In 2007, the Reverend Al Sharpton and celebrated polemicist Christopher Hitchens, who died yesterday of cancer at the age of 62, met for an intellectual debate on the existence and nature of God at the New York Public Library. As the Times happily reported, despite the incendiary and polarizing nature of both men, the debate turned out to be "the public intellectual event of the evening, a bit like Bertrand Russell vs. C. S. Lewis."
You can read a PDF transcript of the entire debate here. Hitchens argued that God and religion is a malignant force in the world, citing numerous historical instances in which sexual repression and outrageous acts of violence have been committed in the name of God. At the same time, he proposed that science and reason could replace that: “Look through the Hubble Telescope if you want to see something that’s awe-inspiring; don’t look to blood-stained old myths.”
"You made a very interesting analysis of how people use or misuse God, but you made no argument about God Himself," Sharpton said. “And attacking the quote-wicked-unquote use of God does not at all address the existence of God or nonexistence of God... Clearly people have misused God, as they have misused other things that are possibly positive, but its existence is not in any way proved or disproved by you giving me a long diatribe on those that have mishandled and misused God."
Sharpton also argued that without God, all is morally relative: “If there is no God and if there is no supreme mechanism that governs the world, what makes right right and what makes wrong wrong? Why don’t we just go by whoever is the strongest in any period in history?" Below, you can watch the entire lively debate.