The Berlinski-Hitchens Debate

On September 7th, 2010, Christopher Hitchens and David Berlinski squared off at the Fixed Point Foundation in Birmingham, Alabama before a capacity crowd of 1,200. The question being debated was whether or not a purely atheistic society is preferable to a religious one. Overshadowing the debate was Hitchens' recent cancer diagnosis (as you can see from the above picture, Hitchens has lost his hair due to chemotherapy). The debate was filmed and will be released on DVD in November, just in time to make it on to your philosophically-inclined Christmas wishlist.

I'm especially interested in listening to this debate because, while many debate opponents are mismatched, I think Berlinski and Hitchens are well suited to debate each other. Both men are rhetorical, witty, iconoclastic public figures. This decreases the chance that the debate will be won or lost based on one debater out-talking another.

Click here to read an overview of each debater's main points, as well as some issues raised by the debate. Click here to read a newspaper review and see some pictures of the debate. Finally, click here to read Fixed Point Foundation executive director Larry Taunton's reflections on the evening.

Recent Developments in the Philosophy of Religion

Robert Gressis, a contributor over at The Prosblogion, a philosophy of religion blog, has posted a couple of very interesting articles about recent developments in the field of philosophy of religion. The first is entitled, "Atheist Burnout and the Direction of Philosophy of Religion." It discusses philosopher Keith Parsons and his recent public decision to quit the philosophy of religion because he no longer finds theism respectable, let alone tenable or presentable. Parsons writes, "I just cannot take their [theistic philosophers'] arguments seriously anymore, and if you cannot take something seriously, you should not try to devote serious academic attention to it." As soon as Parsons said this several others philosophers admitted that they had reached the same conclusion. Gressis' three brief reflections on this situation are, in my opinion, worth reading.

The second article is entitled, "Philosophy of Religion as Seen by Atheists." It follows up on the subsequent comments and discussion generated by Parsons' announcement, and summarizes the two main opinions floating around this issue.

What are your thoughts on these recent developments in the philosophy of religion? Do you think they could they be part of some larger movement within philosophy or Western society (e.g., university politics, academic freedom, the "New Atheism")? If more atheists quit or discredit the philosophy of religion, what ripple effects might it have on the discipline in the future?