Does God Exist? Christopher Hitchens Debates Christian Philosopher William Lane Craig (2009)

When we talk about reli­gion around here, we often end up talk­ing about some­thing that falls between agnos­ti­cism and athe­ism. That’s because pub­lic intel­lec­tu­als who com­ment on reli­gion fre­quent­ly fall into those camps. Here and there, the­ists polite­ly call us on it. They ask us to con­sid­er show­ing The Four Horse­men (Hitchens/Dawkins/Dennett/Harris) in mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tion with reli­gious thinkers. It would be a step toward cre­at­ing some bal­ance, they say. We’ve done some of that before. But it has been a while. So we’re bring­ing you today the 2009 debate between Hitchens and William Lane Craig, a Chris­t­ian philoso­pher. It was held at Bio­la Col­lege, a school that offers a “Bib­li­cal­ly Cen­tered Edu­ca­tion,” which puts Craig on the home court.

The basic ques­tion fram­ing the debate is “Does God Exist?,” and the answers are all ground­ed in phi­los­o­phy, though that did­n’t stop the con­ver­sa­tion from veer­ing into biol­o­gy, physics, cos­mol­o­gy, and moral the­o­ry. You might be sur­prised that Hitchens does­n’t take the stri­dent athe­ist posi­tion that would have let more sparks fly. No, he ends up in a more agnos­tic place, and there’s a kind of a humil­i­ty to his posi­tion, an accep­tance that we just can’t know the answers to the big ques­tions, at least not yet. That speaks to me intel­lec­tu­al­ly. But I’m sure oth­ers will see things dif­fer­ent­ly.

If you’re hun­ger­ing for more, you can watch Craig debate Sam Har­ris here. We thank Tay­lor for send­ing these videos along.

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Comments (15)
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  • sgtoox says:

    This sin’t a good debate; as much as I love Hitchens, he gets absolute­ly crushed. He nev­er address­es or responds to any of Craig’s points, nor does he even attempt to argue on a philo­soph­i­cal lev­el. Hitchens is immense­ly charm­ing and wit­ty, but nei­ther of those things count in a debate. Hitchens essen­tial­ly admits total defeat at the end, not even offer­ing any final remarks.

    It was­n’t real­ly fair to have Craig (who has like 2 phds in phi­los­o­phy) go against Hitchens who is a pop­u­lar intel­lec­tu­al, but not of the cal­iber (in the philo­soph­i­cal field) that Craig is.

    There are oth­er good debates with Craig though; ones where he debates actu­al “pro­fes­sion­al” philoso­pher athe­ists. Those are much less one-sided and much more inter­est­ing. But when he goes against the likes of Hitchens, Sam Har­ris, and even Dawkins, the debates end up with Craig crush­ing them.

  • sgtoox says:

    Oh dear, please excuse my atro­cious spelling and gram­mar in the pre­vi­ous com­ment. I typed it on my phone and entered it before proof­read­ing.

  • Taylor says:

    You guys have no idea how much I appre­ci­ate the fact that you read my email and chose to post this!
    Thanks so much!

  • alex wavve says:

    Craig was amaz­ing. he had three bril­liant argu­ments for the exis­tence of God. his Chris­tian­i­ty got in the way there with the 3rd and 4th argu­ments. but Hitchens did­n’t even pounce on that. an emp­ty tomb does­n’t por­tend res­ur­rec­tion. if a tomb were empt today we would say it was always emp­ty or some­one removed the body. and the brain is capa­ble of trick­ing you into many things, a per­son­al expe­ri­ence of god could just be a trick of the mind, like a dream or hal­lu­ci­na­tion.
    i don’t think there any refu­ta­tions to the argu­ment of some­thing from noth­ing, not even Lawrence Krauss’ “A Uni­verse from Noth­ing” real­ly do it for me, but Hitchens did­n’t have that at the time.
    still, always good to hear Hitchens speak. now i just got­ta find a video of some­one kickin’ Craig’s arse.

  • Craig says:

    I did­n’t think Craig’s argu­ments were very con­vinc­ing, he cross­es many shaky bridges very slick­ly giv­ing the illu­sion of coher­ence. His first argu­ment reminds me of Sagen’s ‘Dinosaurs on Venus’ exam­ple, he then quick­ly descends into ‘Bible as Fac­tu­al Doc­u­ment’ non­sense. Hitchens’ makes some good points but he just does­n’t have the flow of Craig and seems mud­dled in com­par­i­son.

  • Chris says:

    Thanks for bring­ing some bal­ance to the cov­er­age of reli­gion top­ics by includ­ing the view­point of a Chris­t­ian schol­ar like Craig. It’s too bad that estab­lished Chris­t­ian schol­ars like Craig (and I could list many others)tend to be ignored when it comes to debates over the big ques­tions. Glad to see this debate high­light­ed.

  • Sarah says:

    Sil­ly lit­tle humans. They actu­al­ly think they have the capac­i­ty to answer such ques­tions. What arro­gant mon­keys!

  • sgtoox says:

    Yeah, Craig’s only short­com­ing was bring­ing up the Res­ur­rec­tion. It seemed out of place con­sid­er­ing the top­ic of the debate. But Lau­rence Krauss’s “Uni­verse from Noth­ing” does­n’t address the under­ly­ing fun­da­men­tal rea­son­ing behind any of Craig’s points. It only begs the ques­tion fur­ther; whether you sub­scribe to Krauss ideas or even some­thing like M‑theory, the nature of the ques­tion “where did it come from, how did it get there” remains unan­swered.

  • Brian says:

    @sgtoox actu­al­ly the argu­ments that you say sup­port Craig also under­mine his argu­ments. If they must be applied to sci­en­tif­ic argu­ments then they also be applied to the­ol­o­gy and the idea of god.

  • sgtoox says:

    @Brian NO, the sci­en­tif­ic nature of the prin­ci­pals pre­sent­ed in both Staus and M‑Theory do not address rudi­men­ta­ry ques­tion­ing on the actu­al begin­ning of things. Mul­ti­verse the­o­ry, string the­o­ry, and the inevitable quan­tum exis­tence the­o­ries do not nor do they attempt to answer the ques­tion Craig is get­ting at in the onto­log­i­cal argu­ment of “from whence does it come?” THe sci­en­tif­ic endeav­ors explain­ing the begin­nings of things only strive to explain what is poten­tial­ly obser­vale and testable (with the excep­tion of mul­ti­verse the­o­ries which has no way of being test­ed and isn’t a tru­ly sci­en­tif­ic idea in the first place)

    The rea­son Hitchens did not bring any of those up is because they do not attempt to answer the ques­tions posed here. Don’t over­es­ti­mate the juris­dic­tion of sci­en­tif­ic endeav­or; there is a rea­son that the lieks of the chaps work­ing at CERN and peo­ple like Ein­stein always explic­it­ly say that their find­ings should have no bear­ing on the var­i­ous the­olo­gies and what not, just as the the­olo­gies have no bear­ing on their ven­tures. There is some over­lap, but very min­i­mal amounts.

  • To all,
    Dr. Craig was not suc­cess­ful in his defense of the ques­tion at hand. By posit­ing his own argu­ments and sup­po­si­tions, all of which were tele­o­log­ic, he did not have, nor want, to address Hitchens’ cri­tique. His end­ing com­ment about the Age of Rea­son free­ing peo­ple fail­ing is non­sense, and real­ly pul­pit fod­der. Belief, meta­physics, as Kant point­ed out, is like con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry, a mov­ing tar­get. His argu­ments sound mod­ern, but they are not, sim­ply warmed over Scholas­ti­cism. His smug use of the term ‘ratio­nal’ was mis­placed when defend­ing his own sup­po­si­tions. He con­tin­u­al­ly relied on cat­e­chism-like tropes to make his points. Ratio­nal argu­ment is not teleog­ic when pred­i­cat­ed on log­ic. I think Hitchens was more aware of his audi­ence and allowed his oppo­nent a few clean blows. GLC

  • kittie says:

    Hitchens left noth­ing on the table. I think he answered all of the points when he said twice — “you are free to believe that”.… mean­ing to me, that he thought it was non­sense to even both­er with it and had more impor­tant issues to dis­cuss. Also when Hitch talked about evi­dence need­ing to be extra­or­di­nary to prove extra­or­di­nary claims — then stat­ed that there was no such evi­dence — again he just dis­missed the claim for lack of evi­dence. He was as sub­tle as I have ever seen him be, but real­ly what do you say to some­one who insists their god is real because the book writ­ten by his fol­low­ers says so.… He says the only real argu­ments that need answer­ing are ones that can be proven… again answer­ing Craigs philo­soph­i­cal claims to a true god that can’t be proven..

  • John Mize says:

    Craig nev­er answered Hitch­in’s ques­tion about why an uncre­at­ed Cre­ator makes more sense than an uncre­at­ed Cre­ation. There­fore all Craig had was wish­ful think­ing and a pre­sump­tion that God exists. Sor­ry, William. Noth­ing is revealed, and we agnos­tics who don’t pre­tend to know the truth with a cap­i­tal T win, and you lose.

  • Fikre says:

    If God exits, who cre­at­ed him? He must have been created.Why he is not talk­ing any­one any­more? “If you pray you are talk­ing to God but if God talks to you, you got schiz­o­phre­nia”. I think, so many cen­turies passed, He is already died, if He ever exist­ed.

  • James Robertson says:

    I would very much like to con­tact both speak­ers, they both left major holes in their argu­ments

    Be great if some­one could con­tact me on with their email address­es or anoth­er address where I might con­tact them

    Thanks so much

    James Robert­son

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