The wrong impression
Angela Hiss | Friday, March 26, 2010
This is in response to Sy Doan’s March 25 letter “Christopher Hitchens is the next Obama.”
I’m an atheist and I don’t like this any better than you do. However, I can think of several reasons why the sponsors chose Hitchens and the administration has been oddly quiet about their choice.
The one that seems most likely to me is, they want to make atheism look ridiculous. To represent the side of non-belief, they chose a real-life straw man with views so radical that no Notre Dame student could possibly agree with him, so that Christianity would look reasonable and brilliant in comparison. That might just be me being a little cynical, so I’ll move on.
A more charitable explanation would be that the sponsors naively went with the most famous atheist they could scrounge up, without doing much research. But I know Notre Dame organizations aren’t that lazy.
Alternatively, they may have been trying to make the debate as entertaining as possible by choosing debaters with some fire to them. But if that’s the case, why didn’t they make it Christopher Hitchens vs. Billy Graham? Oh, yes, because this was meant to be a scholarly, serious affair.
The most worrisome possibility of all is, the sponsors legitimately believe that the views of this cantankerous buffoon are shared by the average atheist. If so, it is all the more important that a few moderate atheists be brought to campus to speak in the future.
I’d hate for anyone to get the wrong impression.