I briefly alluded to this in a previous post. I’m going to very quickly present Christopher Hitchens’ challenge on morality and try to explain why I think it’s a bad argument. Here he is presenting it at a debate with (I believe) Alistair McGrath.
So if you can’t watch that for whatever reason, the challenge basically goes that noone can show an example of a moral action or statement that is made because of religious belief, that would not also be made by an atheist. On the other hand, everyone can think of an evil thing carried out explicitly because of religious belief.
Now I’ll admit that I haven’t read any of Hitchens’ books (except for The Portable Atheist, but he was more an editor in that one). I presume he makes this argument in God is Not Great, and perhaps there he explains this further, but this is my objection to the way I’ve seen the argument presented.
The first thing that a religious person would probably use as an example is prayer, or praising God, or confession or something like that. This would be rejected because it has to be something that is demonstrably a moral thing to do, and things like that aren’t demonstrably moral. But if he’s asking for something that can be shown to be moral, then an atheist would also do such an act purely because it is demonstrably moral. So he’s excluding the very kind of thing that would refute his argument right from the offset.
Now I agree that those kinds of things aren’t moral, but if a god were shown to exist then you could argue that they would be. So we can’t really answer his challenge until we can show that a god either does or definitely does not exist. On that basis I think this is a poor argument, one that Hitchens makes frequently, and one that I wouldn’t expect from such a great thinker as him. It’s not really a good argument one way or the other.
Edited to include: What I suppose it does show is that morality does not come purely from a religious belief. But then that’s not an argument I’ve ever seen a Christian make.