Me and the Devil blues

Sanctimonious Christian moralist and Iraq war salesman Michael Gerson has questions about atheism:

But Christopher Hitchens is weaker on the personal and ethical challenge presented by atheism: Of course we can be good without God, but why the hell bother? If there are no moral lines except the ones we draw ourselves, why not draw and redraw them in places most favorable to our interests? Hitchens parries these concerns instead of answering them: Since all moral rules have exceptions and complications, he said, all moral choices are relative. Peter Hitchens responded, effectively, that any journey becomes difficult when a compass points differently at different times.

One of the neatest things about Philosophy is the way it forces one to think through remarks such as these.  Is it the case that that "good" has no meaning without God?  Whatever would that question mean anyway? 

It seems to me, after all, that's it's not obvious what it means to be good in the first place.  Is it to have the right kind of intentions–as in "when I dreamt up oratory justifying a human rights catastrophe I meant only the best."  That doesn't seem right.  What about this: "when I went along with those with insufficiently skeptical beliefs about the nature of the threat from Iraq and Al Qaeda, I was a sinner with an imperfect, flawed character"?  Well, that doesn't seem right either.  What about this: "no one really can know what the good is, like say invading Iraq, as we are not God, we're sinners and we can't know the future."  That has something going for it.  It just has one problem: it puts you on par with the atheist. 

2 thoughts on “Me and the Devil blues”

  1. It comes as no surprise to me that the only appeal someone like Gerson can come up with is to a purely authoritarian, as opposed to rational, basis. Undoubtedly it is too much to wish that he'd even read, much less understood, the Euthyphro.

  2. Good is pushing the fat dude off the train platform to save the potentially Nobel Prize-winning babies from the trolley.

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