Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Without God we are nothing

Earlier this month, 11th March, a public debate took place at Macquarie University in Sydney upon the statement "Without God we are nothing". Cardinal Pell spoke for the affirmative and Dan Barker for the negative. The debate was the first of its kind, theist versus atheist, that I have ever heard.

Cardinal Pell defended the clause speaking about the reasonableness of Faith; how the Universe does not find meaning in itself, and how spiritual values, found in the human person, cannot be reduced to matter but point to a source, who is God, a loving Creator. His defence was rational and non-aggressive.

Dan Barker used epistemology and logic to try to undermine the theist position, attempting to defend a negative hypothesis with clever answers. His proposal involved some thinly-veiled vitreol against the Catholic Church, an unusual claim that Hitler was a Catholic throughout his life (albeit a bad Catholic during some of it), and a scathing personal attack on Mother Teresa.

Now, although I am biased towards Cardinal Pell and what he said, I do think that this public debate was a good thing precisely because it brings both the discussion and reason to the fore. It shows us something of where this argument is today and the need we have to inform (and form) ourselves. I would be interested to know what happened in Dan Barker's life that changed him from being an evangelical preacher to become an outspoken defender of atheism.

The audio files of the debate can be downloaded from and the video can be downloaded from the Macquarie University website.

Incidentally, rather like myself, is no longer operating out of West Yorkshire, but out of Sydney. It is now owned by the Archdiocese.

No comments: