Thursday, September 9, 2010

Christopher Hitchens / David Berlinksi debate on atheism like pulling teeth

As I waited by the door to hear Christopher Hitchens and David Berlinski debate atheism last night in Birmingham, Alabama, the quickly increasing crowd for the general admission event made me think that a Who-like stampede for the best seats might actually result in some of us finding which side is correct.

Of course, that's only if the theists are correct.

Which brings up one of the questions submitted to the two men after the formal debate had ended.

"What are the weaknesses of Pascal's Wager," moderator Larry Taunton asked Hitchens, who then went off on several things he believe to be lacking in the philosopher's argument. When Berlinski was then asked the strengths of Pascal's Wager, the mathematician replied, "I don't know."

Perhaps that's because Berlinski isn't the typical apologist for Judeo-Christian influence: He's an agnostic, who says he began taking on atheism because it lacks moral imperatives and he got tired of hearing what he calls the leading atheists' idiotic arguments.

Hitchens, on the other hand, enjoyed displaying his disgust at such filthy ideas as having someone else take on your sins. He failed, however, to explain what he thinks is so vile about it.

He did explain the vileness of religious people who think they have God all figured out. Non-theists such as himself admit they know hardly a drop in the bucket about the universe, he said. It was nice of him to have we believers pigeonholed. Not a one of us has ever admitted to knowing only a minute fraction about God, after all.

On the whole, the evening was a bit disappointing. I expected both men to mount more vigorous arguments, but I came to the conclusion that Berlinski did the best he could not being a believer in any theism himself, therefore having not as much passion for his cause. But Hitchens is quite attached to his beliefs so should have made a better show; sadly, the straw men and emotional theatrics that ought to be beneath him are not.

I left the event thinking how the only two things on my calendar that day had been the debate and a visit with the dentist who told me I have decay that needs worked on. I should fire my scheduler.

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1 comment:

  1. I have watched this debate on YouTube. The two men complement each other. Hitchens has an excellent personality and stage presence, but he his arguments against God are wrong. Berlinski has great reasoning against atheism, but Berlinski has lousy stage presence. Berlinski is best at private interviews and sound bites. Berlinski's humor is too dry and jargon-filled for a general audience. Hitchens always wins on likable personality, but Berlinski wins on substance in pointing out the weaknesses of atheism.