Home > Apologetics, General > Christopher Hitchens is not a “master debater”

Christopher Hitchens is not a “master debater”

One very insightful and helpful blogger, Allie, pointed me to a link that showcases the best atheist and theist debaters of our day: http://www.debategod.org/members/debategod. I encourage anyone with an informed, impartial mind to take a look into these matters directly. (I hesitate to recommend doing so for everyone—especially young, impressionable people who can be too easily taken in by the sexy allure of surface-level objections to faith.)

I was amused, but not altogether surprised, by the inclusion of Christopher Hitchens’ picture among the “Master Debaters” collage. He is a very popular atheist with a well-known, outspoken book. He is an accomplished journalist and a master rhetorician. I don’t know if he’s still married or not, but I’d imagine that when he argues with her, she’s left wondering why she apologized when he was clearly in the wrong.

However, he is not a good formal debater, and this is evident to anyone interested in logic and sound reasoning. He masks his ignorance with wittiness and confusing, roundabout explanations…but ultimately, he’s blowing hot air and nothing more. I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise since he is not formally trained as a historian, philosopher, scientist, or a theologian. Words by themselves do not make good arguments.

A concise essay debate between Hitchens and Kenneth Miller (a prominent evolutionary biologist who is also a devout Catholic) demonstrates this well. In my view, Miller completely owns Hitchens with clear and informed arguments, while Hitchens resorts to personal attacks and good-sounding witticisms. Honestly, this is one of Hitchens’ better performances, and he still fails. By contrast, his debate with William Lane Craig—most atheists and theists will agree—was an embarrassment.


There are good atheist debaters out there, but Hitchens belongs in the same pile as Dawkins and other polemicists (sometimes dubbed “The Four Horsemen”). Aside from their confidence and enjoyable diction, these people offer little insight into this important topic.

  1. May 23, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    I concur. He is quite witty and amusing at times, and from what I’ve gathered from listening to many of his debates- he has a good heart for humanity BUT he evades answering the questions of his opponent and his arguments do not disprove God. Religious people have committed heinous crimes … okay. Doesn’t disprove God. God might be a totalitarian dictator that moves us around like puppets and gets amusement out of making us “sinners” … okay. Still- doesn’t disprove God. I have been wanting to read one of his books but if all I get are those two arguments I wonder if it’s worth reading …

    • April 29, 2014 at 5:35 pm

      Me dull. You smart. That’s just what I needde.

    • May 5, 2014 at 4:48 am

      At last, someone comes up with the “right” answer!

  2. May 24, 2011 at 9:17 am

    He knows he can’t disprove God so his tactic is to falsely convince the audience that the only two choices are: 1) There probably is no God, or 2) He is a mean God not worthy of being worshiped anyway. After all, his signature book is centered around the idea that if there is a God, “God is not great.” Clever tactic, but people who aren’t emotionally invested into his position can easily see through his flimsy arguments.

  3. Kevin
    July 3, 2012 at 4:36 am

    @Allie But that’s exactly his point, isn’t it? it’s something theists seem to ignore- the fact that god can NEVER be disproven. The basis of a sound argument is not- as would be logical- based on it’s infallibility, but in it’s fallibility. Because of the constance “god of the gaps” arguments religion continually clings to, the only possible way to argue it is through making light of the absurdity and the leaps in logic, as well as the contradictions and fallacies throughout faith. Originally god explained everything. When we discovered the cause of natural disasters, god explained disease. we figured out disease, so god explained the heavens. We got the heavens- for the most part- explained, so god explained the vastness and complexity of life. Darwin came along, and so god inhabited the space of the cause of the universe. We discovered the big bang, so god is now residing in the cause of the cause of the universe. The more we learn about the universe, the more we find out we don’t know. In these arguments, at least if the way they’ve been going for 1500 years holds true, god will always inhabit the unknown. That is what Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins attempt to reveal, and apparently you missed that. The only place to go after the other debater shirks that question is to show the discrepancies within the absolute truths of the holy books. For example, the modern view of a loving, compassionate, caring god as compared to the biblical depiction: Cruel, vindictive, inept, etc. If you don’t see that argument, I truly don’t think it has anything to do with the degree of logic, rationale, and evidence to which it is presented, but more with an inability to recognize the logic, rationale, and evidence.

    • Joe
      August 1, 2012 at 1:41 pm

      Hi Kevin, sorry for not responding but I’ve been very busy and distracted. You probably won’t even see my response, but your post deserved a response nonetheless.

      First of all, comparing God to a good argument is incoherent since this presupposes He is nothing but an idea or a creation of rhetoric. Whether or not He can be disproved (or the argument for His existence) does nothing to disprove His actual existence. But I think you already know this…just wanted to get that out of the way first.

      To the rest of your points (and I hope I’m capturing them neatly without going into too much extensive detail…as I am pressed for time), I think some of your accusations are valid, yet still misguided.

      It is true that whenever people didn’t understand something, they would merely point to God to fill that “gap” in knowledge. Heck, we still do that sometimes. But increasing human knowledge did nothing to negate the possibility of a creator, it just reshapes our thinking to better fit the available data. This is a valid practice, by the way. Can you imagine science if it rigidly stuck to its formerly erroneous assumptions? Theists have made many wrong assumptions in the past, but when you actually compare them directly to the Bible, you see that it was human logic falling short. Not scripture.

      For instance, let’s say people looked up in the sky and saw a huge thunderstorm with brilliant flashes of lightning above their heads. They are in awe of its power and understandably conclude, “It must be God!”

      Science comes along and tells us that it is a natural occurrence and explains how static in the air and so forth creates this amazing effect.

      Does this do away with God or disprove the original (“ignorant”) assumption? Not at all. All we’ve accomplished is getting a more detailed glimpse of HOW it actually works. It does nothing to do away with the source of the process. If God is the creator of the universe—as we happen to believe—then He also put into place all the natural processes we observe today. As our scientific knowledge has increased, our view of God is tweaked. Maybe He doesn’t manually throw those bolts of lightning down one by one, as was formerly thought. Maybe He put these natural processes into place to create these storms under the appropriate conditions.

      If He’s powerful enough to create the world, why do we expect that He has to do everything in some manual, out-of-nowhere, supernatural way?

      These kinds of modern discoveries are no accident, by the way. It’s clear from the very first book of the Bible that God always intended on sharing dominion (and knowledge) of this world with us, albeit in a diminished sort of way.

      This kind of observation about God is not limited to scientific observations. Even miracles in the Bible—such as the plagues in Egypt—can be better understood when taking into account their sequence/order. They happened that way for a reason…because one *naturally* led to the next step in the process. It’s really quite eye-opening how much we see God working in this way if we care to take notice.

      I apologize for speaking in vague terms, but I think you’re making a slight leap of logic by proposing that any of those things you mentioned somehow weaken the case for God. Our growing understanding of something/someone so great cannot possibly be finished so soon…if ever.

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