Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Dogma of the Dim

Have you been following the ongoing debate between atheist Christopher Hitchens and Christian Douglas Wilson? The topical question: "Is Christianity good for the world?" It requires little imagination in determining Hitchens' take on this issue. What's interesting is that Hitchens spins a web of pure smarminess, cutesy retorts, and responses without answers, while Wilson keeps marching him to the wood shed. Here are just a few illustrations of Hitchens' debating style-without-substance:

You also appear to find no distinction between the intelligible injunction to "love thy neighbor" and the impossible order to love another "as thyself." We are not so made as to love others as ourselves

Hitchens unknowingly admits a deficit in atheist "morality," here. He cannot conceive of loving someone else as he loves himself. Why would Jesus exhort us to love others as ourselves, if such an act were impossible? Is giving one's life for one's friends not an example of loving others as ourselves? Is Hitchens suggesting that this never happens?

The Golden Rule is to be found in the Analects of Confucius and in the motto of the Babylonian Rabbi Hillel, who long predate the Christian era and who sanely state that one should not do to others anything that would be repulsive if done to oneself. (Even this strikes me as either contradictory or tautologous, since surely we agree that sociopaths and psychopaths actually deserve to be treated in ways that would be objectionable to a morally normal person.)

Apparently Mr. Hitchens can't distinguish between generalities and specifics. The Golden Rule is a general approach to life, not an umbrella under which every imaginable, specific scenario huddles. Scripture deals quite lucidly with capital punishment and crime.

We are simply reluctant to say that, if religious faith falls—as we believe it must and to some extent already has—then the undergirding of decency falls also. And we do not fail to notice that a corollary is in play: The manner in which religion makes people behave worse than they might otherwise have done.

Of course, Hitchens offers no enlightenment on how an atheist determines what "behaving worse" means in his blanket condemnation of all religions, despite frequent requests for this information from Wilson. "Behaving worse," according to whom? Moreover, his point is poppycock. He assumes that human sinfulness and Christian teaching are the same. Sin that deviates from Christian teaching doesn't reflect Christianity; it reflects human fallibility. And what a surprise that he allows no credit to those who help their fellow man, and make the world a better place, as a result of believing what they believe. No, he accuses those people of selfishness. In his perverse little world, atheists act on pure altruism, while the religious act out of fear of being skewered on rotisseries for eternity, by horned devils sporting tridents and forked tongues. This is not an illumination of Christianity; it's a straw man caricature of it.

Hitchens also reveals his paltry understanding of Christianity and its Jewish roots, when making comments like this:

after hundreds of thousands of years of human life and suffering, God chose a moment a few thousand years ago to finally mount an intervention.

And this:

There is no need for revelation to enforce morality, and the idea that good conduct needs a heavenly reward, or that bad conduct merits a hellish punishment, is a degradation of our right and duty to choose for ourselves.

These remarks indicate just how arrogant a critique of Christianity's value is outside a basic knowledge of its teachings. Naturally, such demonstrated ignorance never slows down the enemies of God in their assaults on His people and His Word.

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