Anglican Samizdat

March 8, 2010

Arguing with atheists

Filed under: Atheism — David Jenkins @ 7:21 pm
Tags:

An interesting article by the other Hitchens, Peter; read it all here

He [Christopher] often assumes that moral truths are self-evident, attributing purpose to the universe and swerving dangerously round the problem of conscience – which surely cannot be conscience if he is right since the idea of conscience depends on it being implanted by God. If there is no God then your moral qualms might just as easily be the result of indigestion.

Yet Christopher is astonishingly unable to grasp that these assumptions are problems for his argument. This inability closes his mind to a great part of the debate, and so makes his atheist faith insuperable for as long as he himself chooses to accept it.

One of the problems atheists have is the unbelievers’ assertion that it is possible to determine what is right and what is wrong without God. They have a fundamental inability to concede that to be effectively absolute a moral code needs to be beyond human power to alter.

On this misunderstanding is based my brother Christopher’s supposed conundrum about whether there is any good deed that could be done only by a religious person, and not done by a Godless one. Like all such questions, this contains another question: what is good, and who is to decide what is good?

It is striking that in his dismissal of a need for absolute theistic morality, Christopher says in his book that ‘the order to “love thy neighbour as thyself” is too extreme and too strenuous to be obeyed’. Humans, he says, are not so constituted as to care for others as much as themselves.

This is demonstrably untrue, and can be shown to be untrue, through the unshakable devotion of mothers to their children; in the uncounted cases of husbands caring for sick, incontinent and demented wives (and vice versa) at their lives’ ends; through the heartrending deeds of courage on the battlefield.

I am also baffled and frustrated by the strange insistence of my anti-theist brother that the cruelty of Communist anti-theist regimes does not reflect badly on his case and on his cause. It unquestionably does.

He has bricked himself up high in his atheist tower, with slits instead of windows from which to shoot arrows at the faithful, and would find it rather hard to climb down out of it.

I have, however, the more modest hope that he might one day arrive at some sort of acceptance that belief in God is not necessarily a character fault, and that religion does not poison everything.

Beyond that, I can only add that those who choose to argue in prose, even if it is very good prose, are unlikely to be receptive to a case which is most effectively couched in poetry.

Peter Hitchens makes the interesting point that an atheist world view – particularly that of Christopher Hitchens – is rooted in the emotional, or poetic, rather than the rational.

That is why having an argument with an atheist is a bit like this:

Advertisements

2 Comments

  1. Excellent post. I love Python…

    Comment by Stuart — March 9, 2010 @ 1:17 am

  2. […] the subject of atheists, do check out David’s post over at Anglican Samizdat, picking up on the interesting comments made by Peter Hitchens on his brothers beliefs. If you have […]

    Pingback by Interesting Facts the American Humanist Association (AHA) Might Not Know, part 1 of 4 | eChurch Christian Blog — March 9, 2010 @ 1:48 am


RSS feed for comments on this post.

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: