Many things that were unthinkable just a few years ago, are now coming to be accepted.

    Where will it end?  As society slowly dismantles the Judeo-Christian value system, what foundation will be put in its place?  What core moral principles will be left and what sort of morality will be built on them?  It is very difficult to say.  But if history is any indication, the prospects are not good.

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