Tag Archives: Christopher Hitchens

How good are the atheistic arguments of Christopher Hitchens?

I thought that I would go over an opening statement from a previous debate featuring Christopher Hitchens to find out what atheists are like in debates. I used his opening speech from his debate with Frank Turek. The audio from that debate is here, at Brian Auten’s Apologetics 315 site.

Now the important thing to remember about a generic debate on whether GOD EXISTS is that there should be no mention of any particular God, such as the Christian God, and no mention of the history of any particular religion. All arguments that assume specific theological or moral doctrines or specific religious history are irrelevant to a debate on generic theism.

The question being debated is: does a God who created and designed the universe, who has all the traditional properties of God, such as omniscience, omnipotence, omni-benevolence, etc. exist? That is the question being debated in a “Does God Exist?” debate.

Frank Turek’s case for theism:

Frank Turek made 4 relevant arguments for theism, each of which alone would support his conclusion, that God exists:

  • the origin of time, space, matter and energy out of nothing
  • the fine-tuning of the physical constants to support the minimum requirements for life of any kind
  • the origin of the biological information in the first self-replicating organism
  • objective, prescriptive moral rules need to be grounded by the designer of the universe

And he also listed 4 features of the universe that are more consistent with theism than atheism (= materialism).

  • non-material minds that allow rationality that would be impossible on materialism/determinism
  • the mathematical structure of the universe and its intelligibility to the scientific method
  • free will, which is required for moral responsibility and moral choices, requires a non-material mind/soul
  • our first person experience of consciousness is best explained by a non-material mind/soul

Hitchens’ case against theism

To counter, Hitchens has to argue against God using arguments in one of two forms:

  1. The concept of God is logically self-contradictory
  2. An objective feature of the world is inconsistent with the attributes of God

The claim that God does not exist is a claim to know something about God, namely, that he does not exist. This claim requires the speaker to bear a burden of proof. In a debate on “Does God Exist?”, Hitchens must deny that God exists. Let me be clear: Hitchens must defeat the arguments for the claim that God exists, and then defend the claim that God does not exist, and support that claim using arguments and evidence.

Hitchens makes 2 basic claims:

  • There are no good reasons to believe that theism is true
  • There are good reasons to believe atheism is true

So far so good. But what are his good reasons for atheism?

  1. I personally don’t like Christianity, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: I personally don’t like Catholicism getting rid of limbo
    – Premise: I personally don’t like Hell
    – Premise: I personally don’t like some episodes in church history
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  2. The plurality of religions means that no religious claims can be correct, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: There are lots of religions
    – Premise: The religions all disagree in their truth claims about the external world
    – Conclusion: No religion’s claims can be correct, therefore God doesn’t exist
  3. I believe in one less God than you, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: You disbelieve in every God I do, except one
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  4. Religious people are stupid and evil, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: Religious people are ignorant
    – Premise: Religious people are fearful
    – Premise: Religious people are servile
    – Premise: Religious people are masochistic
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  5. Evolution explains how life progressed from single cell to today’s bio-diversity, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: Modern theists like Turek believe in Paley’s argument, and argued it in this debate
    – Premise: Paley’s argument was refuted by evolution
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  6. God wouldn’t have made the universe this way, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: If God exists, then he would have made the universe my way
    – Premise: The heat death of the universe wasn’t done my way
    – Premise: The extinction of species wasn’t done my way
    – Premise: The size of the universe wasn’t done my way
    – Premise: The amount of open space wasn’t done my way
    – Premise: The large number of stars wasn’t done my way
    – Premise: The age of the universe wasn’t done my way
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  7. Religion makes people do things that I don’t like, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: Some religions do suicide bombing
    – Premise: Some religions do child abuse
    – Premise: Some religions do genital mutilation
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  8. If you speak a sentence, I can repeat the same words as you said, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: Anything that you say is good, I can say is good too
    – Premise: Anything that you say is bad, I can say is bad too
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  9. Atheists are morally superior to religious people, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: I act in a way that is consistent with my personal, arbitrary moral preferences
    – Premise: You don’t act in a way that is consistent with my personal, arbitrary moral preferences
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  10. If I believe in God, I would have to submit to an authority
    – Premise: If I believe in God, then I can’t do whatever I want
    – Premise: But I want to do whatever I want
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  11. I don’t like certain Christian doctrines, therefore arguments for God from science fail and therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: I don’t like the atonement
    – Premise: I don’t like the virgin birth
    – Premise: I don’t like the incarnation
    – Premise: I don’t like original sin
    – Premise: I don’t like the resurrection
    – Conclusion: Arguments that are built on recent discoveries from the progress of science like the big bang, fine-tuning, origin of life, etc. are incorrect, and therefore God doesn’t exist

