In the debate held Saturday at Biola University between atheist Christopher Hitchens and Christian apologist William Lane Craig dealing with the question Does God exist, Dr. Craig made what I thought was a brilliant debating tactic. In his opening statements he undercut what I surmise is Mr. Hitchens primary position. He said, and repeated from time to time throughout the evening, that the social implications of belief in God were not part of the discussion about His existence.
Mr. Hitchens, having written god Is Not Great and Is Christianity Good for the World?, certainly seems to have strong opinions about the social implications of belief in God.
I suspect that’s why much of the debate settled on the discussion of Dr. Craig’s moral arguments for the existence of God. Mr. Hitchens did begin, however, addressing some of Dr. Craig’s other arguments.
He said first that atheism, being a position against a particular belief, can’t disprove God. Rather, atheists believe there is no plausible or convincing evidence for the existence of God.
However, he also said that a test of a good argument is that it can be falsified. [Which seems to me to undercut his view that atheism can’t disprove God]. The idea of a designer starting the evolutionary process can’t be disproved and therefore isn’t a good argument.
Further, he said that even if you did believe in a designer, you can’t get from that position to belief in a being who cares. He then said that if there was a God, He was a poor designer because the universe takes up so much space and so much time passed before He made Himself known to save any humans at all. Such waste shows that if there was a designer, he did a poor job or just doesn’t care.
In fact, he said, all the evidence Christians point to for God can be explained without God. He stated that extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence, and he doesn’t find any.
Interestingly, I though Dr. Craig, in his rebuttal, had a great answer to the suggestion that God was ineffectual or wasteful. He said efficiency is only important to people with limited time or limited resources. God, having an infinite amount of both time and resources, wouldn’t have any need to meet some finite definition of efficient.
Back to Mr. Hitchens’ positions. I thought he came to the heart of his views toward the end of the debate, but let me back up. When he was introduced, the host said something about him being an advocate for freedom. I didn’t understand that until the end.
Mr. Hitchens, you see, when discussing the idea of objective morality said this:
It’s degrading to say that morality comes from on high. It’s servile. A kind of heavenly North Korea.
He added that he believed in free will, though he didn’t know why. But a bossy god would seem to reduce free will because then we would be accountable.
Then towards the end of the debate he said:
Emancipate yourself from a celestial dictatorship and you’ve taken the first step to being free.
At last, the notion that Mr. Hitchens was an advocate of freedom made sense. Above all else, it seems he wants his autonomy, even though he believes his life serves no lasting purpose and will end in oblivion. He would rather be the master of his fate and the captain of his own … well, I doubt that he believes he has a soul.
And how is he a master of his fate when he himself states that the end is oblivion?
So it is only in the here and now that he wants to be in charge. Apparently he wants to be the one to say what is right and what is wrong. For although he believes there is a right and a wrong, that any atheist can do any moral act that any Christian can do, he wants to be the one to say what is moral.
The acts of religious people down through history are clearly immoral, according to Mr. Hitchens. And the good that religious people have done can be duplicated by anyone without a belief in God. So what good is he if he existed?
Tomorrow more of my thoughts on Mr. Hitchens’ assertions, because obviously I’ve reported his views with some of my reactions woven in.
By the way, if you would like to read other detailed reports on the debate, I recommend Doug Geivett’s Blog and Wintery Knight Blog (this latter gives you a play-by-play account, next best thing to an actual transcript).