Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Atheist Inquiry Pt 4, Hitchens and D'Souza

Tonight I've been listening to Hitchens versus Dinesh D'Souza, 13-part debate at the Catholic Thomas Center. There are other debates between these two I may get to eventually.

Dinesh starts out saying he isn't going to argue from Biblical Christianity but from reason and skepticism. I'm disappointed in this. I think the arguments simply for the existence of God are futile and irrelevant.

But then it turns out his focus is on the history of Christianity and the major influence it had in the West, that compassion for instance is not a value in any other culture or religion, but it became a value in Christendom because of the influence of the Christians, also that although slavery persisted in Christian societies it also declined and was challenged in Christian societies and nowhere else on earth, all other cultures taking it for granted. He also points out that science developed only in the West, and would not have developed anywhere else because only Christianity has a concept of a rational Creator who made a rational and law-governed universe that can be rationally studied. These are important arguments I've also tried to make at times, to show that there is a real-world positive impact of Christianity you can trace historically. This should prove at least that something of a very high order happened back there in Jerusalem.

[I left out the reason for his addressing this historical information: he starts by pointing out the values expressed by the atheists that they direct against Christianity, so his answer is to show that those very values derived from Christianity and exist in no other context.]

Hitchens, however, either completely ignored or completely misunderstood the point and launched into his familiar polemic against his straw man conception of religion claiming to be the source of morals, which has been answered in many a debate in many ways but he keeps at it anyway. He says morality is innate as if anyone had ever said anything different.

He also repeats his familiar story about the evolutionists' claim of a minimum 100,000-year history of the human race, 95,000 years of which were theoretically lived in misery and fear without the slightest attention from God, who then decided only a few thousand years ago it was time to intervene. Some God, huh? Some plan.

D'Souza did correct his misunderstanding, clarified that he wasn't saying it took Christianity to bring morality into the world, and that it's quite clear that all human beings are born with a conscience, a built-in sense of morality. I'm glad that was finally said as nobody else had answered Hitchens on that one in other debates.

Unfortunately D'Souza is another theistic evolutionist rather than a creationist so he doesn't make the point about the whole story being nuts because of the bogus timeline, that I made in one of my last posts, but he does make an interesting point: that Hitchens' view of this history puts his own theory in trouble since he has to explain how clever homo sapiens, with all the attributes, brainpower etc. of homo sapiens possessed by all of us, managed for all those 95,000 years to accomplish absolutely nothing in the way of civilization or invention and so on, which only took off in the last few thousand years. Why no reading and writing, history and so on? It's a very good objection to Hitchens' claim. It really DOES raise an important question: How DO evolutionists explain those 95 to 250 thousand years of no progress whatever in the human race followed by a sudden explosion of inventiveness and knowledge that has increased by leaps and bounds for only a few thousand years since? It really is an observation that calls the whole evolutionary scheme into question. Too bad that apparently wasn't D'Souza's objective.

But Hitchens just shrugged it off as usual, even groaned at it while D'Souza was stating it as I recall. Which reminds me to mention that at least at a couple of points when D'Souza was talking Hitchens either fell asleep or pretended to fall asleep, breathing loudly into the microphone.


One other remark Hitchens made in this debate, later on, was again to assert that faith is something you believe without evidence. D'Souza answered that there are other kinds of evidence than empirical evidence. And somewhere in there Hitchens said that sometimes Christians will claim they have evidence, usually miracles, and followed that with the remark that apparently "faith is not enough." Always there is this straw man idea that faith is blind, based on absolutely nothing. Maybe the biggest straw man of all Hitchens' straw man arguments. You have to know something about what you have faith IN, after all, you have to be convinced that the object of your faith is worthy of your trust, so at some point you must have evidence that persuades you of this, and in fact believers often need fresh reminders of God's presence and oversight of our lives to renew our faith. Evidence. But primarily the entire Biblical testimony is evidence, evidence to God's reality, nature and will. God provided enough supernatural evidence to demonstrate His otherness and His power, His judgment and His mercy. Jesus likewise did miracles to prove His claim to be the Messiah. These are our evidence. We believe the witnesses to all these things.

But the atheists scorn the witnesses and destroy the evidence and then claim there is no evidence for what we believe.

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