Posts Tagged The Great Faith Debate
Christopher Hitchens vs. Dinesh D’Souza. Mano y mano. Two men wielding nothing but intellect on the battlefield of reason. Unfortunately, one of them left their intellect at home, probably sitting on the dining room table where they forgot to pick it up before heading out the door. I do that with my wallet sometimes.
I really went into this expecting to hear a good debate. I hadn’t read or seen D’Souza before, but I’d heard the name and assumed that if someone of Hitchens’ stature was debating him, he must be a good christian apologist. They’d both have arguments and counter-arguments and it would be intellectually stimulating. I was hoping that it would make me think; make me consider things from a different view point. I didn’t think that D’Souza would have anything earthshattering that would totally turn me around 180 degrees, but I figured there would be points made that I would have to think about. Even if he were only good rhetorically it would be interesting.
What I wasn’t expecting was a complete lack of depth from D’Souza or so many examples of rather painfully wrong logic that my 6 year old could have countered. I honestly think that I could have done a better job for christian apologetics, and I’m an atheist. I’m not as well-versed in the formal logical fallacies or technical debate terms as I’d like to be, but there were copious examples of severely flawed logic; false analogies, arguments from ignorance, even some flat out factual inaccuracies. Several times I (and the people around me) couldn’t contain the expressions of stunned disbelief at something D’Souza said.
I was live Tweeting the event and was having some technical difficulties at the beginning, so I probably missed some of the details. Hitchens opened with 5 minutes on the question/topic What about God? The one thing that struck me was his comment that, of all the supposed virtues, faith is the most worthless. It doesn’t get us anything, doesn’t further our understanding of anything, it’s basically useless and can be downright dangerous. D’Souza’s rebuttal was based on false premises from the start. He tried to assert that he was debating on the same level as Hitchens, that he would rely on reason rather than scripture. And in order to prove that they were at the same level, he starts in with some nonsense about how religion is just as valid as science because neither know everything. Then he launched into some lame thing about how the jews 2000 years ago had determined that the universe had been created, had a definite beginning, and since science has now validated that, somehow that proves the existence of god. Or something like that. I honestly had a hard time making out exactly how what he was saying logically connected.
Due to my extensive Twitter coverage, I sort of lost track of which topic they were on. Supposedly there was a structure; 5 minutes to speak, two minute rebuttal and a two minute counter rebuttal. I think. It seemed that they went back and forth a few more times than that. I do recall that the moderator (who was really just an MC rather than a moderator) was pretty flexible with letting them have counter-counter-counter rebuttals.
I think the second question/topic was What about Science? D’Souza started this one off by claiming that the universe was so complex, that the signs of intelligence were embedded all throughout it, therefore it had to be created by someone/something. He basically trotted out the standard Intelligent Design stuff. There were many misrepresentations about what science is and does. Basically just a garbled mess.
Apparently D’Souza is from some parallel universe because he started talking about how “New Atheism” had gotten started as a reaction to the 9/11 attacks. Somehow all this loud atheism stuff was in response to islam. He then proceeded to say that, even though those attacks were motivated by islam, there were no other examples of religious violence in the world. Where are the buddhist suicide bombers? he asked. There are no hindu extremists or christians out there killing people, he maintained. Furthermore, he went on to claim that there are no historical examples of such religious violence. At this point, there were a lot of vocal exclamations of disbelief amongst the audience. I, among others, called out, “The Crusades!” when he rhetorically asked what examples of christian violence were there. The damn fool was actually trying to make the claim that only the muslims engage in religious violence. This wasn’t the only slam on muslims during the night.
Hitchens responded that it’s a pretty sad reason to be glad about christianity, because, hey, it’s not al qaeda. He then pointed out concrete examples of buddhist suicide bombers: the kamikaze, in WWII. Not to mention all the other explicit examples of religions hatred and violence. He said that you could replace the word “fascist” with “Roman catholic church” in a history of eastern Europe with out changing any other words and it wouldn’t make a difference. Hitchens continues by saying that love was essentially meaningless when it is demanded of you by religion.
During his rebuttal to the rebuttal (I’d kinda lost track as to who’s turn it really was), D’Souza said that any suicide bombings, any war, they weren’t because of religion. No, the leaders and the people involved just happened to be religious. He actually said that religion had nothing to do with the Israelis and the Palestinians, it was just about land.
