Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Hitchens Responds

Christopher Hitchens is still running with the atheism torch, and he shows no signs of slowing.

A few days ago, Hitchens wrote a response in the Washington Post to Michael Gerson about morality and religion. It's a good piece, and there is a challenge in the piece that I want to share with you here:

Here is my challenge. Let Gerson name one ethical statement made, or one ethical action performed, by a believer that could not have been uttered or done by a nonbeliever. And here is my second challenge. Can any reader of this column think of a wicked statement made, or an evil action performed, precisely because of religious faith? The second question is easy to answer, is it not? The first -- I have been asking it for some time -- awaits a convincing reply. By what right, then, do the faithful assume this irritating mantle of righteousness? They have as much to apologize for as to explain.

Click here to read the whole thing.

So how about it? Can anyone come up with an example of a good deed that was done a) by a religious person and b) could not have been done by a faithless person?


breakerslion said...

Maybe. There was a story from my youth, in the pre-Internet days, of a cop that dove down a storm drain after a kid that got pulled down by flood waters. This was a suicidal act, and indeed the cop died along with the kid. I have to think that he was hoping for a miracle, and that he thought that his selfless act of sacrifice would earn him some kind of protection.

On second thought, he certainly wasn't thinking of the grief he was about to cause his friends and family, and was only acting because he thought he could not live with himself if he did nothing. Pretty selfish really. Never mind.

valhar2000 said...

It's hard to say. There are plenty of non-theistic reasons why one might be inclined to carry out a suicidal act. If the police officer is dead, it is not possible to ascertain which factors came into play.

The best we can do is learn about his previous religious activities, from that that postulate a plausible religious stance, and guess that it may have had something to do with it.

As you can see, not very strong. And I don't think any of the examples people come form for this challange will be better answers.

breakerslion said...

As I said; "maybe."

breakerslion said...

The problem as I see it with religion is that it is bullshit, as in the verb, "to bullshit". As such, any spin that is useful can be put on any action. Ask a shaman of any denomination why the god did not intercede for this cop and he might tell you that, "The cop died of the sin of pride. He should not have attempted to thwart the Will of God" or somesuch crap.

Truth is finite. Bullshit is infinite.