Revisiting Hitchens’ Challenge and the Value of Hope

Revisiting Hitchens’ Challenge and the Value of Hope November 8, 2018

Atheist Christopher Hitchens had a moral challenge for Christians: identify a moral action taken or a moral sentiment uttered by a believer that couldn’t be taken or uttered by a nonbeliever—something that only a believer could do and an atheist couldn’t.

Part 1 is here. A second apologist, this time a Catholic, also has some pushback for the Hitchens Challenge. Toward the end, he makes some nutty claims about the value of Christian hope.

Hitchens assumed—like many secular thinkers—that the only good is the good of social or material progress. An atheist can ladle soup in a soup kitchen—same as a Christian—so Christianity must not bring anything to the table. . . .

It’s just not true that soup ladles are the sole measure of value. Catholicism, in particular, for all its good works and charity, has always rejected the idea that religion should aim for Utopia in this world or that it exists only to promote material wellbeing. “The Church is not an NGO,” as Pope Francis says frequently.

You got that right—the church is a terrible NGO! Americans give $100 billion annually to religion. The Roman Catholic Church’s annual intake worldwide must be far larger. It gives a lot of money to charity, but that’s only because it is huge. As a percentage of income, I’m going to guess that charity accounts for two percent of the total. That’s an educated guess, but it’s just a guess because churches’ books are (unaccountably) closed. With 98% overhead, they’d be the world’s most inefficient NGO.

This response sounds like, “Hitchens was right, but that’s okay because the church never claimed to produce progress.” I can accept that. (More on Christianity’s disinterest in social progress here.)

An aside on Mother/Saint Teresa

Perhaps this is why Hitchens hated Mother Theresa (sic) so much. (He wrote viciously about her.) He understood her mission better than many. He knew that her main goal was not social work, but mysticism. “We are misunderstood, we are misrepresented, we are misreported,” Mother Theresa said. “We are not nurses, we are not doctors, we are not teachers, we are not social workers. We are religious, we are religious, we are religious.”

That’s an embarrassing admission, that “her main goal was not social work, but mysticism,” but thank you for your honesty. Now show me the check box that donors to Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity had to mark to acknowledge that they understand that “We are not nurses, we are not doctors, we are not teachers, we are not social workers. We are religious.” Hundreds of millions of dollars went into this charity, and an enormous fraction—I’m guessing most of it—was because the donors assumed that they were funding healthcare.

Hitchens might have hated Mother Teresa, but that would’ve been because of the disconnect between her public image as a healer and the reality of her homes for the sick being little more than comfortable places to die. Her charity had vast donations, but much was reportedly diverted away from help for the sick.

The greatest thing faith brings is hope

Nope, Teresa wasn’t focused on improving life here on earth.

Mother Theresa knew (and struggled with the fact) that the greatest value of religious faith in this life is not material wellbeing, but the gift of transcendent hope. That’s something a believer can give that Hitchens can never give.

Just to be argumentative, I could see an atheist claiming transcendent hope. Imagine a story about aliens coming to free us from our mortal coils like the Heaven’s Gate cult. An extraterrestrial technology claim is as groundless a claim as a supernatural one (though less farfetched), but that could be a transcendent hope.

The key point isn’t that it’s transcendent hope but that it’s evidence-less hope, hope that can be in anything because it needn’t have evidence to support it.

But you’re right that atheists avoid giving groundless transcendent hope. Is that a problem? Science gives reality and grounded hope. Science is what’s working on a cure for disease or a way to improve food yields. Science is where improvement comes from, and that’s where atheists usually direct their hope.

Note the contrast. Christianity has put all its eggs in the “gift of transcendental hope” basket. It’s not like it’s simultaneously using its own methods to solve society’s problems. Christianity is static. A thousand years of Christianity’s “transcendent hope” in a desperate society gives you a thousand years of the same desperate society, while a thousand years of science can transform that society to one that is happy and healthy, one where groundless hope is much less needed.

