Saturday, June 09, 2007

Responding to Christopher Hitchens and a Friend

Explaining the Failings of a Worldview

A friend said:

“Believe it or not, it is possible to lead a moral lifestyle without religious convictions.”

My friend missed the point. While the atheist, or non-religious (say, a Buddhist) can act morally, they do not have an epistemology that can support the “ought’s” of the matter. They can simply describe a moral action, but unlike the Christian, they cannot give an answer to why I “ought” to do something. When an atheist or Buddhist try to explain to me a delineating line of morality that both he or I should know and not cross, they have stepped out of their atheism or Buddhism and stepped into the worldview of the theist.

So when the pro-choice-femi-nazi/atheist-evolutionist tries to argue rights with me that both she and I should adhere to, I break it down a bit further and explore their worldview and show where they are coming from is vacuous in its explanatory power of why I should know that their choice is a “right.”

If naturalism is true, for instance, you really do not love your wife. You are merely responding to chemicals reacting with the firing of synapses in your brain caused by one natural event stacked upon another which has determined through selection and environment (which are natural events) all the way back to the Big-Bang that has caused you – without free-will – to choose your wife. Love, then, can logically, be weighed. It should have a section in our brain where this “feeling” comes from and it should have an atomic weight.

Free will makes rationality possible. If there is no free will, then no one is capable of choosing to believe something because of good reasons. One could never adjudicate between a good idea and a bad one. He’d only believe what he does because he’s been predetermined to do so. Arguments wouldn’t matter.

That’s why it’s odd to hear someone try to argue for determinism. If he’s right, then his conviction is not really based on reasons--on the merits of the view itself--but on prior conditions that cause his belief. He’s determined to believe in determinism.

Without freedom, there is no rationality. Every one of our thoughts , dispositions. So, oddly enough, if there is no free will, no one could ever know it, because they could never have a good reason to believe it.

Stand to Reason

The atheist or Buddhist (when I say Buddhist, you can supplement pantheism, which include all Eastern philosophies/religions) arguments and propositions are self-refuting. We can only have free will if there is a personal God who created us.

Objective Morals Without God?

Let us start this jolly good time with a most interesting thought from Stephen Hawkings (who holds the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, Isaac Newton’s chair) at a lecture given to a university crowd in England entitled “Determinism – Is Man a Slave or the Master of His Fate.” He discussed whether we are the random products of chance, and hence, not free, or whether God had designed these laws within which we are free. In other words, do we have the ability to make choices, or do we simply follow a chemical reaction induced by millions of mutational collisions of free atoms?

Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s maxim rings just as true today as it did in his day, “If there is no God, all things are permissible.” Without an absolute ethical norm, morality is reduced to mere preference and the world is a jungle where might makes right. This same strain of thought caused Mussolini to comment, “Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism by intuition…. If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and men who claim to be bearers of an objective, immortal truth… then there is nothing more relativistic than fascistic attitudes and activity…. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable.”

Notice that Mussolini agrees that might makes right. There was another bad boy on the block in those days, his name was Hitler, who agreed when he said, “I freed Germany from the stupid and degrading fallacies of conscience and morality… we will train young people before whom the world will tremble. I want young people capable of violence – imperious, relentless and cruel.” Again, the rejection of moral absolutes creates what? Young people who will scare the bejesus out of the world. (Take note of the rise in youth violence in our school system.)

But what is this “absolute” that Mussolini referred to as “the immortal truth?” What is the “stupid and degrading fallacies of conscience and morality” that Hitler removed in order to created a nation of hate mongers? Heidegger, In Being and Time, discussed the problems facing men living in a post-Enlightenment secular society – a world without God in other words. Heidegger called this situation “the dark night of the world,” a world which the light of God had been eclipsed and in which men were left to grope around as best they could, searching in the darkness for any scraps of meaning that might be found. This man of course, Heidegger, backed the National Socialists (Nazis) for most of the 1930’s.

The third article in the Humanist Manifesto begins:

“We affirm that moral values derive their source from human experience. Ethics is autonomous and situational, needing no theological or ideological sanction. Ethics stems from human need and interest.”

