Two Big New God Debates
You may not be as big a fan of debates about the existence of God as I am (I’m writing a whole book about them), but maybe you care enough to appreciate that there was big news in that department this past week.
William Lane Craig, if you don’t know him, is the most fearsome and effective God-debater on the God-side. He’s in no uncertain terms a conservative Evangelical, to which he converted from atheism as a teenager. All through high school and college he was on the debate squad, so even before writing the most-discussed book in philosophy of religion of the past few decades (The Kalam Cosmological Argument), he was already a rhetorical force to contend with.
Last week I had the chance to spend some time with him (among many other leading lights) at the Evangelical Philosophical Society meeting in Atlanta, as well as at the EPS’s Apologetics Conference for 1,500 ordinary folks at Craig’s own Johnson Ferry Baptist Church—pastored by Bryant Wright, recently elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Craig and I were barely finished with our handshake when he began exclaiming that he’d just gotten back from Mexico City where he debated (sort of) Richard Dawkins, the great arch-New Atheist!
This is a super big deal for God-debate junkies. Ever since the Young Earth creationism days, Dawkins has refused to engage in these debates, on the logic that doing so lends unfair legitimacy to his idiotic opposition. But he did it this time! Apparently it was some kind of accident whereby he had to substitute at the last minute for someone else.
Beforehand, Dawkins and Craig encountered each other in the green room. Craig, as is characteristic, tells the story flamboyantly, imitating the British accent he must’ve mastered during his years doing doctoral work at the University of Birmingham. He says he said to Dawkins something like, “I look forward to an interesting discussion”—to which Dawkins curtly replied, “I very seriously doubt it.”
“The guy is so rude, I’m telling you!” I heard Doug Geivett banter a few minutes later. Geivett was also on Craig’s side in the D.F. debate and teaches with him at Biola’s Talbot School of Theology. Geivett and the group of philosophers gathered around him then went around guessing what in Dawkins’ psycho-biography made him so angry in the first place.
Second: Hitchens is bald.
I didn’t know this. Christopher Hitchens just debated William Dembski, one of the architects of Intelligent Design theory, which in itself is remarkable. (The Hitch has already debated Craig, who sorely defeated him.) But what really strikes me is just the fact of seeing Hitchens, who was not long ago diagnosed with quite serious cancer, already bald from the treatments. Wow. I’m not sure quite what else to say. There’s been lots of silly argument about whether one should pray for the ailing New Atheist, but I’ll not insult him any further by continuing it. Some kind of pause, however, seems called for. So I’ll pause.
I haven’t gotten to watch either of these yet. I will. I just had to share in the meantime.
Nathan Schneider is an editor of Killing the Buddha and writes about religion, reason, and violence for a variety of publications. He is also a founding editor of Waging Nonviolence. His first two books, published by University of California Press in 2013, are God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet and Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse. Visit his website at The Row Boat.