Thursday, September 18, 2008

Debate Summary: We are better off without religion.

We Would Be better Off Without Religion?

"Lyn Allison" - Pro

Lyn's argument was a machine gun approach to explaining why religious is harmful. Without a moment to breathe she jumps from point to point picking apart the bible, the religious, the religious leaders, the expectations of rapture, on and on. Each point is worthy of more time being spent but I do not think this is what she had in mind. She would have been better suited to focusing on a few points rather than a lot. She finished by stating that we need to be concerned because the ideas of the end of the world is not compatible with the need to save the world from ourselves.

"Ian Plimer" - Con

Ian starts by arguing the anthropic principle and "fine tuning of the solar system" which has nothing to do with the question at hand (unlike Vic, he didn't state why this was important). He then explains why environmentalism is a new religion, hurting his case. He makes an argument which is essentially that we would be better off without an environmentalist religion - but I do not think this was his intention. As a former humanist of the year one might ask if he was playing devils advocate or perhaps attacking Lyn and the environmental movement, however this really wasn't the stage to do that.

"Richard Ackland" - Pro

Richard calls out Ian's tactic with comedic effect. His whole talk was fantastic, using clever humour and wit with good effect. He argues the scientific case regarding contraceptives and shows how religion perverted its development. "We have religion to thank for monthly PMT". He notes how religion perverts third world charity by requiring unreasonable caveats.

Its interesting to note that the SMH version of the talk censored his blurb about "The Jewel of Medina", a book highly critical of Islam and the prophet Muhammad, yet fortunately the ABC version didn't censor it, and I don't understand, having now heard the censored part, how it was controversial!

He finishes with showing how the religious look after their own even when they commit crimes and how he isn't convinced about the argument that there exists a god. His arguments were not water tight, but he presented them in a good fashion.

"Suzanne Rutland" - Con

Suzanne seemed nervous but gave an overall good case without presuming her particular faith was the correct one. She did focus on her Jewish beliefs but its hard to know if she was coming from a secular Jewish perspective or a religious Jewish perspective. She notes the bad parts of the bible and asks if we would be better off without the good stuff too? She uses the bible to claim our Judeo-Christian values were derived from them. She claims women *aren't* hard done by in the scriptures by using a proverb Jews sing on friday nights.

She notes the existence of reciprocal altruism that individuals need groups and that traditionally religion filled this role. She notes that without anything to take its place bad things will happen a so-called "Spiritual poverty". (Drug, alcohol, depression, etc). She claims people need religion just like they need air. She finished by asking a fallacious question, do we want to live in a irreligious society like Nazism or a religious altruistic society.

She actually answered the question and presented a sound outline as to the real reasons we should keep religion irrespective of its individual truth values. Unfortunately for her without if all religions are false then the argument is easily defeated.

"Vic Stenger" - Pro

Victor started with an appropriate quote from "The God Delusion" asking would we be better off without religion, without violence, etc. He claimed the only thing atheism and secular humanism cannot offer is heaven however a rational understanding is more appropriate for society than believing in fairy tales. Victor states that the real issue is about the existence of god.

He talked about the problem of evil and attacked the Kalam Cosmological argument and how it was based on a statement by Hawking and Penrose but was later retracted in the 80's. (No singularity occurs due to quantum mechanics.) The assumption that the big bang was the beginning has no basis in science. He talks about how everything that begins to exist does not need a cause, he states atomic and nuclear theory as an example. He then goes on to attack Ian Plimer's "fine tuning" argument to show that the universe isn't tuned to life and how constants can be varied by orders of magnitude to still produce long lasting suns, which can then support life.

Unfortunately he ends by rambling about "something vs nothing" and going over time, adding little to the argument.

"John Lennox" - Con

John's Irish accent makes him likeable but his entire talk reminded me of the "angry drunk Irish Christian" the type to go and bomb a cafe because his neighbour doesn't follow the pope. Perhaps rightly he started by attacking Victor's over-the-time-limit ramblings about nothingness and somethingness. He states that he is ashamed about the religious violence that has befallen Ireland and Northern Ireland because its not what Christ was about and then accuses the other side of confusing Christianity with the actions of Christendom.

That's about the end of the positive message from him perhaps wanting to distance himself and his beliefs from his upcoming vitriolic splurge. He likens accepting the proposition that we would be better off without religion because of bad religions to saying we would be better off without science because it can make bombs and poisons. He accuses atheism of the gulag, Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao. He says that atheism = communism and immediately loses all credibility.

He attacks science for not answering "childish questions" such as "why are we here" and claims only religion can answer that. He claims Judeo-Christians gave the atheists science - showing his historical revisionist ineptitude. His answer to Victor's fine tuning argument was no argument at all - he just shows one scientist who believes it points to intelligence.