Christianity can still flog its claims of a beautiful afterlife, but so what? Yes, it’s a remarkable, desirable claim, but so what when there’s no evidence for it? Science has nothing to offer except a continually improving reality (and mountains of evidence that it delivers).

Faith, hope, and love are precisely the formula for happiness even in the midst of material deprivation.

Not when that faith, hope, and love paper over the actual problems in society! A life that is drugged to block out a horrible reality is a wasted life. I have no criticism for someone who falls back on hope to get through a desperate life, but see how it directs our attention to feeling better and away from solving problems.

This was where Karl Marx was going with his observation that religion is the opium of the people. He was complimenting religion—it helps when society is in bad shape. But in the same way that opium only addresses the symptoms of a broken leg (you should still get medical treatment), religion only addresses the symptoms of bad society (you still need to fix that society).

The research of Gregory Paul is relevant here. He not only points out that religious belief correlates with worse social metrics, he also hypothesizes that poor social conditions cause more religion (more). In other words, when you see religion strongly held by part of society, those people have social problems that need fixing.

How to get a better society

But even if nonbelievers do good things, there is still no reason to conclude that unbelief is the best stance for advancing material and social wellbeing. [One source compellingly argued,] “Human development is best advanced by transcendent hope.”

We’re just going to hope our way to an improved society? Not going to do anything about it, just hope? That reminds me of William Lane Craig’s portrayal of life here on earth as “the cramped and narrow foyer leading to the great hall of God’s eternity.” What an empty view of the one life we can all agree that we actually have.

This is just me, but instead of making do, instead of wringing our hands in despair, perhaps we should get busy trying to improve the status quo by solving problems.

The fact is that atheists don’t ladle as much soup as Catholics. It was the Catholic Church that invented the modern institutions of benevolence.

You mean modern institutions of benevolence like Social Security, Medicare, medical insurance, and modern hospitals? The Catholic Church’s small contribution to charity is appreciated, but let’s not exaggerate it. U.S. churches together contribute a few billion dollars to the problem annually while the U.S. government devotes a few trillion dollars to the problem.

As for atheists vs. Catholics, even if Catholics did more per capita on assuaging pain (and I’m not sure that’s the case), atheists probably focus more on the fix-society side of the problem.

[The Catholic Church invented the modern institutions of benevolence] precisely because Catholics believe in the transcendent dignity of human beings.

This is what the Hitchens Challenge addresses. There is no benevolent act that Catholics do that couldn’t be performed by an atheist.

The Hitchens Challenge, part 2

Hitchens has more. Once you’ve seen that a nonbeliever can perform the same good moral actions that a believer can, think of the reverse: think of something terrible that only a believer would do or say. Now lots of examples come to mind.

  • Abraham being willing to sacrifice Isaac
  • The Canaanite genocide
  • “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” and witch burnings
  • “God hates fags” from Westboro Baptist Church
  • Flying a plane into a building or blowing yourself up to kill people you don’t like

Or any hateful or selfish conclusion justified by “because God (or the Bible) says” such as condemning homosexuality, blocking civil rights, limiting stem cell research, or dropping adoption services or hospital funding in protest of some law.

The article responds that, sure, religion can make people do evil things, but that’s “obviously true of secular ideology. All ideology is subject to abuse and manipulation.”

So we’re to believe that anything bad done in the name of Christianity is just an “abuse and manipulation” of Christianity and that Christianity, read correctly, doesn’t actually justify that? Who will be the judge to sift out the correct interpretations from the many incorrect ones?

But of course the Bible is a sock puppet that can be made to justify just about anything. Let’s not pretend that there’s one objectively correct interpretation when thousands of Christian denominations squabble over the correct path.

The Hitchens Challenge remains a helpful illustration that Christianity has no moral upside (atheists can be just as moral as Christians) but has a big downside (religious belief can justify in the believer’s mind moral evil that an atheist would never imagine).

