Dinesh D’Souza & Christopher Hitchens Debate

Debate topic: “Is Christianity the Problem?” Below is an excerpt:



The whole debate can be seen here, but you'll need to turn your volume up all the way.

22 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

This doesn't look good for Hitchens, but I'm mainly interesting in learning what I can from the debate itself.

William Hawthorne said...

Hitchens tries to imply that Einstein was a deist since he believed in Spinoza's god. But Spinoza was a pantheist. Embarrassing. (And either way, Einstein explicitly rejected atheism.)

Hitchens also didn't answer the questions directly and wasted a lot of time on trivialities. Looks like he's losing.

Caleb Wimble said...

I don't have time to finish watching the entire debate at the moment, but Hitchens is striking me as being in rather poor form. D'Souza's arguments are poorly constructed and rather weak on the whole, but Hitchens seems to be failing completely in terms of appropriate response. His attempted counter-arguments seem wholly irrelevant and he fails to address most of D'Souza's points directly, instead launching into completely unrelated (and rather poorly constructed) tangents.

This is a complete shame, as D'Souza strikes me overall as rather ignorant in regards to the subject matter (strange, given his experience with apologetics), and I would have liked to have seen Hitchens tear his nonsense apart for what it was.

Ah well, I suppose even the best of us have our off days.

WoundedEgo said...

Well, D'Souza is very much a credit to Christianity. He is knowledgable, well spoken, and, apparently, very sincere. I would shake his hand vigorously any day of the week.

Hitchens is, as always, both knowlegable and fun - ie: Kewl.
Again, his sincerity is unimpeachable, as is his knowledge and reasonableness.

This debate won't change any minds.

The FLAW of this debate is like that of every other... it takes a minimalist version of Chrisitianity (the mere existence of God, which is unprovable), and pits against the moral vacuum of atheism.

Amazingly, even on this wierd sand, atheism makes strong points. Ie: Shermer shows that rules don't change behavior. Hitchins shows that religion DOES inculcate evil - with alarming frequency.

But this is not where the argument should begin or end. It is a matter of FACTUALITY. It is on THIS POINT that the argument should begin and end.

Einstein was not a Christian. It is only because the argument is so loosely framed that any alleged deism is considered a part of the argument.

The question is - at least for me - not whether transcendent morals exist - not whether we have the best explanation for existence - not whether we can prove an afterlife - but whether or not the Bible is factually accurate and true.

D'Souza has appealed to teliological arguments - these are compelling. No one should deny their force.

But what do they say about Christianity? Or Mormonism? NOTHING. These are clearly factually fatuous. Stupid.

I enjoyed and respected both speakers. Neither won the day.

But I have studied Moses and I have found him falsifiable. He was WRONG about the cosmos. Anyone with a telescope can see that we don't have a rigid ceiling, and beyond the sky there is no realm of deities.

Bill Ross
http://bibleshockers.com

Joe E. Holman said...

No, not good at all! And this was so easy to answer. The argument wasn't new or even creative, and yet Hitchens, almost always an eloquent man, was visibly shaken and lacking confidence in his own words. Then he really did himself in by forfeiting the question.

I'm watching the whole thing now, but no, not a good day for Hitchens! I haven't seen such a lambasting from a theist since the Warren-Flu Debate.

(JH)

Joe E. Holman said...

On second thought, it's not bad at all! The YouTube clip I originally saw and commented on was the segment where Hitchens wasn't as well poised, but watch the whole video and it is seen that Hitchens goes quite a good job!

(JH)

Tim said...

I don't deal in apologetics that much but D'Souza's question on the anthropocentric argument did get me thinking a little bit. How would I answer that question since I am not a physicist nor versed in common arguments.

I will entertain that D'Souza's argument demonstrates that the existence of life in this universe is highly improbable - but that's all it demonstrates. In order for his argument to actually have weight he needs to show that the improbabilities that exist are there for a purpose - which is impossible for him to do.

If I were confronted by a theist with this type of question I guess I see myself shrugging my shoulders and saying "Yea, it's amazing that we're here. Now, show me that God has purposely done it that way in order to amaze me."

What do you think?

WoundedEgo said...

