Thursday, May 10, 2007

Is Christianity good for the world?

You don’t want to miss this. Christianity Today carries its first installment of an online debate (a correspondence actually) between Douglas Wilson and Christopher Hitchens titled, Is Christianity Good for the World? If some of us felt that the one recently hosted by Newsweek between Rick Warren and Sam Harris was a ridiculously uneven match, this one ought to see more sparks fly. Here’s an excerpted salvo from Hitchens:

I cannot, of course, prove that there is no supervising deity who invigilates my every moment and who will pursue me even after I am dead. (I can only be happy that there is no evidence for such a ghastly idea, which would resemble a celestial North Korea in which liberty was not just impossible but inconceivable.) But nor has any theologian ever demonstrated the contrary. This would perhaps make the believer and the doubter equal—except that the believer claims to know, not just that God exists, but that his most detailed wishes are not merely knowable but actually known. Since religion drew its first breath when the species lived in utter ignorance and considerable fear, 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.

Doug Wilson answers by questioning the atheist's self-respect - what's it worth anyway if we're nothing but a bunch of 'churning chemical reactions.'

One last question: In your concluding paragraph you make a great deal out of your individualism and your right to be left alone with the "most intimate details of [your] life and mind." Given your atheism, what account are you able to give that would require us to respect the individual? How does this individualism of yours flow from the premises of atheism? Why should anyone in the outside world respect the details of your thought life any more than they respect the internal churnings of any other given chemical reaction? That's all our thoughts are, isn't that right? Or, if there is a distinction, could you show how the premises of your atheism might produce such a distinction?

As the Day 1 exchange shows, among other things, the whole idea about God – even the possibility of his existence – is resisted by an atheist not because there is necessarily an absence of evidence (not that it doesn’t matter), but because if God does exist, there would be a massive reordering of lifestyle. For one, it would mean submission to a higher authority.

In the words of C.S Lewis, "Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, is of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important."

That’s a discomforting thought, that someone should tell you how you should live in the "most intimate details of [your] life and mind." Better to be one’s own God, as it were.

Back to the Newsweek debate, there's quite a bit to chew, even if it was one-sided (also, the preamble was thick with the interviewer's own bias). I personally didn’t think Rick Warren was unnerved by the almost overbearing Harris. To Warren’s credit, I thought he conducted himself with appropriate humility. And even if Warren did not specifically address Harris’ objections, the appeal to Pascal’s Wager to my mind is no less a sensible apologetic.


Sivin Kit said...

i wonder how come there's no debate on "Is atheism good for the world?"

sweetspirits said...

I have been aquainted with a few atheists in cyberspace . I can recall one saying ..
Quote " People who believe in God and heaven , just can't handle the truth that after death that is it . There is nothing else nothing " .Unquote

Well every one to his own ...

The Hedonese said...

I kinda like Greg Koukl's musings about the question: Is God Just A Crutch For Those Who Fear Death?

Mean Dean said...


This is an interesting debate as I'll be traveling from the U.S. to K.L. in about 10 days.

I'm not sure if we can meet-up but I do hope at least we can exchange some email on this topic.

As for the whole 'crutch' meme - I suppose it works that way for people who wait until the very end to see God's majesty at work in their lives.

blogs4God - at - google email system, etc ...