With or without religion,
you would have good people doing good things
and evil people doing evil things.
But for good people to do evil things,
that takes religion.
— Steven Weinberg

.

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  • Verbose Stoic

    Or any hateful or selfish conclusion justified by “because God (or the
    Bible) says” such as condemning homosexuality, blocking civil rights,
    limiting stem cell research, or dropping adoption services or hospital
    funding in protest of some law.

    Here you’d have to be relying entirely on the justification, in that the theists who do these things are doing it because “God says so” which is something that an atheist won’t do, because obviously secular moral systems can justify pretty much any of the things you talk about if they are constructed such that they come to the same conclusions, and you cannot rely on all secular moral systems starting from the same key principles or assumptions. And so, if you do that, you have to allow the converse, which is the theist’s claim that the atheist can’t ever do a moral action because their justification will NEVER be “Because God says so”. At this point, we’d be back to a clash of moralities, and so Hitchens’ various challenges would be left behind.

    (Especially since, as noted, Type2 theists, if they advocate for those things, will do so as part of their underlying moral code and not appeal to “God says so” at all, so while addressing it to Type1 theists leaves you open to the counter-attack, addressing it to Type2 theists is irrelevant because to do so AT BEST reveals that you wouldn’t understand their actual position at all).

    • So I should’ve stuck with flying planes into buildings?

      • Verbose Stoic

        That doesn’t work either. Secular moral philosophies can easily justify terrorism given the right conditions.

        • I Came To Bring The Paine

          Which ones?

        • Verbose Stoic

          Any secular moral philosophy that lets you sacrifice yourself for a greater good could do it, especially if they DON’T also insist that you never sacrifice innocents. Utilitarian views have a known issue of allowing things like that, and few could imagine that Objectivism wouldn’t allow it.

          I think you, like Bob, are too caught up in thinking of the motivation or promised reward of the afterlife, and so don’t consider that there might be secular reasons for doing such things as well.

        • I Came To Bring The Paine

          Any secular moral philosophy that lets you sacrifice yourself for a
          greater good could do it, especially if they DON’T also insist that you
          never sacrifice innocents.

          Name them.

          Utilitarian views have a known issue of allowing things like that, and few could imagine that Objectivism wouldn’t allow it.

          Which utilitarian views?

          I think you, like Bob, are too caught up in thinking of the motivation
          or promised reward of the afterlife, and so don’t consider that there
          might be secular reasons for doing such things as well.

          Then you think wrong.

    • eric

      And so, if you do that, you have to allow the converse

      It’s not a question of anyone allowing Christians to use subjectivity arguments. It’s a question of whether you want to go down that road or not. Do you want to justify the changes in theological morality claims over time by claiming/agreeing that morality is culturally based and subjective? If yes, then that gives you the freedom to argue ‘the converse.’ But if you are going to stick by a claim of objective, unchanging, God-delivered morality, then no, you don’t get to appeal to the subjectiveness of morality to justify “pretty much any of the things you talk about.”

      Does that seem unfair? It’s not. Because you get to pick the axioms on which you base your argument. Objective, subjective; I don’t care which one you stake your claim on. But once you pick one, it’s going to close off some other defenses and arguments from your use. Claiming objective morality when atheists are claiming it’s subjective means you’re not going to be able to use all the same arguments they do (and vice versa).

      • Verbose Stoic

        But I’m not making an argument based on objective or subjective morality here. I’m only comparing directly theistic moralities with secular ones. The argument here is that theistic moralities can and have justified some actions on the basis of “God says so!” and that atheists won’t commit those same actions. But since secular moralities CAN justify those actions — and so moral atheists using that moral system would indeed act on them — you can’t say that no atheist, acting on their moral code would ever commit those actions. Thus, the argument then has to be tracked back to the specific reasoning: atheists would never do those things for the reason that they believed that God wants them to them. Fair enough. But then in the first part of the challenge theists who claim that the only moral reason to do anything is BECAUSE it’s justified by what God defines morality to be would be able to use the same answer: atheists can’t do any of those good actions because they wouldn’t have the proper underlying motivation.

