Late in 2007, Christopher Hitchens and Alister McGrath met for a public debate on the topic of Religion: The Poison or the Cure, where the merits – or lack thereof, of religion (and Christianity in particular), were thrown back and forth. I’ve written up my summary of the debate, and I’m in the process of writing a review, and I’ll post it when it’s done.
Unlike some comments out there on the debate, it really will be a review. The Hitchens/Dawkins fanclub over at Dawkins’ site, of course, make the truly important observations on the debate here (and on the subsequent pages in that forum). Apparently “Alistair McGrath is a nonce.” Crucially, “There’s something very comical about the way that this McGrath person moves about as he talks.” But what strikes me as genuinely revealing about just how familiar the fanbois are with the person they are talking about was this gem in the very first comment: “That guy just strikes me as a very small person that makes a living out of Dawkins’ fame. How come he can’t seem to manage writing a book that isn’t about somebody else’s work?”
Wow. Just wow. McGrath has written two books in which he criticises Dawkins. Two. Put that next to the fact that McGrath has authored at least 18 academic books (the list there does not appear to include the Dawkins Delusion) and edited three larger volumes, written a couple of textbooks, and authored literally dozens of peer reviewed articles, including a few in science. Yep, that’s McGrath all right, riding the coat-tails of Richard Dawkins.
Jaqueline Salmon reviewed the debate in the Washington Post here. She concludes, “Nobody got knocked down, nobody was knocked out, no arm was held up in triumph, the eternal question remains unresolved.” I can’t say I share her conclusion. It’s my humble opinion that in flamboyant presentation Hitchens won, and on content, Hitchens left in a body bag – but I’ll also be suggesting that McGrath could (should) have done better on the offensive.
Stay tuned, I’ll announce when the review is online.