Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hitchens vs. Wolpe in New York, NY

This debate started out fairly straightforwardly, but eventually moved on to a back and forth on theistic vs. non-theistic morality.  It seems obvious to me that a holy man who preaches from a particular holy book should be held more closely accountable to the ethics of that particular book than a Jeffersonian secularist should be held to account for, say, Stalinist atrocities.  Nonetheless, the rabbi repeatedly attempted to get pin communist ethics on Hitch's worldview, while denying or ignoring rebuttals directed at the genocidal ethics of the Hebrews in taking the so-called promised land for themselves.  Ah well.

I've found it exceedingly challenging to attempt to recast Hitchen's rhetoric as atheological arguments.  Here is one example:

  1. If religion X is true, then its conception of morality must be correct
  2. For a moral theory to be correct, it must be lead to moral action
  3. [Insert litany of relevant religious atrocities here]
  4. Therefore, religion X is not true.
Mostly, Hitch sticks to step #3 and leaves the rest of the proof and all inferences to the listener. I should point out that most religionists I know will explicitly reject step #2, if the question is put to them directly.  

Overall, this debate lacked heft and substance, and was long on rhetoric.   Both speakers rate about 2.5 or so.  

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