Christopher Hitchens On Morality Without God

I recall watching a debate between Christopher Hitchens and William Lane Craig in which Christopher issues a challenge to name for him an ethical statement or action undertaken by a believer, that Christopher (as an atheist) couldn’t undertake or do or state.

I don’t think it was addressed and I don’t know if anyone has ever taken him up on that, but it seems like this would be an extremely simple challenge to complete.

I’m sure Christopher agrees with (not that he actually has done any of that, just that he doesn’t see a problem with it) contraception, abortion, masturbation, pornography, fornication, divorce, divorce and remarriage (adultery), lust, homosexual unions, gay adoption, sodomy, etc. etc. Him agreeing with just any one of these (and I do in fact recall him arguing for homosexual acts in one debate) thereby already makes him an immoral person. Not because he is an imperfect human being like the rest of us, but because he blatantly and vehemently opposes the good there is in standing against the immoral aforementioned acts.

Let’s say he somehow conforms by opposing everything on that list and is a seemingly perfect example of a moral person.

Well, there’s still one thing he can’t do. God is morality and goodness itself. Refusing to acknowledge this very simple fact and blatantly and vehemently opposing it thereby makes one an immoral person by definition. Acknowledging God as good and as Lord is one thing an atheist or Chris could never do, clearly. :eek:

There is a difference between being a “good person” and a moral person. All moral people are good, but not all good people are moral.

Your thoughts are interesting here. Christopher Hitchens is a pretty bold version of an atheist. And we all need prayers. But what I would want to know is: what if someone had difficulty believing in God: no grace, just doubts, yet they lived a fully moral life by Catholic standards? Could righteous goodness without belief in God be acceptable to God?

Yes Auntie A.
But knowing God and turning one’s back on him, like fallen away Catholics, is another thing.

This is an area where I am confused at times: When someone turns away from their faith and from God, at first I feel compassion because it is possible to lose faith or never have the proper grace at the beginning. I get it. But then when that same person would throw away any moral code because they no longer believe in God, it begins to smell of a selfish temper tantrum. It appears immature and stupid, almost like a teenager rebelling against the parent that they say they don’t believe in. Moral laws benefit believers and unbelievers alike. Not only are they God’s laws but they are laws for better human living. This has actually been a means for me to believe more in God. His laws are harmonious.

I find it interesting when atheists say they are good/moral people in so far as their behavior is concerned, that they do not need God to be “good”. While it’s true that atheists can be good, caring and kind citizens, they seem to feel that this kind of behavior is universal among all people and just happens by accident. God, and Jesus specifically, has nothing to do with it. I would like to inform them that the main reason these atheists have some good convictions is because their (our) culture was formed by centuries of Christianity. Before Jesus people were savages, plain and simple. Good Lord, look at what the Romans used to do for entertainment! :eek: Christianity was absolutely a force for civilization. Deviation from Christ produces barbarism. Most atheists have no knowledge of history, or choose to ignore it.

I think Hitchens would be in deep trouble when standing before God’s throne. But God may have mercy on those who tried to live their lives with love, even if they did not know how to believe in God, as long as they didn’t hate or oppose God, as Hitchens did. Revelation says we will all be judged by our works. Could righteous goodness without belief in God be acceptable to God? Maybe that is what Purgatory is for. Just my opinion, who knows?

I know quite a lot of people who wouldn’t and don’t agree with that above.

Most atheists have no knowledge of history, or choose to ignore it.


Sarah x :slight_smile:


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Don’t see why not - God isn’t a tribal gang leader raining eternal punishment on everyone who didn’t happen to be in His gang.

I’ve never known anyone who has thrown out their morals because they don’t happen to believe, and we can imagine the reverse scenario of believers who are only moral because they selfishly want to get into heaven and don’t really love God or their neighbor.

It’s interesting that no mainstream religion or non-faith group stands out as being so righteous that none of its adherents are in prison. :smiley:

It would seem to me that those individuals spending time in prison are there not because they “adhered” to their religious beliefs but because those teachings were contravened by their actions. It is interesting that you use the word “adherents” when you know, I presume, that it clearly wasn’t the adherence to their beliefs that got them there, but it was the transgression of those beliefs that did. You cannot condemn a religion on the basis of what people do to contravene its teachings, but on what the teachings themselves properly are.

We’re the Greeks and the Old Testament Israeites savages? Were the Romans savages? What about entertainments available today? Why did Europe adopt so much Roman law? Is Latin the language of savages? How about Greek? If you read much of Hitchens you will find he knew a lot of history, it was his opinions that were different from those of many others.

Hit hens didn’t know that much about history or maybe he deliberately obfuscated to make his point.

Most of the Roman and Greek population were slaves. They treated women and the handicapped with disdain. They had little charity like hospitals, etc. They were cruel, as evidenced by their entertainment ment. Sexual morality was very low (they also each had declining population towards the end, like Europe now). They weren’t exactly peaceful.

You’re confusing some technological advancements, a few philosophers (most of whose philosophies didn’t advocate a Christian-type, dignity-based ethics, if they dealt with the issue at all), and artistic accomplishments for a moral, kind society.

“Knowing” history is not so clear cut. Say you attend a secular college. Your history course will be completely different from that of a religious college. A secular college will present the Catholic Church in a way that is opposed to science and progress (Galileo trial, Enlightenment, Darwin, birth of modern psychology) and barbaric (Crusades, Inquisition). A Catholic course in history would be quite different.

People who attend both will think they “know” history.

Hi Sarah, so do I.

But it’s easy to say in retrospect when our dominant values of compassion, caring for the poor, human rights, etc. are essentially Christian values, and we are educated in universities begun by the Church, healed in hospitals essentially begun by the Church, and enjoying a status of “civilised” life (though one has to wonder how civilised it is these days), which would have been unthinkable when Goths, Visigoths, Huns, Vikings, etc. were pillaging and raping their way through European cities.

By the way, Hitchens was known as a reporter, not a scholar or historian, althouhg he had a voice that made him sound really smart. I don’t see why we should take him more seriously than Geraldo Rivera.

As to law, Rome had a large, complicated civilization. Large, complicated civilizations require lots of laws, especially in commerce. Having been the largest and most dominant civilization, it makes sense that the for the former Roman conquests and Rome itself to adopt large portions of that law, with Christian influences, like vice laws and marriage, usury, etc.

It’s also true that every society works well for the rich and powerful. How did Greece and Rome treat the most vulnerable?

Besides, nobody’s saying that nothing good came from Rome and Greece, just not what you’d consider moral.

I wasn’t looking to condemn anyone, just the opposite: Auntie A hypothesized a person who “would throw away any moral code because they no longer believe in God”. My point is that there doesn’t seem to be any statistical evidence or other objective measure that atheists are on average less or more moral than Christians, which implies that a person’s beliefs may help shape their morals but are not the prime factor in adhering to them.

Or maybe there is such a thing as the natural law. :wink:

An atheist,being uncreated, cannot have a reason to live.

Yes, there’s great statistical evidence. When you compare people who go to Church (adhere) to those who don’t, those who do marry more and divorce less, give more to charity, are happier, and “better” in a number of categories. I bet that when you compare people from the same neighborhood, people who went to Church are probably incarcerated less.

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