General comments about Hitchens’ case:

  • The form of all of these arguments is logically invalid. The conclusions do not follow from the premises using the laws of logic, such as modus ponens and modus tollens.
  • Hitchens cannot complain about morality because he has no foundation for objective moral facts. What he is really expressing is that he personally does not like such-and-such a state of affairs, based on his own arbitrary personal preferences, and the arbitrary social customs that evolved in the place and time that he finds himself in. On atheism, “morality” is just describing what people do – either individually or as groups living in different times and places. There is no objective right and wrong, and no objective way we ought to be. All statements are subjective. They describe what the speaker personally likes and dislikes. Just like taste in foods or taste in dress – which varies by individually, and is influenced by time and place ARBITRARILY.

Specific comments about each argument:

  • Argument 1 tries to disprove God by arguing from Hitchens’ personal preferences about specific Christian doctrines. Christian doctrines are irrelevant to a debate about generic theism. And there is no reason why God should be bound by the personal, subjective preferences of one man. In fact, the concept of God entails that his unchanging nature is the standard of good and evil. So, this argument doesn’t disprove God, it’s just a statement of personal, subjective preference.
  • Argument 2: Just because there are different truth claims made by different groups, doesn’t mean no one is correct. Mormons believe that matter existed eternally, and Jews believe it was created out of nothing. The big bang theory shows that the Mormons are wrong and the Jews are right.
  • Argument 3: First of all, the debate is a about a generic Creator and Designer, not any particular religious conception of God. So the argument is irrelevant. Moreover, Christians reject Zeus, for example, because Zeus is supposed to exist in time and space, and therefore could not be the cause of the beginning of time and space.
  • Argument 4: This is just the ad hominem fallacy. Hitchens is attacking the character of the theist, but that doesn’t show theism is false.
  • Argument 5: This argument can be granted for the sake of argument, even though it’s debatable. The point is that it is irrelevant, since it doesn’t refute any of Turek’s actual scientific arguments like the big bang, the fine-tuning of the physical constants, the origin of information in the simplest living cell.
  • Argument 6: Again, there is no reason to think that God should be bound by Hitchens’ personal opinion of how God should operate.
  • Argument 7: This is the ad hominem fallacy again. The good behavior of religious believers is not a premise in any of Turek’s FOUR arguments for theism. Therefore, Hitchens’ point is irrelevant to the debate.
  • Argument 8: The fact that the atheist can parrot moral claims is not the issue. Being able to speak English words is not what grounds objective, prescriptive morality. The issue is the ontology of moral rules, the requirement of free will in order to have moral responsibility and moral choices, ultimate significance of moral actions, and the rationality of self-sacrificial moral actions.
  • Argument 9: This is just the ad hominem fallacy again.
  • Argument 10: This is not argument so much as it reveals that the real reason Hitchens is an atheist is emotional. One might even say infantile.
  • Argument 11: Again, these specific Christian doctrines are irrelevant to a debate about generic theism. And Hitchen’s subjective, personal preferences about Christian doctrine certainly do not undermine the objective scientific support for the premises in Turek’s 3 scientific arguments.

So Frank Turek talked about facts in the external world, and Christopher Hitchens mistakenly thought that his opinions and preferences about what he would do if he were God were interesting to us. They might be interesting to his psychiatrist, but they are not interesting to us.

Was Hitler a Christian? Is Nazism similar to Christianity?

One of the strangest things I have heard from atheists is the assertion that Christianity is somehow connected to the fascism, such as the fascism that existed under Adolf Hitler. Two posts by Jewish author Jonah Goldberg from National Review supply us with the facts to set the record straight.

Let’s start with the first post.

