Does G-d Exist?

Posted in Uncategorized by chamblee54 on May 26, 2012

On Wednesday, July 21, 2010, there was a debate, with the topic being “Does G-d exist?”. The opponents were Christopher Hitchens vs. Dr. William Lane Craig. The host was Biola University, a Christian college in La Mirada, CA.
Those who have endured religious debates will be intrigued by the lack of interruptions. With one exception, the two participants were allowed to finish their statements without interruption. The two did seem to have different ideas of what the topic of the debate was.
It is not known who won. There were numerous logical fallacies performed. Stray men were persecuted, and positions were misrepresented. The language was semanticized to the point of no return. This is to be expected, considering that it was beliefs that were being debated. There was self satisfaction at having “this most important of all discussions.”
PG has listened to the debate twice. The second time he followed the transcript, and took notes. His opinion did not change. PG suspects that G-d exists. The world might be a happier place if she did not exist, but we might be stuck with her. Where PG differs with conventional wisdom is on the matter of belief. Is belief the correct way to approach G-d? Is there a better way to “know” G-d?
One problem with Christianity is the emphasis on life after death. It is the only game in town. If you do not agree with the scheme for life after death, you have little reason to follow the Christian religion. The obsession with life after death is not discussed in this debate. In fact, Dr. Craig lists the resurrection of Jesus as being evidence of the existence of G-d.
In terms of tone, Mr. Hitchens is more pleasant to listen to. Dr. Craig speaks with the rhythms of a pulpit preacher. His message could be recycled as a sermon, including this part of his final statement: “And so, I want to invite Mr. Hitchens to think about becoming a Christian tonight.” Dr. Craig played the victim.”First, have we seen any good arguments tonight to think that God does not exist? No, I don’t think we have. We’ve heard attacks upon religion, Christianity impugned, God impugned, Mother Teresa impugned, but we haven’t heard any arguments that God does not exist.”
Mr. Hitchens, speaking before cancer and chemotherapy took it’s toll, was gracious, thanking his hosts repeatedly. His arguments were presented in the manner of a lecture, rather than a sermon. He piled facts on top of facts, and built his case in an entertaining style. What remains of his British tongue is employed to great effect. Whatever one thinks of Christopher Hitchens (and his appalling opinions about the war in Babylon), one cannot deny that he is a master user of the english language.
The debate began with both men giving twenty minute opening statements. Dr. Craig presented a five point argument. (the cosmological argument, the teleological argument, the moral argument, the resurrection of Jesus, the immediate experience of G-d) He likes to use big words. Dr. Craig said something in the cosmological section that made PG take notes.
“Typically atheists have answered this question by saying that the universe is just eternal and uncaused. But there are good reasons, both philosophically and scientifically, to think that the universe began to exist. Philosophically, the idea of an infinite past seems absurd. Just think about it: If the universe never began to exist, that means that the number of past events in the history of the universe is infinite. But mathematicians recognize that the existence of an actually infinite number of things leads to self-contradictions. For example, what is infinity minus infinity? Well, mathematically you get self-contradictory answers. This shows that infinity is just an idea in your mind, not something that exists in reality. David Hilbert, perhaps the greatest mathematician of the twentieth century, wrote, “The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature, nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought. The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea.” But that entails that since past events are not just ideas but are real, the number of past events must be finite, therefore the series of past events can’t go back forever.”
A foundation belief of Christianity is the idea that if you have the correct thoughts about Jesus you will live forever. The phrase “eternal life” is repeated, well, eternally. The thing about eternity that you never hear is, is something does not have an end, then it does not have a beginning. To hear about a human life, with a beginning and no end, this is only half of eternity. Getting back to Dr. Craig’s sermon, this does not add up. If life can be said to go on eternally in the future, should it not go on eternally in the past?
The fourth argument … the resurrection of Jesus … is not going to convince some people. If you believe this happened, then you probably believe in G-d already. Dr. Craig said something that would come back to haunt him… “He carried out a ministry of miracle working and exorcisms.”
