Friday, 13 April 2012

The Great Debate

By now, Monday night’s Q&A debate between Richard Dawkins and Cardinal George Pell (video and transcript here) has acquired mythical status in the blogosphere. Unjustifiably so, if you were to ask me.
For a start, I don’t understand why Dawkins chose to take part in this debate in the first place. He often explains why being dragged to such debates with the religious gives his opponents the ability to claim equal status to the world of science that he represents. He was also very obviously jetlagged, and in general had the approach of the astute intellectual for whom stooping down to addressing the half truths sprayed by Pell was a waste of time. Don’t get me wrong, I totally sympathize with Dawkins here, and I suspect he agreed to debate for the sheer PR value and for the promotion of the secular values he champions (and how very glad I am he does!). However, in my opinion such a debate cried for someone of the Hitchens approach: the inhibition-less Hitchens would have totally flattened Pell.

Personally, what I took from the debate came entirely out of Pell’s mouth (after all, I am as well versed with Dawkins as one can aspire to be). It included gems such as:
  1. The church was the liberator of women.
  2. Jews are stupid.
  3. The Germans were the main victim of World War 2.
The one genuine lesson I took also came from Pell’s mouth. When he explained how the Eucharist changes into the flesh of Jesus without appearing to do so, he said
I understand it, according to a system of metaphysics. It was spelled out by the Greeks before Christ came, which we have adopted and that is there is a substance which is the core of a being and it is revealed to us through what are called accidents.
And what a wonderful lesson in the silliness of Christianity did he give us in the process! Check this out: Christianity has adopted a philosophy called “metaphysics” from the Greeks. This implies metaphysics is older than Christianity, which implies the Christians chose to take some of the Greeks’ beliefs for granted (metaphysics) but not the rest of their beliefs (say, the gods of Olympus). By what right can Christianity claim that metaphysics is valid while Zeus is invalid? What evidence does Christianity have in favor of metaphysics that does not also favor Athena?
It is also interesting to note that metaphysics is still considered valid despite any evidence to support it and despite it being at least two millennia old. Christianity can have faith in that, yet it has problems with evolution, physics and cosmology. Christianity thinks there have been no improvements to our understanding of the world since the days of the Greek Empire.
It is obvious that once we look at Christianity beyond the Sunday school level, its foundation-less shambles are nothing but a grotesque joke.

Image: ABC


Uri said...

it was pretty amusing, although I suspect that if you wrote down everything I said for 30 minutes, you'd get some pretty stupid things as well.

at least you know you certainly have a chance to go to heaven, atheist that you are.

Moshe Reuveni said...

But you are not a cardinal claiming to have direct association with god.
As for heaven: as A.C. Grayling said last night, why bother going to church on Sunday when you can get in regardless?

Uri said...

I think it’s a point system, like getting an Australian visa – you get such and such points for being nice to your fellow man, such and such for attending church, and so on.

Moshe Reuveni said...

We are laughing about this for the right reasons, but I also think this admission was quite an achievement. A Catholic church cardinal, a potential candidate for the Pope position and a guy that voted for the Pope, says you don't need to be a Christian to go to heaven! Compare that with the Muslim protestors at the Atheist Convention and their promise of an eternity in hell for me just by virtue of my beliefs: Pell is much more modern.
And all it took was an hour in the company of Richard Dawkins!