This week in my review of Christopher Hitchens, “God is not Great,” I will look at what Hitchens calls the “four irreducible objections to religious faith.” According to him religious faith “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.” (p 4)
One immediate objection to these objections, is that Hitchens is committing a mistake common to so many atheist critiques, which is that these objections don’t really apply to religion as a general concept for religion is simply too diverse. They really apply mainly to Christianity. But casting them in terms of religion in general allows the atheist to talk of the problems of one religion as if they apply to all religions.
Frankly, it is hard to apply them even to all of Christianity. For example, Hitchens first objection is that religious faith misrepresent the origins of man and the cosmos. Yet within Christianity, there is a whole range of opinions on origins, from a special creation in 7 days all the way to views that are virtually indistinguishable from those held by Hitchens, except that they would ultimately say that God was behind it all.
Now perhaps Hitchens considers merely attributing the origin of man and the Cosmos to God as objectionable, but even here there are problems. One huge problem is that scientist can’t explain the origins of man or the cosmos, and as I describe in my book Evidence for the Bible there are serious problems explaining how the process started in the first place.
Similar problems apply to his second objection, that religion combines “the maximum of servility with the maximum of solipsism.” Frankly it is not even clear how this really applies to Christianity, much less religion in general. Granted the NT does teach that we are servants of Christ, but I find this hard to square with Hitchens’ claim that this is the maximum of servility as our position is also the Children of God who can say of God “Abba Father.” (Romans 8:15-16) As for his claim that religion is at the same time, the maximum of solipsism, or extreme egocentrism, this is a complete mystery. One could try to guess at what he means, but an argument that has to be guessed at is hardly a cogent one.
Hitchens third objection is “that it is both the result and the cause of dangerous sexual repression.” Again his one size fits all objection, hardly fits at all. After all can one really describe some of the other first century religions whose worships centered around visits to the temple prostitute, as sexually repressed? Sure, an over regulation of sex has been a feature of some religions, and some forms of Christianity, but some is not all.
There is also the problem that what constitutes sexual repression is somewhat of a relative concept. For some any restrictions on sex is “sexual repression.” Is saying that sex should be restricted to the confines of marriage, sexual repression? We are certainly seeing the results of 40 years of sexual freedom, and they are not good. The breaking of the link between sex and marriage, has resulted in a huge increase in single parent households and the problems they bring. And often it is the children who often suffer the most.
Contrary to the modern myths, men and women are different, and sex can have consequences. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control released this week, one in four teenagers, aged 14–19 has at least one sexually transmitted disease. In African-American girls the rate is 50%. And the study did not even include all sexually transmitted diseases. According to an article in the Baltimore Sun “There are 19 million sexually transmitted diseases in the United States – costing the health care system $15 billion a year – and almost half occur among the 14 to 25 age group.” And this is with modern medicine, antibiotics, and birth control. Given all these problems and we have only mentioned a couple, is it really all that unreasonable to think that when God said that sex should be only between a husband and wife, that perhaps he was not just trying to be a killjoy, but perhaps he really did have our best interests in mind?
Hitchens fourth objection is that religious faith is ultimately grounded on wish-thinking. There is a rational problem with considering this an objection to religious faith, because it tends to be circular. The purpose of Hitchens objections is to say that religious false. But to say something is grounded on wish-thinking is to say that something is false. Thus, Hitchens is basically saying that religious faith is false, because it is false which is a circular argument and thus irrational.
So Hitchens four irreducible objections to religious faith, are hardly even sound objections to religious faith in general, much less Christianity in particular. That he sees them as some insight into religion is sad.
This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.