Author Topic: Classic debate: Does God Exist? William Lane Craig vs. Christopher Hitchens  (Read 983 times)

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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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This is a "classic" debate that took place in 2009. I have watched it in portions over time, though I haven't watched it to the complete end yet.

And I have to say that Christopher Hitchens did not perform well in this debate. William Lane Craig is clearly a more experienced debater. That is not to say that Craig had sound arguments, he did not. He also did a bit of Gish galloping.

From what I have read, Craig always uses the same five reasons for Christian theism. It felt like Hitchens had done no research on his debating opponent. He also did not really try to address Craig's arguments, but rather used his time to make speeches of his own, which are inspiring and valuable in their own right, but did not really fit well in the debate.

Hitchens appeared not to have thought through the definition of atheism for the purpose of the debate. I think that if you are going to debate someone successfully, you should have a clear definition of what you want to defend or propose in the debate. Craig stated that Hitchens tried to redefine atheism as to mean some sort of a-theism. Hitchens replied that that is what the word means. But Craig was still able to lure Hitchens into claiming to defend strong atheism, i.e the affirmative proposition that no god exists.

Craig's arguments were pretty weak, and a debater that has read up on them (should be easy if he uses the same ones every time) should be able to refute them. For example, Craig claimed that objective moral values proves that God exists. It is pretty simple to shoot down that objective moral values exist, and that even if they did, they prove that Craig's desert skygod is real. The claim of the empty tomb and resurrection as evidence for Christianity should also be easy to shoot down, as these are legends, not verified historical facts like for example Ceasar's conquest of Gaul, or the Second Punic War, to take other examples from the ancient world. Craig also invokes the god of the gaps implicitly much of the time.

To his credit, Hitchens did point to some absurdities of Craig, like for example how he claimed in one of his books is that he knows that Christianity is true because of the Holy Spirit.

I would really love to see Steve debate Craig. A taste of what that would be like can be found here.
"I’m a member of no party. I have no ideology. I’m a rationalist. I do what I can in the international struggle between science and reason and the barbarism, superstition and stupidity that’s all around us." - Christopher Hitchens

Offline daniel1948

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Debating the existing of God is idiotic. The Abrahamic God is characterized as unknowable. That means nobody can know whether it exists or not. It is a pure fantasy, devoid of any evidence, built on stories claimed in copies of copies of copies of some old books to have been told by even earlier people from whom we have no direct writings, and whose existence is asserted nowhere else but in the books that claim they told stories about God.

Arguments for the truth and authenticity of the Bible are as idiotic as, “It mentions the names of places that actually exist, therefore everything it says must be true.” And arguments for becoming a Christian are as idiotic as Pascal’s Wager. I have had nothing but contempt for C.S. Lewis, and therefore have been unable to read his possibly enjoyable fantasy stories, since I read an essay of his in which, with a straight face, he uses Pascal’s Wager as a serious argument for why you should be a Christian. Anybody who could use that argument without dying of embarrassment over the stupidity of it must be a complete fucking moron.

At least the Catholics (or maybe just the Jesuits?) say that there is no evidence of God’s existence because God doesn’t want you to know that it exists, it wants you to accept its existence on pure faith, which is by definition belief without evidence. If there was evidence or a rational argument, then belief would not be faith.

My friend the nun who visited me recently, and who on other matters is an intelligent and capable person, says that she knows that God exists because of intuition, rather than evidence. She believes intuition to be the only ultimate source of knowledge. She acknowledges science in other areas, but for “ultimate” knowledge turns to “intuition.” Which cuts off any common ground for discussion of the topic. (We talked instead about areas where we agree, such as social justice and the beauty of nature.)

The final reason why it’s idiotic to debate the existence of God is that debates are not won by the side that has the truth. They are won by the more skilled debater. Debating may be a useful skill, but it does not establish anything about the real world.
Daniel
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Offline Mr. Beagle

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Much of this is predicated on the idea that all Christians believe in one idea of God.  They don't. There is a long continuum, with a male Alabama Baptist and a female Massachusetts Episcopalian likely having little language or conception of God in common.

I think you need a third party advocating Spinoza's God, which was also the "God" that Einstein said he meant when he used the word (which he did often). I suspect neither Craig nor Hitchens would see that conception as "God," so at least they would agree on something.

A late friend best described Spinoza's God well by commenting, "If God is real, then the more you learn about reality, the more you learn about God."

In my associations with Christians of several stripes (and I still have a lot) I assume that when they use "God language" they are simply expressing what they most hope for, most wish for, and most fear. That tells me a lot about them, and I don't need to debate anymore. Instead we can talk about hopes and fears.
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Offline daniel1948

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And most of those Christians are absolutely certain, without the slightest doubt, that their own conception of God is the only possible description. Even my friend, the anti-nuclear nun, “knows” with “absolute certainty” that all other conceptions of God are wrong, and hers is the true one. FWIW, she believes that God is LOVE, absolute, infinite LOVE, beyond anything a human could ever know or experience, and nothing else but LOVE. As such she does not believe in hell, but I don’t know if she has any explanation for suffering in the world, other than that it’s not God’s doing.

BTW, I do not understand how an emotion (love) can be a creator being. But then, I understand little if anything about my friend’s theology.
Daniel
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Offline daniel1948

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P.S. I have another Christian friend in the peace movement who professes no knowledge whatsoever about the character or the nature of God. He claims no knowledge even about whether there is an after-life. Ask him any skeptical question you like about God or theology and his answer will be “I don’t know.” He tries to follow the teachings of Jesus, who he regards as special in some unspecified way, but he will not claim any certainty about Jesus’s nature or even whether Jesus rose from the dead, a central tenet of most Christianities. He will not even claim to be certain that Jesus actually existed, though he thinks he probably did.

