Why Not Use Ridicule?
by Amy Hall
Christopher Hitchens famously used to ask Christians to “name one moral action performed by a believer that could not have been done by a nonbeliever.” One of the problems with answering Hitchens’s challenge (see a more detailed discussion here) is that a person who has a naturalistic worldview is unlikely to have exactly the same understanding of right and wrong as that of a Christian. Of course an atheist can act within his moral framework and do what he considers to be good, but if his ideas about what is moral are incorrect, then his actions will follow. And there are too many questions about who we are as human beings, the purpose of life, the diagnosis of what’s gone wrong and the prescription for fixing it, etc., etc. that we answer differently for us to come to the exact same conclusions about what is right and what is wrong.
For this reason, Hitchens’s charge is logically unanswerable. It’s simply the case that if there truly exists something moral a believer can do that a nonbeliever can’t, it’s because the believer sees it as moral because he’s a believer while the nonbeliever fails to see it as
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moral because he’s a nonbeliever (worshiping God would be one example of this). And if the atheist fails to see that action as moral, he won’t accept it as an example of a moral action he can’t (or won’t) perform. Therefore, no answer will ever satisfy him, even if it’s true.
So I don’t expect atheists to see this post as a challenge to their morality either. They reject the idea that we’re made in the image of God, so they reject the morality that flows from that idea. That’s to be expected. Proving to atheists that their morality is faulty is not my purpose in writing this (though I’d be happy for their moral intuition to be stirred). Instead, what I hope this will do is shed some light on how our different worldviews affect our understanding of what is moral. We live in a society that’s been soaked in the Christian worldview for centuries, and we’ve come to think that what we believe to be moral is just “obvious.” People haven’t thought about how their understanding of morality has been shaped by Christianity, nor have they considered the consequences of stripping it away…
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