In the 10 minute extract from his debate with his brother, titled Hitchens vs God on youtube, cited a few posts ago on here, CH sketches these ideas against God and against the desirability of faith:
1. There are much more elegant explanations of everything than the prime mover of deism, but my heroes accepted deism.
2. Even Aquinas couldn’t go from deism to theism.
3. Relgion is totalitarian
4. Religion will convict you of thought crime while you are asleep
5. We would not know right and wrong without heaven’s help
6. Religion was the first attempt at morality, philosophy, healthcare etc and was therefore the worst.
7. If humans have been around for 100,000 years and God spoke to Abraham 3-4,000 years ago, what was God doing for the other 96 thousand years?
Someone asked for a point by point rebuttal of CH, so here goes:
1. Show me a more elegant explanation of everything then – I can’t see any more succinct summary of the limits of science than the question How come anything rather than nothing? Lawrence Krauss has tried to show that there is no such thing as nothing (hehe..) and advanced the possible scientific answers to the question precisely no distance at all. He has over many pages shown that something comes from something, but we don’t need to buy his book to know that. He genuinely doesn’t see what he’s missing, so the first thing he needs is a grounding in philosophy. He should contact Blackfriars Oxford or talk to Fergus Kerr Blackfriars Edinburgh for some help.
2. A quotation would be helpful. People have latched on to it and have presumably read even less Aquinas than CH. I think Aquinas thought philosophy without reference to revelation could show that there were rational arguments for believing God existed, and that all that we know of God after that comes from deduction (negative theology) and revelation (from God, largely metaphorical). Contrary to popular imagining, Aquinas’s 5 proofs were in fact an attempt to show that it was possible and indeed necessary to advance rational argument in support of belief, against the idea at the time that God was self-evident and therefore needed no rational defence. I wouldn’t like to defend the view that Aquinas was a deist.
3. Personally I think the heart of liberalism is totalitarian – one in the end has to conform on the level of ideas, or one is excluded. Witness the nonsense aligning those who disagree with the gay rights legislation with those who opposed civil rights in the US. Calling yourself gay and having sex are decisions, being black is not a decision. But liberalism won’t tolerate distinctions like that – you agree or you are excluded. Is my faith totalitarian? I don’t consider that things are imposed on me, I see that doctrine makes sense. If I don’t agree, I can leave. In ages where this was not an option, social ideas of common good trumping any individual rights are the explanation more than anything to do with the religion itself, in the case of Catholicism. I remember in student days going to masses where there were university science lecturers, surgeons, professional footballers, BBC journalists, prostitutes, refugees, professors of history and philosophy, famous Marxists, European royalty and members of the Pitt club all in the same room. This to me is a sign of vitality and freedom.
4. This also sounds catchy, but talk to an experienced confessor and ask that exact phrase as a question, he will probably laugh and smile and direct you to the catechism. It is nonsense, but don’t let that stop any atheist believing it.
5. Can atheist and theist agree on the imperfectability of man, given the complete absence of utopias? And those that try hardest to achieve them in secular history fail the most spectacularly, eg. modern Europe. If I know my attempt to build a utopia will fail, I am happy to look for guidance, and find it in the gospels, and find pretty much the antithesis of goodness in much of modern society.
6. Christianity is hardly the first attempt at any of this. As Rowan Williams explained to Dawkins, he reads Genesis for what it says about humans and the human condition and finds it powerful, he doesn’t read it for 21st century science. Would anyone seriously defend this as a piece of logic? (first, therefore worst). Take morality, look at Matthew 5 for example, tell me this is the worst attempt and show me how the modern world has improved, where we now have 40 million or more abortions every year and we have ideas about sex that treat others pretty much as objects for our pleasure.
7. What was God doing? suggests a god in time, so not God. What is the fate of these people? I think the answer is that everyone has an idea of right and wrong, however quickly they overrule it, fail to educate it or make it silent, and they will doubtless be judged according to that, and any upright person in any age has every chance of being a saint. The CH question is irrelevant if there is no afterlife, and in the afterlife, are those who lived 5,000 years ago less likely to be there than those that lived 500 years ago, in say Italy? Please tell me.
The atmosphere of these debates is one of tribal conflict, you are not going to get decent arguments or discussion, it is going to be mostly hurling of one-liners and crowd-pleasers. The Williams Kenny Dawkins talk on youtube actually breaks that mould.
1) What is YOUR elegant explanation of everything? 'God did it'? God of the Gaps is your explanation? How is that elegant? How does it explain anything? How does it explain where this God thing/non-thing came from? How does God give you any predictability? Your definition of elegant seems a little skewed, mainly because whilst scientific knowledge cannot explain everything, it gives us very good predictability and accuracy to explain many, many things; things that we can utilize for the benefit of mankind. These elegant explanations explain the movement of the stars, and galaxies, the interaction between chemicals, energy, the effects of gravity over long periods of time, radiation, electromagnetism, and so on, all things that we use everyday and take for granted. All these things are relied on, and mankind and science had strived to improve the lot of man. It seems most things are connected, from the micro, to the macro. The stuff we are made of on the microscopic scale was created in the biggest, and brightest things in the sky; Exploding stars, and so on. That is not elegant? Your notion of elegant is a non-physical, timeless, space less, inter dimensional, critter? It has about as much explanation power as turtles going all the way down.
