Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cogent Points On Christianity by Christopher Hitchens

Let’s say the consensus is that our species, we, being the higher primates, homo sapiens, has been on the planet for at least 100,000 years, maybe more. Richard Dawkins thinks perhaps a quarter of a million, but I’ll take a hundred thousand.

In order to be Christian, you have to believe that, for 98,000 years our species suffered and died, most of its children dying in childbirth, most other people having a life expectancy of about 25, dying of bad teeth, famine, struggle, vicious war, suffering, misery... all of that for 98,000 years, heaven watching with complete indifference and then 2000 years ago thinks, “That’s enough of that, it’s time to intervene. The best way to do this would be to condemning someone to a human sacrifice somewhere in the less literate part of the Middle East. Let’s not appear to the Chinese, for example, where people can read and study evidence and have a civilization; let’s go to the desert and have another revelation...”

This is nonsense. It can’t be believed by a thinking person.

Why am I glad this is the case, to get to the point of the wrongness in the other sense of Christianity?

It’s because I think the teachings of Christianity are immoral.

The central one is the most immoral of all, that is the one of vicarious redemption. You can throw your sins onto somebody else, vulgarly known as scapegoating -- in fact, originating as scapegoating in the same area, the same desert.

I can pay your debt, if I love you. I can serve your term in prison, if I love you very much. I can volunteer to do that. I can’t take your sins away, because I can’t abolish your responsibility, and I shouldn’t offer to do so. Your responsibility has to stay with you. There’s no vicarious redemption.

There very probably, in fact, is no redemption at all. It’s just a part of wish thinking, and I don’t think wish thinking is good for people, either.

It even manages to pollute the central question, the word I just employed, the most important word of all, the word love, by making love compulsory, by saying you must love. You must love your neighbor as yourself, something you can’t actually do, but you’ll always fall short, so you can always be found guilty.

By saying you must love someone who you also must fear, that is to say, a supreme being, an eternal father, someone of whom you must be afraid, but you must love him, too; if you fail in this duty, you’re again a wretched sinner -- this is not mentally or morally or intellectually healthy.

And that brings me to the final objection, which is that this is a totalitarian system. If there was a god who could do all these things and demand these things of us, and who is eternal and unchanging, we would be living under a dictatorship from which there is no appeal, and one that could never change, and one that knows our thoughts and can convict us of thought crime and condemn us to eternal punishment for actions that are condemned in advance to be taking.

I could say more, but it’s an excellent thing that there’s absolutely no reason for any of it to be true.

--Christopher Hitchens, speaking off the cuff

1 comment:

Rick Lannoye said...

Excellent points!

In all fairness, most all the objections Mr Hitchens makes have nothing to do with the actual Jesus of Nazareth who originally gave us a view of God that makes Hell impossible.

I've actually written an entire book on this topic--Hell? No! Why You Can Be Certain There's No Such Place As Hell, (for anyone interested, you can get a free ecopy of Did Jesus Believe in Hell?, one of the most compelling chapters in my book at, but if I may, let me share just one of the many points I make in it to explain why.

If one is willing to look, there's substantial evidence contained in the gospels to show that Jesus opposed the idea of Hell. For example, in Luke 9:51-56, is a story about his great disappointment with his disciples when they actually suggested imploring God to rain FIRE on a village just because they had rejected him. His response: "You don't know what spirit is inspiring this kind of talk!" Presumably, it was NOT the Holy Spirit. He went on, trying to explain how he had come to save, heal and relieve suffering, not be the CAUSE of it.

So it only stands to reason that this same Jesus, who was appalled at the very idea of burning a few people, for a few horrific minutes until they were dead, could never, ever burn billions of people for an eternity!