Slowing down to a watch a Collision

The new documentary Collision is out, delighting pop-corn fed audiences all over and selling nicely at Amazon (#2 and #3 in the religion category for movies and TV) to boot. You can find links to Hitchens and Wilson sound-biting at various venues at These serve nicely to whet the appetite for the film. My personal favorite is on The Joy Behar Show when she schoolmarmingly scolds Wilson for affirming his parents consistently brought him up in the faith, spankings and all. “Oh, spanking isn’t Christian,” she says. Of course not, because, you know, Christian simply means nice, it’s not like it’s a religion that actually says something. Spanking isn’t nice, so it’s not Christian. Hitchens is so delightful because he actually takes Christianity like good scotch–straight. He has read the Bible, and although not theologically versed (as you can see in the documentary), he can read and has resisted the boorish trend of liberal religion to mantra “all religions say the same the exact same thing–be nice to your neighbor.” This is part of the reason why he despises liberal religionists of all sort who simply half affirm what their holy books actually say. Soon I’ll write up a fuller review of the film.

The debate began with a debate hosted online by Christianity Today and eventually published by Canon Press as the small book Is Christianity Good for the World. It’s a great read and digestible in one sitting. Wilson makes this point early on.

In your third objection, you say that if “Christianity is to claim credit for the work of outstanding Christians or for the labors of famous charities, then it must in all honesty accept responsibility for the opposite. In short, if we point to our saints, you are going to demand that we point also to our charlatans, persecutors, shysters, slave-traders, inquisitors, hucksters, televangelists, and so on. Now allow me the privilege of pointing out the structure of your argument here. If a professor takes credit for the student who mastered the material, aced his finals, and went on to a career that was a benefit to himself and the university he graduated from, the professor must (fairness dictates) be upbraided for the dope-smoking slacker he kicked out of class in the second week. they were both formally enrolled, is that not correct? They were both students, were they not?

What you are doing is saying that Christianity must be judged not only on the basis of those who believed the gospel in truth and live accordingly but also on the basis of those baptized Christians who cannot listen to the Sermon on the Mount without a horse laugh and a life to match. You are saying that those who excel in the course and those who flunk out of it are all the same. This seems to me a curious way of proceeding.

Hitchen’s argument is a staple among skeptics, and not a few Christians have no idea how to answer it. What about the Crusades? Don’t immoral Christians ruin the plausibility of the faith? If anything, they uphold the truth of the faith which denounces hypocrisy. A counterfeit evidences the authentic thing–something worth imitating. But in order to have a┬áhypocrite, you have to have a standard to violate, a fixed line to cross. This is the crux of the debate and Hitchens never gets his arms around it. He wants to denounce, denounce, denounce based on the “solidarity of the human race” which in fact isn’t solid at all and even if it was has no binding authority over anyone. “Sez who?” is the perennial question. Hitchens can’t answer that question so he constantly goes on to begging it, bringing up the next item from biblical history for condemnation. Hardened atheists love this film because he is eloquent in this procedure, but for those following the argument it is like listening to a man passionately denounce the architectural integrity and aesthetic allure of his friend’s house while his own house in burning down and sliding into the sea right behind him. Which is fun to watch.

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