As for your mockery, and derision towards Krauss, I find it odd that you feel that because you cannot grasp the notion of nothing that he is proposing, (and backing up with experimentation spanning about 100 years), so he needs to get a grounding in philosophy? Why? Is a grounding in philosophy required to argue for the unarguable? To propose the unknowable as true?
2) "A quote would be helpful". Well, I presume you have a grounding in philosophy, unlike Krauss? Proposing Deism is simple. There could well have been an entity who started the big bang, and then has no input otherwise, certainly not favouring, or garnering attention from the primate inhabitants of a plnet in one of the spiral arms of one of the billions of galaxies. The way things seem to be in the cosmos we cannot disprove that. However, when you step from Deism, to theism, things become a lot easier to argue from that perspective. We apparently have an all knowing, all powerful, benevolents, and whatever God, Yahweh, (as an example). It takes an interest in what we eat, shag, wear, sow, who we speak to, who we marry, who we invite in, who we kill, and so on, and so on. So, can you, Chris, take the logical step from Deism, to theism? There may well have been a first cause, we have no idea, (and science says nothing about it, contrary to what the wavy armed people say), but can you logically argue that this God has any of these other properties, and how do you know what these properties are? Revelation is not evidence. It is not self-evident. If you insist upon that, then show us what this self-evidence is, and how do these self evident things prove the God of theism, and why people such as myself are denied these revelations?
3) Liberalism is totalitarianism? How is that answering the question 'Religion is totalitarianism'? Many things may be totalitarianism, but mentioning one does not remove the question of the other. Your entire argument on that question is a complete sidestep of the actual question. Well done, but I noticed it.
Why is religion totalitarianism? Well, for the Abrahamic religions, "Love me, or be punished for eternity" doesn't sound like totalitarianism to you? As he out it, "Love at the barrel of a gun", or "commanded to love the person you are to fear"? Not totalitarianism? Well, as you refused to answer the question, and go on a tangent, I'm not sure why I should. Is Religion totalitarianism? Well, Bananas are yellow, so there.
4) Again, avoiding the question. Does it not say in the bible that to think something is a sin? Have a look in the 10 commandments, it is an easy place to start. So can YOU tell us where morals came from? I personally think that the idea of altruistic evolution makes the most sense, and we can see it every day in nature. It explains a great deal. Being able to explain things is handy I feel. It certainly has more weight than 'god did it'.
5) Man is an imperfect primate. We know this to be true. You seem to be having issues, as others have in this thread, with the definition of secularism, and probably atheism as well. You cite modern Europe as the sign to failure of secularism, presumably talking about Stalin, Hitler, etc? If not, what is the failure you refer to? Most secular nations on earth have the highest quality of life, life expectancy, and so on, and so forth. Remember that secularism is simply the idea that everyone should be able to practice whatever religion they wish, and not force it upon anyone else via the government. Can you point to some of these failures, and how they are directly attributable to either secularism, or atheism?
6) The "first, therefore worst" thing you have taken entirely out of its meaning. It does not mean that because it is first it is inherently the worst. It was worst because we had little or no knowledge of anything. We had no knowledge of tectonics, weather patterns, germ theory, and so on, so our explanations were frankly 'way off'. Do you think that if mankind was created as we are today, with the knowledge we have today, would "first be worst"? No, we'd do OK, bit that is only because we have that accrued knowledge over time.
As for Genesis being about the human condition, fine. I have no issue about that, (and Dawkins doesn't either if you read his books). What Dawkins is arguing from is the position arguing morality, and using the bible as a basis for it. yes, there are some good stuff in it, but equally there is some barbaric, cruel, and sadistic stuff in it, including infanticide, genocide, and so on. His issue is the people who take these things to be true, and to base morality on them.
As for the abortion thing, that has already been done on this thread, and I for one am not going to base an entire argument on bloody abortion. So, I have explained the first is worst thing to you, logically. HTH
7) Wow... Your answer is not an answer at all. The question was "What was your god doing for the other 96,000 years. Your answer is it is timeless? OK, can you tell us how you know that it is a timeless god, what it's motives are, and anything you know about the afterlife? As Hitchens said in his many videos on this issue, most people died in their 20's, of their teeth, IIRC, scrabbling for existence. Infant mortality was huge, (and yet abortion is an issue. Why is it perfectly fine for God to kill off millions every year?), so the question "where was god" is perfectly valid. Again, you fail to answer the question. People seem to just wave past notions of Gods motives, whilst appealing to them, for some reason. If god is loving, and all that nice stuff, why DID he sit idly by? Why did he need to send himself down to earth so he could be executed for the sins of others, knowing he in fact could not die, so making the sacrifice fairly worthless? As I posted earlier, what's the connection to having a scapegoat, and sin? If genesis was just a fluffy story on the human condition, why do we have original sin?
Meh. You seem to be of the opinion that appealing to revelation, or God is actually an adult, grown up answer. It isn't. Answers
explain. god explains nothing. As for debates being worthless, I don't think they are. Saying that, the vast majority of debates end up with the religious getting their arse handed to them, so I suppose deriding the format is a course of action, I suppose. When it comes to religion the explanatory are to be dealt with in favor, by the religion, or their proponents. They have yet to explain a single thing. Can you name one thing explained by religion? Can you name a single thing that is explained and reasoned by appealing to an unknowable idea?