Saturday, May 15, 2010

Rutherford vs. Hitchens on the radio (UK)

Adam Rutherford and Peter Hitchens discussed various matter on the radio show Unbelievable on Premier Christian Radio.

They don't actually get into the God question right off, but instead discuss the respective values of Anglicanism and Secularism. This is a cordial but not particularly interesting discussion, especially for listeners outside of the UK.

About 18 minutes in, Peter Hitchens makes some remarkably broad claims on behalf of all of the world's Christians. For example:

Atheists constantly assume things about Christians . . . they think Christians think there can be no morality of any kind without God, which we don't think.
Really? Evidently, Peter Hitchens is unfamiliar with any number of Christian apologists (many of whom far more generally well known than himself) who say precisely such things. No matter how cultured your voice and how Oxford your intonation, you sound like an idiot when you say something this badly wrong.

There is so much diversity within Christianity that it is foolish to make blanket claims of any sort about what Christians do and believe, but in this particular case it is doubly so, because the argument that morality is contingent upon God is quite common in Christian apologetics (from Augustine to C.S. Lewis to Bill Craig) and indeed the whole of divine command theory rests upon the assumption that moral commands exist not as propositional truths about the world, but rather as imperatives handed down from another realm altogether. Rutherford sort of gets around to making this point, but not particularly well. A bit later, Hitchens implies that the source of moral authority for British society is (and should remain) rooted in Biblical doctrine, thus hinting at divine command theory himself.

They go on about abortion for awhile, and this segment proves wholly unenlightening, because the speakers pretty much talk past each other and Hitchens gets all sanctimonious and huffy. Also, this is the bit where the show runs afoul of Godwin's law. Annoying.

They then go on for a bit about the proper role of Christianity in public policy and in defining the British character. Here, Hitchens manages to sound more convincing than his opponent, even though they are both avoiding bringing up any sort of relevant evidence.

Overall, this debate generated more heat than light, as one might well expect for a radio talk show. Skip this one unless you've nothing else to do.

  • Unbeliever rating: 2.0 stars
  • Believer rating: 2.5 stars
  • Overall rating: 2.5 stars

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