Now that my book What’s So Great About Christianity is establishing me as a leading defender of theism and Christianity in the public arena, the atheists are stepping into the ring–all except one, as you will see.

The philosopher Daniel Dennett, author of Breaking the Spell, will debate me November 30 at Tufts University in Massachusetts. The topic: “Is God a Human Invention?”

Michael Shermer, the editor of Skepticmagazine and the author of Why Darwin Matters, will debate me twice: on December 5 at George Washington University in Washington DC and on December 9 at Cal Tech in Pasadena, California. Our topic is whether Christianity has been good or bad for the world. (If you want tickets to the Cal Tech debate you can purchase them through Shermer’s website www.skeptic.com).

Christopher Hitchens and I are planning a rematch in 2008. I am also approaching Sam Harris, author of The End of Faithand Letters to a Christian Nation, about a debate in the Spring.

So far only one leading atheist has declined to debate, and I hope he’ll reconsider. Richard Dawkins sent me a note saying that “upon reflection” he had decided not to debate. No reason given. And there is no reason. Dawkins and other atheists present their view as the only reasonable one, and the religious view as driven by dogmatism and “blind faith.”

If they are right, it should be an easy task to step into the public arena and vindicate the position of reason against a manifestly unreasonable alternative. Dawkins knows that I am a serious guy who can match his intellectual credentials. My books have collectively sold as well as his (What’s So Great About Christianity is my fifth national bestseller). And I have proven my capabilities in my previous debates with Shermer and Hitchens.

So is Dawkins running scared? I hate to think so, because in truth I am an admirer of Dawkins. I learned a lot from The Selfish Gene and while I don’t agree with its conclusion I think The Blind Watchmaker is a beautifully written, brilliantly argued book. I’ve also praised Dawkins in my earlier work, citing him favorably in my book What’s So Great About America.

I’ve reissued my open invitation to Dawkins to debate under the most favorable conditions possible. We can do it on a liberal, secular West Coast campus such as Berkeley. We can do it in the Spring, when Dawkins’ paperback edition of The God Delusion comes out. Michael Shermer, who is a friend of Dawkins and on Dawkins’ side of the argument, has agreed to moderate. A donor has agreed to pay both our honorariums.

So why doth Dawkins languish in his corner, attended by sycophants? Tremble not, Sir Richard. “Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant do taste of death but once.” Arise and mount thy steed. The challenger is ready, and the time has come to joust.