Christopher Hitchens has been debating a Christian pastor named Douglas Wilson on the subject of whether Christianity has been a force for good in the world. These debates were recorded, and assembled into a film called Collision. I haven’t seen it, and I doubt that it will be showing in my small town theater, but I’ll be looking for it on DVD. This is obviously not a movie review, then…I just want to comment on one point Wilson throws out.
“It’s not a question of whether we have faith, it’s what we have faith in,” says Wilson. “Christopher has faith in the role of scientific inquiry, rational inquiry. He has faith in that process. Christopher is as much a man of faith as I am.”
I so detest that line of argument, that attempt at setting up a false equivalence, reducing all words to equal lies. If the only way you can support your beliefs is by claiming that all ideas, from Scientology and Young Earth Creationism to Ohm’s Law and the theory of evolution, are equally matters of faith, then your only line of defense is to endorse ignorance and the pretense that everything we know is stupid. It is contemptible.
But sure, let’s ask what they actually have faith in. Pin the bastards down, I say, and let’s hammer out the details of their faith — don’t let them retreat into woolly-headed platitudes like Karen Armstrong with vague claims that they revere transcendence, but find out what Christians really think.
Sam Harris has done so, with a poll that asks atheists and believers what they really believe. The results are amusing.
Over 65% of Christians believe angels really exist. Over 70% think the Bible is the most important book in the world. 75% think Jesus’ execution atoned for our sins. Over 50% think the book of Genesis is a true account of our origins. 75% believe Jesus was literally born of a virgin. Over 70% literally believe in a Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
In virtually every case, atheists are nearly unanimous in rejecting all of those ideas.
I have no idea whether Wilson even tried to support the actual beliefs of Christians in this movie, but it would be interesting and ridiculous to see him arguing for the truth of the existence of angels, placing it on an equal footing with belief in the Krebs Cycle. That’s basically what he’s claiming…it’s just that when you actually get them to explicitly state what it is they believe, they all sound like such clowns.