On Monday, October 22 I’ll be debating Christopher Hitchens on “Is Religion the Problem?” The debate is at 7 pm at the Ethical Culture Society auditorium in New York city. It’s open to the public. (Details can be found at tkc.edu.) Marvin Olasky, editor of World magazine, is the moderator. If you come you can pick up a signed copy of my new book What’s So Great About Christianity or bring your copy to get it autographed. It’s going to be a lively debate.
I know Hitchens and have always liked him. We have debated twice in the past, once on socialism a very long time ago, when Hitchens used to be a socialist. Fortunately Hitchens has seen the error of his ways, although it would have been nice for the epiphany to have come to him during our debate.
Our second debate, a few years ago, was on political correctness. I found it amusing to see Hitchens defend political correctness, because he is not politically correct. Today that’s obvious, as Hitchens is an outspoken defender of Bush’s war in Iraq. But it was becoming clear even then, as Hitchens was challenging his colleagues on the far left on issues like abortion. In any case, this debate was not so much a gladiatorial contest as a lively discussion on a range of issues from affirmative action to multiculturalism to campus speech codes.
I’m surprised at the vehemence and nastiness of Hitchens’ atheism. I didn’t know he harbored these deep resentments. Yes, I know that atheists present their ideas as the pure result of reason and evolution and so on, but I cannot believe that Hitchens regards the idea that we are descended from the apes with anything other than bemused irony. I suspect that Hitchens likes Darwin mainly because Darwin gives him a cudgel with which to beat Christians.
As he admitted in a recent interview, Hitchens calls himself an “anti-theist” rather than an “atheist.” Most atheists say that based on the evidence, they believe God does not exist. Hitchens’ position is somewhat different: he doesn’t want God to exist. He hates the idea of God’s existence because he thinks of God as a tyrant who supervises his moral life. Even the tyranny of Stalin or Kim Jong Il, Hitchens says, ends when you die. But this God, he wants obedience and praise and worship even in the afterlife! To Hitchens that’s a form of unceasing subservience and slavery.