Arguing with God: A rhetorical analysis of ‘The God Debates’
thesisposted on 2021-05-22, 17:12 authored by Vin Heney
Recently published pro-atheist books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens have reignited the age-old debate about the existence of God. Many pro-faith books have been written in response. The deliberations between theists and atheists have moved beyond the written word and onto the public debate platform. The present paper observes three such ‘God debates’ through the theoretical lens of rhetoric. Using a modified Grounded theory approach, and borrowing from literature concerning public debates and religious rhetoric, a number of rhetorical strategies are identified. Thomas Kuhn’s incommensurability theory (1962) is then applied to the results in an effort to locate evidence of compatibility and incompatibility between the speakers championing the opposing paradigms. Findings suggest that the speakers are able to achieve meaningful communication when appealing to a shared means of persuasion (secular, scientific language) and recognizing the diversity in their opponents’ position. onversely, the Speakers are unable to achieve meaningful communication when engaging in one- side attack-based rhetoric and disagreeing on the constitution of evidence. Such findings are useful for communications professionals tasked with supporting meaningful communication between divergent perspectives.