Book Review; Is Christianity Good for the World? A Debate By Christopher Hitchens & Douglas Wilson

41Q93+woUlL._SX160_This book is a fairly short and sweet exchange between atheist Christopher Hitchens and Christian Douglas Wilson. The work is broken into 6 parts and each portion is a set of letters written on the topic of, “is Christianity good for the world.” Here is the gist; Hitchens comes out by calling Christianity immoral and inconsistent. Wilson then asks by what means does the atheist world view have the ability to speak to what is right and wrong, asking Hitchens to point out the source of morality. Hitchens indirectly answers the question three times, saying in passing that it has something to do with human solidarity and an innate sense in each one of use. Wilson keeps rephrasing the question trying to find out how outside of a divine lawgiver anything can be right or wrong. The debate concludes with Hitchens admitting that morals are evolving, to which Wilson responds by asking if they are done evolving before laying out the gospel and a Christian world view. As far as I can tell the atheist world view can make no real claim to any ethic outside of a rough utilitarianism at best. This exchange highlights the consistency of Christian thought; you may not like what Christianity is and what it asks of you but it has clear answers for defining the moral order. In short, it was fun, informative read that I would recommend to anyone who wants to honestly thinking over the competing world views presented here.
Click here to get your copy of Is Christianity Good for the World?
Click here to get a DVD copy of COLLISION: Christopher Hitchens vs. Douglas Wilson

    • james f
    • July 16th, 2009

    Hitchens runs into problems by looking at things philosophically instead of scientifically. Simply put, things are immoral because they are deadly or harmful in the long run, if not the short run too. This is why we don’t spit loogies on the dirt and rub it in people’s eyes, in case you didn’t know, that obviously will start a fight or something … Read Morewhich is harmful as it also is harmful to get dirt in your eyes too (I’m laughing at the “moral one” here). Of course, it’s apparently not immoral to scare a bunch of pigs over the side of a cliff though, although according to PETA it actually is immoral. I wonder why people actually think Christianity is somehow moral. Maybe killing every man, woman, and male child in a small town while “keeping” the virgins for themselves is somehow moral too?

    • josh g
    • July 16th, 2009

    James, please don’t take me the wrong way, but if someone could give you a good explanation of “why God allows bad things to happen” and why there are so many atrocious happenings in the world (including in the history covered in the Bible), would you believe in Christianity?

    It scares me to think of the questions that I’ve asked in the past, … Read Moreshaking my fist at God before He transformed my life: “Why are there so many hypocrites in the church? If God wants us to obey Him, why did He make me have desires to sleep with my girlfriend or get drunk and high? It is, after all, the way He made me, isn’t it? Why does He hold me accountable?” It scares me to think of the path that I was walking down. I was running straight toward death, giving God the finger. If I would have died in that state, I would not have stood before the judgment seat of God and demanded that He answer my questions.

    • james f
    • July 16th, 2009

    Just don’t do anything that is self destructive, the first level of morality, then don’t do anything to others that is destructive or harmful to them. Of course there are exceptions such as in self defense (that’s a part of preventing self-destruction), or in the defense of the group or ideology of which you belong too, and that’s only as a last resort when civility is no longer an option.

    • josh g
    • July 16th, 2009

    No, I would fall to my knees in terror, confessing that He is God and I was wrong, despite how hard I tried to prove to myself and to others that I was right.

    I really admire your courage and honesty in posting your comment to Russ’s book review. We should always approach anything with intellectual honesty, being willing to ask the … Read Moretough questions about ideas. But we also, need to be willing to look closely and objectively at things before we judge. It is hard for us to read anything without our own biases and presuppositions. Without the Holy Spirit’s illumination, all we can do on our own is read the Bible through the filter of our own worldview. We make ourselves the judges, juries, and creators of truth when we read anything that way. I would challenge you to pick up the Bible and try to read it objectively, not trying to find every immoral thing in it that you can. The Bible deals with redemption, which is completely unnecessary if everything is moral and rosy.

