Ethics & Public Policy Center

Poison or Cure? Religious Belief in the Modern World



The Ethics and Public Policy Center and the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University hosted a debate between writer Christopher Hitchens and Oxford University professor Alister McGrath on the role of religious belief in the modern world. The debate was held on Thursday, October 11, 2007 in Gaston Hall, in Georgetown University’s Healy Hall.

Click here to watch video of this event.

Christopher Hitchens contributes an essay on books each month to The Atlantic Monthly and is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair.  He is the author of twelve books, including the bestselling God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (May 2007). He is also the author of Thomas Jefferson: Author of America (2006), A Long Short War: the Postponed Liberation of Iraq (2003), Why Orwell Matters (2002), The Trial of Henry Kissinger (2001), and Letters to a Young Contrarian (2001). He has written prolifically for American and English periodicals, including The London Review of Books, Granta, Harper’s, The Weekly Standard, The New York Review of Books, Slate, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, New Left Review, The Nation, The Times Literary Supplement, and The Washington Post. His work has been the subject of feature stories on National Public radio, the BBC, and in The New Yorker magazine. In 2005, the readers of Foreign Policy magazine named him one of the top five public intellectuals in the world today. He has taught as a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Pittsburgh; and the New School of Social Research in New York City. he received a degree in philosophy, politics, and economics from Balliol College, Oxford, in 1970.

Alister McGrath is a biochemist and Christian theologian born in Belfast, North Ireland. He currently enjoys the title of distinction “Professor of Historical Theology” granted by the University of Oxford. He has written extensively on history and theology, including In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture (2001), and The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World (2005). He has written biographies of John Calvin, Thomas Torrance, and J. I. Packer. He has also written on the interaction of science and theology and his A Scientific Theology (4 volumes, 2001-2004) has been hailed as one the most important works of systematic theology to appear in recent years. He has written two critiques of the biologist Richard Dawkins: The Dawkins Delusion? (2007) and Dawkins’ God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life (2005). His most recent book is Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution—A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First, just published by HarperOne. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2005 and in 2009 he will give the prestigious Gifford Lectures at the University of Aberdeen.

Michael Cromartie (moderator) is Vice President at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he directs both the Evangelicals in Civic Life and Religion and the Media programs.

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The Ethics and Public Policy Center and the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs would like to thank the following individuals and organizations for their generous support:

  • Cecil B. Day Foundation
  • Excelsis
  • John Templeton Foundation
  • Klaassen Family Foundation
  • The Maclellan Foundation, Inc.
  • National Christian Foundation  – Anonymous Grant
  • The Parker Foundation
  • Henry J. ‘Bud’ Smith
  • The Trinity Forum
  • Steve and Paula Walsh
  • Glenn and Suzanne Youngkin

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