An interview with Peter Hitchens

Peter Hitchens was recently interviewed by Laura Perrin. I was struck by this exchange:

LP: You believe that when it comes to “millions of small and tedious good deeds that are required for a society to function with charity, honesty and kindness a shortage of believing Christians will lead to society’s decay.”

PH:Well, I think this is almost platitudinous. Almost every day, someone dumps litter in my bicycle basket, an act either of great stupidity (how can you mistake a bike basket for a litter bin) or of inconsiderate laziness or of supposedly humorous contempt. Mostly (not, alas, absolutely always, as I sometimes lose my temper), I carefully carry this litter some distance to an actual litter bin. The only reason, absolutely the only reason, for my doing this is my belief in a just God. 

The surrounding streets are usually covered in dropped litter and blobs of gum, and if I were to hurl it to the ground it wouldn’t make any practical difference. It’s only God that makes me do it.  The chance of my being prosecuted for throwing it on the ground are incalculably tiny. Of course some moron will try to suggest that this is the only effect this belief has on me, but in fact I mention it precisely because of its triviality. It is one of those millions of good deeds. If everyone stopped doing them, you’d soon notice.

LP: The evidence of societal decay is all around us especially in the criminal and family courts. I also think that to prevent the most obvious cases of decay and indeed injustice the State will have to step in where once the little platoons governed. This reduces our liberty and is oppressive.

How far do you think the decay will go, and/or how big will the State get?

PH:There is no limit that I can see, not least because (for reasons discussed above) the State cannot in fact substitute for morality. The more it tries to do so, the more it will fail. And the more it will try to do so.

Hat tip: Doug Wilson

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