Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ed Feser on Christopher Hitchens

Ed Feser gives his take on Christopher Hitchens, who passed away Thursday from cancer. Feser expresses my views quite precisely, although I find it difficult (and strangely so) to be critical of Hitchens.

Feser is more candid:


Of the four horsemen of the New Atheism, Hitchens was the only one I found likable, and the only one possessed of a modicum of wisdom about the human condition, or at least as much wisdom about the human condition as one can have while remaining essentially a man of the Left.

There was no doubt much-- very much-- to criticize in Hitchens' polemics, but much to admire in the man's intellect and style. Feser is right, in his brief reprise.

Hitchens also seemed to me to be the kind of guy who would have been a friend, had I known him personally. 

40 comments:

  1. I think (speaking as a Christian) that the person who is infuriated with God is much closer to a state of grace than the person who is merely indifferent.
    Jay W. Richards, Evolution News & Views.


    I agree completely.

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  2. I think it is to his credit that he fought till the end. I am glad he did not give into fear and end his own life in some sort of horrific political statement. Having watched my own father literally diminish with cancer, I know the courage that must have taken.
    Christopher was in error about many things, and I was not a fan of his work in general. All that said, and much more left unsaid out of respect - he was passionate.
    My prayers for his soul, and for his family that must live on without him.
    I hope Peter will continue to write.

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  3. “Hitchens also seemed to me to be the kind of guy who would have been a friend, had I known him personally.”

    Hitchens wasn’t the kind of man to suffer bigots and fools. Had he been familiar with your blog I doubt he would have given you the time of day.

    -KW

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  4. @KW:

    I'll ask him about all of that when we meet.

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  5. Michael,

    You won't be meeting Christopher Hitchins in the future. He's gone forever, as you one day will be too.

    Even if in the extremely unlikely event that you're right and there is life after death, what makes you think you'll be able to meet someone amongst the 100 billion humans who have lived over evolutionary time.

    I doubt that Chris would give you the time of day. He was a brilliant thinker. When he debated Christianity he starts with facts and develops an argument from there; for example Homo sapient has been around for at least 100,000 years, and God does nothing, and then 2,000 years ago decides to do something ... Whereas, you just take unproven premises - first cause, prime mover, essence, etc - and tell a story.

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  6. @bach:

    Hitchens' arguments against Christianity were juvenile. Like yours.

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  7. Is it any wonder that atheists like KW, Oleg, and Bachfiend are such arrogant sourpusses?

    Having no one ultimately to look up to, and nothing good ultimately to look forward to, who wouldn't be?

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  8. Michael,

    Your arguments for Christianity don't even reach juvenile. You're like the 2 year old toddler throwing a temper tantrum because what he wants to be true runs into the brutal fact of reality. Pretending that made up philosophy justifies equally made up stories doesn't work.

    For someone who professes to have wished to have had Christopher Hitchens as a friend, you're very ready to dismiss his arguments without any counter arguments.

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  9. @bach:

    [Pretending that made up philosophy justifies equally made up stories doesn't work.]

    Is Moral Law made up?

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  10. Michael,

    Yes, Moral Law is made up. It's specific to the society in which it exists. Of course, there will be many common features between the morality developed in different societies. No society that tolerates murder, theft, etc within the society is going to thrive, although many societies allow similar actions occurring against members of outside societies. The Jewish commandment of 'thou shall not murder' only prohibited killing of Jews not non-Jews.

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  11. @bach

    No society that tolerates murder... ...many societies allow similar actions occurring against members of outside societies

    On the contrary, it was more than tolerated, even promoted, in Nazi Germany, in the USSR gulags and the Cambodian killing fields, all against their own people.

    Your understanding of morality is so lacking it borders on abysmal.

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  12. Your understanding of morality is so lacking it borders on abysmal.

    "Kill them all - God will sort them out"

    Oh the irony. A lecture on morality from someone who loves a god that demands worship or else eternal torture.

    According to your absurd belief, the vast majority of the 100 billion or so people that ever lived are right now being justly tortured.

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  13. @troy:

    [A lecture on morality from someone who loves a god that demands worship or else eternal torture.]

    God asks for a relationship. We choose to know Him or reject Him.

    He tortures no one. We ultimately choose our fate. He has gone to great measures and sacrifice to bring us to salvation.

    And if there is no God, there is no objective morality, so from your perspective nothing is wrong-- not even torture-- in any objective sense. There are just differences of opinion.

    I love how atheists deny the existence of God based on objective moral law, which presupposes God.