Hitchens always comes off well - even when he is way too drunk to drive. This is the time to enjoy him, before the alcohol renders him as insensible as Ozzy Osborne.

The problem is that in order to dislodge faith, he has to NAIL his opponent. D'Souza, on the top of his game, can't be nailed by equal volleys.

The whole argument is bogus.

"Has Christianity been good for the West?" I mean, really, how can that be decided?

Even if you show that Hitler was "aided and abetted" by Luther - the rabid anti-semite - what does it prove? How, in the mind of a Christian, is that damning to the whole of the Jesus cult? Not at all.

Suppose you show that the Bible condones slavery? The likes of D'Souza can merely admit that religion has had to develop and grow, and God emerges unharmed in his view...

The damning argument must have two components:

* a defence of biblical literalism - something increasingly hard to find in any opponent

* a falsifiable biblical claim. Ie: an assertion that can either be true or false.

All of this discussion of pros and cons, and "the testimony of history" is waaaay to nebulous.

Bill Ross
http://bibleshockers.blogspot.com

Tim said...

All of this discussion of pros and cons, and "the testimony of history" is waaaay to nebulous.

This is a good point. Years ago I read the work "Is it God's Word" by Joseph Wheless on the Secular Web. I started re-reading it this week. I never noticed it the first time but I was struck by what arguments the man was attacking - ideas that very few Christians would hold today. This tells me that theism has had to retreat to arguments such as "pros and cons" and "Has Christianity been good for the West?"

Shygetz said...

Bill, while it would be nice to pin down a Christian to Biblical literal inerrancy, it would also be nice to find a million dollars in my jacket pocket. You are equally unlikely to do either in a learned debate, and we both know why. The position is indefenisble from a scholarly standpoint. So, we must fight on the terms to which our opponents will agree, and one of the few plains upon which they will still pitch their tent is morality. So, we must fight them there.

I don't deal in apologetics that much but D'Souza's question on the anthropocentric argument did get me thinking a little bit. How would I answer that question since I am not a physicist nor versed in common arguments.

The standard deist argument (which has NOTHING to do with Christianity) is that, if the universe was not how it is, we could not exist. The standard non-theist response is mainly threefold:

1.) We have no idea how variable these different factors are. It may be impossible or unlikely for these variables to vary, much less vary independently. So the assumption that they can take any value, and therefore this particular configuration is unbelievably unlikely, is unfounded.

2.) The most important argument is the anthropic argument itself; were the universe not capable of sustaining life, no one would be here to talk about it. We can only measure it if it works, and we do not know how many trials there have been (i.e. how many universes, in parallel or serial, have occurred). Douglas Adams (the novelist) skewered this argument very efficiently.

". . . imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for. "

3.) Finally, while it may be true that life as we know it could not exist given different conditions, there is nothing saying life had to turn out the way it did. All evolution requires is a replicator with imperfect fidelity and lots of time and raw material; there is nothing saying is has to be organic, or cell-based, or even aqueous.

Mark Plus said...

Who cares what Einstein thought about a god? He had tremendous authority in physics in his time because he advanced our understanding in several key areas where physics had gotten stuck around the beginning of the 20th Century. But he didn't know any more about gods than the rest of us, because he had nothing to work with.

WoundedEgo said...

I don't care what he thought.

I just think his hair deserves an explanation. Or his mustache. But his views on god are not important.

The only reason they MIGHT be important is if someone tries to use him as a poster child of the Christian scientist. In that situation it is important to point out that he did NOT share a belief in a God who includes a son and his father!

Bill Ross
http://bibleshockers.blogspot.com

Stargazer said...

I finally had time to hear this, and was frankly appalled by some of the things that came out of D'Souza's mouth--most outrageous was the claim that 'compassion' was pretty much non-existent in religous belief until Christ, which pretty much ignores a good portion of what the post-exilic prophets were laying on Israel (a lot of the judgment against Israel was on the very basis of their lack of compassion for the widow, orphan, stranger); it also ignores what is foundational to Buddhist belief--the core issues of wisdom and compassion, which were taught well before the time of Christ. While application of these teachings over the centuries gets mixed reviews, the same can certainly be said of the teachings of Christ as espoused by his followers over the centuries. And as Hitchens states, with Christ came also the teachings with regard to hell, which certainly do not conform to anything that I would call teachings of compassion.

