Thursday, September 27, 2007

Open Letter to Christopher Hitchens

In the Washington Post, Hitchens wanted to hear a response to the following:

Name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever.
Below is my response to him:

I don't doubt that unbelievers can make moral statements that match in excellence any moral statement made by a believer. But what is the point?

Can believers make statements that are morally bad or do morally bad things? Yes. Can non-believers make statements and do things that are morally bad? Yes.

My morality is based on a religious foundation, but I would not argue that one can have excellent moral beliefs or live a life of virtue only on the basis of religion.

I judge moral beliefs and actions on their own merit not by what their philosophical or religious basis is.

All moral beliefs rest on some set of assumptions, but good morality does not necessarily require reference to God, but it may.

I am a religious person but seldom find myself included in your objections to religion. I don't believe much of what you condemn. I am a liberal Baptist Protestant theologian, just for the record. A survey of your latest book contained no reference to any modern Christian theologian I read in seminary or ever put on any of my reading lists for courses I taught for forty years, although I found a few references to Popes and to Protestant fundamentalists.

Do you condemn all religion or just bad religion? If the latter, I am on your side and have argued against bad religion for half a century. If the former, you and I have a difference.

Kenneth Cauthen

Making Hillary Acceptable

It appears more likely every day that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination. My candidate John Edwards looks hopeless at this point. Many say he lost the day it was announced that Elizabeth's cancer had returned. (Wouldn't any decent man drop out and take care of his wife, and what about that expensive haircut and enormous mansion he built -- never mind that his policies would benefit the middle class and the poor far more than anything offered by his rivals?) Obama has reached his peak, and the magic is gone, despite Oprah. The others apparently might as well quit now, although there is great talent among them.

I don't like Hillary for reasons earlier blogs have spelled out, but it looks like she is our candidate for 08. I will vote for her without enthusiasm and hope she is elected, since any of the Republican alternatives would be disastrous. Let Hillary, Bill, and all the smart people around her figure out how to win. Once she is elected we need to torment her unmercifully in an attempt to move her left on economic and other domestic issues like health care. Her wing of the party is too beholden to business and wealth. She needs to be moderate on social and cultural issues -- not my preference but a political necessity to get and keep power. Nearly everybody with much power is beholden to the Jewish lobby, so I see no hope for the kind of radical dealing with Israel that is necessary to get justice for the Palestinians. She will be better on foreign policy than Bush-- heck, Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun would be better -- but she was wrong on Iraq from the start and has changed only enough to get in tune with public opinion, never yet having apologized for her bad judgment..

John Edwards would be better for labor, the middle class, and the poor, but you have to get power before you can exercise it. He won't get the power of the President, unless I am badly mistaken.

We can only hope that the Republicans cannot capitalize sufficiently on the widespread hostility toward Hillary -- those persistent negatives -- to sink her hopes in the general election.

Maybe we can get strong enough Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress to push a liberal agenda on domestic issues. That is the best hope I see at the moment.

Please somebody cheer me up!