    If God doesn't exist, it's all Darwinian, pal. And nothing ultimately matters anyway.

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  14. I love how atheists deny the existence of God based on objective moral law, which presupposes God.

    It doesn't. But your grasp on philosophy is probably far too limited to understand that.

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  15. He has gone to great measures and sacrifice to bring us to salvation.

    So here's your version of events:

    God created mankind, and being omniscient, knew when they were created that they would fail his test according to rules he made up. But he gave them the test anyway. Which they failed, as he knew they would.

    And then, rather than waiving the rules, which he had made up to begin with, he had to wait a couple thousand years, incarnate himself as human, and sacrifice himself to himself, so that he could be appeased and forgive humans for breaking the rules he had made up and knew they would break.

    Because it wouldn't make sense for God to just forgive without the charade.

    And you call this "love". And you wonder why you are regarded as a clown in greasepaint.

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  16. Egnor:

    "He tortures no one. We ultimately choose our fate. He has gone to great measures and sacrifice to bring us to salvation."

    He tortures no one? What about the New Testament "lake of fire"? Is that just a metaphor?


    "And if there is no God, there is no objective morality, so from your perspective nothing is wrong-- not even torture-- in any objective sense. There are just differences of opinion."

    That's right, they are just differences of opinion. According to the opinion of the Catholic church, torture was just fine.

    There is no objective morality. Even if there is a god, you don't know if she is one of many, each of which creates their own universe in which they make up their "moral laws" according to their whim. Even if there is just one god, why would her idea of morality be considered objective.

    But since you can't know there is one god, or zero, or many, you decide subjectively what you want to believe. Therefore, your choice of morality is no more objective than my choice.

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  17. @anon:

    Yea, I guess God should have consulted you before all of that "Let there be light" stuff.

    Your argument makes two errors:

    1) God's ways are not our ways, and your expectation that He does things according to your better judgement is a bit naive. It's like saying that The theory of relativity isn't true because you think that Einstein's tensor equations are too difficult to solve. No self-respecting universe would allow itself to be governed by such things. Your opinion about how ultimate reality "ought" to be counts for squat.

    Classical theologians have argued for thousands of years that God's purposes cannot ultimately be judged by man. He is not part of creation. He doesn't answer to you.

    2) You neglect man's free will, which is God's gift to us. The question of God's omnipotence and omniscience is a profound question when man's free will is considered.

    We are not robots, and His understanding of our acts and of the future is a subtle question, even more subtle than most questions about God's nature.

    Christians have a lot of unanswered questions. Atheists don't even rise to the level of intelligent questions. Shit just happens, ya know.

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  18. @troy:

    [Therefore, your choice of morality is no more objective than my choice.]

    Then on what basis do you assert that torture is wrong, rather than a mere difference of opinion?

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  19. Michael,

    You're reaching amazing levels of incoherence. For an all powerful god, he made little effort to bring humans to 'salvation'. There have been 100 billion humans on Earth at some time or another in the hundreds of thousands of years Homo sapiens has been around, and then just 2,000 years ago in a tiny area of the eastern Mediterranean area, he decides to sacrifice himself to himself to atone for all sins, past, present and future, including Original Sin (which didn't happen anyway).

    For a divinely inspired ideology, Christianity certainly wasn't a runaway success. It was only 3 centuries later when Constantine realized that Christianity would be a useful tool for him to gain and retain power that Christianity became a state religion. There was nothing preordained in Christianity's success.

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  20. "Then on what basis do you assert that torture is wrong, rather than a mere difference of opinion?"

    It is just a matter of opinion. In my fairly libertarian opinion, one should be as free as possible without hurting other people. A moral calculus that is of course entirely subjective. There will always be differences of opinion about what's the best moral calculus, and we will debate them in a democratic society and create laws accordingly.

    My moral calculus tells me that torture is almost never justified, but I have to admit that I can think of exceptional circumstances where I would condone it.

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  21. @bach
    There was nothing preordained in Christianity's success.

    You don't know much about christian eschatology either! Why don't you stick to simple subjects (or just-so-stories) you know, like Darwinism?

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  22. Pepe,

    Why don't you comment on the sentence of mine you quote, instead of going off on a completely different tangent?

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  23. And you call this "love". And you wonder why you are regarded as a clown in greasepaint.

    Hmmm. This is your reaction to another man's absolutely mainstream and established-for-millenia religion? So if Egnor is a clown, what does that make Jews? Kikes?

    Honestly, how is calling a Christian a clown when he explains his religion any different than calling a Jew a kike?

