Christopher Hitchens & Dinesh D'Souza Religious Debate Sells Out UCF Arena

September 21st, 2009

Final registration of 7,000 sells out “The Great Faith Debate”


Thursday evening, Christopher Hitchens, a convinced atheist, and Dinesh D'Souza, a religious advocate, went toe-to-toe in a debate on the necessity of religion in today's modern society. Both drew from a wide body of knowledge to make their cases, including the natural sciences, history, and psychology.

The event was inspired and organized by “The First Academy”, a local private school in Orlando. Initially intended for a small crowd of about 200 youth, the event quickly grew to bring in an audience of more than 6000, selling out the UCF Arena.

The headmaster of The First Academy, Steve Whitaker, said a recent interview with author Dan Brown in Parade magazine convinced him that it was time to have the debate. Brown attributed his loss of faith to the unanswerable questions he posed to his pastor.

When this questioning happens, Christians allow their faith to be shaken, Whitaker said.

The event brought together the two acclaimed writers to answer the basic questions: What about God? What about Christianity and religion? What about science and reason? Hitchens has received significant attention for his controversial book “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything”. D'Souza
is the author of several bestsellers, including the provocative “The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and It's Responsibility for 9/11”. Both Hitchens and D'Souza are excellent, clear-thinking orators, and they were well-matched in this debate.

Stanley Oakes, President of King`s College in New York, served as a moderator for the debate.

“So much, as we look into the future, hinges on tonight,” Oakes said.

His opening questions prepped the audience for what proved to be an intense and invigorating discussion. Hitchens responded to the questions with his usual aplomb, instigating rumbles of dissention throughout the audience. D`Souza was equally provocative with his cheeky sense of humor and visionary ideas.

At the end of the debate, both speakers were invited to ask each other a question.

Hitchens asked if D'Souza preferred him as an atheist or would D'Souza rather he become a non-Christian believer in religion.

D'Souza laughed and said, “I feel a lot safer debating you as an atheist.”

He then went on to ask Hitchens if he had ever seriously doubted being an atheist, and what had caused that doubt.

“Anyone can make an honest mistake, and I'm particularly proud of this one,” Hitchens said.

The debate was one of several debates that have been held on college campuses across the US. Previous debates between Hitchens and D`Souza include “What's So Great About God–God on Trial”, held at the University of Colorado and “Is Christianity the Problem?” at King`s College. There are rumors that more debates
are to come, perhaps even a national tour, titled “The Great Faith Debate”, as followers from both sides rally around this controversial topic. For the latest updates, or to join in the conversation check

The First Academy is a Christ-centered college-preparatory school serving approximately 1,000 Central Florida students in grades kindergarten through 12. In the decades since its opening in 1987 the school has continued to grow the academic, fine arts, and athletic programs that have elevated its students to
the highest levels of achievement and helped develop strength of character that leads young men and women to serve others in their own community and across the globe.

The First Academy
Steve Whitaker, 407-206-8600
Fax: 407-206-8700

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