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The God Debate

Joseph Nawrocki | Friday, March 25, 2011

Next month, Notre Dame is hosting round two of “The God Debate.” Those who organized this forum are to be applauded, for I can think of no subject of more fundamental importance than the question of the existence of God. However, the choice of speakers both this year and last leaves me a bit perplexed.

Last year, “The God Debate” pitted Christopher Hitchens who, although by no means a philosopher, is certainly one of the finest contemporary stylists and one of the most interesting public intellectuals of his generation, against Dinesh D’Souza, for whom I cannot come up with a more suitable appellation than “conservative hack.” This year standards have fallen on both sides. Taking up the mantle of atheism now is Sam Harris, a second-rate polemicist and CEO of Project Reason. On the theist side, the impossible seems to have occurred: a less adept defender of theism than D’Souza has been found in Prof. William Lane Craig, a creationist at Biola University.

Based on the choice of interlocutors for these events, one can draw two conclusions:

First, it appears that those who organize the event are either unserious, naïve or both. When discussing such profound matters as the existence of God and the origin of goodness, one should find commensurately profound commentators. Save perhaps for Hitchens, this has not happened. Of course, doing so might require moving beyond the “New Atheists” and their popular critics, which would admittedly diminish the sex appeal of the event, but at least it would prevent the debate from devolving into cheap verbal barbs and cookie-cutter “proofs.”

Second, it would seem that those who organize the event do not take the theist position seriously. With all of the fine Christian scholars at Notre Dame, including some such as Brad Gregory who have written on the subject of the “New Atheism,” why bother flying in D’Souza and Craig? And if you insist on expending the resources necessary to fly someone in, why not choose a more reputable critic of the “New Atheism,” such as David Bentley Hart?

While time is certainly tight, I would urge those who are in charge of “The God Debate” to change the bill for the evening. If the debate must be between a popular “New Atheist” and a theist critic, then you should, in the name of academic integrity, replace Craig with someone like Brad Gregory or David Bentley Hart.

Joseph Nawrocki

graduate student

off-campus

Mar. 24