The late Christopher Hitchens, a brilliant man and wordsmith par excellence, was nonetheless a militant atheist–but not at his logical best when engaging the subject, imbued with an acerbic tongue and flaming rhetoric, but at some points not with altogether cogent reasoning. He used to love to offer a challenge to theists, a challenge that I found singularly unimpressive. He “challenged” us with this question (I paraphrase, but I’m getting the clear gist): “name one moral act you (Christians) might do in the name of your God that I cannot do in the name of atheism.” To which the answer, of course, is two-fold: one, there is none (you “win”, Chris), and two, Christian faith makes no such claim in the first place–but of course, this point, such as it is, is of little significance, and this for a variety of reasons. One, it’s not about “moral acts” or “moral living”. Two, as I said, this is not a claim theists (of any understanding) would ever make. But three, there is a question that Hitchens couldn’t answer, and that is this: why should anyone act in a “moral” way in the first place? I won’t even get into the source of the very definition of morality…but back to my question, and I’ll put it another way: since we cannot speak of “morality” as a code defined from individual to individual–but rather as a more-or-less universal norm by which to gauge the actions, not only of oneself but others–by what authority can Mr. Hitchens compel any other person to act in accord with his personal definition of “morality”? Morality isn’t about “could”, but about “should”; whereas Hitchens wanted to talk about what he as an atheist could do, we must speak in terms of what all people should do.
And that conversation leads to the reasoning found in this excellent article:
As this article makes clear, those who would attempt to craft a morality on a basis other than some Lawgiver (Whom we Christians believe to be God) will ultimately founder on the rocks of “sez who?”