“You’ve got to be kidding me? Is this the best atheists can do?”
These were the questions running through my mind as I was monitoring a debate between Dan Barker, a former evangelical pastor turned atheist who is president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, and Dinesh D’Souza, well-known Christian author and apologist. Barker is a major force behind the “just be good for goodness’ sake” anti-Christmas billboard. He has authored several books on his religious about-face and has been featured regularly on major talk shows and news programs concerning the ongoing discussion over church and state issues.
Given his journey, which I had to admit sounded interesting, I was waiting for this supposedly experienced debater to be at least a little bit convincing. Not that he was going to cast major doubt in any of those attending that night. After all, the debate was the wrapup event for a dynamic pro-life conference put on by Cleveland Right to Life, and pro-lifers are a pretty faith-filled bunch. For most pro-lifers I know, or have interviewed over the years, it is normally their Christian faith that in some way brought them to the pro-life movement in the first place.
But again, I thought a man who makes apparently a pretty good living attempting to debunk Christianity must have at least a few persuasive tricks up his sleeve. Boy was I wrong. The theme of the debate was “God, Morality, and the Dignity of Life.” I am paraphrasing a bit here, but the following are just a few of the “points” Barker tried to drive home as he attempted to knock Christianity and defend abortion as a perfectly moral and acceptable act that should be kept legal:
◗ Jesus never mentions the word abortion in the Bible, so therefore Christians can’t claim abortion is wrong or immoral.
◗ The Bible contains a number of verses — namely, in the Old Testament — that mention killing, war and slavery, so the God Christians and Jews serve according to Scripture is really a God that promotes violence and other immoral behaviors.
◗ D’Souza can’t be a strong Christian because he wasn’t carrying a Bible and referencing it the night of the debate.
◗ If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one.
There were a few pathetic attempts at painting Planned Parenthood as this wonderful warm and fuzzy organization that does nothing but help women. On top of that, he insisted most women who have abortions make “informed and rational” decisions.
Now, keep in mind the debate was conducted in a room filled with dedicated men and women who have firsthand experience with Planned Parenthood. Many of them have also been touched by abortion personally, work with post-abortive clients or both, and know all too well the damage abortion leaves behind. Nice try.
Barker does deserve at least some credit for showing up in Cleveland that night. Apparently he had never debated at a pro-life conference before. That’s about all the kudos he’ll get from me. His arguments were actually sophomoric, given his theology and seminary background. And although most of us wouldn’t put ourselves in the same category as D’Souza, I think just about any good Christian with even a minimum amount of Scripture knowledge could have won the Cleveland challenge hands down.
It is frustrating to see the Dan Barkers of the world receive so much media attention. At the same time, apparently this is about the best the atheist or secular-humanist movement can do.
Score one for our side.
Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 160.