The Observer/Guardian has a 55-minute podcast in which five thinkers debate the topic “Is religion a force for good in the world?”
In anticipation of the coming debate between Christopher Hitchens and Tony Blair on the value of religion, we gathered a selection of thinkers on the subject to discuss the topic.
AC Grayling is professor of philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London.
Evan Harris is a former MP and Liberal Democrat science spokesman.
Cristina Odone was editor of the Catholic Herald and deputy editor of the New Statesman.
Jon Cruddas is Labour MP for Dagenham. He’s also a Roman Catholic.
Samia Rahman is a freelance journalist living in London and a muslim.
The panel debates the value of religion to society, its impact on policymaking, its contribution to culture and what a world without religion would be like.
The atheists are awesome and calm, but the religious folk get quite exercised! Check out the accusations of atheist “intolerance and fundamentalism” (and “metropolitanism”—what’s that?) starting at 28:00, and the vigorous pushback by Grayling. Other Grayling highlights (the man is eloquent!): at 34:34 he outlines humanistic ethics and why it has nothing to do with religion, and at 36:12 he dilates on why the overall effect of religion is negative.
The final summary of the participants’ positions begins at 48:22.
At the very end, everyone debates whether the Gnus—and Dawkins in particular—are “militant and fundamentalist.” Grayling pwns them all.
Curiously, there is NO discussion of whether there’s any basis for the epistemic underpinnings of religion. It’s amazing that one can discuss whether or not something is a force for good without even alluding to whether it’s true. But what’s good is that this debate is being held in a popular venue. That’s the success of Gnu Atheism.