A Debate I’d Like to See

All the buzz in the online atheist community lately has been about the challenge xtian apologist Ray Comfort has issued to Professor Dawkins for a debate. No, not really. I can’t think of any reason this would be worth watching. Ray doesn’t have a very good grasp of his sides’ arguments and resorts to the sort of trump cards that dead end debates at the slightest provocation. While he does seem to be making a living at being a “Defender of Christianity” his efforts along those lines are laughably amateur. Professor Dawkins on the other hand knows his material backwards and forwards, and the other side’s too. A debate between the two of them would be like a locomotive debating a car stuck at a crossing for right of way, with the car too stupid to realize it had been utterly destroyed.

No, the debate I’m thinking of hasn’t been suggested yet that I know of. In a recent New York Times book review author Bart Ehrman is quoted as alleging that the “New Atheists” have too little knowledge of religion to qualify as competent critics. I’m surprised by this because I have not found this to be the case at all. In a debate with Rabbi David Wolpe, available on YouTube, for example, I think Sam Harris displays an admirable knowledge of religion in general, and Christianity in particular. I think that all of the “Four Horsemen” have clearly demonstrated in their various published works a deep and thorough understanding of religion.

Bart Ehrman is the author of several books of biblical scholarship that are critical of many of the current interpretations of the Bible. In particular, his books point out all of the cases of human intervention in the contents of the Bible, thus calling into question its divine origins and inerrancy. These are serious works of scholarship, not apologetics. Prof. Ehrman describes himself as an agnostic and has an impressive record of biblical textual criticism. He seems to be well equipped to defend his allegations.

Since I feel that I myself have done a conscientious job of religious studies over the course of many years, and I agree with the reasoning and conclusions of the “Four Horsemen” I’d be very interested to hear what Professor Ehrman thinks we’ve missed. Is it just that Prof. Ehrman thinks the New Atheists haven’t done a thorough job of biblical criticism? Why does he believe that one must be knowledgeable of the Bible’s flaws to the degree that he is in order to be critical of it? Has he simply mistaken the New Atheist movement as being specifically anti-xtian as opposed to the broader pro-reason/pro-science movement I see it as? Is it just Christianity that he believes we have an insufficient understanding of, or does he have quibbles with our arguments against religion in general? I think Professor Ehrman’s answers to the above questions could prove very interesting and further the debate.

While it may not be quite the spectacle of Ray Comfort vs. Prof. Dawkins I think we’d all stand a better chance of learning something from an examination of Prof. Ehrman’s allegtions via an intelligent and respectful debate with a New Athiest. I hereby nominate Sam Harris to engage in a debate with Prof. Ehrman because I liked the way he handled Rabbi Wolpe. Can I get a second?

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