Tony Snow recently reviewed Dinesh D’Souza’s compelling new book (What’s so Great About Christianity?) for the magazine Christianity Today. At the end of his review he thanked Dinesh for exposing atheism “more as a bundle of sentiments than a coherent doctrine.” My recent failed efforts to encourage campus debate with atheists have led me to believe that Snow might be on to something.
This semester, I learned that one of my colleagues is teaching our Sociology of Religion course with two supplemental texts, neither of which could be characterized as sociological in nature. One is The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins. The other is God is Not Great, by Christopher Hitchens. (The latter is an especially odd choice because it merely documents all the bad things members of each religion have done. The professor, who also teaches a course in Race and Ethnicity, would certainly never choose a course that merely documented all the bad things done by every race other than his own).
Because I was concerned about the lack of balance in the offerings, I spoke to my colleague about the class. Despite our religious differences, he is a good friend who has often been very honest about issues related to academic freedom. Indeed he often concedes that ideologues in our department exert a substantial chilling effect on free speech. And he is a courageous fellow who isn’t afraid to name names.
Because of my concern that Sociology of Religion could become a course in Sociology of Atheism I decided to set up a more balanced forum addressing the issue of faith and atheism. Specifically, I wanted to deal with the following question: “Which worldview requires more faith; a) Christianity or b) Atheism?”
So I invited my colleague to join me in a panel addressing the issue. I thought I could take the view that atheism requires more faith than Christianity while he could take the opposite view. Furthermore, I thought that each of us could choose another person sharing our views so that a balanced, four-person panel could be formed. I chose my friend Dr. Frank Turek, co-author of “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.”
Unfortunately, our invitation to join a four-person panel was declined. Since my colleague has had some health concerns in recent months I understood and respected his decision. So I decided to proceed with an event that would begin with my introduction of Frank Turek. He would then give a lecture outlining the reasons why he has concluded that atheism requires more faith than Christianity. We would then open up the microphone for an extended Q and A session.