For the secular person, man himself is the only standard by which his own behavior is to be assessed, “man is the measure of all things.” Man is to be the sole arbiter in all matters of justice and law, right and wrong. In the words of the Encyclopedia Americana, “Since there is no God, man is the creator of his own values.” The British author John Hick bluntly asserts, “There is no God; therefore no absolute values and no absolute laws.” Joseph Lewis in, The Bible Unmasked, say, “There is in reality no absolute standard by which we can judge… In the final analysis our guide in moral affairs should be what gives to the individual the greatest possible happiness.”

Anthony Freeman comes to the same conclusion: “Not only the absolute existing-out-there God has gone. So have the absolute existing-out-there values such as peace, joy, goodness, beauty, love, etc….” Friedrich Nietzsche agreed: “…the advantage of our times, nothing is true, everything is permitted.” The American scholar David Wells says of our nation, “This is the first time that civilization has existed that, to a significant extent, does not believe in objective right and wrong. We are traveling blind, stripped of our own moral compass.” Paul Kurtz believes that, “The moral principles that govern our behavior are rooted in habit and custom, feeling and fashion,” how can anything be commended as being right, or condemned as being wrong?

Bertrand Russell vehemently opposed war, yet denounced restrictions on sexual freedom. In a letter to the Observer in 1957, Bertrand admitted that he could not live as though ethical values were a matter of personal taste, that he therefore found his own views “incredible” (because he espoused moral relativism) and that “I do not know the solution.” C. S. Lewis talked about this “privatized morality” and showed some of its weaknesses, two of which he identified with his usual clarity:

In the first place, how do ethical standards come into being? In Lewis’s words, “The human mind has no more power of inventing a new value than of planting a new sun in the sky or a new color in the spectrum.”

Secondly, in the absence of absolutes, how can we talk of moral progress? As Lewis puts it, “if things can improve, this means that there must be some absolute standard of good above and outside the cosmic process towards which that process can approximate. There is no sense in talking of ‘becoming better’ if better means simply ‘what we are becoming’ – it is like congratulating yourself on reaching your destination and defining destination as ‘ the place you have reached.’”

Allan Bloom, in his book, The Closing of the American Mind, said that, “There is one thing a professor can be certain of. Almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.” How did the college student get this way? Let us allow the Father of modern educational philosophy answer that, John Dewey: “There is no God and no soul. Hence, there are no needs for props of traditional religion. With dogma and creed excluded, then immutable [i.e. unchangeable] truth is also dead and buried. There is no room for fixed, natural law or permanent moral absolutes.”

In light of all this, I find it funny when an atheist says that he is so because there is evil in this world (innocent children die, and the such). Again, C. S. Lewis makes my point for me when he was an atheist:

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it?… Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. Consequently, atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.”

Lewis hit the nail on the head. In the absence of transcendent values, we are left floundering about as best we can… or, as Heidegger put it, “searching in the darkness for any scraps of meaning that might be found.” Ravi Zacharius rightly concludes, if atheism is true, “Thinking atoms discussing morality is absurd.” All this leads to what Jean-Paul Sartre called a “baseless base of values.” In other words, the person who takes this route finds himself in a world with particulars but no universals, relatives but no absolutes, valuations but no values.

So from Cristina Odone (Melrose Place) saying in the June 97’ Daily Telegraph that, “What’s right is what you feel,” to Ernest Hemingway’s creed: “What is moral is what you feel good after, and what is immoral is what you feel bad after,” all this does as a philosophy of evolutionary naturalism is create people who will try to enforce their “will and way” above others.

This is why the “Hitlers” and “Stalins” will always exist! When the moral imperatives of God are thrown to the wayside, it creates a power vacuum. This is why the atheist has no real way to say what is good or bad for any individual besides himself – objectively. This, I believe, drove Bertrand Russell to a solemn grave, and Nietzsche insane. In fact, it was Nietzsche who said that the consequences of the death of God would penetrate every avenue of life, and that this, in-and-of-itself, would be unbearable. Nietzsche went on to say, because God had died in the nineteenth century, there would be two direct results in the twentieth century. First, he prognosticated that the twentieth century would become the bloodiest century in history; and second, that a universal madness would break out.

He has been right on both counts. More people have been killed because of ideological differences, and destroyed on the battlefields of geo-political maneuvering in the name of naturalism and might in this century than the previous nineteen centuries before it. Did you catch that; non-God movements have killed more people in one century than religion did in the first nineteen [1]. Unfortunately we see this madness seeping into other areas of our society as well:

Newspapers in 1996-1997 reported two particularly shocking cases of infanticide. In one, a pair of eighteen-year-old college sweethearts delivered their baby in a hotel room, killed him, and left the body in a dumpster. In the other, an eighteen-year-old briefly left her high school prom to deliver her baby in a bathroom stall, left the infant dead in a garbage can and returned to the dance floor. Both events led to convictions for homicide.

Although these crimes were attributed to either a moral failure (personal or social) or to some form of mental pathology, Steven Pinker had a different explanation. Steven Pinker, professor of psychology at the Massachusetts Institute of Psychology and a leading popularizer of evolutionary psychology, says it is a genetic imperative. Writing in the New York Times, Pinker argued that what he termed neonaticide [2] is not attributable to mental illness because “it has been practiced and acceptable in most cultures throughout history.” Rather, he went on to say, a capacity for neonaticide is hard-wired into the maternal genes by our evolutionary history.

AHHhh! Naturalistic morals (relativism) have struck again! And the only individual to strike at the core of these horrors that materialists have inflicted on the twentieth century is the theist (the Jew and Christian). This is why the non-theist will always have the “Hitlers,” “Stalins,” and “Maos” in their worldview as acceptable to their moral theorizing. They cannot assert objectively – beyond themselves – that those persons are wrong, it would only be their personal preference speaking. Sorta’ like chocolate or vanilla ice cream, or, brownies with or without nuts, Hitler… or Mother Teresa. They (the relativist) are neutered in the political and moral spectrum, or, if they do choose to take a value-laden stance, they are doing so in direct violation of their own doctrines and dogmas, thus, self-refuting their own claims.

In a recent debate between Christopher Hitchens and Dr. Mark Roberts about God’s existence, Christopher Hitchens made this comment:

“Darwin points out, and others have noticed since that there are animals who behave ethically to one another. They have solidarity, they have family groups, they seem able to feel sympathy. They certainly come to each other’s aid, in the case of some of the higher mammals.”

I would have made the point that in fact, what we find in nature more often is death and killing, as has been said, nature is “red in tooth and claw.”

"Most animals are either eaten or eat other animals. Plants, too, are often consumed by animals. Consequently the chances of being devoured, or of eating some other organism in order to survive, are exceedingly high" (Zoologist Christopher McGowan).

Who trusted God was love indeed

And love Creation’s final law –

Tho’ nature, red in tooth and claw

With ravine, shriek’d against his creed –

“In Memoriam” (1842) is one of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s greatest poems. Through poetry he found the truth and spake it. Tennyson was Britain’s finest Poet Laureate and she shone in the Victorian Age as one of the brightest lighted minds in history.

Tennyson’s observation is a warning to us all: Nature is brutal. Nature lives in blood and thrives via biting and scraping. To deny the animal instinct for survival is to lose the natural lesson of our innate desire to move up in the world.


While it may seem to Christopher that there are “moral” animals, the real question becomes “with what do you differentiate between which action is superior?” This was exemplified in Ravi Zacharias’ book Can Man Live Without God? when he referenced the debate between the philosopher Frederick Copleston and the atheist Bertrand Russell:

At one point in the debate, Copleston said, "Mr. Russell, you do believe in good and bad, don't you?" Russell answered, "Yes I do." "How do you differentiate between them?" challenged Copleston. Russell shrugged his shoulders as he was wont to do in philosophical dead ends for him and said, "The same way I differentiate between yellow and blue." Copleston graciously responded and said, "But Mr. Russell, you differentiate between yellow and blue by seeing, don't you? How do you differentiate between good and bad?" Russell, with all of his genius still within reach, gave the most vapid answer he could have given: "On the basis of feeling-what else?" I must confess, Mr. Copleston was a kindlier gentleman than many others. The appropriate "logical kill" for the moment would have been, Mr. Russell, in some cultures the love their neighbors; in others they eat them, both on the basis of feeling. Do you have any preference?"