Here are some of the points:

1) Hitler wanted Christianity removed from the public square

Like the engineers of that proverbial railway bridge, the Nazis worked relentlessly to replace the nuts and bolts of traditional Christianity with a new political religion. The shrewdest way to accomplish this was to co-opt Christianity via the Gleichschaltung while at the same time shrinking traditional religion’s role in civil society.

2) Hitler banned the giving of donations to churches

Hitler banned religious charity, crippling the churches’ role as a counterweight to the state. Clergy were put on government salary, hence subjected to state authority. “The parsons will be made to dig their own graves,” Hitler cackled. “They will betray their God to us. They will betray anything for the sake of their miserable little jobs and incomes.”

3) Hitler replaced Christian celebrations with celebrations of the state

Following the Jacobin example, the Nazis replaced the traditional Christian calendar. The new year began on January 30 with the Day of the Seizure of Power. Each November the streets of central Munich were dedicated to a Nazi Passion play depicting Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch. The martyrdom of Horst Wessel and his “old fighters” replaced Jesus and the apostles. Plays and official histories were rewritten to glorify pagan Aryans bravely fighting against Christianizing foreign armies. Anticipating some feminist pseudo history, witches became martyrs to the bloodthirsty oppression of Christianity.

4) Hitler favored the complete elimination of Christianity

When some Protestant bishops visited the Fuhrer to register complaints, Hitler’s rage got the better of him. “Christianity will disappear from Germany just as it has done in Russia . . . The Germanrace has existed without Christianity for thousands of years . . . and will continue after Christianity has disappeared . . . We must get used to the teachings of blood and race.”

5) Hitler favored the removal of mandatory prayers in schools

In 1935 mandatory prayer in school was abolished…

6) Hitler favored the banning of Christmas carols and nativity plays

…and in 1938 carols and Nativity plays were banned entirely.

7) Hitler abolished religious instruction for children

By 1941 religious instruction for children fourteen years and up had been abolished altogether….

And now the second post.

8) Hitler opposed the ideas of universal truth and objective moral absolutes

…Just as the Nazi attack on Christianity was part of a larger war on the idea of universal truth, whole postmodern cosmologies have been created to prove that traditional religious morality is a scam, that there are no fixed truths or “natural” categories, and that all knowledge is socially constructed.

Practically everything this man believed was 100% anti-Christian. But he fits in fine on the secular left.

Conclusion

Adolf Hitler was a man influenced by two big ideas: evolution and socialism. His party was the national SOCIALIST party. He favored a strong role for the state in interfering with the free market. He was in favor of regulating the family so that the state could have a bigger influence on children. And he favored the idea of survival of the fittest. His ideas are 100% incompatible with Christianity and with capitalism as well. Christians value individual rights and freedoms, small government and the autonomy of the family against the state. The differences are clear and significant.

Video: Christopher Hitchens debates William Dembski: does God exist?

Here’s the video:

Details:

  • Opening statements – 15 minutes
  • First rebuttal – 10 minutes
  • Second rebuttal – 5 minutes
  • Q&A – 30 minutes

Summary of Hitchens’ opening speech, snarkified and with spin removed

Contentions:

  1. God has to make the universe the way I would, but he didn’t.
  2. I don’t like some things that people who claim to be religious do.

Arguments from science:

The fact that our current universe is running out of usable energy (entropy) means that there is no God, because God, if he existed, would agree with me that the universe should go on forever.

The fact that the universe is a very big place means that there is no God, because God, if he existed, would agree with me that the universe should be very small.

The fact that the universe is a very old place means that there is no God, because God, if he existed, would agree with me that the universe should be very young.

The fact that the universe contains exploding stars means that there is no God, because God, if he existed, would agree with me that the universe should not contain exploding stars.

The fact that the universe is expanding means that there is no God, because God, if he existed, would agree with me that the universe should not be expanding.

The fact that the Earth is a small rock means that there is no God, because God, if he existed, would agree with me that the Earth should not be a small rock.

Arguments from history:

Although I don’t believe that there is any objective standard of right and wrong, I personally feel that Islamic terrorism is yucky yuck yuck. It’s just my opinion though, since there is no objective standard of morality on atheism, but only arbitrary personal preferences and arbitrary customs that vary by time and place. Since these Muslim terrorists claim to be acting on behalf of God, and I don’t like what they do, therefore God doesn’t exist.

