The Great Debate on the controversial topic of the existence of God placed two award-winning scholars head-to-head in the UCF Arena on Thursday.
Atheist and antitheist Christopher Hitchens, who referred to religion as “immoral, mythical and man-made,” argued with conservative Christian Dinesh D’Souza on the existence of God, Christianity and other religions, and science and reason.
“Anyone who says we are either the product of, let alone the object of, a design has yet to produce one scintilla of evidence that would withstand any kind of clear review in any kind of journal,” said Hitchens, who is the author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.
Statements like these inspired vociferous reactions from the crowd of nearly 7,000 that filled the UCF Arena.
A similar debate held in New York City, featuring the same two authors, failed to draw even 15 percent of the Orlando crowd, said Stanley Oakes, debate moderator and president of The King’s College in New York.
“It showed that people actually care about these issues and it’s not a waste of time to ask these types of questions,” said Robert Cooper, freshman computer science major and atheist.
The event was as good of a reason as any to get a large group of students and friends together despite the controversial nature of the debate, Cooper said.
Cooper said his only complaint was the lack of specific faith-based questions, rather than comments on faith as a general idea.
“When we look at the fine-tuned universe, a universe that appears to be fine-tuned for life, we see in it a clear signature of a designer,” said D’Souza, author of the The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11. “It would be as though I would enter the lottery in all 50 states and win every time. It would be reasonable to infer a plot; the coincidence is far too great.”
General concepts and ideas about religion’s place in modern society drew the most attention from the speakers. Hot-button issues such as homosexuality were left untouched. However, that’s not to say the evening went without controversy.
At one point, D’Souza concentrated his defense on the idea that Christianity is innocent when it comes to religious violence by asking, ‘Where is the Christian Bin Laden, and where is the Christian Al Qaeda?’ To which Hitchens responded that he hoped there was a better way of advocating Christianity than simply saying, ‘Hey, at least it’s not Al Qaeda guys.’
“If you were analyzing it for effectiveness of argument, D’Souza was probably a little more elegant, while Hitchens kind of moused around,” said Josh Arroyo, a sophomore mathematics major and Christian.
Arroyo said if people were going to look at any religion from an outside perspective, they would see an idea that goes completely against the interpretation of reality.
The strong student response brought up the question of how religion and atheism are accepted at a diversified university like UCF.
“The liberal nature of a college campus is that no one really cares about what other people believe and it becomes a problem when it’s being pushed on somebody,” Arroyo said.
This refusal to accept another student’s right to expression can become an issue, which events like Thursday’s debate attempt to prevent, Cooper said.
“I feel more comfortable on campus than I originally imagined, in spite of seemingly violent opposition from religious groups on campus,” he said.
This balance between the advantages and disadvantages of religion isn’t new to the debaters.
“If you’re going to say [religion] makes people behave better, you must be just as willing to say it’s just as likely to make people behave worse,” Hitchens said.
Source Central Florida Finder