Shygetz said...

I finally had time to hear this, and was frankly appalled by some of the things that came out of D'Souza's mouth...

This is par for the course for D'Souza. I was originally going to take John to task for calling D'Souza an important apologist; however, once I got over the outrage that is D'Souza and reconsidered John's statement, I found that my outrage wasn't at him. He was merely stating that Christians are taking this book seriously, not that there is serious material in the book from a scholarly standpoint. I find this says something appalling about the state of modern American theology that this is considered an important work of apologetics.

D'Souza is a toad.

Layman said...

My favorite part was Hitchens standing their with his drink in his hand snorting dismissives into the microphone while D'Souza was talking about Mother Theresa's "love of Christ" for the suffering.

Great PR for the cause!

WoundedEgo said...

>>>Layman:My favorite part was Hitchens standing their with his drink in his hand snorting dismissives into the microphone while D'Souza was talking about Mother Theresa's "love of Christ" for the suffering. Great PR for the cause!

Hitchens wrote a book on Theresa. She has helped the Catholics raise untold millions for the Catholic Church. She did precious little alleviation of suffering. She was a *missionary* - and, it turns out, demon-possessed. That is, her diaries reveal that she complained constantly that she was unable to love God or even believe in his existence. She wanted out. But the Catholics knew she was worth millions so they continued to exploit her. To get her through, the performed an EXORCISM.

The Catholic church is as wicked and corrupt an institution as you are likely to find on this or any planet. They always have been and always will be.

Bill Ross
http;//bibleshockers.com

Layman said...

You believe she was demon possessed?

Joseph said...

Interesting aside: Christian apologists and debaters will "borrow" any religious, political, or popular figure in the past or present who is even nominally Christian when it is convenient to their cause.

Shygetz said...

My favorite part was Hitchens standing their with his drink in his hand snorting dismissives into the microphone while D'Souza was talking about Mother Theresa's "love of Christ" for the suffering.

Great PR for the cause!


If you ever thought Hitchens was seeking PR for any cause other than his own, you are mistaken. He is, in his own words, "not a joiner". As Bill pointed out, Hitchens wrote a very telling book and multiple essays regarding the work Mother Theresa did that have caused me to doubt her sincerity and motivations. A reasoned case can be made for the idea that she was a sadist rather than a philanthropist; she certainly preached that people should embrace suffering. She did not allow the use of pain relievers in her clinics.

"I was talking to our lepers and telling them that leprosy is a gift from God, that God can trust them so much that he gives them this terrible suffering...And that is why we need a pure heart to see the hand of God, to feel the hand of God, to recognize the gift of God in our suffering. He allows us to share in his suffering and to make up for the sins of the world."--Mother Theresa

I have not yet drawn a conclusion either way, but I have had serious doubt cast across my original idea that Mother Theresa was a great humanitarian.

WoundedEgo said...

>>>You believe she was demon possessed?

No, but the Catholic Church apparently wanted her to think that she was. It was unthinkable to let the cash cow out of the fence so they filled her mind with guilt and fear. They performed an excorcism to manipulate her to their financial advantage. Very few of the funds - undisclosed, but certainly prodigal - were used to any humanitarian purpose at all.

At this point in history, do you really think that the Catholic clergy has a truly benevolent agenda? They are altogether corrupt.

I remember singing at a youth group at a Catholic church. The priests were getting sauced on the communion wine right there. The kids didn't notice but I did. They really creeped me out.

Maybe some individual priests have some lofty ideals, but this would be entirely despite their wicked organization, not because of it. And they probably berate themselves in their journals for their inability to believe. Theresa certainly did.

Bill Ross
http://bibleshockers.com

WoundedEgo said...

It was D'Souza who performed the exorcism on Theresa!

http://archives.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/asiapcf/south/09/04/mother.theresa.exorcism/

Bill Ross
http://bibleshockers.blogspot.com

WoundedEgo said...

Ok, sorry... there is obviously more than one D'Souza in India - what are the odds of that?

http://www.cnn.com/video/world/2001/09/07/intv.india.arch.cnn.med.exclude.html

Bill Ross
http://bibleshockers.blogspot.com