D'Souza, Hitchens ready to spar over God
BOULDER, Colo. — Does religion poison everything, or does the world need faith in God now more than ever?
That's one of the questions famed conservative author Dinesh D'Souza and atheist writer Christopher Hitchens will explore during an event at the University of Colorado next week.
The two men discussed their Monday night appearance -- a debate dubbed "What's So Great About God? Atheism vs. Religion" at Macky Auditorium -- in separate phone interviews Thursday.
"Religion was our first attempt at philosophy -- and the first and worst theories of explaining things have been religious," said Hitchens, author of "God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything."
To that end, Hitchens said he believes the archaic thinking buried in religious fundamentalism can be traced from modern times throughout history as a catalyst for human atrocity.
"It's particularly important now because of the very dire possibility that a person with a messianic worldview would get a hold of an apocalyptic weapon," Hitchens said.
D'Souza, an author and scholar named by the New York Times as one of the most influential conservative thinkers in the country, said Hitchens' point dismisses the intellectual landscape of religion.
"Religious tensions around the world have given atheism a boost because they say, 'Look, this is what religion does in the world -- it's not just irrational, it's also dangerous,'" D'Souza said. "We're at a time where intellectual defenses (for religion) are important because that's the only way to engage this new atheism."
D'Souza's strategy for the debate, then, will be to square off with Hitchens intellectually as the two men support their arguments with evidence from a variety of disciplines.
"He's a very unpredictable character, and so am I," D'Souza said. "In a debate about God, the topic easily migrates from one field to the next -- so our arguments will swing from history to philosophy to science, and back."
Considering Hitchens and D'Souza have known each other for 20 years, both speakers mentioned that it will be an important strategy to keep the other on his toes -- which also will make the event much more interesting for the audience.
"What we try to do is meditate on old arguments and give them new fire and new angles," D'Souza said. "When you have some surprises in store for each other, it keeps the debates enjoyable for the participants -- which is us."
For Hitchens, questioning the existence of God is an important role, but he has no grand vision of ending that age-old argument once and for all.
"I wouldn't be interested in living in a society where there was no dispute," Hitchens said. "There have always been opposing views, and there always will be.
"My job is to sharpen them, clarify them, and -- with any luck -- make them a bit more amusing."