Again, while Hitchens can describe an action (an act of solidarity lets say) in the natural world, he has no basis or standard above nature to cal one action or the other moral. Naturalism, then, cannot respond to a truth that can determine which action is moral or not. I will finish here with an extended quote from the book Philosophy for Dummies, enjoy it, it can revolutionize the way you view truth:

Robots and Cosmic Puppetry: The Scientific Challenge to Freedom

Since at least the time of Sir Isaac Newton, scientists and philosophers impressed by the march of science have offered a picture of human behavior that is not promising for a belief in freedom. All nature is viewed by them as one huge mechanism, with human beings serving as just parts of that giant machine. On this view, we live and think in accordance with the same laws and causes that move all other physical components of the universal mechanism.

According to these thinkers, everything that happens in nature has a cause. Suppose then that an event occurs, which, in context, is clearly a human action of the sort that we would normally call free. As an occurrence in this universe, it has a cause. But then that cause, in turn, has a cause. And that cause in turn has a cause, and so on, and so on [remember, reductionism].

“Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible player” ~ Albert Einstein.

As a result of this scientific world view, we get the following picture:

Natural conditions outside our control…


Inner bodily and brain states,

which cause

mental and physical actions

But if this is true, then you are, ultimately, just a conduit or pipeline for chains of natural causation that reach far back into the past before your birth and continue far forward into the future after your death. You are not an originating cause of anything [this includes brain activity of all degrees, that is, love, pain, etc.). Nothing you ever do is due to your choices or thoughts alone. You are a puppet of nature. You are no more than a robot programmed by an unfeeling cosmos.

Psychologists talk about heredity and environment as responsible for everything you do. But then if they are, you aren’t. Does it follow that you can then do as you please, irresponsibly? Not at all. It only follows that you will do as nature and nurture please. But then, nature on this picture turns out to be just an illusory veil over a heartless, uncaring nature. You have what nature gives you. Nothing more, nothing less.

Where is human freedom in this picture? It doesn’t exist. It is one of our chief illusions. The natural belief in free will is just a monstrous falsehood. But we should not feel bad about holding on to this illusion until science corrects us. We can’t have helped it.

This reasoning is called The Challenge of Scientific Determinism. According to determinists, we are determined in every respect to do everything that we ever do.

This again is a serious challenge to human freedom. It is the reason that the early scientist Pierre Laplace (1749-1827) once said that if you could give a super-genius a total description of the universe at any given point in time, that being would be able to predict with certainty everything that would ever happen in the future relative to that moment, and retrodict with certainty anything that had ever happened in any moment before that described state. Nature, he believed, was that perfect machine. And we human beings were just cogs in the machine, deluded in our beliefs that we are free.[3]

Footnotes & Glossary:

[1] The Bible does not teach the horrible practices that some have committed in its name. It is true that it's possible that religion can produce evil, and generally when we look closer at the details it produces evil because the individual people [“Christians”] are actually living in rejection of the tenets of Christianity and a rejection of the God that they are supposed to be following. So it [religion] can produce evil, but the historical fact is that outright rejection of God and institutionalizing of atheism (non-religious practices) actually does produce evil on incredible levels. We're talking about tens of millions of people as a result of the rejection of God. For example: the Inquisitions, Crusades, Salem Witch Trials killed about 40,000 persons combined (World Book Encyclopedia and Encyclopedia Americana). A blight on Christianity? Certainty. Something wrong? Dismally wrong. A tragedy? Of course. Millions and millions of people killed? No. The numbers are tragic, but pale in comparison to the statistics of what non-religious criminals have committed); the Chinese regime of Mao Tse Tung, 60 million [+] dead (1945-1965), Stalin and Khrushchev, 66 million dead (USSR 1917-1959), Khmer Rouge (Cambodia 1975-1979) and Pol Pot, one-third of the populations dead, etc, etc. The difference here is that these non-God movements are merely living out their worldview, the struggle for power, survival of the fittest and all that, no natural law is being violated in other words (as atheists reduce everything to natural law – materialism). However, when people have misused the Christian religion for personal gain, they are in direct violation to what Christ taught, as well as Natural Law.

[2] The killing of a baby on the day of its birth.

[3] Philosophy for Dummies, by Tom Morris, pp. 133-134

“Retrodict” to utilize present information or ideas to infer or explain a past event or state of affairs.