        In short, the only way to say that atheists would never do those things is to say that they’d never do it on the basis of the words of a non-existent God (even if, again, secular moralities COULD justify it otherwise). But then those who think that what it means to be moral is that it is done on the basis of the words of God can take that line to show that atheists simply can’t be moral people, nullifying the move.

        As I said, this then reduces it to a discussion over which morality is right, which has nothing to do with the challenge at all and sidesteps it completely.

        • Sophotroph

          If you make the argument about “all ideologies that could ever, in theory, exist”, then you have a point. Secular ideologies could be constructed, as an academic exercise, to justify anything.

          I think we’re really discussing “all the ideologies that exist or have existed on Earth”, in which case we’re on much more solid ground to make the case.

          Furthermore, rather than the possibility or impossibility of justifying a heinous act, I think it’s important to look at motivation. It would require a good deal of mental gymnastics to conjure up a plausible-sounding secular justification for, say, throwing your child off a cliff. It would be fairly difficult.

          For a religion, it would be trivial, and only require two steps:

          1. God is supreme, give him what he wants.
          2. God wants Isaac at the bottom of this ravine waaaaay faster than you could go by walking.

          So, sure, if we muck up the argument with absolutes, it gets bogged down, but it’s functional enough to demonstrate that, in practice, you just plain make more atrocities possible with religion than without.

        • Verbose Stoic

          The issue is that we’re dealing with Hitchens’ challenge, and Hitchens challenge demands actions that theists and atheists CAN’T do. Secular moralities can indeed justify those actions . If you want to change the challenge to simply arguing that it is easier to justify those things with typical religion than with typical secular moralities, that’s a different argument … and is still one that’s debatable, since religions build in similar safeguards as secular moralities do by starting from basic principles that promote nice and co-operative behaviour.

          I also found this interesting. After saying that you wanted to keep things more realistic, you say this:

          For a religion, it would be trivial, and only require two steps:

          1. God is supreme, give him what he wants.
          2. God wants Isaac at the bottom of this ravine waaaaay faster than you could go by walking.

          The problem is that almost no real-world religions would ever accept 2. You might have had a point if you had argued that God demanded a sacrifice, but in the very comment where you called for being realistic and reflecting the more common views you end up claiming that a justification would be simple on a very uncommon and unrealistic view of religion.

          And let me finish with this:

          Furthermore, rather than the possibility or impossibility of justifying a heinous act, I think it’s important to look at motivation.

          Which is what I moved to, arguing that it has to be based on the differing motivation — if you’re trying to justify atheist not taking that action — between “God says so” and secular motivations. But then as I said the theists can point to the differing motivations in the first half of the challenge, which then reduces it to what morality is right. Even in the case you describe, if Type1 theists are correct and morality is entirely defined by what God says is moral and God really says that’s moral, then the Type1 theist isn’t doing anything morally wrong, and the atheist who would refuse to do that IS doing something morally wrong. So we end up back to the old debate of determining what is and isn’t moral. And atheists can’t even appeal to secular morality in general to claim it immoral because they’d end up appealing to a specific one, and Type2 theists will in general point out that the morality they are appealing to isn’t general enough to make that claim.

          So we need to settle what the right morality is before assessing whether theists or atheists can survive the challenge. But since we were already doing that before the challenge even existed, it’s hard to see what the challenge is adding to the debate.

        • eric

          then those who think that what it means to be moral is that it is done on the basis of the words of God can take that line to show that atheists simply can’t be moral people

          As long as the theist explicitly states that they don’t consider any act moral unless it’s done on the basis of the word of their God, I’m fine with them making that counterargument. As I said in the last thread, (referring to the counter-example to Hitchens’ claim: “I consider worshiping my god to be a moral act; thus, I have found a moral act atheists won’t ever do”), this is not a claim that’s likely to convince anyone. It’s internally consistent, yes, but since nobody other than them is likely to accept the assumptions about morality needed to make their argument work, it has no value to change minds. It’s only value is to assuage the egos of the people who start with those assumptions.

