Cardinal Pell to Debate Christopher Hitchens

Festival of Dangerous Ideas Aims to Provoke Discussion

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SYDNEY, Australia, SEPT. 15, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The first ever Festival of Dangerous Ideas will pit Sydney's archbishop, Cardinal George Pell, against one of the most prominent exponents of modern atheism, British journalist Christopher Hitchens.



A press release from the Sydney Archdiocese announced today that this festival will take place Oct. 3-4 in the Sydney Opera House.

In his address, titled "Without God We Are Nothing," Cardinal Pell plans to speak about secularism as a "minority sport and a temporary phenomenon" that only survives "by attacking Christianity or living off Christianity's moral capital."

The communiqué stated that the prelate will respond the anti-theist address by drawing on his own faith and scholarship, as well as the example of scientific figures.

In a preliminary description of his presentation, Cardinal Pell stated, "Science by itself cannot provide an answer to the God or atheism options. To make such enquiries we need to engage in meta-physics."

He referred to Anthony Flew, a philosopher who converted from atheism, who affirmed, "How can a universe of mindless matter produce beings with intrinsic ends, self replication capabilities and 'coded chemistry?'"

The festival will feature over 50 speakers, and is being organized by the St James Ethics Centre in partnership with the Special Broadcasting Service, Foxtel and the Sydney Morning Herald.

Some of the other speakers include: Germaine Greer, Carmen Lawrence, Gary Foley, Susan Greenfield and Keysar Trad.

Other topics include: the merits of democracy, the effect of online networking on developing brains, polygamy and other Islamic values, genetic enhancement, and whether people really want freedom.

The festival Web site states that this event aims to "push the boundaries enough to stimulate, provoke and engage people in wider discussion."

It adds: "Bombs, guns and bullets may be dangerous. Closed or complacent minds make them lethal."

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On the Net:

Festival of Dangerous Ideas: http://www.sydneyoperahouse.com/about/program/festival_of_dangerous_ideas.aspx