Monday, February 18, 2013

Debate between Objectivist Andrew Bernstein and Dinesh D’Souza Now on YouTube

The topic of the debate is: Christianity: Good or Bad for Mankind? The debate was held at the University of Texas, Austin, on February 8, 2013. Details on the YouTube page are as follows:
DEBATE: Christianity: Good or Bad for Mankind? 
Dinesh D'Souza vs. Andrew Bernstein  
Is Christianity the source of important truths, moral law, and man's rights and thus profoundly good for mankind—or is it antithetical to all such values and thus profoundly bad? In this debate, Christian conservative Dinesh D'Souza argues that Christianity is good; Objectivist atheist Andrew Bernstein argues the alternative.  
Brought to you by the UT Objectivism Society and The Objective Standard  
For more information on Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism and its application to cultural and political issues, visit:
I have not viewed or listened to this debate yet, so I have something to look forward to. I hope perhaps this weekend I can have a chance to review it. Meanwhile, if anyone has viewed it and has something he or she would like to say or share about it, please feel free to post a comment, and I’ll approve it as soon as I can.
On a side note, it is curious how it was announced only three days after this debate that Pope Benedict XVI announced that he will be resigning from his holy station at the end of the month. Coincidence? Inquiring minds want to know.
by Dawson Bethrick


Bahnsen Burner said...

Special thanks to Ydemoc for bringing this debate to my attention some weeks ago. I generally don't get excited about debates between Christians and atheists. But that's partly because the atheists in most debates are hardly worth listening to in the first place, in my view anyway. This one's different in that respect. Andrew Bernstein is a seasoned Objectivist philosopher, and I'm familiar with a good portion of his work in the past.

Also, you'll notice that the topic of the debate is not "Does God exist?" as is commonplace in debates between Christians and atheists. This debate is more focused on whether or not Christianity is good for man. No doubt there are mountains of anecdotal evidence that Bernstein will be able to cite on behalf of his side of the debate, but I expect he'll be more focused on the philosophical issues lurking behind such anecdotes and defining the distinctions between Christianity and the Philosophy of Reason.

Should be interesting!


Ydemoc said...

Hi Dawson,

You're very welcome! I'm glad I could contribute, and it's good to see that the debate is up for viewing. Although I knew they had plans to post it to YouTube, I wasn't aware it was up until I read your post. When I have a chunk of time, I'll sit down and give it a look.


freddies_dead said...

I was a little disappointed with the debate tbh.

D'souza was as slippery as I figured he would be. He's a seasoned orator but his style is to try and bury his opponent in bullshit knowing there won't be enough time for them to respond to every egregious lie he boldly states as truth. However, he could only manage to get Christianity down to the 3rd worst ideology for mankind behind Communism and Facism (on body count). He also tried to say that the Communist and Facist body counts were directly attributable to atheism - that the atrocities carried out were done "in the name of atheism" - which we all know is complete bullshit.

I was a little surprised that Bernstein didn't really take D'souza to task for some of the worst lies but I guess he had his plan and stuck to it.

He did manage to show how Christianity is logically impossible but that doesn't particularly demonstrate that it's "bad" per se. Just that it's not a rational belief system to hold.

D'souza loses the debate because he fails to demonstrate that Christianity is at all good for man, but that loss wasn't really down to anything Bernstein said, more that D'souza never set out show what "good" Christianity does, merely that it's not as bad as Facism/Communism etc...

Bahnsen Burner said...

I have finally been able to watch the whole debate, but not in a single viewing session, and not without interruptions. I will try to watch again this weekend if I get time. Overall, freddies, I think your comments are fairly accurate. I have not watched a full debate with D’Souza before, so he was somewhat of an unknown to me going in. But I’ve heard criticisms of him before for distorting his opponents’ positions and layering thick globs of BS over everything. That criticism finds support in his performance here.

There’s so much to say in response to D’Souza, and I was continually reminded of the adage that it’s very easy to spread lies, and very time-consuming to pick them apart and expose them for the lies they are. Another reason why I really don’t care for debates to begin with, especially with Christians, since I know they will resort to lies (whether they realize it or not).

Since D’Souza brought up examples like Communism and Nationalist Socialism (he focused on Pol Pot)
I would have liked to see Bernstein focus more specifically on the philosophical parallels between statist philosophies and Christianity. Granted, I realize that Bernstein did not have enough time for this, and overall he did try to keep the focus on philosophy rather than historical anecdotes (I really liked when Bernstein made the point that philosophy is far more important than history). In summarizing the parallels between secular forms of collectivism and Christianity, Bernstein really got only as far as epistemology – i.e., mysticism. But the parallels in morality are where their mystical affinities find their practical expression: both advocate some form of the morality of self-sacrifice, an ethical position which Christianity explicitly stresses and models in its portrayal of Jesus dying on the cross for the sins of others. I think Bernstein was getting to this when he said something to the effect that Christianity provides the template for statist regimes (I’d have to go back and review specifically what he said).

Without the underlying morality of sacrifice embraced by a population, a society would not become collectivistic. Every collectivist society is dominated by some kind of ethic which stigmatizes selfishness and implores its members to be willing to sacrifice themselves in some way, a very small way in the beginning, on behalf of the “good” of the collective. This is strikingly apparent here in Asia, where collectivism is so deeply engrained in the social psyche of its people. The ethics of sacrifice is the air that the politics of collectivism breathes. This is what makes a Pol Pot possible, and Christianity expressly endorses just this form of morality. It would have been nice if Bernstein had been able to plug that into D’Souza’s face – it’s extremely relevant to the topic of the debate.

D’Souza’s angle is essentially a very weak argument by association. Since the communists were atheists, their atrocities must be what atheism leads to. D’Souza ignores the fact that he’s debating an Objectivist, not a communist. So citing communism’s atrocities won’t fly as criticism of Objectivism. D’Souza’s form of argument could be used citing any incidental commonality: the communists breathed air, so their atrocities must be what results when people breathe air. D’Souza’s argument by association is barely better than this.

Okay, the work day is calling!


Ydemoc said...

"Life is not a dress rehearsal" -- Andrew Bernstein, in his debate with Dinesh D'Souza

Even though I may have heard it said before (or similar phrases), in the context of this debate, it resonated with me.

I look forward to quoting it in future encounters with apologists.