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← Christopher Hitchens at AAI 07

Christopher Hitchens at AAI 07 - Comments

Matt H.'s Avatar Comment 1 by Matt H.

Excellent, thanks very much. I always like listening to Hitchens.

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 12:18:00 UTC | #76274

SilentMike's Avatar Comment 2 by SilentMike

This is going to be a lot of fun.

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 12:46:00 UTC | #76282

Riley's Avatar Comment 3 by Riley

The reason Hitchens never gets a response to his silly challenge
is that Christians don't make that claim!


Christians have never asserted that believers are capable of performing moral acts that non-believers are incapable of performing. Not only is that claim not made by Christians, the exact opposite claim is the basis for much of the Christian moral thesis. Christian theology REQUIRES that the free-will and the ability to act morally or immorally exist in all people.

Hitchens is manufacturing a bogus argument. He "wins" his arguments by misrepresenting his opponents and then he grandstands on his vapid conclusions. He is no better in this respect than the worst of the Christian right. It disgusts me when I hear the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons of the world do it. Such behavior deserves just as much condemnation when non-theists do it.

.

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 12:53:00 UTC | #76285

PeterK's Avatar Comment 4 by PeterK

"The reason Hitchen's never get s response to his silly challenge, is because Christians don't make that claim!"

A few recent presidents of the USA have:

G. Bush senior:

Sherman: What will you do to win the votes of the Americans who are atheists?

Bush: I guess I'm pretty weak in the atheist community. Faith in God is important to me.

Sherman: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?

Bush: No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.

Sherman (somewhat taken aback): Do you support as a sound constitutional principle the separation of state and church?

Bush: Yes, I support the separation of church and state. I'm just not very high on atheists.

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 13:02:00 UTC | #76290

oxytocin's Avatar Comment 5 by oxytocin

Riley,
Hitchens is responding to claims by the faithful that they are morally superior, or at least that morality comes from the clouds. There are some extreme folks who believe that in the absence of xianity, the world would lapse into amorality. I think the challenge is mainly aimed at this latter group. The problem you identified emerges when xians, in their vicissitude, claim that we fail to understand their unique blend of xianity.

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 13:08:00 UTC | #76292

Riley's Avatar Comment 6 by Riley

oxytocin, He's as clear as a bell on this. He has made and smugishly repeated his challenge at every opportunity. Don't put words into his mouth that he hasn't spoken. He specifically challenges believers to name a moral action a non-believer couldn't perform.

What believer has made that claim? What Christian argument relies on that claim? Give me a quote from a noteworthy Christian.

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 13:16:00 UTC | #76295

newskin's Avatar Comment 7 by newskin

Further to PeterK

Take a look at the current encumbant, banning stem cell research on 'religious grounds' when he has absolutley no idea of the science behind it; I bet you Bushy couldn't tell his guanine from his cytosine!
As a result this potentially millions of people will suffer unecessarily. Don't beleive me? In the progressive UK (never thought i would say that) we may have a treatment for muscular dystrophy as a direct result of such experiments...

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 13:20:00 UTC | #76297

Dr Benway's Avatar Comment 8 by Dr Benway

Riley:

Christians have never asserted that believers are capable of performing moral acts that non-believers are incapable of performing.
So we don't need God to be good. Glad that's settled.

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 13:21:00 UTC | #76298

newskin's Avatar Comment 9 by newskin

Touche Dr Benway (a little dissapointed i missed that sitter!)

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 13:22:00 UTC | #76299

oxytocin's Avatar Comment 10 by oxytocin

Riley, let me get my quote book out....

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 13:24:00 UTC | #76300

notsobad's Avatar Comment 11 by notsobad

"noteworthy Christian"

That's comedy in itself. Is that like another name for "true Christian"?

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 13:26:00 UTC | #76301

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 12 by Steve Zara

Hitchens is manufacturing a bogus argument. He "wins" his arguments by misrepresenting his opponents and grandstanding.


I would be terribly interested in exactly how Hitchens misrepresents his opponents. I mean, if the representatives of each religion could just get together and come up with a nice definite summary of what they believe, that would be just so useful.

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 13:27:00 UTC | #76302

Riley's Avatar Comment 13 by Riley

This thread stands as proof that you can be an atheist and still be ruled by irrational thinking.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.

steve99, did you read my first post?

notsobad, have ANY of the theists challenged by Hitchens in print or on air made the claim that Christians perform moral acts that non-Christians cannot?

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 13:31:00 UTC | #76304

Martha's Avatar Comment 14 by Martha

Christopher Hitchens: "This is a very fair-minded and decent and polite and open-minded society, the United States - of which I'm so proud to have become a citizen..."

