Last night, the the Office of Catholic Youth and the Archdiocese of Toronto hosted the first debate in the Chesterton Debate Series. The topic, “Is there a God?” was debated by Fr. Philip Cleevely, C.O., Catholic priest and philosophy professor, and Justin Trottier, founder of the Centre for Inquiry Canada.
The series is named on honour of the English writer and “lay theologian,” G. K. Chesterton (1874 – 1936), who is familiar to secular audiences through the British television drama, Father Brown. Chesterton is of particular interest to the Catholics because he converted to Roman Catholicism, ” was invested by Pope Pius XI as Knight Commander with Star of the Papal Order of St. Gregory the Great,” and the Chesterton Society is working to have Chesterton beatified.
This is important to the question “Is there a God?” because Cleevely quoted Chesterton at the end of his opening remarks:
When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the Cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken by God…[Let] the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God [Himself] seemed for an instant to be an atheist.
Quoting Chesterton was one of Cleevely’s appeals to authority, but despite Wikipedia’s assertion that Chesterton was a “lay theologian,” Chesterton is not an authority.; he was and remains mainly a writer of fiction, best known for his Father Brown stories.
However, Chesterton’s quote was, for Cleevly, a clever way to undermine atheists and attack Justin Trottier’s argument for science as the answer to the question “Is there a God?”
The best moment in the debate was when Cleevely exclaimed,
“Let’s leave God out of [this debate]!”
What a good idea! Let’s do that! Let’s forget the distinction between “how the world is and that it is.” Let’s leave God out of the debate about the origin of the world and get to real investigation of the world through science and skeptical inquiry.