On Morality: In Dialogue with Christopher Hitchens Part Three

**This is reposted from a previous blog.  I have made a few minor edits.

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction:  jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” -Richard Dawkins, “The God Delusion”

Well, you know what they say about people who think that everyone else is deluded.  Dawkins is a colleague of Christopher Hitchens which is why I bring this very provocative quote up to the surface of the discussion of morality.  Hitchens, in his book, “god is not great” will attempt to do a similar thing as Dawkins.  He will attempt to portray God as immoral, evil, unjust, unethical, etc.

The fact may surprise you that I actually like the above quote.  Not because I believe that the statement is true rather quite the opposite.  I find a kind of entertainment from the writing as well as a biting sense of irony.

The irony of the statement goes something like this:  It is reasonable to conclude that if someone states that someone or something is moral/immoral, there has to be an overriding standard by which to make such a deduction.  If, by chance, there was no standard or universal principle to declare what is moral or immoral, ethical or unethical than who decides what behavior is acceptable or unacceptable?

In other words, by what standard is Richard Dawkins judging a “fictional” God by?  What doctrine is he subscribing too in order to make his rather poignant claim that God is racist or homophobic or genocidal?  That is the irony.  An atheist, who by definition, cannot believe in a higher, universal standard attempting to apply a moralistic standard to God.

Hitchens does much the same thing.  “The Bible may, indeed does, contain a warrant for trafficking in humans, for ethnic cleansing, for slavery, for bride-price, and for indiscriminate massacre, but we are not bound by any of it because it was put together by crude, uncultured human mammals.”  (pg. 102)  So, the same question can be posed to Mr. Hitchens.  What standard does he appeal too?

If we assume that blind, naturalistic atheism is the truth of the world; really the only rule of nature is the following:  survival of the fittest.  Therefore, there is no judgment and ultimately, no accountability as long as one doesn’t get caught by a human government or if someone (say Josef Stalin) is the government.  20 million people (perhaps more) were killed in the 20th century because of this lunatic.  While atheists can be nice people and good thinkers (I’ll put Hitchens and Dawkins in this category even though I vehemently disagree with them both), atheism leaves us with no standard other than a faulty human one.  Thereby, each individual person would have their own morality standards (including a loathsome Green River Killer) and who is anyone else to tell that individual what they can and can’t do?

The statements by Hitchens and Dawkins about the immorality of God are so ludicrious to me that I won’t spend a lot of time arguing with them (because there are bigger fish to fry).  I will simply say that the Bible, Christians believe, is a record of human experience with the Divine.  Sure, there is slavery, massacres, child sacrificing and all kinds of horrendously evil atrocities because the Bible is telling the story of history.  History is ugly precisely for the reason that humanity is sinful and does what God does not want people to do.  Ultimately, the Bible is a story of redemption in which Jesus comes to save humanity from their sins and to declare teachings (conveniently left out of atheism manuals) like “Blessed are the peacemakers, they are the sons of God.”  (Matthew 5 as well as various other places)

Being that Christians believe Jesus to be God, it is hard to imagine Jesus advocating child murder (quite the opposite actually since Jesus said that whomever harms a child should tie a stone around his neck and jump in a lake), massacres or slavery.  Jesus advocates feeding the poor, helping widows, speaking for those who can’t speak for themselves, and inviting strangers in (all in Matthew 25).  Paul in the book of Romans condemns a person taking revenge.  Really, these are just a few examples.  The atheists seem to leave these teachings of Scripture out of their respective diatribes.

And if that wasn’t enough (and here I will spend some time), Hitchens calls the whole idea of Divine redemption an immoral case of child abuse.  The misguided attempt to rationalize that if God the Father sends His Son Jesus to die than He is engaging in a kind of sadistic child torture and abuse.  Hitchens writes, “Once again we have a father demonstrating love by subjecting a son to death by torture, but this time the father is not trying to impress god.  He is god, and he is trying to impress humans.” (pg. 209)

Anyone who subscribes to the above line of reasoning is either unaware of central ideas of orthrodox Christianity or purposely distorting a sacred doctrine.  The accusation of God the Father being a child abuser is one of the most idiotic assertions that has ever been postulated about the Christian faith.  Let me give you the words of Jesus:  “No one takes it (life) from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” (John 10:18, NIV)  Jesus had the authority and choice to lay down His own life on the cross.  This is not divine child abuse.  This is divine choice.

Furthermore, Jesus claimed to be God.  He claimed He was “I AM” (John 8:58) which is the Old Testament Jewish name for God given to Moses at the burning bush episode.  The crowd that heard Jesus make this proclamation recognized His message.  In John 10:31-33, the understanding of the message plays out.  “Again the Jews picked up stones to stone Him, but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many great miracles from the Father.  For which of these do you stone me?’ ‘We are not stoning you for any of these,’ replied the Jews (Pharisees), ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.'”

Jesus, as God, made a divine choice to lay His life down.  He did this on His own accord.  He was not trying to impress humans but He was choosing to demonstrate how much he loved the world. (Romans 5:8)

The bottom line:  if anyone ascribes to morality, they have to have a basis for their claim.  If there is no God and no higher standard, there is no morality outside of an individual’s opinion (or maybe a community or government collective’s opinion).  Relativistic morality, based upon a rampant individualism, is common in our time but is an unlivable tenant.  Leading postmodern American philosopher (because most of them come from France) Richard Rorty ran into trouble at a debate when he was asked why the German holocaust was wrong.  He, of course, as a believer in cultural relativity when it comes to morality had postulated that morality was based on human communities and their various perspectives.  So, how can one culture (or country) tell another country that they are wrong?  Good question.  So, Adolf Hitler wants to exterminate a race of people, the Jews, and sets this as the morality of his country.  If we live in a different country, operating by our own set of relativistic morals, who are we to say that Hitler was wrong?

Atheism, again, has one moral:  survival of the fittest.  This principle has charged radical capitalists such as Ayn Rand (author of “The Virtue of Selfishness” and an atheist) as well as a vicious, murdering communist like Josef Stalin (who called belief in God the most extreme evil).  Apparently, Stalin was OK with his death toll of 20 million (journalistic Martin Amis- a friend of Christopher Hitchens- argues that the count may have been 40 million in his book “Koba the Dread:  Laugher and the 20 million”) and his practices of starving mass amounts of people to death, including children, to usurp for himself more political authority.  Stalin was fit to survive and made a career stamping out those not as fit.

I’m not suggesting that atheists agree with or condone the actions of Hitler, Stalin or others who have taken their radical influence from Charles Darwin and Karl Marx and extrapolated these ideas to political situations.  However, I am arguing that the atheistic worldview has no foundation to rest its morals upon.  No frame of reference to determine what is right and what is wrong outside of an individual or perhaps communities’ opinion.  In this worldview framework, there is no transcendent morality.

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About dangeroushope

Striving to follow Christ, love people and learn more about the world.
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