Monday, March 8, 2010

The other Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens is one of the best-known of the "new atheists." Less well-known, at least in the United States, is his younger brother Peter, author of a new book, The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith, which was excerpted in the Daily Mail: "How I found God and peace with my atheist brother." In it Peter Hitchens describes his own journey back to faith as well as some of the reasons he finds his brother's arguments unpersuasive:
....[A]s with all atheists, he is his own chief opponent. As long as he can convince himself, nobody else will persuade him. His arguments are to some extent internally coherent and are a sort of explanation - if not the best explanation - of the world and the universe.

He often assumes that moral truths are self-evident, attributing purpose to the universe and swerving dangerously round the problem of conscience - which surely cannot be conscience if he is right since the idea of conscience depends on it being implanted by God. If there is no God then your moral qualms might just as easily be the result of indigestion. ....

One of the problems atheists have is the unbelievers' assertion that it is possible to determine what is right and what is wrong without God. They have a fundamental inability to concede that to be effectively absolute a moral code needs to be beyond human power to alter.

On this misunderstanding is based my brother Christopher's supposed conundrum about whether there is any good deed that could be done only by a religious person, and not done by a Godless one. Like all such questions, this contains another question: what is good, and who is to decide what is good? ....

For a moral code to be effective, it must be attributed to, and vested in, a non-human source. It must be beyond the power of humanity to change it to suit itself. ....

It is striking that in his dismissal of a need for absolute theistic morality, Christopher says in his book that 'the order to "love thy neighbour as thyself" is too extreme and too strenuous to be obeyed'. Humans, he says, are not so constituted as to care for others as much as themselves.

This is demonstrably untrue, and can be shown to be untrue, through the unshakable devotion of mothers to their children; in the uncounted cases of husbands caring for sick, incontinent and demented wives (and vice versa) at their lives' ends; through the heartrending deeds of courage on the battlefield. .... [more]
Thanks to Nick Kersten for calling my attention to this article.

How I found God and peace with my atheist brother: PETER HITCHENS traces his journey back to Christianity | Mail Online
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