Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hitchens Makes His Case

After his book god [sic] Is Not Great was released atheist author Christopher Hitchens urged his literary agent to line him up with opportunities to debate Christian apologists. Perhaps Mr. Hitchens thought that by so-doing he would be facing local televangelists or members of the church's ladies auxillary, but that's not exactly what has happened. He has instead found himself crossing swords with some very bright people, most recently William Lane Craig.

Craig is an accomplished presenter and a premier philosopher and theologian. On April 4th Craig and Hitchens debated the question of whether God exists in front of over four thousand people at Biola University. Reading the live-blog of their exchange was like watching the Harlem Globe Trotters play the hapless Washington Generals. I almost felt sorry for Hitchens who on other matters, like the Iraq war and the Islamic threat, I think is an adept polemicist.

On March 21st Mr. Hitchens had joined several Christian apologists, including Dr. Craig, for a panel discussion at the Christian Book Expo in Texas. In his closing remarks Dr. Craig cautioned Mr. Hitchens that he would need to be better prepared for their up-coming April 4th debate than he was that evening. Apparently Mr. Hitchens declined the advice. The panel discussion, by the way, can be viewed here.

The story is similar whenever anti-theistic writers venture out into an arena where they must defend the claims they make in their books. They find that it's a lot easier to write an attack against theism when no one is defending it than to make a coherent case when an able advocate is present to offer a rebuttal. Their books often generate a great-deal of excitement in the skeptical community, but by the time people have had a chance to examine the arguments they often wonder what it is about them that readers found so compelling (Our critique of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion can be read on our Hall of Fame on the left of this page).

Hitchens wished to advance the claim in the debate last Saturday that God does not exist. Craig defended theism by arguing that there are no good arguments against the assertion that God exists and lots of reasons to think it true. In this debate, in my opinion, Craig's was much the better case, an opinion shared, by the way, even by many of Hitchens' supporters.

UPDATE: Common Sense Atheism to whom the last link directs you, has taken down their post on the debate.