Blackmore McGrathSo. Atheist Sue Blackmore is to debate theist Alister McGrath tonight at Bristol University on the motion that that “belief in God is a dangerous delusion”. Interesting!

As a theist myself, I hope McGrath does a better job tonight than he did while being interviewed by his colleague Richard Dawkins several months ago. Crawley mentions the interview here, to which I responded:

“McGrath appeared to be almost entirely incapable of actually answering a question. Having read some of his critique of Dawkins, this might be a little surprising (perhaps he’s better on paper than in person). He certainly had thought of answers to Dawkins but didn’t seem able to provide them in this context as readily. How many responses did he start with the words, ‘Well there are some very interesting points…’ or ‘You raise some very interesting questions…’ — it’s all ‘very interesting’ — then proceed ‘And I suppose what I would want to say is this…’ and mention along the way that Dawkins has highlighted ‘tensions’ or something? It’s all [bullshit], and all added to the general feeling that he couldn’t deal with Dawkins’ argument at all.”

A recent article of mine titled Deism and Libertarianism stemmed partly from the same exchange between Dawkins and McGrath in which McGrath failed to answer a question about God’s intervention in earthly affairs to my satisfaction as a theist (and which leads me to consider deist approaches to God). It’s unfortunate, since I think decent theist responses to atheists have been largely missing where it counts: in live debate in media and on stage.

So I’m interested to see McGrath taking up the challenge to go to Bristol University and debate Sue Blackmore. Sue is a columnist in the Guardian, whose articles frequently make me angry, and who wrote today about some of what she plans to argue. Essentially it seems this debate may hinge more upon whether or not belief in God is dangerous than whether or not God exists:

“First, which God am I talking about? Not Einstein’s God, the God of the deists, or what Stephen Hawking or Paul Davies refer to as ‘the mind of God,’ for their God amounts to the entirety of the universe, or the laws of physics. If you ask ‘why is there something rather than nothing?’ or ‘what came before the big bang?’ and you answer ‘God’, belief in that God makes no difference to your daily life, or to morality and responsibility, nor does it cause people to band into groups, exclude outsiders, commit atrocities or justify wars. No, I’m talking about the God of the great monotheistic religions, the vile and vengeful God of the Qur’an and the Old Testament, the God who supposedly made us in his own image, who answers prayers even though the world remains full of suffering, who exhorts us to love and feel compassion while threatening to kill the infidel and punish the unbeliever forever, and who fights on both sides of every war.”

This may be an interesting debate.