Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens Debate: “Religion is a force for good in the world?”

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    Click on the image for the BBC article on this debate, held last night in front of an audience of 2,700 in Toronto, as well as for some video highlights from the forum. According to The Guardian, “The occasion was part of the Munk Debate series, organised by the Aurea Foundation group, and the motion was: ‘Be it resolved, religion is a force for good in the world’.” Here are two representative quotes.

    Hitchens: “Once you assume a creator and a plan it make us subjects in a cruel experiment,” Hitchens said before causing widespread laughter by comparing God to “a kind of divine North Korea”.

    Blair: “The proposition that religion is unadulterated poison is unsustainable,” he said. Blair called religion at its best “a benign progressive framework by which to live our lives”.

    According to polls taken before and after the debate, it appears that Hitchens and Blair each won over about half the undecideds, with the final poll at a 32%-68% split for the proposition, “be it resolved, religion is a force for good in the world.”  Whether you’re an atheist (as I am) or a believer, what’s your view of this question, empirically speaking?

    P.S. Also interesting, check out the global poll at the bottom of this article, asking people whether religion has a positive or negative impact.  Countries in which “negative” beat “positive” include Sweden, Belgium, France, Spain, Japan, Great Britain, Australia, Germany, Canada, Poland, Turkey, Argentina and Hungary. Countries in which “positive” beat “negative” include Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, India, Brazil, South Africa, the United States, South Korea, and Russia.

    UPDATE: The full transcript is here.

    • Dan Sullivan

      Religion is a force, for certain. But it is so commonly hijacked to further evil, that no one can accept the proposition as an absolute truth. On the other hand, the political apparatus in the Eastern Block feared it enough in places like Hungary that every effort was made to obliterate it by destroying records and confiscating all church property.

      I am reminded of a scene in the movie “A Clockwork Orange”, apparently injected by Kubrick because I do not recall it in the book, where briefly in the background there is graffiti “Politics is the opiate of the masses.”

      In both cases, it is the human condition that betrays the ideal. There is no evidence of any other hand deliberately involved. Though on AM radio at 2 in the morning, you might hear otherwise.

    • gene magruder

      Religion as are many things in life,very dangerous when put in the wrong hands. The problem with religion, however, is trying to figure out who has the wrong hands. That is why we have to keep religion out of government as much as possible. Freedom of religion is perfect as is freedom of your own religion, and freedom of no religion.

    • The Porcupine

      (even if it’s atheism) is meaningless; faith without reason is mere superstition.