A fascinating panel line up of Hitchens vs William Lane Craig, Douglas Wilson, Lee Strobel, Jim Dennison.
Lee kicks off with arguments based on the origin of universe, fine tuning, information in genetic code, consciousness, evidence for Jesus’ resurrection and the positive effect of Jesus in his own life.
Hitchens says that if you could prove that Jesus did not rise then it would have no effect at all on people’s moral behaviour. (me for some reason he does not see the difference between recognising moral actions and having a philosophical world view that allows for moral actions).
Craig gives seven lines of evidence including the causal and moral.
Jim Dennison emphasises relationship over religion. “Faith in God is a relationship. All relationships require a commitment which transcendence the evidence and become self-validating. That is the case in a marriage or choosing the school….” He later points out a flawed argument that Christopher keeps using. Namely that because of some bad thing one faith believes in and does, that somehow invalidates all belief and faith.
Douglas Wilson says “Thanks for coming to this event to watch Christopher Hitchens thrown into a den of lambs”. He gives a presupositonal argument for God asking what kind of universe does it take to support a debate like this? The way Christopher thinks the universe is would not support a debate as its just matter in motion. (me – ie Where does meaning come from? Truth or falsehood). In order for a true debate to occur we have to be made in the image of God. Atheism cannot support a universe in which it’s possible to ask questions.
The moderator asks what Christopher’s view offers in the way of hope for the unintelligent and weak in the way the Christianity does. Christopher answers that God watching us all the time and sitting in judgment on us is bad news. Then he asks how (giving a really horrid example) evil people get away with it while their victims pray and cry out for help. “You say that’s ok because they will get a better deal in another life but heaven watched it with indifference and did nothing. What you are saying is wicked and immoral.”
Douglas Wilson points out that if there is no God there is no justice. He can at least say “hold on, justice is coming, every tear will be wiped away…[but]….you are saying it will never be put right and that cuts the nerve of saying there is anything wrong with it now”.
The moderator points out that Hitchens has not answered the question “what hope does his view offer the weak”. Hitchens admits he does not want his death to be the end of him but it would be babyish to argue that it’s not true because he doesn’t like it. (me – not really babyish. There is something to be drawn out from our desires as C S Lewis argues. We desire to be happy therefore there may well be something that can meet that desire. Death doesn’t seem like it should be the end therefore maybe it’s not. Mm that does seem kind of week now I write it down. You could just say those desires are evolutionarily advantageous and nothing more but then again, they seem more profound than that. The desire to live forever in peace and be loved seem to transcend the physical world and if it does then we can ask what they are doing in us at that level. They must be there for some transcendent reason, achievable in a transcendent way. Like morality, consciousness, meaning and purpose, our desires are a thread that when followed takes us outside a physical naturalistic universe),
They argue about sky. Hitchen’s sky looks down on Auschwitz and thinks nothing. It’s just sky. Douglas’s sky looks down and does care (me- even if for some reason it does not stop it). But the question is put to Hitches “if your sky does not care why do you?”
Jim Dennison basically says that God wants to give us free will and so will not for the most part intervene when we misuse that freedom. “God greivs as a father when his children are hurt but if he interviews to limit freedom where does he stop”.
Hitchens then goes on to freewill. “You say we have free will because we have been given it by the boss. That is morally hopeless and intellectually incoherent”.
Craig clarifies the issue. There are two questions “Is Christian theism incompatible with innocent suffering and how do you know Christian world view is true”. He says Christopher slides to the second when people give him an answer for the first.
Douglas: “Behaviour set A is looking after babies etc. Behaviour set B is go to war and be cruel. Why is one moral?”
Hitchens seems to be on the ropes quite a lot from now on. The apologists really push the moral “ontological / epistemological” issues and Hitchens seems to waffle or at least take a long time to say something I do not see the relevance off. He does admit the transcendent (accessible via our imagination) but the other panellists point out that the transcendent must transcend the natural order in some way but how? What is the transcendent if it is not part of the natural realm.
Christopher calls Christians (or at the least implies that they are) wicked delusional idiots. Dug in his summing up speech says that Christians instinctively want to come back at that saying that they are not wicked, they are genuinely motivated by love, that they are not delusional but that Jesus saved them from drugs and delusions, (me – and that that they have thought through carefully the evidence for Christianity) but there is a deeper way to respond and that it “what kind of universe would have to exist for there to be wicked delusional idiots in it?”. In Christopher’s universe those things simply do not exist. “Christopher has these moral judgments suspended form an invisible skyhook somewhere and I don’t know where the bolts are”.
Hitches summing up (in my words) is basically that the beginning of freedom, its foundation, the source from which it flows is the assertion/realisation that there is no God who can tell others to tell him what he can and can’t do. He is basically saying that freedom comes in being free from people telling you what to do in the name of God, or to put more directly, freedom comes in knowing that there is no God.
Craig sums up that the arguments for Christianity have not been responded to:
Beginning of the universe
Self validating experience
The historical claims of Jesus
On the problem of suffering (the one argument given for atheism) Christopher seems to admit that Christianity does address that in a satisfying way if you admit the truth of Christianity.
They ask if Christopher’s argument is that he simply dislikes the Christian world view.
There was an interesting question in the comments section under you tube video:
If a few thousand people say that they have seen Elvis since his death would that mean Elvis was raised and is the son of “god”?
Me – If and several of them saw him at the same time, and over a long period of time, and they saw him eat and drink, and they had touched him, and as far as we could tell they were of sound mind and good character, and they were willing to live and die for their claims, and his death turned out, in retrospect, to be predicted, and meaningful, and he had claimed or implied that he was the son of God, and he had performed many miracles during his life, then maybe. Yes.
If various people had individually said they had briefly seen Elvis after his death then I would not really take it that seriously, especially as the truth or falsehood of their claim makes little difference to my life.