There is so much diversity among Christians that the only thing they all have in common is their use of the word “Christian” and their regard of Jesus as a central character.
Daniel
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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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The Abrahamic God is characterized as unknowable. That means nobody can know whether it exists or not.

Not really. According to the Bible, God has intervened in the worl many times.

Arguments for the truth and authenticity of the Bible are as idiotic as, “It mentions the names of places that actually exist, therefore everything it says must be true.”

The many anachronisms in the Bible, Old Testament at least, strongly suggest a later date of compilation that that given by tradition.

At least the Catholics (or maybe just the Jesuits?) say that there is no evidence of God’s existence because God doesn’t want you to know that it exists, it wants you to accept its existence on pure faith, which is by definition belief without evidence. If there was evidence or a rational argument, then belief would not be faith.

Don't the Catholics have the arguments of Thomas Aquinas that they consider evidence for God's existence?

The final reason why it’s idiotic to debate the existence of God is that debates are not won by the side that has the truth. They are won by the more skilled debater. Debating may be a useful skill, but it does not establish anything about the real world.

This is absolutely true, and Craig is clearly better at debating that what Hitchens was. However, debates can still have value.

I recall that Richard Dawkins refuses to debate Craig. Dawkins stated that he will happily debate bishops, Christian scientists, etc (which he has done), but he won't debate people whose claim to fame is that they are good at debating. I can't blame him.
"I’m a member of no party. I have no ideology. I’m a rationalist. I do what I can in the international struggle between science and reason and the barbarism, superstition and stupidity that’s all around us." - Christopher Hitchens

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You need somebody like Daniel Dennett to debate somebody like Craig.
You also need formal rules that cannot be broken before the debate.

"Give me the storm and tempest of thought and action, rather than the dead calm of ignorance and faith. Banish me from Eden when you will; but first let me eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge."
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Offline haudace

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And most of those Christians are absolutely certain, without the slightest doubt, that their own conception of God is the only possible description. Even my friend, the anti-nuclear nun, “knows” with “absolute certainty” that all other conceptions of God are wrong, and hers is the true one. FWIW, she believes that God is LOVE, absolute, infinite LOVE, beyond anything a human could ever know or experience, and nothing else but LOVE. As such she does not believe in hell, but I don’t know if she has any explanation for suffering in the world, other than that it’s not God’s doing.

BTW, I do not understand how an emotion (love) can be a creator being. But then, I understand little if anything about my friend’s theology.


When someone argues that God is love, I quickly respond this Deity was a very loving God for creating a world where genocides, torture, being eaten alive are possible.

Offline daniel1948

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And most of those Christians are absolutely certain, without the slightest doubt, that their own conception of God is the only possible description. Even my friend, the anti-nuclear nun, “knows” with “absolute certainty” that all other conceptions of God are wrong, and hers is the true one. FWIW, she believes that God is LOVE, absolute, infinite LOVE, beyond anything a human could ever know or experience, and nothing else but LOVE. As such she does not believe in hell, but I don’t know if she has any explanation for suffering in the world, other than that it’s not God’s doing.

BTW, I do not understand how an emotion (love) can be a creator being. But then, I understand little if anything about my friend’s theology.


When someone argues that God is love, I quickly respond this Deity was a very loving God for creating a world where genocides, torture, being eaten alive are possible.

I believe my friend allows for the possibility that maybe God is not all-powerful. In other words God is all-love, and incompetent. Think about it: not every watchmaker makes a perfect watch every time. Every watchmaker wants to make the best watch th/s/he can, but the watch is only as good as the watchmaker’s capability.

Of course, it is far more consistent with observation to suppose that God, if there is a God, is a sadistic, petty, motherfucker who revels in the suffering of living things. Maybe God really does love us, but is such a psychotic, sociopathic, asshole that he shows his love by making his creations suffer. (The logical conclusion is that if you try to make the world a better place, you are working against God, and he’ll probably send you to hell when you die, and if you are a selfish bastard and you do your best to fuck over everyone around you, you are doing God’s work and you’ll probably go to heaven when you die.)
Daniel
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Offline arthwollipot

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The Abrahamic God is characterized as unknowable. That means nobody can know whether it exists or not.

That's not what "unknowable" means. Or rather, that's not what I was told it means. I was told that it means that God has no physical attributes. He isn't male, doesn't have a beard, doesn't live in the sky, etc, to take some obvious pop-culture attributes that God is commonly depicted as having. God's existence is assumed a priori, but he can't be "known" by any physicality. You can't reach out and literally touch him.

*shrug* Again, that's just what I was told when I was a churchgoer by those I considered at the time to be authorities on the subject.
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Offline bachfiend

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Re: Classic debate: Does God Exist? William Lane Craig vs. Christopher Hitchens
« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2019, 10:50:20 PM »
On Tuesday, February 12, I made the mistake of wishing everyone at the local dog park ‘a Happy Darwin Day,’ And then bit my tongue, wishing I hadn’t said it, knowing that one of my acquaintances is a Young Earth Creationist.  And she took umbrage, insisting that evolution was false, and that Darwin had renounced it on his deathbed.

I just terminated the argument, commenting that it doesn’t matter what she believes.  Evolution is true, regardless.

I take the same view with God.  It doesn’t matter whether you believe in Their existence, They don’t exist, regardless.
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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: Classic debate: Does God Exist? William Lane Craig vs. Christopher Hitchens
« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2019, 12:31:29 PM »
I hope Darwin Day was good for you all!

"I’m a member of no party. I have no ideology. I’m a rationalist. I do what I can in the international struggle between science and reason and the barbarism, superstition and stupidity that’s all around us." - Christopher Hitchens

 

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