Christopher Hitchens is interviewed in the latest Atlantic Monthly about all the debates he was in promoting his book on atheism. That would include, of course, the CT debate he had with me. Some fun stuff shakes out in this.
“What I haven’t had from anyone, in print or in person, is any argument that surprised me, that I couldn’t have completely predicted.”
This is amazing stuff, really. I have never met anyone before who could completely predict all the questions he wouldn’t be able to answer.
And the interviewer — a very sharp someone named Jennie Rothenberg Gritz — brings up the CT debate:
“What about the question of morality without God? Al Sharpton spent a lot of time grilling you on that. And it was also a major theme in your email debate with the Christian author Douglas Wilson at Christianity Today.”
Hitchens responded here with a two word answer: “Weird guy.” Okay, so we don’t disagree completely.
The interviewer then summarized my argument, showing that she understood it completely.
“Wilson insisted that if you took Jesus out of the equation, the words ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ would have no meaning. Thoughts in the brain would just be a series of chemical reactions, like bubbles in a soft drink. As he put it, ‘If you were to take a bottle of Mountain Dew and another of Dr. Pepper, shake them vigorously, and put them on a table, it would not occur to anyone to ask which one is ‘winning the debate.’ They aren’t debating; they are just fizzing.'”
Quite admirable. But then Hitchens soars off into something that a translator of the King James Version would have described as an observation “that followeth not, no way.”
“What he’s saying is that if he ceases to believe in Jesus, he’s going to instantly become an immoral person. It’s a terrible admission to have made! It’s an awful insult to human self-respect to say that. And they don’t seem to understand that they give themselves over in that way. It’s like saying that nothing would stop me from raping you now if I weren’t under the supervision of a heavenly dictator. And I have a higher opinion of myself than that.”
Oh, well. One more time, for old time’s sake. No, I am not saying that I would become an immoral person. It is in the highest degree likely that I would become an irrational person, like Hitchens, using words like “self-respect” and “awful” and “immoral” when I have no concrete way of defining those terms, or defending the definitions once I had hauled them out of my pile of emotional residue from my Christian upbringing. I would be, in short, just like Hitchens, pinned to the wall. I would extricate myself by saying that “I have a higher opinion of myself than this.”
We dare say you do.