November 27, 2010

Resolved: Civilization Survives Despite Religion

The 6th semi-annual Munk Debate featured Christopher Hitchens and Tony Blair, debating the resolution: be it resolved, religion is a force for good in the world.

PRE-DEBATE — PRO: 22% CON:57% UNDECIDED:21%

My favorite extract from the full transcript of the debate by Jon Bernstein in the New Statesman:

...I propose a pact with the faith, the faithful, I'll take it again, quoting from the great Thomas Jefferson, I don't mind if my neighbour believes in 15 gods or in none, he neither by that breaks my leg or picks my pocket. I would echo that, and say that as long as you don't want your religion taught to my children in school, given a government subsidy, imposed on me by violence, any of these things, you are fine by me...

I would prefer not even to know what it is that you do in that church of yours, in fact, if you force it on my attention, I will consider it a breach of that pact. Have your own bloody Christmas, and so on. Do your slaughtering, if possible, in an abattoir. And don't mutilate the genitals of your children! Because then I'm afraid it gets within the ambit of law.

All right, don't you think that's reasonably pluralistic and communitarian of me? I think it is. Why is it a vain hope on my part? Has this pact ever been honoured by the other side? Of course not.

POST-DEBATE — PRO: 32% CON: 68%

It is resolved that civilization has survived despite religion!

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