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Conservative Author Dinesh D'Souza and Atheist Christopher Hitchens to Debate "What's So Great About God?" at CU-Boulder

January 14, 2009

Does an unseen higher power control the mysteries of the universe or do reason and science alone explain the intricate patterns of life?

It's a question as old as human existence and one that will be addressed in a debate between Christian and best-selling conservative author Dinesh D'Souza and atheist intellectual and writer Christopher Hitchens at the University of Colorado at Boulder's Macky Auditorium on Jan. 26 at 7 p.m.

The debate, titled "What's So Great About God? - Atheism vs. Religion," is sponsored by the Aquinas Institute for Catholic Thought, the intellectual outreach arm of the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center. Taking on Christianity, atheism, Islam, fundamentalism and the war on terror, Hitchens and D'Souza will draw intellectual swords in an impassioned discourse. From opposite sides of the issue, they will present cases for and against organized religion, its influence on world history and impact on current events. Together they will explore the social, political and historical foundations of faith.

Father Kevin Augustyn, pastor at the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center, said the debate will give people on both sides of the issue a chance to hear opposing opinions in a civil and respectful environment.

"It's an opportunity to show how faith and reason are compatible and not opposed," said Augustyn. "We think obviously that Dinesh D'Souza has the better argument, but we're open to the concept of debate. Both D'Souza and Christopher Hitchens are excellent speakers."

D'Souza is one of the nation's leading authorities on international issues. A best-selling author, scholar and former senior policy analyst for the Reagan administration, The New York Times Magazine named him one of America's most influential Conservative thinkers. His best-seller "What's So Great About Christianity" answers atheist theories that denounce religion in general and Christianity in particular.

Hitchens is one of the most controversial writers and critics in the media today. Described by The Economist as "one of the greatest living conversationalists," he is a renowned author, journalist, critic and social intellectual. The author of the No. 1 best-seller "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything," Hitchens presents an ardent argument against organized religion from an intellectually charged, atheist perspective.

Augustyn said debate has long been a part of the Catholic Church, dating back to the 12th century when the Church created the first universities and the "disputatio," or public disputation, was a central methodology of the schools. In this sense, Augustyn said, examining issues of importance to the church through reasoned arguments is nothing new.

"It's not particularly modern," said Augustyn. "In fact, it's particularly medieval."

Intellectual debates of inflammatory topics are also nothing new to St. Thomas Aquinas, which last year hosted a discussion on the morality of abortion featuring David Boonin, chair of CU-Boulder's philosophy department and Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College.

"It wasn't an emotional debate but an intellectual debate," said Augustyn. "The goal behind these discussions is to have a civil conversation about these important issues. Who are we? What is the purpose of human life? Where do we come from? Where are we going? These questions are at the foundation of what it means to be human."

CU-Boulder's Arts and Sciences Student Government provided $2,329.80 toward the Jan. 26 event and the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs office gave $108.

The vast majority of the debate's expenses are being paid for with private funds provided by the Aquinas Institute for Catholic Thought student group, according to the CU-Boulder Student Organizations Finance Office.

Tickets for the event are $10 for non-students and free to all students. Tickets are available for purchase through TicketsWest, through your local King Soopers, or after each Sunday Mass at the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church.

Free student tickets are available after Sunday Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, at the Catholic Student Center, 1520 Euclid Ave., or at one of the Thomas Center's tables in the University Memorial Center. Students who can't get tickets this way may call 720-564-1111, or e-mail Margaret Stortz at

Doors will open at 6:15 p.m. on the day of the event.


Megan Dillon, 303-443-8383, ext. 31
Oakland L. Childers, 303-492-3117

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