    I've got a strong feeling that these Gnu Atheists would do that very thing if they thought they could get away with it. More than a feeling actually, since they do the equivalent all the time with Christians, for which, let's be honest--and despite atheists own bizarre fears of theocracy and persecution against themselves-- there are no real consequences (as is only to be expected under Christian presuppositions), at least in this life.

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  24. Alt Numlock,

    Could you rephrase your last sentence please. It seems to be a sentence with just subordinate clauses, and no subject or main verb.

    Taking a guess at your meaning, I assume that you mean that atheists don't have any reason to fear Christianity. Exactly. We don't provided Christianity doesn't regain the levers of power as clowns such as Michael Egnor want it to do.

    America has the freedom of religion amendment to prevent that from happening. Theists have as much to fear from religion regaining a dominant role in government as atheists since the temptation to favor one denomination over the rest will ensue.

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  25. "Classical theologians have argued for thousands of years that God's purposes cannot ultimately be judged by man. He is not part of creation. He doesn't answer to you. "

    But what of the passage in genesis that states 'so god made man in his image...' Does that mean his way of thinking, his looks?

    @Anon:
    "God created mankind, and being omniscient, knew when they were created that they would fail his test according to rules he made up. But he gave them the test anyway. Which they failed, as he knew they would.

    And then, rather than waiving the rules, which he had made up to begin with, he had to wait a couple thousand years, incarnate himself as human, and sacrifice himself to himself, so that he could be appeased and forgive humans for breaking the rules he had made up and knew they would break."

    I like that! And its a perfect summation of christianity. Egnor says, 'he has gone to great measures and sacrifice to give us salvation.' Salvation from WHAT? 'Sin'?? HE supposedly made these rules, KNEW how mankind would act, and eventually demands this odd blood sacrifice to save us from.....himself. Or being apart...from him. Well, we see how well that all worked out havent we?

    I can see it now: 'you dont understand christianity...you're a fool, etc.'

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  26. You neglect man's free will, which is God's gift to us. The question of God's omnipotence and omniscience is a profound question when man's free will is considered.

    No, I didn't. When God supposedly gave humanity free will, being omniscient, he knew what humans would do with that free will. Hence, he knew that the game was rigged because he knew that the creations he had given free will to would fail to live up to the standards he supposedly laid out.

    And when they did, rather than simply forgive, you imagine that God engaged in a huge charade in which he pretended to make a huge sacrifice in order to appease himself. Your "sophisticated theology" boils down to idiocy.

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  27. God's ways are not our ways, and your expectation that He does things according to your better judgement is a bit naive.

    That cuts both ways. If God's ways are beyond human understanding, then they are beyond your understanding as well. Which means that you cannot cogently say anything about what God wants, or doesn't want. The argument that "God's ways are not our ways" is a theological argument that is self-defeating.

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  28. No, I didn't. When God supposedly gave humanity free will, being omniscient, he knew what humans would do with that free will. Hence, he knew that the game was rigged because he knew that the creations he had given free will to would fail to live up to the standards he supposedly laid out.

    And when they did, rather than simply forgive, you imagine that God engaged in a huge charade in which he pretended to make a huge sacrifice in order to appease himself. Your "sophisticated theology" boils down to idiocy.


    Your diatribe contains within it the implicit assertion that you've expressed the only legitimate way to view things.

    Do make an explicit rational case that your way is the singular right way to look at the matter.

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  29. Your diatribe contains within it the implicit assertion that you've expressed the only legitimate way to view things.

    Do post something of substance, and then maybe you'll be worthy of a response. Until then, you're just doing the typical theist dance: dodge, weave, evade, and dissemble.

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  30. So you can make no rational defense of the singular correctness of your interpretation of things? You've made some extremely categorical statements. If you cannot rationally defend them, I'd be happy to discount them entirely.

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  31. @Mulder:

    [But what of the passage in genesis that states 'so god made man in his image...' Does that mean his way of thinking, his looks?]

    His freedom. That's the point about sin. Freedom entails the option of sin. God's justice entails the punishment of sin. God's mercy entails the expiation of sin. God's love and courage entails that He accepts the punishment of our sin on our behalf.

    [God created mankind, and being omniscient, knew when they were created that they would fail his test according to rules he made up. But he gave them the test anyway. Which they failed, as he knew they would.
    And then, rather than waiving the rules, which he had made up to begin with, he had to wait a couple thousand years, incarnate himself as human, and sacrifice himself to himself, so that he could be appeased and forgive humans for breaking the rules he had made up and knew they would break.]