    • james f
    • July 16th, 2009


    • James, you’re right the material argument is a stronger one than the ethical one; however to answer the debate question which is, ” is Christianity Good for the world” hitchens needs to offer an alternative moral ethic, which he seemed unwilling to put forth.

  1. Actually, upon reading the first paragraph in Wilson’s opening I thought my IQ had gone down 40 points. The design argument is dripping with false analogy, but Wilson somehow makes it even more dreary.

    Wilson presumes that there is an absolute morality provided by a God and codified within the bible. I challenge this. I also challenge that Christianity is a source of morality at all. If morality is absolute, why are there so many differing opinions of what this morality is? Why does it change with time? We no longer think slavery is moral, yet those who wrote the relevant passages in the book are so cavalier about that they tell you how slaves should be treated. You can even beat a slave just so long as he/she does not die within a day or two. Not once is slavery condemned, old testament or new, and indeed the bible was used as a justification for slavery in the US. We do not stone people for adultery or being unruly children anymore.

    The very definition of ‘murder’ has changed drastically since that time. Two millennia ago it meant “don’t kill a fellow Jew”, not the “don’t kill a fellow human” as it has been transformed to over this time. Back then, killing an outsider was fair game.

    And how does one resolve god ordering the genocide of the Canaanites with the command “thou shalt not kill”? This makes sense only in light of the previous paragraph. The alternative is that the moral priority is to obey God’s whim, which is hardly objective. I am reminded here of the Euthyphro Dilemma:

    Is something moral because it is commanded by God, or is it commanded by God because it is moral?

    Either a) something is moral because it is commanded by God or b) something is commanded by God because it is moral. If ‘a’, this simply moves the arbitrary nature of morality to God. If ‘b’, then God is not the author of morality, so what need for the middleman?

    I agree that Hitch didn’t do a good job explaining the evolutionary nature of what we call morality. It co-evolved with a social survival strategy. As a consequence of living in groups, rules of conduct are necessary. Those that were poor at getting along with others were ostracized. We have a pretty good body of evidence for this already, coming from various lines of reasoning (anthropology, primatology, etc.). So, yes, our innate sense of morality it is still evolving – or rather it is the structures in the brain responsible for performing moral calculus that are still evolving. Moral boundaries are set largely by culture and are constantly in flux.

  2. Welcome Shamelessly ,

    “Is something moral because it is commanded by God, or is it commanded by God because it is moral?

    Either a) something is moral because it is commanded by God or b) something is commanded by God because it is moral. If ‘a’, this simply moves the arbitrary nature of morality to God. If ‘b’, then God is not the author of morality, so what need for the middleman?”

    I think this is a bit of a false dichotomy; I would state it as a both/and; “It moral because God commanded it and god commanded it because it is moral.” What do you think?

    IF, “Moral boundaries are set largely by culture and are constantly in flux.” would it be fair to say that a rough utilitarianism rules the day at best and at worst an egoism or hedonism? if this the case what grounds do we have at calling something bad? Wilson kept asking the question but hitchens never gave much of an answer. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

    lastly, could you expand on the false dichotomy of the design theory Wilson puts forth.

    thanks for posting, have enjoyed the exchange.

  3. Thanks, Russ, for your brief review. The reality is that virtually no atheists (including those who have commented here) are willing to live out the logical consequences of their atheism. They still want to live off of Christian capital, yet without the God. If there is no God, we are just a bunch of chemicals reacting to each other at certain temperatures under certain circumstances. Or as Wilson would, “Just matter in motion.” Any thoughts about love, justice, honesty, courage, or consciousness are an illusion, just the product of chemical reactions in the brain. Oh, and rationality is also gone, for atheism necessitates determinism, for we are then determined by the chemical reactions going on in our bodies. But no atheist wants to live with these realities. Instead they want to show moral indignation at the perceived hypocrisies and injustices of Christians. Thus, Wilson’s point about the two fundamentals of atheism ring true: 1) There is no God, and 2) I hate him.”

    • that is exactly it; they don’t believe in him because the hate him and don’t want to deal with the commands placed on them by the Divine. What they fail to see is the equally demanding constraints of their atheism.

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