Saturday, October 20, 2007

Hitchens Rising

Hitchens causes another big stink

Christopher Hitchins performs well in this 'debate' with a devastatingly woeful Alister McGrath. I may even read his book now, though it will repeat so much that I've already read, heard and developed in my own mind. Especially in the early stages he maintains his self-discipline and puts forward arguments that are essentially unanswerable. His principal tactic is to attack the religious on primarily moral grounds, and with a degree of moral dudgeon. This is indeed the best tack, to emphasise the self-serving nature of religious faith, as well as its evasion of all reasonable questioning and analysis. He points out, as I have, that, with homo sapiens traversing and eking out a living, and making moral decisions, for over 100,000 years, it's a bit rich to think that the revelation of Christianity less than 2000 years ago contains eternal truths by which we should live. Jesus Saves, is the message. Believe in him and you'll have life everlasting. Too bad, apparently, if you lived out your nasty brutish and short life before Jesus's appearance. Maybe you won't go to hell, but you won't go to heaven either [probably a blessing]. McGrath responds to this by saying that his god will deal justly with those who make the best of the limited amount that they do know, and that this view of things is part of Christian theological tradition. Naturally they would come up with some such vague solution, which seems just another example of making things up as they go along.

I particularly liked Hitchens's example of the scapegoat, an idea common to early religious cults, and its similarity to the Jesus sacrifice. It was a new idea to me, and its moral vacuity was rightly underscored. McGrath didn't really adequately respond to this point.

Its interesting that Hitchens seems to have found a new lease of life with this subject. Many had noted that he was looking tired and faded and a bit "under the weather" after these years of the Iraqi debacle. He seems to be more comfortable with ideas than with the messy realities of that situation, in which his combative style is largely counter-productive.

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At 1:38 am , Blogger Damien said...

You have to remember that there are many exact predictions of Christ in the Old Testament that go right back to the first woman and man that Bible scholars estimate could have been as much as 60,000 years ago. He is forshadowed in the OT on many occasions and many exact predictions are fulfilled. The Bible also teaches that Christ is revealed in nature to those that are unfamiliar with scripture. Disagree with this as you will but it is not really true that the Christian msg has only existed for 2,000 years. Its the final fulfillment that has only existed this long.

The scapegoat thing has been claimed many a time before and lacks real evidence. The Greek cults etc that taught this almost all came well after Christ's period or bear no real analogy to the account at all.

At 5:06 pm , Blogger Stewart said...

There are of course no exact predictions of anything in the Old Testament, just as there are no exact [or correct] descriptions of anything in it. The Bible is a work of propaganda through and through, and barely a word of it is historically true, as archeologists have amply demonstrated. There is virtually no biblical scholarship left with any credit after the application of non-partisan archeological practices and techniques to Bible 'history' in the latter half of the 20th century.
Not quite sure what to make of your first statement - I'm hoping you don't seriously mean that the first man and woman were born 60,000 years ago, or, even worse, that you seriously believe that the age of homo sapiens should be determined by 'biblical scholarship' rather than through painstaking analysis of the fossil record by disinterested scientists.

Of course the Christian message has only existed for 2000 years, and the difficulty remains that nobody could have been 'saved' by knowledge of him before his advent. There has never been such a thing as an exact prophecy except in the minds of the willfully deluded.

The scapegoat idea, of an animal taking upon itself the iniquities of the group and being sacrificed to cleanse that group of sin, is stated clearly in Leviticus 16, see especially verses 21 and 22, so your claim that it lacks real evidence is plainly absurd. This was of course written centuries before Jesus, and it's highly unlikely to have been a new idea at the time it was written. The idea of Jesus taking on the sins of humanity and being sacrificed in the same way obviously derives from this earlier practice. In any case the point Hitchens was making was that the idea that somebody else should die for our wrong-doings has no moral value whatever, and should be seen as repugnant to any society or individual that takes moral responsibility seriously.


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