Friday, April 24, 2009

Hitchens and Wilson

Just finished reading through Is Christianity Good for the World?, the internet debate between Douglas Wilson and Christopher Hitchens, sponsored by Christianity Today, now published in book form by Canon Press. A very enjoyable read all the way through, and unlike many debates in which the participants clearly misunderstand one another and it gets tedious and annoying, this debate includes plenty of misunderstanding between the participants and the entertainment level remains high and I never found myself flipping through pages looking for the more interesting parts. The whole thing was well written, well delivered, and the short response format preserved the feel of an argument and dialogue. Below are some the key points from both of the debaters. I have more quotes from Hitchens since I was particularly interested in trying to understand his point of view. The first quotation from Wilson is I think the basic point of most of his responses. The second quotation is from the very last response from Wilson, and which I think is worth the entire book. Wilson's last installment not only answers Hitchens (yet again), but it also turns in a wonderful and humorous way to the glory of the gospel and the hope of forgiveness for Hitchens and all the world. The particular part I have quoted just made me laugh, and then I tried to read it to my wife (who wanted to know why I was laughing), and I couldn't make it through the paragraph without cracking up again several times in the reading. Anyway, here's what I got:

Christopher Hitchens: “I am not so much an atheist as an anti-theist. I am, in other words, not one of those unbelievers who wishes that they had faith, or that they could believe. I am, rather, someone who is delighted that there is absolutely no persuasive evidence for the existence of any of mankind’s many thousands of past and present deities.” (Is Christianity Good For the World? 12)

“It is this additional element in religious belief that I also find repellent to an extreme degree. One is quite literally commanded to love.” (13)

“Many of the teachings of Christianity are, as well as being incredible and mythical, immoral.” (22)

“I hope I may be forgiven for declining to believe that another human being can tell me what to do, in the most intimate details of my life and mind, and to further dictate these terms as if acting as proxy for a supernatural entity. This tyrannical idea is very much older than Christianity, of course, but I do sometimes think that Christians have less excuse for believing, let alone wishing, that such a horrible thing could be true.” (25)

“Your Christianity, in case you have not noticed, has actually made you a less compassionate and thoughtful person than, without its exorbitant presumptions, you would otherwise be.” (54)

“You believe that I owe this inner prompting to the divine, and you further assert that a heavenly intervention made in the last two thousand years of human history (a microsecond of evolutionary time) is the seal on the deal. You will have to excuse me when I say that I think such a belief is, as well as incredible, immoral. It makes right action dependent on a highly improbably wager on the supernatural. To state the case another way, it suggests that without celestial sanction, you yourself would be unrestrained in your appetites and careless of other people.” (61)

Douglas Wilson: “The difference between us is that I have a basis for condemning evil in its Christian guise. You have no basis for confronting evil in its atheist guise, or in its Christian guise, either. When you say that a certain practice is evil, you have to be prepared to tell us why it is evil.” (41)

“[If morality is a derivative of evolution,] Are you filled with fierce indignation that the koala bear hasn’t evolved ears that stick flat to the side of his head like they are supposed to? Are you wroth over the fact that clams don’t have legs yet? When you notice that the bears at the zoo continue to suck on their paws, do you stop to remonstrate with them?” (65)

1 comment:

Remy said...

It's even worse than Hitch imagines. The 1 John passage is actually "We love, because He first loved us" meaning we have the capacity to love because we are loved by Jehovah.