On October 11, 2007 AD at 5:30 pm a “A debate, dialogue, and discussion” took place between Christopher Hitchens and Alister McGrath which was entitled “Poison or Cure? Religious Belief in the Modern World” (find the transcript here, find the video here).
Let us consider some of Christopher Hitchens unexplicative non-explications.
“…yes, Dr. McGrath, you're right, there is something about us as a species that is problematic, and it isn't just explained by religion. Something about us that tempts us to do wrong. It's pretty easily explained, I think. We are primates, high primates, but primates. We're half a chromosome away from chimpanzees and it shows, especially shows in the number of religions we invent to console ourselves or to give us things to quarrel with other primates about. If anything demonstrates that God is manmade, not man God made, surely it is the religions erected by this quasi-chimpanzee species and the harm that they're willing to inflict on that basis…These are problems not for me. For me it's simple, we're primates. This is what we would expect to happen if there was no God.”
One thing to be stated for certain is that all of atheism’s arguments and attempted elucidations end the same way, “It just is.” Ask about the universe, life, morality and everything and the answer is always the same, “It just is”—the it just is of the gaps.
Thus, we are tempted to do wrong by “something” because we are quasi-chimpanzees. Incidentally, Roy J. Britten wrote an article entitled, “Divergence between samples of chimpanzee and human DNA sequences is 5% counting indels” (Proceedings National Academy Science, 99:13633-13635 ). This
5% difference in DNA is a generic and conveniently impressive sounding statistic. Of course, this mere 5% represents a difference of circa 150,000,000 DNA base pairs. We should not chalk up our bad behavior to being quasi-chimpanzees just because there is evidence that all of life was designed by the same designer.
Richard Dawkins has stated, “We are not, then, merely like apes or descended from apes; we are apes.” Charles Darwin wrote, “In a series of forms graduating insensibly from some ape-like creature to man as he now exists, it would be impossible to fix on any definite point when the term ‘man’ ought to be used.” Perhaps, Christopher Hitchens is right and when another quasi-chimpanzee wants the same job that I am trying to get I could either perform better in the interview, acquire more education in the field or I could simply go ape-wild on my competition and get the job by being the only able bodied candidate left standing. Then what? Well, higher primates such as Christopher Hitchens may shun my behavior and engage in arguments from outrage, argument to embarrassment and arguments to ridicule. A group of even higher primates may incarcerate me. Or, I may not get caught, in which case I would simply have gotten away with it.
We certainly do not need invented religions to quarrel with other primates about there are plenty of secular reasons. As obvious as it is, it may be noteworthy to note the words of Michael Shermer, editor of Skeptic magazine, Arguing for Atheism:
I am not convinced by Dawkins’s argument that without religion there would be “no suicide bombers, no 9/11, no 7/7, no Crusades, no witch-hunts, no Gunpowder Plot, no Indian partition, no Israeli/Palestinian wars, no Serb/Croat/Muslim massacres, no persecution of Jews as ‘Christ-killers,’ no Northern Ireland ‘troubles’….”
In my opinion, many of these events—and others often attributed solely to religion by atheists—were less religiously motivated than politically driven, or at the very least involved religion in the service of political hegemony.
Any viable worldview must explain the human ability to perform both the most beautiful acts and the most macabre. Does it follow that “This is what we would expect to happen if there was no God”? No, because this statement neglects a myriad of complexly interacting circumstances such as free will and any of the, what we consider negative, implication that come with. Does reasoning that it-just-is answer anything or help matters at all? No.
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