          As one of the other posters noted, at some point you have to engage in the realm of commonly accepted notions of ‘moral act.’ If you merely use your own idiosyncratic definition and defend it, you’re not really going to convince anyone else of your position.

          After all, I could just as easily define “morally good act” as “what eric approves of.” Then I could say I don’t approve of anything Vebose Stoic does, and therefore, it logically follows that Verbose stoic cannot do a morally good act. Is that logic valid? Technically, yes. Will it convince anyone that you, VS, can’t do a moral act? Not a chance in hell. For exactly the same reason, a theist starting with “i define ‘moral act’ as exclusively acts done on the basis of the words of my God” is making a logically valid argument…which has no chance in hell of convincing anyone other than their own group that they’ve found a credible counter to Hitchens’ claims.

          Look, we can all think up internally consistent and valid arguments that go nowhere and do nothing. That’s not a challenge. The challenge is to address Hitchens’ claims starting with assumptions that a very broad audience that includes Christians, Jews, Moslems, Hindus, atheists, animists, etc. are willing to entertain as reasonable starting points. They might not fully agree with them, but they’re at least not going to dismiss them out of hand. The assumption “moral value begins with following Yahweh’s commands” is not such an assumption.

        • Verbose Stoic

          As I said in the last thread, (referring to the counter-example to Hitchens’ claim: “I consider worshiping my god to be a moral act; thus, I have found a moral act atheists won’t ever do”), this is not a claim that’s likely to convince anyone. It’s internally consistent, yes, but since nobody other than them is likely to accept the assumptions about morality needed to make their argument work, it has no value to change minds.

          In your rush to exonerate atheists from having to demonstrate anything — despite the fact that the challenge is clearly meant to actually demonstrate something — you missed the actual argument I was making, which is that since the atheists would be relying on that distinction to exempt them from having to accept that they could do the moral atrocities that they claim theism can get theists to do they then can’t dismiss the argument when it is used to demonstrate that they can’t act morally in the first part of the challenge. Thus, the atheist says that they can’t do those actions because they can’t do it for the reasoning that God says to do it, the Type1 theist then retorts that they can’t do the good moral actions either because they can’t do it for that very reasoning, and then as I pointed out the argument cycles back to whether atheists can have a proper morality that doesn’t come from God, and so the challenge gets us nowhere.

          As one of the other posters noted, at some point you have to engage in the realm of commonly accepted notions of ‘moral act.’ If you merely use your own idiosyncratic definition and defend it, you’re not really going to convince anyone else of your position.

          Since theists outnumber atheists, and even Type2 theists — who hold that morality isn’t merely defined by God’s commands — will NOT accept a position that rules out “An action is moral if God says it is” a priori, you’d be working on a rather odd notion of “commonly accepted” here. In fact, it looks like trying to win by defining your opponent’s position out of the debate, which is something that no one paying attention will actually allow.

          After all, I could just as easily define “morally good act” as “what eric approves of.” Then I could say I don’t approve of anything Vebose Stoic does, and therefore, it logically follows that Verbose stoic cannot do a morally good act. Is that logic valid?

          Not in terms of the challenge, it isn’t, because I’d have to accept that definition as well, and I clearly won’t. But by the same token, you won’t accept a definition of morality that makes your moral justifications irrelevant to the debate either. This only proves the poverty of the challenge, because it requires the two sides to agree on a definition of morality to work with to settle what actions are or aren’t moral. Even the proposed third party doesn’t work because, again, both sides would have to agree to be judged by that standard, and with any kind of objective morality they won’t do that unless it is, in fact, their own morality … or, at least, not unless it agrees with them on all relevant points.

