Here’s a video I enjoyed today, in which thirty wordsmiths of note from around the world discuss their lack of belief in God:
Although there’s some variety in the tone they set, there’s a greater preponderance of deliberate antipathy toward religion than simply apologetic or uninterested disbelief. Even Germaine Greer is on particularly good form.
But Christopher Hitchens is still an obvious stand-out, for me. As problematic as his legacy may have been in various other areas, what he says right at the end of the above clip is perhaps the greatest elevator pitch against Christianity that I’ve heard.
In case you’re in a rush and don’t want to spend a half-hour watching the whole thing through, here’s what Hitch had to say:
In order to be a Christian, you have to believe that for ninety-eight thousand years, our species suffered and died – most of its children dying in childbirth, most other people having a life expectancy of about twenty-five, famine, struggle, war, suffering, misery – all of that for ninety-eight thousand years, Heaven watches it with complete indifference…
And then two thousand years ago thinks: that’s enough of that, it’s time to intervene, and the best way to do this would be by condemning someone to a human sacrifice somewhere in the less literate parts of the Middle East. Don’t let’s appear to the Chinese, for example, where people can read and study evidence and have a civilisation, let’s go to the desert and have another revelation there.
This is nonsense, it can’t be believed by a thinking person.
Why am I glad this is the case? To get to the point of the wrongness, in the other sense, of Christianity. Because I think the teachings of Christianity are immoral, and the central one is the most immoral of all, that is the one of vicarious redemption: you can throw your sins onto somebody else, vulgarly known as scapegoating – in fact originating as scapegoating in the same area, the same desert.
I can pay your debt, if I love you. I can serve your term in prison, if I love you very much, I can volunteer to do that. I can’t take your sins away, because I can’t abolish your responsibility and I shouldn’t offer to do so. Your responsibility has to stay with you. There is no vicarious redemption. There very probably, in fact, is no redemption at all, it’s just a part of wish-thinking, and I don’t think wish-thinking is good for people either.
It even manages to pollute the central question, the word I just employed, the most important word of all, the word “love”, by making love compulsory, by saying you must love. You must love your neighbour as yourself, something you can’t actually do, but will always fall short, so you will always be found guilty. By saying you must love someone who you also must fear, that is to say a supreme being, an eternal father, someone of whom you must be afraid but you must love him too, and if you fail in this duty you are, again, a wretched sinner. This is not mentally or morally or intellectually healthy, and that brings me to the final objection, and I’ll condense it, which is that this is a totalitarian system.
If there was a god who could do these things and demand these things of us, and was eternal and unchanging, we would be living under a dictatorship from which there was no appeal, and one that could never change, and one that knows our thoughts and can convict us of thought-crime and condemn us to eternal punishment for actions that we are condemned in advance to be taking.
All this in the round – and I could say more – it’s an excellent thing that there is absolutely no reason to believe any of it to be true.