The level of stupid just kept rising with every sentence D’Souza spoke. As they got into the third topic, about science and religion, he drug out the old trope that because science has been wrong about things in the past, there’s no reason to assume that they’re right about anything they’re telling us now about the nature of the universe. Some more crap about Ptolemy and Newton and orbits and therefore god. I guess. I couldn’t follow his point. Intelligent design made a comeback, something about Shakespeare writing Hamlet, therefore god. Because the universe is just like a book, but bigger. Since someone made a book, god made the universe. QED, bitches! (Not quite)
There was some other stuff in there, none of it was sticking to the wall. The next section of the debate was for each of them to ask the other a question. Hitchens went first by asking D’Souza, since your god is so good and you’re so confident in your particular god, which would you rather I (Hitchens) be: an atheist or a muslim. After a couple of hems and haws, D’Souza came out with, “I feel much safer debating you as an atheist.” Anyone else pick up on the muslim bashing going on here?
Now it was D’Souza’s turn. He asked Hitchens, have you ever had any doubts in your atheism and, if so, what caused those doubts. Hitchens went off on a tangent about Pascal’s Wager and how pathetic it really is. It’s basically saying that your god is too stupid to know the difference between real and fake belief. Getting back to the question (sort of) Hitchens says that if, when he dies, he finds out he’s wrong and he’s standing there before god, and god wants to know why he didn’t believe, he’ll tell him, you didn’t give me enough information to form that belief. And that anyone can make an honest mistake and that he was damn proud of this particular one.
This is getting long, so I’ll try to sum up. D’Souza claimed that the crusades weren’t really done in the name of christianity, because the leaders weren’t true christians. Yes, he actually used the No True Scottsman fallacy. He then tried to equate Marxism with atheism by quoting that line from Marx about religion being the opiate of the masses. Hitchens responded beautifully with the actual full quote from that book, and the context totally doesn’t bear out the interpretation that D’Souza was trying to claim. I’ll have to dig up the actual quote because I don’t remember the details. But it was a fantastic smackdown.
Here comes the part where my brain asploded. They were each asked some questions submitted via the internets. D’Souza was asked why, if god could heal as so many christians claim, he has never healed an amputee. The amazingly insensitive and completely assholic response? Well, they’re alive, aren’t they? Isn’t it better for them to be alive than dead? Besides, it’s all really about the spiritual healing. If there is any physical healing happening, it is as a tool of the spiritual healing.
This spew of offensive shit is what finally did me in. I found myself sitting there with my mouth open, totally snarkless. The good news was that was the end of the debate.
All-in-all, I was extremely disappointed with D’Souza’s performance. Hitchens was brilliant, and wickedly funny, but he didn’t even have to try. D’Souza made it way too easy.
Whew! Big post. Sorry for my long-windedness. Check out my stream on Twitter for the play by play action: @CyberLizard. Now that I’ve gotten the overview out of the way while it was still fresh in my mind, I can concentrate on my post about the experience itself. I got to meet the Orlando Atheists & Freethinkers group for the first time (which was cool) and there were many conversations to be had. And I even drank a beer! Well, Strongbow Cider, actually, but close enough. I’ll fill y’all in tomorrow.
If you are planning on attending this along with members of Orlando Atheists & Freethinkers, here’s the final word on what’s going down. I hope I can find my way around UCF. It looks nothing like it did when I went there.
Parking will fill up QUICKLY. Please come early. Those joining us for the 5:00 dinner will have the least stressful experience of all attendees.
Parking is FREE in Garage F and Garage D; however, we will be competing with students for parking. Parking in all other garages/lots is charged – you can find the yellow kiosks that take cash or credit in every garage/lot.
There is NO reserved seating for our group; however, we are going to attempt to reserve some seats together on the second level. Please look for the RED balloons. The doors to the event open at 6:00PM; you will be able to enter at 6PM and find our section.
How to find us:
5:00 – Dinner at Knightro’s (near Garage F, across from Tailgater’s)
6:00 – enter the Arena & look for the RED balloon OR
6:15 – meetup in front of the Box Office (RED balloon)
7:00 – debate begins
9:00 – (after debate) Tailgater’s Smokehouse (Near Garage F, across from Knightro’s)
Posted by CyberLizard in Uncategorized on September 16, 2009
Apparently this thing is exceeding the producer’s expectations. And since there will now be a huge mob descending on UCF, they’ve decided to abandon tickets or any other forms of organization and decided to make it first-come-first-serve for the debate.