Although I don’t believe that there is any objective standard of right and wrong, I personally feel that Israeli military expansion is yucky yuck yuck. It’s just my opinion though, since there is no objective standard of morality on atheism, but only arbitrary personal preferences and arbitrary customs that vary by time and place. Since these Israeli military expansionists claim to be acting on behalf of God, and I don’t like what they do, therefore God doesn’t exist.

Arguments from the human condition:

Although I said a minute ago that we should be cautious about the good experimental science that supports theism by showing that the universe came into being from nothing, fine-tuned for complex life, based on multiple lines of experimental evidence, I actually think that Darwinian evolution is true beyond a shadow of a doubt, based on ZERO lines of experimental evidence for macro-evolution (the evolution of new body plans and organ types). But since Darwinism is definitely true – as true as man-made global warming! – then God couldn’t exist. Why? Because God would not use a gradual process to create life, because I wouldn’t use a gradual process to create life. God, if he existed, would always do what I would do if I were God. Also, we are similar to chimpanzees which proves that molecules to man evolution is true. Certainly there is no peer-reviewed evidence that human and chimpanzee DNA are actually very different. (Note that the link goes to Nature, the #1 peer-reviewed science journal).

When you were in your mother’s womb, you grew some hair and then it fell off, proving there is no God, because God, if he existed, would agree with me that babies should not grow hair in their mother’s womb, only to have it fall off.

Humans have appendices that have no purpose that is apparent to me, based on my vast experience with biology gleaned from writing snarky columns. Since I don’t see a purpose to your appendix – certainly there is no peer-reviewed evidence that the appendix has any useful biological purpose – therefore God does not exist.

When you were a child, you grew some teeth and then they fell off, proving there is no God, because God, if he existed, would agree with me that children should not grow teeth, only to have them fall off.

There are a lot of species that go extinct in the history of life and this proves that there is no God, because God, if he existed, would not have wanted lots of species to go extinct.

The smart theistic evolutionist Francis Collins believes in Darwinian evolution and he’s smart. I can’t give you any reasons why he believes in Darwinian evolution right now, but you should definitely believe in evolution because of his authority and his skill at avoiding debates on evolution with his critics in the intelligent design movement.

You need to be more humble like me, you ignorant fools. If you simply read more cosmology, physics, chemistry and biology, like we clever journalists have, then you would be a smart atheist like me! And humble, too, you ignorant, illiterate fundamentalists!

Summary of Dembski’s opening speech

Contentions:

  1. Evolution is false, Hitchens’ proofs from his book don’t work.
  2. Hitchens makes historical claims that are falsified by the evidence.
  3. The progress of science falsifies atheism
  4. Theism explains the big question of life better than atheism

Darwinian evolution vs. the evidence:

Junk DNA is not junk because the latest peer-reviewed scientific evidence shows that the so-called Junk-DNA actually has important functions in the cell. (Note that the link goes to Nature, the #1 peer-reviewed science journal).

The fossil record does not show a gradual pattern of emerging body plans because the latest evidence on the Cambrian explosion shows that new body plans emerged fully-formed without gradual developmental pathways.

The inverted retina is not a bad design, the counter-intuitive design actually is superior when the latest published research is considered.

Hitchens’ argument about the evolution of the eye rely on mathematical simulations, not on experimental evidence.

Hitchens is committed to Darwinism whether there is any evidence or not, because he pre-supposes materialism, so some form of evolution MUST be true, regardless of how lousy the observable evidence is for it.

Historical arguments:

Hitchens dismisses Israel’s time in Egypt and at Mount Sinai, but the evidence is written up in books like those of James K. Hoffmeier, published by Oxford University Press.

Hitchens dismisses the historical records about Jesus, but these are again made clear in publications of top academic presses. (E.g. – N.T. Wright, Richard Bauckham, etc.)

The progress of science falsifies atheism:

Atheism requires that chemical evolution be true. Darwin thought that cells were simple because he needed them to be simple for this theory, and he didn’t know anything about what cells were really like. But the progress of science has shown that the complexity of cells is enormous.

