Is theism reasonable? My TCD debate with Peter Hitchens, Ivana Bacik and Patrick Masterson

by Michael Nugent on January 19, 2016

Is theism a reasonable philosophical position? I debated this yesterday in Trinity College Dublin Metaphysical Society with Peter Hitchens, Ivana Bacik and Patrick Masterson.

Part 1 – Patrick Masterson and Ivana Bacik

Part 2 – Peter Hitchens and Michael Nugent

Part 2 also includes the vote and summary by chairperson Maureen Junker-Kenny.

Here’s my contribution as a standalone video:

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Peter Greenhalgh January 21, 2016 at 6:20 pm

Whenever the existence of God is debated, I am often reminded of a young Ethiopien women sitting in the middle of a field of many thousands during the great famine in her country in the 1980s. She was holding her dying child in her arms, but still she expressed her unwavering trust in God. She had every reason to deny God !

There was a good deal of talk about reason in your debate. What about the internal conviction that was so notable in this young woman in spite of her dire situation? Reason has its place, but I wonder if reasons are really confirmations of what one has a will to believe.

Peter G.

2 Jan Steen January 23, 2016 at 10:16 pm

@Peter G.,

That sad, deluded woman is an argument in favour of belief over reason? To me it is rather proof that belief can come close to being a mental illness — if it doesn’t cross that line altogether.

3 Michael Nugent January 26, 2016 at 12:40 pm

Peter, I agree with Jan. What you have described is an internal conviction in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It is not only what you describe as “confirmations of what one has a will to believe” but it takes that to an extent that is delusional.

4 Peter Greenhalgh January 26, 2016 at 5:42 pm

Yes. The atheists will see it as delusional. This earthly life is to them everything. They do not have any understanding or perception of a genuine religeous life that is at times tested to extremes. This women experienced such an extreme, but as all genuine faith looks to the certainty of eternal spiritual life, her faith proved unwavering. And of course , this is why the atheist and believer will not find any common ground.

5 Nialler January 28, 2016 at 11:45 pm

BTW, this is sad:

“It is incredible to think that reasonable people once took him seriously.”

There were many of us who took Myers, Dawkins, and others less than seriously despite sharing a common view of atheism and secularism/
New Atheism and the internet saw a large number of demagogues, gobdaws and charlatans claim podium space in an effort to promote atheism. Many were as dogmatic and as absolute as relgious evangelists.

They also in many cases displayed the same human failings as those they decried.

There were various groups who gave atheism a bad name in their representation of it. Very many. There were others who sullied it through qssociqtion with such ideas as the “Brights”; there were many who rode the coat-tails of genuine philosophers as if they themselves were philosophers by association.

Many atheism sites on the internet became very authoritarian over time and very dismissive of any alternatives. I dunno why; to me my atheism is a pretty passive gig, which involves doing very little at all.

I’m more sympathetic to the Nugent way, which s to agitate for free and equal treatment in society of those of no religionn, and for the removal of inequalities pertaining to us. It’s not an issue for me where I live, but it is a valuable cause in Ireland and one I support.

That’s practical stuff. The likes of Myers and Dawkins don’t do that.

Nothing they do is of value, and they have both been prone to hitching themselves to the more outree aspects of militant atheism, so;ething which achieves little other than animosity.

6 Jan Steen February 1, 2016 at 10:40 am

@Peter Greenhalgh,

As an atheists I find it remarkable that you can claim to have certainty about exactly those things you can be least certain about. Nobody has ever come back from the dead to tell us about the afterlife. All you think you know about these things is hearsay from other people. Your certainty is completely misplaced. Why can’t you see that?

And why anyone would think it to be a good idea to have such unwavering faith in the absence of evidence will always remain a mystery to me. It seems to me that faith is a mechanism to shut off your critical faculties when they are most needed.

7 Peter Greenhalgh February 7, 2016 at 8:52 am

Hearsay has nothing to do with it. Following the commandents laid down in the Bible is done by personal choice and is a life changing experience, and all the evidence one needs. Sure, God could reveal himself to everyone in this world by the use of fantastic miracles, but that would only compel faith in him. You would have to believe what he says is good or evil. He leaves us in freedom to choose through the use of his divinely inspired Word which we can either embrace or reject by using the faculties of liberty and rationality he has given to us. Our affections and thoughts which belong to these faculties are the real things that make us hunan beings. They are not material.
Obviously, we will never agree. Hopefully we will be left in freedom to disagree.

8 Shatterface February 8, 2016 at 4:00 pm

Sorry, but what kind of God would ‘test’ somebody by starving their child to death? If someone tested their dogs loyalty by starving it of food they’d rightly be banned from owning a dog.

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