Really? Is that why MOST Americans live in fear of not having health insurance? Is LIVING IN FEAR indicative of an a fair and decent society?
I don't so, Mr. Hitchens.

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 13:34:00 UTC | #76305

Dr Benway's Avatar Comment 15 by Dr Benway

Riley, never mind that nasty blowhard Hitshins, or whatever. It's so refreshing to meet a Christian who agrees that we don't need God to be good.

Here, allow me to pour you some tea.

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 13:42:00 UTC | #76307

notsobad's Avatar Comment 17 by notsobad

Riley, there are thousands of religions and within those religions thousands of interpretations. It's funny when a single theist tries to speak for others or even a majority.

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 13:43:00 UTC | #76309

Smythe's Avatar Comment 16 by Smythe

Hitchens' challenge takes Steven Weinberg's famous statement, (Good people will do good things, evil people will do evil things, but for a good person to do an evil thing, it takes religion) and phrases it in the form of a challenge.

In an ideal world, Weinberg's statement would stand alone as an absolute knockdown argument against any religiot who seeks to equate wish-thinking with morality.

Unfortunately, religious people seem to be, on the whole (I'll be unnecessarily kind here as I'm in a good mood watching Hitch) a little 'slow'.

So, the statement of Weinberg has been rephrased as a challenge in order to FORCE the religious to realize the fallacy of their argument, and hopefully give it up once and for all.

It should amaze me that someone could come on this thread and still not get it, but I've been exposed to too many religious people to amazed by any amount of idiocy.

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 13:43:00 UTC | #76308

newskin's Avatar Comment 18 by newskin

Martha,

If living in fear of not having health insurance is your only concern you are indeed blessed! Hitchen's does not imply America is a eutopia, merely a country where a person is not persecuted because of their ideals (by the state, there is no accounting for the inevitable bigotted individual0.
As an aside, as a UK citizen who does not have to worry about health insurance, i have to say that such a position is not as perfect as you may imagine. What use is free medical care if it is seriously delayed, underfunded and generally downright substandard?

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 13:48:00 UTC | #76310

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 19 by Steve Zara

steve99, did you read my first post?


Actually, yes:

Christian theology REQUIRES that the free-will and the ability to act morally or immorally exist in all people


That is because Christian theology is inconsistent. Free will is not consistent with an omnipotent and omniscient God.

Perhaps before Christians come up with a consistent summary of what they believe, they could come up with a consistent theology.

If you can make a definite statement about theology, I am impressed.

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 13:49:00 UTC | #76311

newskin's Avatar Comment 20 by newskin

That is because Christian theology is inconsistent. Free will is not consistent with an omnipotent and omniscient God.


Cheque please!

Not only that but god is not needed to explain anything and indeed explains nothing. If we accepted Christian dogma, there would be no medical research (Why? Because to intervene medically is surely against god's will) As a result, millions of people die needlessley each year (beleivers or otherwise). Where does your ethical arguement from religion stand then?

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 13:55:00 UTC | #76313

Dr Benway's Avatar Comment 21 by Dr Benway

Humans can be good without God.

The merry quibblers slowly fell silent as each considered the implications of the proposition on the table, agreed to by all.

Suddenly their remaining items of dispute seemed trivial. The impetus for the fight between the God fearing and the godless was behind them. Everyone could now go home for a bit of dinner.

Hurrah!

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 14:02:00 UTC | #76314

Riley's Avatar Comment 22 by Riley

steve99, The basis for the argument of "free will" may be flawed - as you point out - but none-the-less, that is the basis for the Christian moral thesis as accepted by a consensus of Christians from all sects. You'd be hard-pressed to demonstrate that this bit of dogma is not a fundamental pillar of Christianity.

But why quibble when you can be specific? Lets just deal with the individuals that Hitchens has directly challenged on stage. Have any of those people made the claim that Christians are capable of performing moral acts that non-Christians are incapable of performing? Have any of their arguments relied on such a claim?

It's really that simple. Either they have or they haven't. Since Hitchens is the one challenging them and gloating over their non-response to his challenge, then I should think Hitchens could procure a quote from one of these individuals. Why hasn't he? Can anybody do this?

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 14:10:00 UTC | #76316

papavb's Avatar Comment 23 by papavb

In support of steve99's assertion, I think a quote from Sartre is in order

"If god exists, man is not free, and if man is free, god does not exist"

you're either a fatalist, or you're not

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 14:14:00 UTC | #76318

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 24 by Bonzai

Riley,

Christian theology REQUIRES that the free-will and the ability to act morally or immorally exist in all people.