          To highlight this, my Stoic morality says that if someone puts a gun to an innocent person’s head and demands that I steal $10 or else they’ll kill them that I must tell them to go ahead and kill the innocent person. Many secular moralities will consider this an immoral action. Do you think, if the same challenge was leveled against my Stoicism, that I should accept the judgement of their moral system, one that I think incorrect, and thus accept that they have found an immoral action that they won’t do, when I think that my action IS the moral one and theirs is the immoral one? That makes no sense; no one ought to accept such an argument. So, again, it cycles back to proving which morality is actually correct.

          The challenge is to address Hitchens’ claims starting with assumptions that a very broad audience that includes Christians, Jews, Moslems, Hindus, atheists, animists, etc. are willing to entertain as reasonable starting points. They might not fully agree with them, but they’re at least not going to dismiss them out of hand.

          The problem is that theists will not consider the actions cited as being immoral because they’ll say that God commanded them and so it was moral, even if their reasoning is just that God must have had a good reason for doing so. And unless they are willing to accept that those actions are immoral, they will not accept that the atheist has answered the challenge. And if they were willing to accept that those actions are immoral, then they’d have a much more serious problem to address than whether or not atheists could be moral, because they’d have to conclude that GOD ACTED IMMORALLY. Thus, again, the challenge is rendered moot.

        • eric

          you missed the actual argument I was making, which is that since the atheists would be relying on that distinction to exempt them from having to accept that they could do the moral atrocities that they claim theism can get theists to do they then can’t dismiss the argument when it is used to demonstrate that they can’t act morally in the first part of the challenge.

          You call yourself a philosopher and this is the clearest argument you can muster? Its gobbledigook.

          I don’t think atheists ‘rely on the distinction’ the way you claim. If a theist claims charity is moral because God decrees it is, I doubt you’ll find many atheists disagreeing about the moral value of the act. Obviously they’ll have different arguments for arriving at “charity is a moral good,” but the status of the act itself is something both groups can usually agree on.

          Not in terms of the challenge, it isn’t, because I’d have to accept that definition as well, and I clearly won’t. But by the same token, you won’t accept a definition of morality that makes your moral justifications irrelevant to the debate either.

          Yes, you got it! To answer Hitchens’ challenge to the satisfaction of people like Hitchens, you’re going to have to work with set of ‘moral acts’ that people like Hitchens actually think are moral acts.

          Now if you’re complaining that theists don’t get to do the same thing, of course they do. The field is wide open for more challenges, based on whatever rules you want to create. If Ken Ham wants to create a Ham Challenge like “identify one – just one! – act for the Glory of God that atheists can do”, he’s welcome to create such a challenge. I’d guess such a challenge won’t get much interest, even from theologians or philosophers, though. Hitchens challenge is interesting, at least to more people than my hypothetical Ham Challenge. But it’s certainly not ‘unfair’ by setting it’s own rules. If you don’t like the way it’s phrased, or think focusing only on the minimist set of ‘moral acts’ that disparate communities agree on, then just don’t bother answering it.

          unless they are willing to accept that those actions are immoral, they will not accept that the atheist has answered the challenge.

          The challenge is: “name a moral act that an atheist can’t do.” Are you saying the theist position is: because the atheist lacks the proper motivation for doing the act, it is prima facie not a moral act? That unless one is a Christian motivated specifically by a desire to follow God’s will, moral acts are not possible? Yes a theist can answer the challenge that way, I suppose. But again, other than stroking the theist’s own ego, I don’t think such a response is going to do much. Nobody’s mind is going to be changed by meeting the challenge with such an answer. As I’ve said before, such answers are philosophically valid but not going to be considered sound outside of the theists’ own belief circle.

        • Rudy R

          …this then reduces it to a discussion over which morality is right

          It’s reduced to theists believing morals are a decree from a supernatural being while atheists believe morals are derived naturally through a social contract. It’s not which morality is right, because there is a shared morality between theists and atheists, like murder and stealing.

