The first debate I ever attened between a Christian and an atheist was when I was a freshman in college at Ohio State. It was the William Lane Craig-Peter Atkins debate. Having come to faith only a few months before, I had no clue about apologetics or anything revolving around the intellectual matters of the faith, and how worldviews played into spirituality. While walking to the venue that night, though I told this to no one, I was so scared about what would happen: how would the Christian guy do? What would I do if he was soundly beaten? Thankfully, my confidence in the worldview of Jesus was bouyed greatly that night. Craig did just fine. That is actually an understatement. My experience has been the same with virtually every debate I’ve attended/read/viewed since.
Last night I watched a recent debate on God and morality online (the question was “is God necessary for morality?”) that continued that trend. There’s so much to discuss about it (whether or not the atheist actually understood the nature of the question and the key terms involved in the issue would make an interesting post in and of itself. For instance, he seemed to reduce morality, which includes things like obligation, oughtness, and prescription, to something that in the end isn’t morality at all–behavior that has survival value and social utility. Yet here and there he would smuggle in these heavily weighted irreducible moral concepts and terms–like evil, wicked, should–but the reduction he espoused before didn’t have room for those kinds of concepts…I wonder if he really knew he was doing this and if he really knew the implications of his view), but there were a few statements the atheist made in the debate that caught my eye. They are popular sayings, to be sure, but I often wonder why, because they aren’t very sound things to hold.
Here’s one: in his opening statement, he claimed that “it is dangerous to even challenge (his opponent’s) views with rational questions.”
Time out…back up. What? That would kinda make sense if it came at the end of a debate where the atheist clearly(or even clearly *thought*) he had won and where the Christian clearly was a crazy-eyed fool, but this came right out of the gate, within the first 2 minutes of his opening statement.
This attitude is something I caught from him throughout the debate. Sadly, I’ve seen and heard this same outlook coming from a lot of the atheist/agnostic “free-thinking” (a term they have given themselves) crowd. It’s even more popular to think that way in the New Atheist bunch. Some commentators on this website love to spout that kind of blatherskeit, and I think it is the reason why atheists and agnostics who engage in public debates tend to show up at least looking rather unprepared. The attitude is, “well, we free-thinkers are the rational ones and all the Christians are the ones who wouldn’t know logic if it poked them in the eyes, so what is there to debate? I mean, what, really, can the Christians say? Buncha wood-hippies.” It’s almost as if they expect to win just by showing up.
Hey, I’m not the only guy to notice this. Take it from one within their own camp.
I hope that Jim (the atheist debater)–as well as the atheists/agnostics in attendance–put that view out to pasture after his exchange with McDowell (the Christian).
Some might say that there are a lot of stupid Christians out there. This is true. As my favorite radio talk show host says often, there are also lots of stupid atheists out there, so I don’t know where the comeback gets anyone.
Speaking to those who hold the above view (atheists are, automatically and obviously, more rational than Christians): so you disagree with me. So you have good reasons. So you say you “believe in science”–whatever that means. Ok. I get it. You’ve got some good objections to Christianity. Allright. Fair enough. Perhaps I’m badly mistaken. I think it’s ok to think you are right and I’m wrong. I do the same with you, and I’m not offended when you confidently proclaim that your views are true. But at least realize that your group isn’t the only place in which rationality and logic lies. Even if you disagree with guys like McDowell (and me), that should be obvious from all the literature written by smart, capable, and intellectual Christians throughout the ages (including the last 30 or so years) and from the plethora of debates out there on the web, DVD, and print. Acknowledging this could keep you from some uneccessary embarrassment in your future engagements with those who don’t see it your way.