I have never seen debates as a way of improving understanding. They are basically a sport – producing more heat than light. Michael Ruse once commented that he found he was a good debater because he could crack jokes. This just underlines that debates are about techniques, personality, turns of phrase, etc., not about facts.
Similarly the current preoccupation with the religion/atheism debates and who “won” them (eg. Craig v Hitchens: Dissecting the Debate UPDATE 2). Frankly I think a panel or one on one discussion is a far better way of producing understanding. Richard Dawkins has recently been promoting this discussion format (eg. Lawrence Krauss – Richard Dawkins discussion).
However, for those wanting to treat the whole god debate as a spectator sport I can recommend this video for a bit of fun. Christopher Hitchens was invited to participate in a debate with four Christian apologists (five if the chairman, who participated freely is included). And in front of a motivated Christian audience. The subject: Does the God of Christianity exist, and what difference does it make?). Christopher Hitchens debated Lee Strobel, Douglas Wilson, William Lane Craig and Jim Denison at the Christian Book Expo in Dallas Texas during March. The discussion was “moderated” by Christianity Today’s Stan Guthrie
It was a bit like a one against five tag wrestling match. And Hitchens clearly showed them all up. But, as several speakers admitted, Hitchens was brave to take up the challenge.
He certainly comes across as fearless. One can’t help but admire his skills.