You can actually use rigorous methods developed by Bill in his book “The Design Inference”, published by Cambridge University Press, and apply them to effects in nature, like archaeological artifacts, radio signals from space, and… cells and molecular machines.

When you apply the mathematical methods for inferring design to biology in books like “Signature in the Cell” or “The Design of Life”, components of living systems are found to be designed for a purpose.

The big questions are answered better by theism than atheism:

Other arguments: the cosmological argument, the fine-tuning argument, the moral argument, the argument from rationality/reason, the argument from mathematical foundations of reality, the argument from the the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, etc.

Christopher Hitchens debates William Lane Craig about God’s existence

Here’s the full debate on video. Hugh Hewitt is the moderator.

Now I think most people are familiar with Christopher Hitchens and his arguments – he was widely regarded as the top atheist debater in the world, and has written bestselling books on atheism. So below is a little more about the Christian debater William Lane Craig. Craig is  regarded as the top defender of Christianity in the world, although many people are unfamiliar with his arguments. Here is a written explanation of the five arguments he uses in the debate with Hitchens, if you want to follow along. This is a good debate for any of you who have never seen a debate on God’s existence before.

About William Lane Craig

Let’s review William Lane Craig’s qualifications:

William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California.

Dr. Craig pursued his undergraduate studies at Wheaton College (B.A. 1971) and graduate studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M.A. 1974; M.A. 1975), the University of Birmingham (England) (Ph.D. 1977), and the University of Munich (Germany) (D.Theol. 1984). From 1980-86 he taught Philosophy of Religion at Trinity… In 1987 they moved to Brussels, Belgium, where Dr. Craig pursued research at the University of Louvain until assuming his position at Talbot in 1994.

He has authored or edited over thirty books, including The Kalam Cosmological ArgumentAssessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of JesusDivine Foreknowledge and Human FreedomTheism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology; and God, Time and Eternity, as well as over a hundred articles in professional journals of philosophy and theology, including The Journal of PhilosophyNew Testament StudiesJournal for the Study of the New TestamentAmerican Philosophical QuarterlyPhilosophical StudiesPhilosophy, and British Journal for Philosophy of Science.

Craig’s CV is here.

Craig’s list of publications is here.

Here is a partial list of his past debates against the top atheist scholars. Many of those have audio and video. His best recent debate was against the British philosopher Peter Millican. Recommended for advanced students only. For a more basic debate against a very poorly prepared opponent, you can watch the Craig-Atkins debate. Atkins is a retired professor of chemistry from Oxford.

Greg Koukl: The New Atheism: old arguments, new attitude

This is a lecture that Greg Koukl delivered at the Apologetics Canada conference in March 2011.

The topic tonight is this: have the New Atheists made a persuasive case against God? It’s one hour long.

Speaker bio:

Greg started out thinking he was too smart to become a Christian and ended up giving his life for the defense of the Christian faith. A central theme of Greg’s speaking and writing is that Christianity can compete in the marketplace of ideas when it’s properly understood and properly articulated.

Greg’s teaching has been featured on Focus on the Family radio, he’s been interviewed for CBN and the BBC, he’s debated atheist Michael Shermer on Hugh Hewitt’s national radio show, and did a one-hour national television debate with Deepak Chopra on Lee Strobel’s “Faith Under Fire.”  Greg has been quoted in U.S. News & World Report and the L.A. Times. An award-winning writer, Greg is author of Tactics—A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian ConvictionsRelativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air with Francis J. Beckwith, and Precious Unborn Human Persons. Greg has published more than 180 articles and has spoken on nearly 60 university and college campuses both in the U.S. and abroad.

Greg received his Masters in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at Talbot School of Theology, graduating with high honors, and his Masters in Christian Apologetics from Simon Greenleaf University.  He is an adjunct professor in Christian apologetics at Biola University.  He’s hosted his own radio talk show for over 20 years advocating clear-thinking Christianity and defending the Christian worldview.

He’s one of my favorite speakers – very practical, very realistic, very easy to listen to for non-Christians. He speaks in a normal tone of voice, and he is a regular guy. This is as interesting to listen to for non-Christians as it is for Christians, because he was a non-Christian.

By the way, I posted the entire transcript of his debate with Michael Shermer on the Hugh Hewitt show.