As I reviewed a debate between Christopher Hitchens and Frank Turek, I came across a challenge posed by Christopher Hitchens that I wanted to take the time to discuss.
To those who say that without God there can be no morality I pose the following challenge:
- You are to name a moral action undertaken or a moral or ethical statement made by a believer that could not have been made by an unbeliever
- Think of something wicked that only a believer would be likely to do or something wicked that only a believer would be likely to say.
-Loose paraphrase of a challenge issued to the audience by Christopher Hitchens in his debate with Frank Turek
To demonstrate the tremendous error I think that Christopher Hitchens made in this challenge, I want to issue a challenge of my own to Usain bolt with regard to a 100m or 2oom dash . “You are to name a step taken or a track and field venue that exists where I could not run the same distance as you have.”
Now, of course, the problem with my challenge to Usain Bolt is clear. I may be able to run the same 100 meter course as Usain Bolt did in winning one of his gold medals, but what does this prove? The impressive thing about what Usain Bolt has accomplished is not the distance that he ran but the time in which he did it. This focus on an instantaneous snapshot of reality while disregarding the four dimensional nature of human experience is the same error demonstrated by Hitchens in the first part of his challenge. (I discuss this issue in my post “Four Dimensional Morality“)
That a person could be moral by performing a single instantaneous action or uttering a single phrase is comical to the point of being ridiculous. Allow me to rephrase the Hitchen’s challenge to illustrate this point. “You are to name a moral action performed that could not have been performed by Adolf Hitler.” Living a life that is acceptable before God (a moral life) has nothing to do with your ability to perform a single action or state some moral platitude. Living a life that is acceptable before God is running a lifelong marathon where every action performed and every statement made is consistent with a love for God and other human beings. This is what a Christian means when he says that morality requires God. Yes an atheist can do a single action or make a single statement, but is it possible to live a moral life without the assistance of God? And if not, do we not all require the forgiveness of God? (I discussed one aspect of this issue in my previous post, “The Need for a Vision“.)
The second aspect of his challenge was similarly ridiculous. Hitchens was implying that only religious people could perform suicide bombings or justify evil things by appealing to some theology. As for suicide bombings, he was ignoring the case of the Tamil Tiger suicide bombers who used the tactic for purely secular purposes. As for the verbal component, so what? Only an unbeliever could say certain evil things, but what does this prove? Hitchens entire challenge to theists, therefore, can be seen to be merely empty rhetoric.