This week marks the beginning of our series analyzing the claims of the New Atheism and its evangelists. In this video clip (far below), journalist and author Christopher Hitchens is interviewed on a popular Canadian television program called “The Hour.” This program is popular with the 18 to 35 demographic and is a general news and culture show. I use this clip because it captures so well the new “zeitgeist” of our time: confidence in the secular worldview.
Hitchens rightly observes that we are shifting radically from a position of judeochristian values to that of a secular worldview.
In this interview, host George Stroumboulopoulos asks Hitchens about his book “God is Not Great.” This gives Hitchens a platform to launch into some of his points in favour of secularism over Christianity (or any other theological worldview). This short article will pick up on a few of these and analyze them.
Point 1 – Civilization is best served by secular values:
There is a particularly interesting statement made by Hitchens at the 1:40 – 1:58 mark. He says that “people have had enough of this,” and by “this” he means a judeochristian worldview. He then goes on to say it used to be that people could take “secular and enlightenment” values for granted and that church-going people would “leave them alone.” The show’s host nods through this whole statement and the national audience is thus exposed to an intellectually violent slight of hand.
In one, unchallenged statement, Hitchens single-handedly re-wrties Western Civilization history and no one stops him, or even knows the depth of either his ignorance, or his intellectual dishonesty.
To speak of the rise of the society in which western Europeans and North Americans have lived for nearly 1,700 years as having been founded on, or built by “secular” values is blatantly false. You cannot pick up any history book on Western Civilization without seeing the overwhelming presence of the christian worldview from the 4rth century until about 50 years ago. There is a reason men like Hitchens have to “fight the good fight” for secularism in the West. It is because it is historically a judeochristian stronghold. Despite corruption in the Church Empire of Rome, the regular peasantry and even public intellectuals have thoughtfully evaluated and personally held to the judeochristian framework for centuries. Their society was largely formed by this belief. So how does it stack up to secularism?
The American Bill of Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Charter are examples of official declarations that do not exist outside the Western world: statements that humans possess inherent value and are to be treated with special and equal care despite their differences in ability. As Dinesh D’Souza aptly points out during his debates with the New Atheists, before Christian values overtook Rome, it was a barbaric and grotesque culture. Atheist regimes such as China, the former USSR and other communist states NEVER created or respected charters giving their citizens value and protection. In fact, it was explicit practice to remind the individual of their relative insignificance compared to the State by forcing them into imprisonment, exile, torture or execution. Atheist thinkers such as the ever influential Nietzsche made no bones about their view of the human as expendable in face of the State.
The human is a short-lived animal whose value is gauged by measuring productivity. The Nazi’s held the motto “Lebensunwertes Leben” or “life unworthy of life.” This lead to the systematic execution of homosexuals, the disabled, “half breeds” such as polish and slavik ethnicities and Jews. The ideological background for “purging” humanity of its “waste” was the evolutionary materialist view of man as animal who could be graded for his or her productivity for society. An ant in a hierarchical chain of usefulness who had better perform or die.
Purely secular (i.e.: atheist) precepts held the Chinese, Japanese and Russian economies and quality of life quotients back to levels men like Hitchens could not thrive in or would ever desire to be amongst. These New Atheists are almost exclusively products of a Western Civilization and have freedoms and luxuries only found in the one society that was overwhelmingly produced by a judeochristian mindset and belief system. Warts and all. The purely secular states provide nothing for civilization to thrive on and have come and gone in the past 100 years. The fact that a Western television audience can swallow Hitchen’s dialogue and applaud is the most frightening display of the depth of ignorance of even recent history amongst the future leaders and educators of my children’s generation.
Point 2 – Morality is best cooked up in a secular vaccum:
This is perhaps the most common point made by Hitchens and company. Without going into a technical philosophical dissection of metaphysics, the best way to debunk the New Atheists’ claims on morality is to view recent, and not so recent, history.
As much as Hitchens and co. would like us to disregard them, the recent horrors of the past century were the result of people finally taking secularism very, very seriously.
A purely secular society has already been tried… and left us paralyzed in horror.
In the 1800’s, Nietzsche wrote a series of works on the reality that there was no God. He, unlike modern-day westerners, also wrote of the incredible nightmare this truth would unleash onto humanity. He detailed the nature of man as equivalent to that of beasts and that a “might makes right” will to dominate would mark the truly successful societies of the future. As it had many barbaric empires of the past (e.g.: Assyrians, Babylonians, Romans, etc).
Hitler and other men born in the wake of Nietzsche and other nihilists’ works, took the baton and ran. Although at times cloaked in religious imagery and superficial allusions to spiritual beliefs, the Third Reich’s overwhelming ideology was secular to the bone. Hitler distributed Nietzsche’s works to his chiefs of staff and often visited the Nietzsche Museum in Weimar.
Lenin’s communist U.S.S.R. and Mao’s China also took their secular worldview dead seriously and as the only platform for their state philosophy. The basis for what could, should and would be done (aka: morality) was the view of man as alone in the cosmos and atop the global food chain. In short, man as god because there was no God. The bloodshed and horror unleashed worldwide is a recent and massive testimony to the type of morality that evolves in a secular vaccum = none that Hitchens and co. would ever put up with or live in.
Point 3 – Because atheists can behave well it means God is not necessary for moral beliefs:
Again, this is commonly thrown at audiences by Hitchens. It also represents a phenomenal mistake in judgment. Atheists can be moral. There’s no doubt about that. But atheists cannot make sense of why morality exists by appealing to atheism.
Believe it or not, there are still “flat earthers” walking on this round planet. They’ll even travel over the horizon to give speeches on why we should teach children that the earth is flat.
A flat earther does not realize that a flat earth would not provide the evenly distributed mass and therefore gravitational force require for a piece of real estate the size of Texas to keep their “flat earth” feet on the ground. But simply because flat earthers can operate like me and you does not mean their system of belief gives them a proper explanation of the world.
If man is a bundle of nerves, the only logical description of behaviour is an ever-shifting, completely subjective, generationally fluid, temporary statement of how much pleasure or survival rate an action — or series of actions — delivers to a bundle of matter. There is no ability for science to give us anything other than numbers. How much and to what intensity. That’s it.
Science is quantitative. Nothing more.
It is forever impotent in giving us qualitative judgments such as good, bad, evil, righteous, etc. Forever. And the last centuries atheist regimes made that abundantly clear.
In 1920, speaking to a crowd of the Russian Young Communist League, Lenin said:
“We reject any morality based on extra-human and extra-class concepts. We say that this is deception, dupery, stultification of the workers and peasants in the interests of the landowners and capitalists.“
He went on to create a society where he could execute anyone at will and burn whichever books he wanted and he and his family lived like kings while these young russians lived like ancient gypsies in a cold desert.
Towards the end of the clip below, the host, George Stroumboulopoulos says “but not every Christian believes the bible literally.” In other words, some Christians know there is no God, they’re thoughtful.
I wonder if George would have dared interview Blaise Pascal, Johannes Kepler, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Louis Pasteur, Gregor Mendel or Isaac Newton with the same pretext? Would he have belittled these intellectual giants for having thoughtfully concluded that the bible was a phenomenon whose creation was overseen by God?