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It's always the same

Ross Douthat links to two exchanges between Christopher Hitchens and others. They both have the same theme: why be good without God?

That seems to be what’s left, doesn’t it? I don’t think anyone is really convinced by so-called proofs of God. I mean, why else resort to red herring attacks like there’s no morality without God? I should say that in the two cases in the link above, it’s on target, as what’s under discussion is religion’s effect on society. Still, it’s trotted out rather liberally.

I wanted to discuss a passage from one of the exchanges, between Hitchens and Doug Wilson of Christianity Today:

If you are on the receiving end, there is only death, and if you are an agent delivering this genocide, the long-term result is brief victory and death at the end. So who cares? Picture an Israelite during the conquest of Canaan, doing every bad thing that you say was occurring back then. During one of his outrages, sword above his head, should he have stopped for a moment to reflect on the possibility that you might be right? “You know, in about three and a half millennia, the consensus among historians will be that I am being bad right now. But if there is no God, this disapproval will certainly not disturb my oblivion. On with the rapine and slaughter!” On your principles, why should he care?

Of course, on account of Wilson’s principles the Israelite is doing the slaughtering, so perhaps he should be careful here. The fact is, God hasn’t stopped many from committing such acts. I’m quite positive Hitler, Stalin, Mao, the crusaders, etc had all heard of the “Good News” and it didn’t stop them. So Christianity isn’t exactly preventing some of our worst atrocities and this really isn’t much of an objection to the idea that Christianity is bad for the world. Do we really think, say, Doug Wilson would be the next Stalin save for Christianity?

The real problem people seem to have here is that the lack of a belief in an afterlife doesn’t satisfy their blood lust regarding people who do terrible things. Hitler suffered the same fate as Martin Luther King, Jr. I think the proper response to this is: too bad. Life isn’t fair and death seems less so. Perhaps you deserved that raise at work, but not getting it didn’t cause you to stop believing your company existed, did it? That’s not a great metaphor, but the gist is correct. Why are we entitled to justice? Justice is something we have to work towards, something we have to make happen. To whine that it isn’t presented to us on a silver platter is pathetic.

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