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Why Hitchens is Great (Part 3): Christian Morals

Today’s installment of the series dealing with Jeffrey T. Kuhner’s article entitled, “Why God is Great” deals with one of my favorite subjects, morality. But Kuhner isn’t making the old moral grounding argument this time. Instead, he is making the moral norms argument.

Interestingly enough, I first heard this argument while watching Christopher Hitchen’s film “Coalition.” In the film, Hitchens and fundamentalist Christian Douglas Wilson go behind the scenes of their debate tour. Wilson introduces quite a few arguments in the film and Hitchens does not counter them in the film. This “moral norms argument” is one of the arguments Wilson makes.

This argument asserts that the western world has received our morality directly from the Christian tradition. The interesting thing about this argument is that it actually refutes the better known Christian moral grounding argument. In other words, we have two competing arguments for the origins of morality from Christians. The first is that God has divinely grounded morality in every human being’s soul and the second is this argument that Christians are responsible for the moral norms of society.

While there is some overlap within these two ideas, they do actually compete. Both of them cannot be true at the same time in the same way. Either God put morality into our “souls” or Christians created our moral norms. Yes, Christians claim to have gotten those norms from God, but that isn’t enough of an overlap to solve this contradiction.

The really interesting part is that Wilson and Kuhner are in some cases correct in this “Christian moral norms” argument. There is no doubt that at least some of America’s moral norms do come from the 2000 plus years of Christian tyranny. I will get into some of the specifics of those “moral norms” in a later article in this series.

Kuhner states in his article: “He (Hitchens) denounces the existence of God while simultaneously living off the ethical norms established by the Judeo-Christian tradition.” He claims that one example is “the sacred nature of human life,” which Kuhner claims is a “direct result of our Christian heritage.” While I am willing to admit that some of the moral norms in America do come from a Christian heritage, this isn’t it.

It seems that according to Kuhner, the only reason why Americans consider human life sacred is because the Bible says so. In other words, every tradition that was not established by the Judeo-Christian tradition must not value human life. The Jains must be stone cold killers.

I think atheist George Carlin put it best when he said that “the leading cause of death was God.” He went on to say:

“Do you know where the sanctity of life came from? We made it up. Why? Because we’re alive; self interest. Living people have a strong interest in promoting the idea that life is sacred. You don’t see Abbott and Costello running around talking about this shit, do you? We’re not hearing a whole lot from Mussolini on the subject. What’s the latest from JFK? Not a fucking thing because Abbott and Costello, Mussolini, and JFK are fucking dead and dead people give less than a shit about the sanctity of life.”

Sorry Jeff, but the sacred nature of human life doesn’t come from Christianity. In fact, most of our moral norms don’t either. It seems that the only moral norms that actually do come from Christianity have to do with Christianity’s hatred of sexuality. But that is an article for later in this series.

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