This time Dinesh D’Souza vs. Christopher Hitchens (here) on BookTv.
Religion–specifically Christianity–is the topic of this debate, which is better than whether or not God exists. Religion at least exists and therefore can be debated.
I’ll only deal with two brief examples out of many to prove my hypothesis on the two (in short: D’Souza Christianity is all good, Hitchens Christianity is all bad).
They raise the question of Russia/Soviet Union (communism). For DD communism is the proof of atheist marxism as itself the worst killer of humanity. Hitchens responds by pointing out that Orthodox Russian Christianity spent a thousand years inculcating absolute devotion to the ruler as a handpicked by God, as God’s emissary on earth, not to mention aristocracy and peasant slave labor (preventing any revolt against the rule). So that when Stalin took power, the Soviet Party used that submissiveness to dominate the Russian people.
On the question of the West, DD points out that science and rule of law/liberal politics only arose within Western Christianity. Which he argues means that these things could only have come about because Christianity inculcated values that supported their growth. As opposed to later medieval Sunni Islam, which arguably on the whole did not, and have left the Arab world in a worse position by these criteria. Hitchens, argues of course from the line of Voltaire and Auguste de Comte, that modernity is about humans awakening from their self-imposed slumber. And that the modern turn was a turn against the Church.
On both, both are partly right, partly wrong.
On the Soviet issue. Hitchens is right that Orthodox Christianity did help set the scene for totalitarian collectivism. But setting a space wherein such a thing can emerge is not the same as being that very thing. Atheist Marxism idolatry–which D’Souza could have pointed out but didn’t–proves that no human society will live without religion. If the traditional religions are destroyed, then the “atheist” doctrine will be turned into a religion (i.e. “orthodox” Marxism). D’Souza is right that Soviet totalitarianism was an atheist doctrine of the “new (non-religious/secular) man”—all the horrors that come with that, the gulags, the indoctrination, the torture are inevitable.
On the issue of the West, again both half right & wrong. It is true that Western Christianity both was necessary for the growth of modernity in the West AND held its fullest realization back (at least in the European state-church context, where the Church was more aligned with the aristocracy/ancien regime).
The format of this us/them black/white answer I think brings both down. Neither are particularly honest in lots of ways. Neither willing to face the half-truth of the other.