Here’s an excellent written debate between Christopher Hitchens (God Is not Great) and Douglas Wilson (Letter from a Christian Citizen) on the topic “Is Christianity Good for the World?” Both participants are good writers and quite witty. I think
In his opening,
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?
Our morality evolved. Just as we have. Natural selection and trial-and-error have given us the vague yet grand conception of human rights and some but not yet all of the means of making these rights coherent and consistent.
I have been asking you to provide a warrant for morality, given atheism, and you have mostly responded with assertions that atheists can make what some people call moral choices. But what I have been after is what rational warrant they can give for calling one choice “moral” and another choice “not moral.” You finally appealed to “innate human solidarity,” a phrase that prompted a series of pointed questions from me. In response, you now tell us that we have an innate predisposition to both good and wicked behavior. But we are still stuck. What I want to know (still) is what warrant you have for calling some behaviors “good” and others “wicked.” If both are innate, what distinguishes them? What could be wrong with just flipping a coin?
I’m not sure why, but every time I hear theists bring up this objection, I actually expect atheists to come up with some sort of reasoned answer. My expectation may be put as follows: “Here Hitchens has written a bestseller on why Christianity is bad for the world. Surely he must have carefully thought through these issues. Hence, when asked for an explanation for his moral views, he will be able to give one.” Yet he wasn’t able to give one.
You are a gifted writer, and you have a flair for polemical voltage. But strip it all away, and what do you have underneath? You believe yourself to live in a universe where there is no such thing as any fixed ought or ought not. But God has gifted you with a remarkable ability to denounce what ought not to be. And so, because you reject him, you have great sermons but no way of ever coming up with a text. When people start to notice the absence of texts, the absence of warrant, the absence of reasons, you adjust and compensate with rhetorical embellishment and empurpled prose. You are like the minister who wrote in the margin of his notes, “Argument weak. Shout here.”