Friday, May 25, 2007

Christopher Hitchen's "God Is Not Great"--A Reply from Douglas Wilson

Atheist "evangelist" Christopher Hitchens is making quite the scene right now with his grumpy appearances on TV and his rhetorically charged best selling book, "God Is Not Great."

Replying to Hitchens' book chapter by chapter is pastor and philosopher Douglas Wilson. On his blog, "Blog and Magog," Wilson answers Hitchens in a style much like a great thinker from another generation, G.K. Chesterton.

While Christians argue for moral authority and absolute truth on the basis of a holy and righteous God who has revealed His ways, the atheist says "bunk" to such claims. Consequently, Wilson argues, they cannot sufficiently defend any basis for what "ought" to be:
Suppose you went to see some fantastic illusionist, and he did something remarkable, like levitate himself. His beautiful assistant with insufficient clothing -- and this might have something to do with the success of the trick -- comes out on stage and passes some metal hoops every which way around the floating body.

Jeepers, you think, and head on home scratching your noggin. When you get there, you find yourself in a discussion with your cousin who used to do a small time illusionist act of his own down at the local Ramada Inn, and he explains to you how the trick is done. He doesn't have to be a big time headliner -- he just has to have enough experience to be able to explain how such tricks are pulled off. I am the Ramada Inn guy...

When atheists stop suspending their moral indignation from their invisible sky hook, then I will no longer amuse myself by pointing out their levitation trick.
There are several atheist "tricks" that Wilson exposes along the way. Here's the first one:
I can answer Hitchens' [book] with an argument condensed into one word. Not only so, but I will condense it into a word with only two letters in it, three if you count the question mark. So?

Religion poisons everything. So?

If Hitchens is merely saying that Christians frequently don't meet the standards of their own Christian faith, he is doing nothing remarkable. If he is pointing out such internal inconsistencies, then he is welcome to add his voice to the long and honored line of prophetic denunciation...

But this is not what he is doing. He is assuming that Christians are offending against a standard that overarches believers and non-believers alike, and that standard is clearly obligatory on everybody.

Now, pretend I am a simpleton...Explain it to me slowly. "God does not exist. Therefore all people have a fixed moral obligation to not poison everything because ..."

What goes after that because? Because the universe doesn't give a rip? Because in two hundred years, we will all be dead? Because moral conventions are just that, social conventions? Give me something to follow that because that is derived from the premises of atheism, and which clearly and compellingly requires non-atheists to submit to it as well. Is that too much to ask? Apparently.

The fact that the argument can admit of such elegant economy does not mean that it cannot be expanded. Here watch this. Religion poisons everything. "So? Does this offend anyone whose opinion should matter to me? Is there some kind of rule against poisoning everything? Who made that rule? And who died and left that particular busybody king? Get your moralism outa my face, Hitchens."

Now this response should not be confounded with anything so juvenile as a Bronx cheer. It is an argument, not a raspberry.
From his blog, here are Douglas Wilson's chapter by chapter response to Christopher Hitchen's "God Is Not Great":

Chapter One "Putting It Mildly"

Chapter Two "Religion Kills"

Chapter Three "A Short Digression on the Pig..."

Chapter Four "A Note On Health..."

Chapter Five "The Metaphysical Claims..."

Chapter Six "Arguments From Design"

Chapters Seven & Eight "Revelation..."

Chapter Nine "The Koran..."

Chapter Ten "The Tawdriness..."

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen "Does Religion Make..."

Chapter Fourteen "There Is No Eastern Solution"

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen "Is Religion Child Abuse?"

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen "In Conclusion..."

And if you can't get enough of this discussion, Wilson and Hitchens trade responses at Christianity Today over the question, "Is Christianity Good for the World?" Here are the links:

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six

And finally, Peter Hitchens offers a stinging commentary to his brother's book in the Daily Mail.

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