Staunch atheist Richard Dawkins of The New York Times bestseller The God Delusion will square off in a debate with popular Christian apologist John Lennox next month.
The Oct. 3 debate, which takes place at the Alys Stephens Center in Birmingham, Ala., will tackle one of the world's most critical and age-old questions – Does God exist? – and views expressed in Dawkins' latest book.
Dawkins, labeled by BBC as "Darwin's Rottweiler," is a prominent spokesman for the "New Atheism." The once silent and ignored atheist minority has emerged as a vocal, insistent bunch that doesn't just want to deny the existence of God, but wipe religion off the map, as prominent evangelical Chuck Colson put it.
In the past two years, five books touting atheism have hit bestseller lists. Dawkins' The God Delusion is just days away from hitting one year on The New York Times bestseller list this week. And membership at Atheist Alliance International (AAI) has doubled in the past year to 5,200.
"People who were ashamed to say there is no God now say, 'Wow, there are others out there who think like me," said AAI president Margaret Downey, according to The Washington Post.
According to The Barna Group, about 5 million American adults claim to be atheists and staunchly reject the existence of God. If adding the agnostics and other Americans who have doubts of God's existence but do not outright reject a Supreme Being, roughly 20 million people in the nation belong to the "no faith" group.
Dawkins rates himself on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is certitude that God exists and 7 is certitude that God does not exist, as 6, arguing that any scientist would leave open the possibility that God exists.
For Dawkins, however, "God is very improbable" and he lives his life "on the assumption that [God] is not there."
The upcoming debate will take place as Christian apologist Lennox releases his forthcoming book God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?. In the anticipated book, Lennox invites readers to re-examine the atheist's position that the nature of science points toward the non-existence of God.
Former atheist Lee Strobel, now a noted Christian apologist, released a documentary last year using science to prove the existence of God.
"Today, science is pointing more powerfully to a creator than any other time," said Strobel in "The Case for a Creator." "The most logical and rational step is to put my faith in the Creator that science tells me exists."
The God Delusion Debate is being sponsored by Fixed Point Foundation, a Christian think tank. Dawkins is a fellow of the Royal Society and Charles Simonyi chair for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. Lennox is a fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science at the Green College of the University of Oxford. Both have dedicated their careers to science but arrived at very different conclusions. The upcoming event will also be one of the few debates in which Dawkins has ever participated.