Christopher Hitchens' rancorous attack on religion, "G-d Is Not Great," is the number one book in America. Three years ago he and I debated religion in New York City. I looked forward to the debate because I had always admired Hitchens' brilliant and iconoclastic mind, along with his barbed and clever pen. In our debate, he did not disappoint. He began with a typically acerbic attack against religion, saying that Stephen Hawking had more wisdom in his little finger than all the pages of the Bible combined.
When my turn came, I responded that the great, wheelchair-bound physicist was fortunate that religion, rather than evolutionary thinking, had been the stronger influence on British morality. Hawking is a very incapacitated man, and many evolutionary biologists maintain that a life like his should never have been preserved in the first place. The Bible establishes the infinite value and indeterminable sanctity of every human life, whether healthy or diseased. Evolution, of which Hitchens is a firm devotee, advocates the survival of the fittest.
If you toss out the Bible and religion, you’re left with evolutionary morality in its place, with its emphasis on the value of life being determined by its quality. Sufferers of major illnesses like Prof. Hawking would never stand a chance.
Thankfully for Prof. Hawking, the society he lived in embraced biblical morality and rejected the evolutionary idea of survival of the fittest. Prof. Hawking is not the fittest, but that does not mean that he should not exist. It’s because societies abide by biblical standards that he’s been given ongoing medical care and continues to enrich humanity with his genius.
For all Christopher Hitchens’ own brilliance, this is where he goes seriously astray. Without the Bible, how would we even know what good and evil are? Through science? Professor Bentley Glass suggested that we redefine the terms "good" and "evil," stripping them of their moral connotations. Glass says the words should refer merely to what is good or bad for the development of a species. Would we then eliminate the mentally defective or people who carry a disease because to have them in the gene pool might be "bad" for the health of the species?
No less an authority than Francis Crick, the Nobel-prize-winning co-discoverer of DNA, suggested that babies should only be considered to be alive two days after birth, during which time they could be examined for defects. If such defects could be found to be sufficiently deleterious, the infant could presumably be eliminated with impunity. Similarly, Crick proposed redefining death as occurring when a pre-determined age, such as 85, at which time the person automatically would be declared dead and all of his property would pass on to his heirs.
Hitler used this argument as the rationale for his program of euthanasia for the mentally defective. As quoted by Martin Borman in ‘Hitler’s Table Talk,’ the German leader said, "In nature there is no pity for the lesser creatures when they are destroyed so that the fittest may survive. Going against nature brings ruin to man...and is a sin against the will of the eternal Creator. It is only Jewish impudence to demand that we overcome nature."
In his book, Hitchens mocks the Ten Commandments. Didn't the ancient Israelites already know that thievery and murder were wrong? It’s true that humanity would have easily legislated much of the morality contained in the Bible even without G-d. But the whole point of the Ten Commandments is the establishment of absolute, divine morality. These are not laws legislated by man and subject, therefore, to human tampering. They are absolute rules that dare never be changed--at any time, at any place, under any circumstances.
Hitler also believed in "Do not murder." But it was he who determined to whom this law applied and to whom it did not. Even Hitchens acknowledges that the world's foremost genocides have all been committed by secular, atheistic regimes who maintained the right to determine which lives were worth preserving, and which should be discarded. Hitler murdered at least twelve million. Stalin, another thirty million. Mao, perhaps 40 million. And Pol Pot killed one-third of all Cambodians in the mid-1970s. Indeed, the number of people killed by the secular atheist regimes of the 20th century dwarfs all the people killed in the name of religion from the beginning of recorded history until the present.
With its famous pronouncement that all humans are created in the image of G-d, the Bible establishes the absolute equality of all humankind, regardless of race, gender, or ethnicity. Charles Darwin, however, thought differently: "The more civilized so-called Caucasian races have beaten the Turkish hollow in the struggle for existence. Looking to the world at no very distant date, what an endless number of the lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilized races throughout the world."
According to Sir Arthur Keith, Britain's leading evolutionary scientist of the mid-20th century, Hitler's ideas of a master race were the direct product of evolutionary thinking. Keith wrote, "To see evolutionary measures and tribal morality being applied vigorously to the affairs of a great modern nation, we must turn again to Germany of 1942. We see Hitler devoutly convinced that evolution produced the only real basis for a national policy...The means he adopted to secure the destiny of his race and people were organized slaughter...The German Fuhrer, as I have consistently maintained, is an evolutionist; he has consciously sought to make the practice of Germany conform to the theory of evolution... war is the necessary outcome of Darwin's theory."
Thomas Huxley, the man most responsible for the widespread acceptance of evolution, remarked, "No rational man cognizant of the facts, believes that the average negro is the equal, still less the superior, of the white man." In fact, after evolution was birthed in 1859, questions of whether blacks were even of the same species as whites changed to questions of whether or not Africans could survive competition against Europeans. The answer was a resounding "no." The African was the inferior because he represented the "missing link" between ape and man.
So before Hitchens claims, as he does in his subtitle, that "Religion Poisons Everything," he might stop to consider that the only basis for a belief that all human life is both equal and of infinite value is the Bible which he treads on with such glee.