        • Verbose Stoic

          That the same actions are considered immoral in both does not mean that there is a “shared morality”. The discussion over which morality is right is about which justification is right, whether the decree from the supernatural being or them being derived naturally.

          Note: Not all secular moralities and so not all atheistic moralities are Social Contract theories.

        • Rudy R

          What morals are not shared? Incidentally, there isn’t such a thing as atheistic morality. Most atheists adhere to secular humanism. There is a distinction.

  • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

    They mostly do not flog claims of a beautiful afterlife. Mostly they go with the stick and warn of the horrible afterlife in store if you don’t believe in the Lord of Hell (God)

    • Well, that’s certainly true of the typical Christian flogger of Pascal’s Wager that we get around here.

      • TheBookOfDavid

        Which, of course, poisons their aspiration of transcendent hope. Even if true, it is the hope of escaping the unending wrath of a cosmic bully. And the best possible outcome is permanent servitude to said bully, under full awareness of the unbearable suffering he is inflicting upon the majority of humankind for mostly trivial offenses.

  • TheBookOfDavid

    think of something terrible that only a believer would do or say

    As long as Mr Anders broke the ice on the Missionary Position Hitchslap, you can add to your list of examples the hoarding donation cash intended to treat the sick, and refusing to distribute it as benefits. Under secular systems of law, this would be called fraud, and secular humanists would justifiably condemn such acts for their brutal indifference and hypocrisy, especially within their own ranks. Treasures on earth for me, and “transcendent hope” for thee.

  • Grimlock

    This discussion reminded me of a quote from one of my favorite authors:

    There is something profoundly cynical, my friends, in the notion of paradise after death. The lure is evasion. The promise is excusative. One need not accept responsibility for the world as it is, and by extension, one need do nothing about it. To strive for change, for true goodness in this mortal world, one must acknowledge and accept, within one’s own soul, that this mortal reality has purpose in itself, that its greatest value is not for us, but for our children and their children. To view life as but a quick passage alone a foul, tortured path – made foul and tortured by our own indifference – is to excuse all manner of misery and depravity, and to exact cruel punishment upon the innocent lives to come.

    I defy this notion of paradise beyond the gates of bone. If the soul truly survives the passage, then it behooves us – each of us, my friends – to nurture a faith in similitude: what awaits us is a reflection of what we leave behind, and in the squandering of our mortal existence, we surrender the opportunity to learn the ways of goodness, the practice of sympathy, empathy, compassion and healing – all passed by in our rush to arrive at a place of glory and beauty, a place we did not earn, and most certainly do not deserve.

    • Michael Neville

      For those who might be wondering, and even for those who aren’t, Grimlock’s quote is from Steven Erikson’s The Bonehunters, one of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series.

      • Grimlock

        Indeed. Have you read it? I would recommend it to everyone, with the reservation that the first one is a bit different in style from the rest of the series.

        • Michael Neville

          I’ve read all the books in the series.

  • Pofarmer

    Here’s something I think we’ve all experienced.

    Dealing with the passive-aggresive arguer.

    https://medium.com/the-mission/5-tactics-used-by-passive-aggressive-arguers-and-the-best-forms-of-defense-42a9348b60ed

  • C_Alan_Nault

    Maybe I missed it. I know the Catholic church was mentioned a few times in the article, as was Christianity. I know the Catholic church exists, as do Christians, but can someone point out the article’s evidence for the existence of a god?

    • I didn’t see that as the issue. My take was that it was an attack on Christians who claim that their religion gives them some moral advantage over the rest of us.

      • C_Alan_Nault

        The issue is unless the religious ( Catholics, other sects of Christianity, and all other religions) can prove their claimed deity exists, anything they say or do that is based on their religious beliefs can be dismissed.

        • As Hitchens noted, what is declared without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.