    In the same way that we give our children freedom to make mistakes. We could prevent the mistakes by controlling them utterly and being tyrants. But out of love and respect for them we let them err, correct and discipline them, and we ourselves pay the cost of their errors.

    [Egnor says, 'he has gone to great measures and sacrifice to give us salvation.' Salvation from WHAT? 'Sin'?? HE supposedly made these rules, KNEW how mankind would act, and eventually demands this odd blood sacrifice to save us from.....himself. Or being apart...from him. Well, we see how well that all worked out havent we?]

    He is existence itself, so He makes the rules. You don't like nor approve of the rules. I don't like quantum mechanics (too hard and weird), but that doesn't make it untrue.

    [I can see it now: 'you dont understand christianity...you're a fool, etc.']

    Just keep an open mind. I used to make the same arguments you make. I was wrong.

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  32. @anon:

    You speak of God's omniscience" as if it were a simple concept. The reality is that God's attributes are beyond our comprehension. We can only speak about them by analogy-- God's knowledge is like "omniscience". God's power is like "omnipotence". There are mysteries in God that we cannot understand, which is to be expected. How His omniscience squares with man's fall and redemption is in part mysterious, as ultimate reality is.

    [And when they did, rather than simply forgive, you imagine that God engaged in a huge charade in which he pretended to make a huge sacrifice in order to appease himself. Your "sophisticated theology" boils down to idiocy.]

    I think that God's justice is analogous to conservation laws in nature. Actually, they both have the same Author. Sin must be expiated. In His love, He paid for it Himself.

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  33. @anon:

    [If God's ways are beyond human understanding, then they are beyond your understanding as well. Which means that you cannot cogently say anything about what God wants, or doesn't want. The argument that "God's ways are not our ways" is a theological argument that is self-defeating.]

    No. Our understanding of God is by analogy, which is partial understanding. It is quite valid, but incomplete.

    Christian mystics and souls in Heaven have a direct experience of God (Beautific Vision), which is not analogy, but direct experience. It is still not complete (God is infinite, unlike us), but it is unmediated.

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  34. "Christian mystics and souls in Heaven have a direct experience of God (Beautific Vision), which is not analogy, but direct experience. It is still not complete (God is infinite, unlike us), but it is unmediated."

    And you know this how?

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  35. @bach
    Why don't you comment on the sentence of mine you quote...

    This is exactly what I did!

    Christian eschatology is the study of how things in this world are ordained and this contradicts your statement that Christianity's success was not preordained.

    This is a proof that you should not comment on topics you don't know!

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  36. Pepe,

    You're an idiot. I wrote "There was nothing preordained in Christianity's SUCCESS". Eschatology has to do with life, death, heaven and hell. They may, if you follow a Calvinist, non-free will viewpoint, preordained, but that's not what I was referring to.

    You shouldn't comment on topics you don't have the intelligence to do so. Which is everything.

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  37. @bach

    You really are an IGNORAMUS or if you prefer a airhead, birdbrain, blockhead, bonehead, bubblehead, chowderhead, chucklehead, clodpole, clot, cluck, clunk, cretin, cuddy, deadhead, dim bulb, dimwit, dip, dodo, dolt, donkey, doofus, dope, dullard, dumbbell, dumbhead, dum-dum, dummkopf, dummy, dunce, dunderhead, fathead, gander, golem, goof, goon, half-wit, hammerhead, hardhead, jackass, know-nothing, knucklehead, lamebrain, loggerhead, loon, lump, lunkhead, meathead, mome, moron, mug, mutt, natural, nimrod, nincompoop, ninny, ninnyhammer, nit, nitwit, noddy, noodle, numskull, oaf, pinhead, prat, ratbag, saphead, schlub, schnook, simpleton, stock, stupe, stupid, thickhead, turkey, woodenhead, yahoo, and a yo-yo!

    That should satisfy your craving for insults!

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  38. Sin must be expiated. In His love, He paid for it Himself.

    Sin must be expiated. Because of the rules God supposedly set up himself. Are you arguing that God could not simply have forgiven humanity without the need for this charade?

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  39. Our understanding of God is by analogy, which is partial understanding.

    Let's assume for the sake of argument God exists. Lacking full understanding, you could very well be entirely wrong about what God supposedly wants. And you don't even notice this.

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  40. Y'all are not so much 'atheists' as you are 'anti-theists'. You are far stronger in your objections to the way God runs his universe than you are with your objections to his existence.

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