He believes science needs rational intelligibility to be able to do science at all. He says atheism gives no basis to this. He then goes on to talk about ethics and quote mines Dawkins to claim he supports no ethical system. He claims atheists have no moral base and worst of all has the gall to say that there is no ultimate justice without god! Apparently the "ultimate moral outrage" is that a terrorist will just die - and that's it. Christianity says justice will be done, by god. He finishes by saying we have dignity because we are made in the imagine of god.

The good ol' Christian's argumentative style can be compared to that of Suzanne. Suzanne was not presumptuous about the truth of her beliefs and stated things in a matter-of-fact way. John set up straw men and burnt them with crucadic glee.

"Audience Question Time" (Highlights)

"Margaret Rice" (Con)
- Those talking for religion did not offer an explanation for how so much war has been waged in the name of religion and how we can overcome it.
- Those for the affirmative who did not argue convincingly (or did not try to) that we can have moral systems without religion.

"Josh" (Pro)
- Religion is too willing to throw its tenants out the window when it starts to go against the moral zeitgeist of society.
- Just because we want terrorists to be punished doesn't make it so. Some would say they are rewarded.
- If we look at the bible and pick and choose (there are genocide in the bible) then we must reject everything because its not true.

"Max" (Pro)
- How can an accident of birth be used to divide people and causes violent actions against people?

"Crazy old bearded guy" (Con)
- We must answer the question is there a god because we will die.
- (Raised voice) "Someone has paid for his my sins."
- He wants justice of the blood of the lamb. He thanks god for blood and eternal life.

"Chris Johnson" (Pro)
- It was said we are unique. There are billions of stars, each atom is unique.
- What are we here for? Reproduce, because if we didn't there would be no one to hear us.

"Atheists Don't Car-Bomb T-Shirt Guy" (Pro)
- People approach him and say "neither do Christians", he rebukes them by saying "they invented the sport".
- The elephant in the room is militant Islam.
- "Its all well and good to define what is Christian or what is a Christian act, but we just cant keep defining those people who do not fit our specific religious morality out of the debate because they are and continue to be a rising force in history and will be a big part of what shapes the next 50 years."
- How do the religious tip toe around those who have a belief which leads to bad thing?

"Irreligious lady" (Pro)
- Being religious would be lonley, family and friends being heretics
- Personally I am better off without religion

"Francis Amaroo"
- Spirituality - the third option between the anti-moral religion and atheism.

Quick Response
Lyn Allison

- Atheists give no hope of justice? Laws of the land, justice here and now instead of waiting for a possibly non existent God.
- Atheists make trouble for the poor? The poor are the losers with religion - Vietnam as example, sucks wealth and exploits.
- Values: Ten commandments - can we name them? Most of them about god. Values from humanism, democracy, liberty, scientific method, human rights, etc not ten commandments.
- Values from common sense, its not rocket science, didn't need to come from God.

Ian Plimer

- Been to Mt Ararat, geological evidence that there was a global flood 7400 years ago the evidence is written in stone.
- Global warming tirade.
- Its not about god its about religion.
- We don't know much so far.
- The atheists are more dogmatic than religious people.
- Religion has brought us music.

Richard Ackland

- We are not voting to get rid of religion but that we would be better off without.
- Religion is bad for mental and spiritual help (sends and keeps people nuts).
- Makes snide remark that religion is good for obese and alcoholic.
- Religion is opiate, life at the hand of a higher being.
- Religion keep you from your true spirit.

Suzanne Rutland

- Lyn supports Suzannes argument because Judaism is the golden rule with commentary.
- There is an innate human need for belief whatever the religion.
- Richard said opiate - Karl Marx.
- More people died under communism. Therefore atheist.
- People still needed it, and still believed in religion even under communism.
- Richard shouldn't have made fun of those with mental disorders.
- Without religion its communism...(boos from audience)

Vic Stenger

- Stalin, Pol Pot being atheist was not the cause.
- No book of atheism which says go out and kill people.
- Old testament says stone those who disobey, kill everyone and keep virgins, etc.
- People don't follow scriptures for moral guidance.
- No new moral teaching in New Testament (all written centuries before).
- Religion adopted morality, not the other way around.
- Atheists and theists do the same thing, pick and choose.
- Can be agnostic and atheist.
- Atheist of theist god not deist god.
- God of Muslims, Christians doesn't exist.

John Lennox

- Rebukes audience member who liked him to Pol Pot.
- All are made in image of god whether he exists or not.
- Not all atheists are like Stalin.
- Can the atheists discriminate between religions?
- Claims New Atheists want to get rid of religions.
- Gets the impression contemporary atheism is soft atheism, want to get liberal freedom without asking where they came from.
- They want the values Christianity gave them.
- The "hard atheists" say its not possible - saying nihilism is the end result.
- Where is militant atheist taking us - how will they resist that humans are no more than slime?

The Poll

Pre debate
Pro 55
Neutral 11
Con 34

Post debate
Pro 54
Neutral 10
Con 36

Motion carried

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