A best-selling atheist author claims that Christianity not only falsely takes credit for good in the world, but actually promotes immorality.
In a recent debate against a Christian scholar and pastor, Christopher Hitchens argued against the idea that Christianity is accountable for the spreading of moral principles such as how it is wrong to murder and steal.
The author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything also said there was a moral code similar to the "Golden Rule" in place even before Moses received the Ten Commandments.
"It appears that these values (murder, theft, perjury are wrong and courage and self-sacrifice are admirable) are universal and innate," said Hitchens in a video posted on the Christian Broadcasting Network news web site on Friday. "And they also predate - well I wouldn't say they predate all religion because there has always been some kind of religion - but they certainly predate monotheism and they certainly predate Christianity."
Hitchens believes the basis for goodness and morality is "human solidarity" or the "brotherhood of man."
Debate opponent and Christian representative Pastor Douglas Wilson of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, however, challenged Hitchens' human solidarity claim as the basis of goodness by using Hitchens' own acknowledgment that bad emotions are also innately in humans.
"The problem with grounding it (morality) in innate instincts, like human solidarity, is that we have competing, jostling instincts," Wilson argued.
What is stopping people from engaging in evil if there is no absolute truth about what is good and what is bad, asked the senior fellow of theology at New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho, and the author of Letter from a Christian Citizen.
The Christian debater argued that people have a side that wants to engage in what is bad, for instance exterminate neighbors, but they also have a good side that wants to help their neighbor. Without an absolute truth found in the Scripture, people will all be left with - at best - an "eeny, meeny, miny, moe," strategy on whether to act good or bad.
"How do you choose between them," Wilson asked. "If the authoritative nature of morality comes from this innate status, what about our innate predisposition to go to war or commit genocide?"
Atheist Hitchens in an earlier segment said he firmly does not believe there is an absolute truth but only relative truth. Yet he acknowledges there are some objective truths held by all men such as murder is bad and honesty is good.
To strengthen his argument, Hitchens highlighted how Christians in the past have claimed an absolute truth but later embarrassingly had to revise the truth because science proved them wrong.
For instance, the church said that the universe revolved around the earth, but later it was discovered that the planets orbit the sun. All Christians also believed that the Genesis account was the literal events of creation until science introduced evolution and believers had to revisit or revise what they believed was the truth.
"An objection I have to religion, in other words, is it's our first and worst attempt to making sense of things," Hitchens declared. "First and worst - it happened when we were very afraid, very ignorant, and when we were terrified by natural order of events like earthquakes and floods that are susceptible to a much more easier explanation."
People in the past, he said, prayed when someone fell sick because they were ignorant and didn't know better. But later healthcare improved when scientists and doctors learned about germs and disease.
It is the same for astronomy, the atheist scholar argued. Christians assumed too early what the true map of the universe looked like, he said.
Hitchens also said during the debate he is glad there is no Christian god because if there was, humans would be supervised by god from the moment they are born until they die and even beyond and can be "convicted" of "thought crimes."
"It is the working definition of unfreedom," Hitchens complained. "And so it is a great relief to me to think that I don't have a big brother who is determined to dominate my life from dawn to dusk."
Wilson quipped he is willing to be "brother-less," but not "fatherless" explaining to him God is a heavenly father not merely a brother.
Another criticism of Hitchens concerned the foundational teaching of Christianity - salvation through Jesus Christ. The fervent atheist claims the teaching "robs" humans of responsibility for their sin by teaching them that they can throw their wrongdoings on someone else, a scapegoat, and be forgiven. Hitchens argues that is an immoral theology.
Wilson did not have time to respond to Hitchens' accusation that salvation as taught in Christianity is immoral. The two scholars were participating in a debate hosted by CBN focused on the question "Is Christianity Good for the World?" Hitchens and Wilson co-authored a book together - released in this past September -that carries the same title and will be featured in a film to be released in March 2009.
Hitchens was not raised in a religious home, but his father was raised in a "strict" Baptist Calvinist home. His mother is a non-practicing Jew.