Richard Dawkins recently revealed why he refused to debate Christian apologist William Lane Craig, a Talbot professor who has on multiple occasions invited the famous atheist to discuss the rationality of faith and existence of God with him.
Fear, among other things, was not one of the reasons behind his refusal, he stated on The Guardian UK, addressing accusations of cowardice from the public.
“This Christian ‘philosopher’ is an apologist for genocide. I would rather leave an empty chair than share a platform with him,” Dawkins wrote.
Craig had again, despite previous failed attempts, invited Dawkins to debate with him while he was on his Reasonable Faith tour in the UK, which is currently taking place.
The professor stated that he would leave an empty chair on stage with him next week in Oxford if The God Delusion author refused to appear, symbolizing Dawkins’ absence from the debate.
“The idea of cashing in on another’s name by conniving to share a stage with him is hardly new,” Dawkins explained on The Guardian.
“But what are we to make of this attempt to turn my non-appearance into a self-promotion stunt? In the interests of transparency, I should point out that it isn’t only Oxford that won’t see me on the night Craig proposed to debate me in absentia; you can also see me not appear in Cambridge, Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow and, if time allows, Bristol.”
Making it perfectly clear that he would not show up to next week’s event, Dawkins shared that he had turned down “hundreds of more worthy invitations” before. His refusal to debate Craig was basically nothing out of the ordinary.
But providing one reason behind his continuous rejections, he claimed that Craig had “a dark side.”
“You would search far to find a modern preacher willing to defend God’s commandment, in Deuteronomy 20:13-15, to kill all the men in a conquered city and to seize the women, children and livestock as plunder ... You might say that such a call to genocide could never have come from a good and loving God.”
“But listen to Craig,” Dawkins shared, referring to words written by the Christian apologist. “He begins by arguing that the Canaanites were debauched and sinful and therefore deserved to be slaughtered. He then notices the plight of the Canaanite children.”
Craig had initially stated that the Canaanite adults were corrupt and deserving of judgment while God’s grace would extend to the children.
Upon closer reading, Craig later wrote that God’s command to Israel was not primarily to exterminate the Canaanites but to drive them out of the land.
“Canaan was being given over to Israel, whom God had now brought out of Egypt. If the Canaanite tribes, seeing the armies of Israel, had simply chosen to flee, no one would have been killed at all. There was no command to pursue and hunt down the Canaanite peoples,” Craig explained.
“It is therefore completely misleading to characterize God’s command to Israel as a command to commit genocide. Rather it was first and foremost a command to drive the tribes out of the land and occupy it. Only those who remained behind were to be utterly exterminated. No one had to die in this whole affair,” he concluded.
Turned off by Craig’s defense of Deuteronomy and God’s commands, Dawkins wrote, “Would you shake hands with a man who could write stuff like that? Would you share a platform with him? I wouldn’t, and I won’t. Even if I were not engaged to be in London on the day in question, I would be proud to leave that chair in Oxford eloquently empty.”
Response to Dawkins’ article has been varied, from atheists praising his refusal to debate Craig to others criticizing him for his flawed reasoning.
Dovetheology, one commenter on The Guardian, wrote, “[Dawkins’] absolute rejection of genocide is unconvincing in light of his rejection of absolute morality in The God Delusion. Moreover, Craig’s position on genocide is entirely irrelevant to the debate, and can’t be seen as much more than a smokescreen for the fact that Dawkins cannot substantiate his primary arguments in TGD to any significant extent.”
“Since you don’t believe in the factual truth of parts of the Bible why would you believe that the genocide took place without scientific proof?” Mankini also replied.
Despite Dawkins’ refusal to debate the renowned apologist, for reasons of his own, several of his fellow atheists have engaged in discussion with Craig, including Bart Ehrman, Richard Taylor, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens.
Regardless, it appears as though an empty chair will be the only accompaniment to Craig’s debate next week.