Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Christopher Hitchens issues a challenge

Christopher Hitchens has issued a challenge:
Here is my challenge. Let Gerson [Michael, at the Washington Post] name one ethical statement made, or one ethical action performed, by a believer that could not have been uttered or done by a nonbeliever. And here is my second challenge. Can any reader of this column think of a wicked statement made, or an evil action performed, precisely because of religious faith? The second question is easy to answer, is it not? The first – I have been asking it for some time – awaits a convincing reply. By what right, then, do the faithful assume this irritating mantle of righteousness? They have as much to apologize for as to explain.
The second challenge is not even contested by Christians, so I'm not sure what rhetorical force Hitchens thinks it has. Of course people do evil things in the name of religion: they're sinners.

Likewise, as to the first, of course there are no ethical statements that could not be uttered or done by a nonbeliever. Nonbelievers contradict themselves all the time. The question should be: name one ethical statement that a nonbeliever could not justify rationally given his own unbelieving position. And the answer to that question is: all of them.

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