Monday, June 02, 2008

Peter Hitchens on atheism

"Yes, I did mention Atheism at the beginning. For that is at the root of all this. Once people don't acknowledge any moral authority outside themselves, they can choose which rules to take seriously and which not to entirely according to their own feelings at any time. They will generally do this on the basis of what suits them. It begins with little things, and moves on to the great. We are now at the stage where it is moving on quite fast.

One of the key features of atheism is that atheists themselves are unable to grasp this point. We're just as good as religious people, they respond, if not better. Maybe so. Religious people who understand their creeds know perfectly well that they're no better than anyone else. That's not the issue. What is?.

It is this. What do you really mean by 'good'? Why (for example) is fidelity better than adultery, patience better than impatience? ... And what, apart from your own convenience, impels you to follow this good you allege you support? The luxury atheists of the British and American middle classes live in areas, and work in places, where the Christian rules of right and wrong are still by and large accepted and lauded in public.... Now, take away the large houses and gardens, the peaceful streets, the plentiful money and easily-hired servants of the luxury suburbs. And put the same people in the thin-walled, cramped boxes of the sink estates, with their criminal godfathers, their gangs, their burglars and drug dealers, their fatherless children and unpoliced nights. And see how 'good' the luxury atheists would be ( or how good anyone would be). Some of them would go under in a few days, beaten, terrified and cowed as so many are in these places, and with nothing to hope for. Some of them would , I suspect, quickly find that they made quite good louts, with knives, and ready to use them. Why not? What, in their universe, would be wrong with that if it suited them? There's no rational point, really, in being good in circumstances where being good gets you knifed. It's an irrational act -unless you have been taught to recognise the importance of absolute good."

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