Mr. Hitchens had a reply. “But there came a time, probably about 180,000 years ago, when, due to a terrible climatic event, probably in Indonesia, an appalling global warming crisis occurred and the estimate is that the number of humans in Africa went down to between forty and thirty thousand. This close, this close—think about fine tuning—this close to joining every other species that had gone extinct. And that’s our Exodus story is that somehow we don’t know how because it’s not written in any Scripture, it’s not told in any book, it’s not part of any superstitious narrative but somehow we escaped from Africa to cooler latitudes was made, but that’s how close it was. You have to be able to imagine that all this mass extinction and death and randomness is the will of a being. You are absolutely free to believe that if you wish. And all of this should happen so that one very imperfect race of evolved primates should have the opportunity to become Christians or to turn up at this gym tonight, that all of that was done with us in view. It’s a curious kind of solipsism, it’s a curious kind of self-centeredness”
“Now it’s often said, it was said tonight, and Dr. Craig said it in print, that atheists think they can prove the nonexistence of God. This, in fact, very slightly but crucially misrepresents what we’ve always said. … Here’s what we argue: We argue quite simply that there’s no plausible or convincing reason, certainly no evidential one, to believe that there is such an entity, and that all observable phenomena, including the cosmological one to which I’m coming, are explicable without the hypothesis. You don’t need the assumption. And this objection itself, our school falls into at least two, perhaps three sections. There’s no such thing, no such word though there should be, as “adeism” or as being an “adeist” but there if was one I would say that’s what I was. I don’t believe that we are here as the result of a design or that by making the appropriate propitiations and adopting the appropriate postures and following the appropriate rituals we can overcome death I don’t believe that and for a priori reasons don’t. If there was such a force, which I cannot prove by definition that there was not, if there was an entity that was responsible for the beginning of the cosmos, and that also happened to be busily engineering the very laborious product—production of life on our little planet, it still wouldn’t prove that this entity cared about us, answered prayers, cared what church we went to, or whether we went to one at all, cared who we had sex with or in what position or by what means, cared what we ate or on what day, cared whether we lived or died. There’s no reason at all why this entity isn’t completely indifferent to us. That you cannot get from deism to theism except by a series of extraordinarily generous, to yourself, assumptions.”
“Now, then he goes on to say the Bible says all men are without excuse: “Even those who are given no reason to believe, and many persuasive reasons to disbelieve, have no excuse but because the ultimate reason they do not believe is that they have deliberately rejected G-d’s Holy Spirit.” That would have to be me. But you see where this lands you, ladies and gentlemen, with the Christian apologetic: You’re told you’re a miserable sinner, who is without excuse; you’ve disappointed your G-d who made you and you’ve been so ungrateful as to rebel; you’re contemptible; your wormlike; but you can take heart, the whole universe was designed with just you in mind. These two claims are not just mutually exclusive but I think they’re intended to compensate each other’s cruelty and, ultimately, absurdity.”
It should be noted that this post is an attempt to condense a two hour discussion into a length that will not scare off readers. Many parts are being left out, some of which might be important. If the reader has the time, curiosity, and patience, here is the video and the transcript. Be sure to put fresh batteries in your BS detector. Use alcohol, drugs, or prayer at your own risk.
The second part of the evening was a twelve minute rebuttal by both sides. Dr. Craig said that Mr. Hitchens did not refute his claims. Mr. Hitchens said:” There is a terminological problem here which may conceal more than just terminological difficulty: The proposition that atheism is true is a misstatement of what I have to prove and what we believe. There’s an argument among some of us as to whether that we need the word at all. In other words, I don’t have a special name for my unbelief in tooth fairies, say, or witches, or in Santa Claus. I just don’t think that they’re there. I don’t have to prove “atoothfairyism”; I don’t have to prove “asantaclausism”; I don’t have to prove “awitchism.” It’s just, I have to say, I think that those who do believe these things have never been able to make a plausible or intelligible case for doing so.”
“probably dying agonizingly of their teeth, poorly evolved as the teeth are and from other inheritances from being primates such as the appendix that we don’t need, such as the fact that our genitalia appear to be designed by a committee, other short comings of the species, exaggerated by scarcity, by war, by famine, by competition and so on and for 98,000 years or so heaven watches this with complete indifference … heaven watches this with total indifference and then with 2,000 years to go on the clock thinks, “Actually, it’s time we intervened. We can’t go on like this, why don’t we have someone tortured to death in Bronze Age Palestine? That should teach them; that should give them a chance at redemption.” You’re free to believe that, but I think the designer who thought of doing it that way is a very, or was a very cruel, capricious, random, bungling, and incompetent one.”
The next section is where the debaters cross examine each other. In this section, Dr. Craig displayed Christian courtesy… he interrupted Mr. Hitchens repeatedly. Here is a key section from the first part (Where Dr. Craig asks the questions)
CRAIG: What is your view exactly? Do you affirm G-d does not exist or do you simply withhold belief?
HITCHENS: I think once I have said that I’ve never seen any persuasive evidence for the existence in something, and I’ve made real attempts to study the evidence presented and the arguments presented, that I will go as far as to say, have the nerve to say, that it does not therefore exist except in the minds of its…
CRAIG: Alright, so…
HITCHENS: Except in the Henry Jamesian subject of sense that you say of it being so real to some people in their own minds that it counts as a force in the world.