If you’re planning on coming as part of the Orlando Atheists & Freethinkers group, make sure you show up at the entrance to the UCF Arena by 6:15pm. There will be a table set up with a red balloon. We’ll have to go in as a group if we want to sit together.
If you can’t attend, check out the bottom of the notice below. There’s an email address for you to send your questions in. They’ll be selecting some of these for the debaters to respond to during the Q&A.
Here’s the update from TheGreatFaithDebate.com:
SEATING & TICKETS:
We are encouraged to see such a record turn out for this exciting event. Over the past few days we have watch the registration numbers soar over 6000 people. Our original seating/overflow process did not calculate for this capacity so we have adjusted for the crowd.
• ALL SEATING IS NOW FIRST COME FIRST SERVE – FLOOR LEVEL / LOWER BOWL / UPPER BOWL
• YOU DO NOT NEED TICKETS OR ANY FORM OF ID TO ATTEND THIS EVENT – WALK-INS ARE WELCOME.
• YOU MAY NOT RESERVE OR HOLD SEATS FOR FRIENDS/FAMILY/GUESTS. USHERS WILL MAKE SURE EVERY SEAT
IS FULL, EVEN IF YOU ARE WAITING ON SOMEONE. PLEASE WAIT FOR YOUR ENTIRE PARTY OUTSIDE THE DOORS AND SIT AS AN ENITRE GROUP TO AVOID ANY CONFUSION.
Please adhere strictly to the following:
• NO VIDEO CAMERAS ARE ALLOWED IN THE BUILDING – STILL PHOTOGRAPHY IS ALLOWED.
• THIS IS A CIVILIZED, COLLEGIATE ENVIRONMENT. PLEASE BE RESPECTFUL OF THE DEBATERS AND THEIR OPINIONS. ANY UNORDERLY CONDUCT MAY RESULT IN REMOVAL FROM THE VENUE.
• PARKING FOR THIS EVENT IS FREE IN THE DESIGNATED AREAS. FOLLOW THE DRIVING DIRECTIONS FOR PARKING AT THE UCF ARENA. DRIVING DIRECTIONS CAN BE FOUND AT WWW.THEGREATFAITHDEBATE.COM.
Q&A SESSION FOR THE DEBATE:
The debate format will involve a 30 minute question and answer time shared by both Dinesh D’Souza and Christopher Hitchens. If you have a question for either of them, submit your questions to the address below. A selection of these questions will be read live at the debate as time allows:
On Thursday, September 17th at 7:00 PM at the UCF Arena, an event is taking place that is being billed as The Great Faith Debate. Christopher Hitchens will be debating Dinesh D’Souza on the value of religion, the existence of God, and the effects of religion on society. Tickets (free!) are were available here. Unfortunately, general admission seems to be sold out. Do not despair, for the Orlando Atheists & Freethinkers reserved a block of tickets and they still have a good number left. Here are the details.
I will definitely be there. It should be interesting and (hopefully) entertaining to see one of the Four Horsemen of the Atheist Apocalypse speak in person. I’ll have a full report after the event. I’ll probably be twittering it as well, so be sure and follow @CyberLizard.
Here’s how the website TheGreatFaithDebate.com pumps up the participants:
Christopher Hitchens, an atheist and anti-theist, is well-known for his critique of religion, which he says is “immoral”, “mythical”, and “man-made”. He is well known for his work as a journalist and for his authorship of the controversial book “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything”.
Dinesh D’Souza is the author of several bestsellers, including “What’s So Great About Christianity” and “The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11”. He uses intellectual reasoning to promote conservative values and defends traditional religious culture from a social and historical standpoint.
Both speakers are well-versed in current cultural events, and are extremely adept at addressing the challenging issues that face today’s society. Hitchens is witty, humorous, and a little daring. D’Souza is animated, polite, and occasionally mischievous.
Come expecting some surprising twists in the conversation as the two tackle the topic of religion and atheism from scientific, historical, and social perspectives.
If you’re a local, or even semi-local, come check it out! And come say “hi” to me.