Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hitchens versus Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens (atheist) and his brother, Peter Hitchens (Christian) debate religion and morality. Peter makes an interesting comment near the end of this clip. He is asked, "Do you need religion to be moral?" Peter answers, "Yeah, absolutely... Morality is what you do when you think nobody is looking." But then he says, "There's a lot of things I would do if I didn't believe in god."

So... Christian morality isn't really morality? Peter uses the same argument that I've heard so many Christians use, which sounds something like: "If god didn't exist, I'd do all kinds of bad things because I'd have no reason to do good things." In other words, the Christian is being good only because "big poppa" is watching from on high, and they don't want to feel his divine wrath.

Christian morality then - at least according to Peter Hitchens - isn't doing good things for the sake of being good - which is what the definition of morality as "what you do when you think nobody is looking" implies - it's doing whatever god tells you to do so you won't get tossed in hell, because god is always looking. I call this the "Christian Psychopath Argument" in which the Christian contends that, if they didn't believe in god, they'd do all sorts of crazy things like go on a murdering spree or burn down buildings for fun or punt kittens across football fields.

This line of reasoning doesn't prove the necessity for religion in ethics; rather, it suggests that these Christians either have a penchant for hyperbole, are histrionic, or suffer from an even more serious mental illness. Honestly, if you can't control yourself "when nobody is looking," then you have a problem.

Brandon Carnes, who performed at the Third Floor Music Festival, played a song he wrote titled "Wings of an Angel" in which he sings:

They say that morals come from the sky,
but I see evolutionary need to distinguish wrong from right.
'cause a tribe that kills their people won't last very long.
It's called survival of the fittest, it's one of nature's basic laws.

We all want to live in peace. We all want to survive and live happy lives. Morality enables us to do that. We need to be decent to each other. We need neither an absolute good to accomplish this, nor an ultimate divine command from heaven enforced with fear of being thrown in hell by the hand of the almighty. John Lennon said it best: "all you need is love."



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