Free will doesn't exist if the capacity to make "immoral" choices is absent. So if as some Christians claim the moral instinct is a planted in the human heart by God the same would be true for human wickedness. So why should we be punished for our "sinfulness" if that is part of our built in feature by deliberate design and what do we need Jesus for?

The believers want to have it both way. If we act morally God takes the credit, if we behave badly we take the blame. What a nice deal for "God'.

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 14:19:00 UTC | #76319

Riley's Avatar Comment 26 by Riley

Good point Bonzai --- and yet Christians believe in free will anyway. They believe that all people are equally capable of performing moral acts.

Their belief may be irrational, but that's the belief. Don't go trying to claim that they believe in things that they explicitly do not believe in.

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 14:25:00 UTC | #76322

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 25 by Steve Zara

The basis for the argument of "free will" may be flawed - as you point out - but none-the-less, that is the basis for the Christian moral thesis as accepted by a consensus of Christians from all sects.


Well, I don't think I could have put it better myself. The consensus belief of Christians is flawed.

(I have to admit in all honesty that all logical frameworks we know of are flawed. The problem is that Christians claim to know the mind of the perfect God).

Since Hitchens is the one challenging them and gloating over their non-response to his challenge, then I should think Hitchens could procure a quote from one of these individuals. Why hasn't he? Can anybody do this?


I am having trouble both parsing and understanding this statement. Hitchens put forward a challenge, and we are supposed to quote "non-responses"? Or quotes from people who have not responded?

OK, I realise that was a bit of a cheap shot. But, what you need to realise is that Hitchens has been putting forward this challenge for some time, including during a widely reported and televised book tour. If anyone had responded, you can bet that would have been widely publicised.

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 14:25:00 UTC | #76321

Dr Benway's Avatar Comment 27 by Dr Benway

Riley: Have any of those people made the claim that Christians are capable of performing moral acts that non-Christians are incapable of performing?
Ah, so you'd like to re-arrange the deck chairs for a bit longer.

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 14:26:00 UTC | #76323

denoir's Avatar Comment 28 by denoir

That is because Christian theology is inconsistent. Free will is not consistent with an omnipotent and omniscient God.


That's my personal favourite: omniscience. If Bob up in the sky knows for certain what you will be doing in the future then all is predetermined i.e no free will. It's really ├╝ber-determinism.

What the Christians usually claim is that you do have free will, but that you need to be a christian to be really moral. Ignoring the omniscience problem that would perhaps be fine if they claimed that the moral value would lie in being christian. They do not however - they claim that being a christian makes them more moral in other respects.

This is really a preposterous thing to claim. It is in fact exactly the opposite - atheists, or at least those that subscribe to a rational set of moral values are morally superior to the mystics.

Morality is not arbitrary because life is not arbitrary. For an organism to survive it has to perform a number of interactions with its environment and in some cases with other organisms. The fundamental moral value is life. It is a fairly easy to understand axiom - if it wasn't, we wouldn't be around talking about it. Any biological system that did not consider life as its primary value would be soon extinct.

Life is dependent on a real world that follows natural laws. Rational actions are conditions for survival. In raw nature irrationality equals suicide. Celebrating irrational behaviour in a world directed by natural laws is celebrating death. It is fundamentally immoral.

Human societies have as far back as we know been arranged in such a way that irrational people have lived on the products of the rational ones. The mystics have always lived on the products of the ones that actually applied rational methods to create something. And at the same time they condemn rationality. They need it to survive while at the same time preaching that the rational and the material are evils. If they had their way, if everybody accepted their position, first the rational people would die out to be followed by everybody else. People of whatever religion are in fact part of a death cult. If we fulfilled their wishes and followed their irrational values we'd all be dead soon.

And they have the stomach to call themselves more moral?

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 14:27:00 UTC | #76325

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 30 by Steve Zara

Their belief may be irrational, but that's the belief. Don't go trying to claim that they believe in things that they explicitly do not believe in.


I think you need to learn a lot more; both about formal logical systems and about human psychology.

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 14:33:00 UTC | #76327

newskin's Avatar Comment 29 by newskin

Good point Bonzai --- and yet Christians believe in free will anyway. They believe that all people are equally capable of performing moral acts.


So why attach the rest of the stipulations? What's with the obsession with peoples sex lives etc? If you deprive christianity of the moral high ground, I'm afraid all it boils down to in todays world is hedging your bets regarding death and the afterlife. In which case you have an 1/n (where n = every religion ever postulated in the history of humanity) chance of going to heaven. Well, it could be you...

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 14:33:00 UTC | #76326