Phil Clayton Reviews His Debate With Dan Dennett

Philosopher and theologian Philip Clayton shares his thoughts on the debate he had with “new atheist” and fellow philosopher Dan Dennett a couple of days ago:

What was at stake today was not whether theism and atheism are finally identical; surely that much is beyond dispute. Instead, what most divided Dennett and me was the question whether in the end worldviews make any difference. Dan is prepared to call religion “benign”—which means: not outright malignant—when it supports values that he endorses. (His friend Richard Dawkins would not give as much ground.) Beyond that, however, religion is of little interest to him. For religious believers like me, by contrast, religious belief is never reducible to the moral convictions it supports or the behaviors it produces. It functions as an entire world- and life-view, permeating all that I do, affecting how I see, interpret, and evaluate everything I encounter. It’s that truth that I sought to communicate this afternoon.
Dan Dennett and I will probably never agree on whether it’s probable that God exists. But I hope that those who view today’s debate online will ask themselves why it matters that we were defending different understandings of what ultimately exists. If we can’t even agree on the significant difference between the two speakers, and how that difference is revealed in our different ways of approaching a whole host of philosophical questions, we won’t begin to be able to evaluate the competing arguments for our different positions.

Category: Debates


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