CRAIG: Alright, that it’s objective. Ok, so you do affirm then that G-d does not exist. Now, what I want to know and and do you have any justification for that?
HITCHENS: [Thinking his microphone has come undone] I think I’ve come unwired.
The second part… (Where Mr. Hitchens asked the questions) got bloody.
HITCHENS: Ah, well, I’d like to know first: You said that the career of Jesus of Nazareth involved a ministry of miracles and exorcisms. When you say “exorcism,” do you mean that you believe in devils?
CRAIG: What I meant there was that most historians agree that Jesus of Nazareth practiced miracle working and he practiced exorcisms. I’m not committing myself, nor are historians committing themselves, to the reality of demons but they are saying that Jesus did practice exorcism and he practiced healing.
HITCHENS: So you believe that Jesus of Nazareth caused devils to leave the body of a madman and go into a flock of pigs that hurled themselves down the Gadarene slopes into the sea?
CRAIG: Do I believe that’s historical? Yes.
HITCHENS: Right. That would be sorcery, wouldn’t it though?
CRAIG: No, it would be an illustration of Jesus’ ability to command even the forces of darkness and therefore an illustration of the sort of divine authority that he was able to command and exercise. This, as I say, is illustrative of this unprecedented sense of divine authority that Jesus of Nazareth had that he even could command the forces of darkness and that they would obey. So, whether you think he was a genuine exorcist or that he merely believed himself to be an exorcist, what is historically undeniable is that he had this radical sense of divine authority which he expressed by miracle working and exorcisms.
HITCHENS: Right. And do you believe he was born of a virgin?
CRAIG: Yes, I believe that as a Christian. I couldn’t claim to prove that historically, that’s not part of my case tonight. But as a Christian I believe that.
HITCHENS: And I know you believe in the resurrection but…
CRAIG: Yes, that I think we have good evidence.
HITCHENS: As a matter of biblical, what shall we call it, consistency, it’s said in one of the Gospels that at the time of the crucifixion all the graves of Jerusalem were opened and all the tenants of the graves walked the streets and greeted their old friends. It makes resurrection sound rather commonplace in the greater Jerusalem area.
CRAIG: That’s in the Gospel of Matthew and that’s actually attached to a crucifixion narrative.
HITCHENS: That’s what I said, it says at the time of the crucifixion.
CRAIG: Yes, that’s right, at the time of the crucifixion it says that there were appearances of Old Testament saints in Jerusalem at the time. This is part of Matthew’s description of the crucifixion .
HITCHENS: I mean, do you believe that?
CRAIG: I don’t know whether Matthew intends this to be apocalyptic imagery or whether he means this to be taken literally. I’ve not studied it in any depth and I’m open minded about it. I’m willing to be convinced one way or the other.
HITCHENS: You see the reason I’m pressing you is this: Because, I mean, we know from Scripture that Pharoahs’ magicians could produce miracles. In the end, Aaron could outproduce them, but what I’m suggesting to you is even if the laws of nature can be suspended and great miracles can be performed, it doesn’t prove the truth of the doctrine of the person who’s performing them. Would you not agree to that?
CRAIG: Not necessarily, I think that’s right.
HITCHENS: So somebody could be casting out devils from pigs and that wouldn’t prove he was the son of God?
CRAIG: I think that’s right. In fact, there were Jewish exorcists. The only point that I was trying to make there that this was illustrative of the kind of divine authority that Jesus claimed, especially since He didn’t cast them out…
CRAIG: …in G-d’s name or He didn’t perform miracles by praying to G-d, He would do them in His own authority, so that Jesus exercised an authority that was simply unhard of at that time and, for which He was eventually crucified because it was thought to be blasphemous.
HITCHENS: Well, it was though to be blasphemous to have claimed to be the Messiah, to be exact. I mean, the people who got the closest look at him, the Jewish Sanhedrin, thought that his claims were not genuine so, remember, if you resting anything on eye witnesses, the ones who we definitely know were there thought he was bogus. But ok, I think I’ve got a rough idea—asuming you make that assumption of his pre-existing divinity, that it’s a presuppositionalist case, I can see what you’re driving it.
CRAIG:: Well no, I’m not a presuppositionalist.
In the rest of the debate, both men rehashed the points made earlier. Both men probably thought himself to be the winner. Pictures for this commentary are from “The Special Collections and Archives,Georgia State University Library”.

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  1. Does G-d Exist? | Chamblee54 said, on May 25, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    […] can be said to go on eternally in the future, should it not go on eternally in the past? This is a repost, with pictures from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University […]

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