Last Thursday, Grand Valley State University’s (GVSU) Haunstein Center for Presidential Studies, the Center for Inquiry, and the Interfaith Dialogue Association hosted a debate titled “Hitchens vs. Hitchens: On God, War, Politics, and Culture” at Fountain Street Church in downtown Grand Rapids. The debate–between brothers Christopher Hitchens and Peter Hitchens–was the first time that the two authors have debated. The promotional material billed it the debate as one between formerly estranged brothers who have “clashed on many issues.” Moreover, it described Peter Hitchens as a “church going conservative Anglican” and Christopher Hitchens as “liberal, drinking and smoking atheist.”
From the promotional material, it was clear what one could expect from the debate–a lot of tired stereotypes and sniping–and the event certainly delivered on that front. The two debated the Iraq War, which Christopher Hitchens supports and Peter Hitchens opposes, but did so almost entirely without citing any facts about what is actually happening on the ground in Iraq. Similarly, while Peter Hitchens–a conservative–came out looking better on Iraq, his perspective was at best a centrist critique of the war focusing on its being “mismanaged.” After Iraq, the majority of the debate focused on atheism. Christopher Hitchens–author of God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything–ended up comparing belief in religion to living under a totalitarian regime such as North Korea while Peter Hitchens decried the “practical atheism” of street criminals who don’t have god in their lives. Both tended to take their arguments to extremes while making sweeping generalizations that often ignored the nuances that were necessary to support their claims.
Still, the debate–despite all of the petty insults and general absence of facts–drew considerable interest, so we are reposting the video of the debate here:
If you have thoughts about the debate, let us know in the comments.