The debate between Hitchens and McGrath is well worth listening to. Hitchens is cogent and sharp; he makes exactly the same points about the fundamental immorality of religion that he made at the FFRF convention, but in less time, and with fewer distracting digressions. He’s on fire. Of course, he also doesn’t get sucked into anti-Islamic fervor, but addresses the deplorable universal qualities of religion.
McGrath is simply awful. This is his argument in summary:
I was an atheist once, but I got better
Being religious has health benefits
It’s the fringe fanatics that give religion a bad name
Here, I have some tedious praise for Jesus that you’ve all heard before
It’s dreadful laid out like that, but it’s worse hearing him plummily drone on about it all. Even worse, Hitchens specifically asked him to state his beliefs — does he truly believe that a human sacrifice two thousand years ago relieves him of certain moral responsibilities? — and he doesn’t touch that one. All he had to offer was murky blathering.
Hitchens asked some clearly worded questions about the meaning of the central events of Christianity, and McGrath didn’t answer any of them. Clearly, the man needs to be wrestled into a corner, given one sharply worded question, and told to simply answer it … something I doubt the obfuscatory babbler can do. We saw the same thing in the outtakes from The Root of All Evil? — the reason the McGrath interview didn’t make the final version was obvious. He’s dead boring and waffly.
By the way, as it turns out, I’ve volunteered to enter a debate at the U of Minnesota on 7 February, on the compatibility of religion and science, with a Templeton-award winner, Loyal Rue. I don’t think I’m going to be as lucky as Hitchens in getting a pompous, tedious cloud of gas for an opponent.