Yesterday’s debate on the value of religion, and participants’ comments

November 16, 2011 • 5:06 am

Yesterday in New York City, Slate and Intelligence Squared sponsored a debate on the question “The world would be better off without religion.” The participants were Anthony Grayling and Matthew Chapman (Darwin’s great-great grandson) versus the strange duo of Rabbi David Wolpe and Dinesh D’Souza.

It wasn’t online but I’ll put it up if a video appears.  If any reader went, please post a report below.

Slate also has a pre-debate interview with David Wolpe (you’ll remember him as one of the two rabbis who debated Chistopher Hitchens and Sam Harris) on whether religion makes people behave badly. Three of his answers are of interest:

Slate: This idea that the world would be better off without religion seems pretty modern. Is it? Or has there simply been a wave of anti-religious sentiment recently?

DW: The idea is a modern. It’s one that shows a certain charming obliviousness and dangerous naiveté about human nature, as though it’s religion that makes people do bad things when in fact it’s being people that largely makes people do bad things. Religion is one of many different attempts to get them to be a little bit better than they would be if left to their own devices.

This itself seem extraordinarily naive. If there hadn’t been the Catholic church, what on earth would have impelled some sort of secular Inquisition? And so on. But then he immediately retracts what he says above, admitting that religion can make people do bad things:

SlateEarlier this year, you wrote a story articulating the four reasons that atheists are angry in the Huffington Post. You also noted, “No one can seriously deny that religion has been guilty of wickedness in this world and has provided cover for wickedness. … While as a believer I think there is much more to be said about this topic, it is certainly reasonable for people to be angry at religion for its abuses, particularly people who have themselves been victims.” What more should be said about the topic?  

DW: It’s true that people in the name of their religion sometimes do terrible things. And if religion is supposed to make people better, I understand why it doesn’t always have the best reputation in this world. It doesn’t always work the way it’s supposed to. The flip side of that is that the “supposed to” also comes from religion. Like, why would we expect that religion would make people better? Religion does have and promote standards. So when religious people do bad things, we’re disappointed in them because they’re religious people [and] they’re supposed to do better. In some ways, the condemnation of religion is a tribute to religion, otherwise you wouldn’t condemn it.

What?  And is the condemnation of the Holcaust a tribute to the Nazi Party?  Something is worthy of opprobrium if it inspires bad acts, irrespective of whether it’s supposed to inspire good ones.


 SlateWhat would a world without religion be like?

DW: I once kiddingly said if you want to know what a world that was run without genuine faith and only with goods [would look like], you don’t have to imagine it because there’s Hollywood. A world without religion would be Nietzsche’s world. It would be a world in which ultimately the only value is power. If there isn’t a transcendent value, then the strongest wins. The only thing that militates against power is the sense that there’s something higher. Without religion, I don’t know what the sense of that something higher could be. For me, it would be a very frightening world.

Umm. . . or you could look at Sweden.  Although a fair number of people in that secular states formally belong to a church, only 23% of them believe in God.  And do the “strongest win” in Sweden? I don’t think so. Thanks to state-sponsored services, the weakest, poorest, and sickest there have a much better chance than they do in the God-fearing United States.

Slate also has a similar interview with Dinesh D’Souza.  Not much new there, though he argues that secular Europe is moral because “Christian morality is embedded in the bones of Europe.” For the atheist side, there’s a largely autobiographical interview with Matthew Chapman, though so far nothing from Grayling that I see.

58 thoughts on “Yesterday’s debate on the value of religion, and participants’ comments

  1. After having my cinammon roll [that’s the ad that popped up when I visited], I am thinking that there is no need for religion in may concluding that all of life, and indeed all of non-life, is precious and that everything that I do should be considerate of the impact on myself, other individuals and the community.

  2. That’s my, not may [in 2.], and this time the ad is for a secure vpn to make sure that my hookups are secret. At least they are marked adverstisement – I missed that the first time around.

  3. It was streamed live on Fora TV last night. I got notice through Dinesh D’Souza’s website. I imagine that it will be archived somewhere on youtube shortly. You may have already heard that the motion, The world would be better off without religion, carried the debate. Both sides failed in my opinion to provide any compelling argument one way or another. What was interesting to me, was the concession by Chapman and Grayling that they saw no little wrong with personal faith, they just did not want to see it organized. This coupled with Chapman’s portrayal of religion as delusional made for a very peculiar scene. Also curious was towards the end, audience members pointed out that the question took on a different perspective when non mainstream religions were referred to, i.e. Norse Mythology. While both sides maintained their positions in this permutation of the question, Grayling and Chapman softened considerably on their opposition to religion, giving the impression that their objection was directed towards the Abrahamic faiths,

  4. This discussion is frightening – look to the anti-clericalism of the USSR – the state took many of the trappings of Christianity and the Tartars and used them to create the cult of personality. The tomb of Lenin was to show that he was incorruptible as a saint. That is your secular inquisition. Seriously.

    Remove religion entirely and you will leave a vacuum for the state or some kind of snake oil to fill. Look at the Al Gore fanaticism for climate change. Smart people like yourselves should be looking to support the good that religion does – to protect us from the evil that can come from it – not look to its destruction. Homo Sapiens has always had religion and superstition – it is part of us as language. You have it as well. You think you are immune but you are not – you have irrational beliefs you have to struggle to overcome pre-conceived conclusions every day. You would go crazy if your brain did not try to fool you somehow – leave things out –

    Sweden!? why always Sweden? They are the land of Goldfrapp and ABBA – That place is a utopia compared to the southern United states. I mean I chafe under the yolk of Christianity I see hypocritical actions and liars every day but I would rather Christianity than so many other things that would fill that would fill the vacuum.

    We should, if you want, work to establish a kinder more secular version of our better religions.

    the reality is that there is no gods or saints in heaven but there is Religion – you cannot get past that – we came up with music we danced felt free and figured out there must be something more than just the world – our brains told us that – our brains told us that a god made us and everything that must be why it is there – religion is a lie we tell ourselves – the Big Lie – but it is real it is bigger than one man or even the realization and proof that it is a lie.

    that is what you are angry at. The root of powerlessness. – That religion – the concept the institutions, the systems the effort the struggle is more than real – fighting it you are boxing at shadows – whistling in the dark.

    You cant make sense of crazy –

    1. You know, I work with a bunch of people that lived in the former USSR. They’re atheists, but they’re pretty clear that what motivated the suppression of religion wasn’t really atheism (to most of them, religion is just some odd ‘meh’ thing), but a competing ideology, namely Socialism (oh, they hate calling it Communism). People don’t seem to see the difference here in America, but you have to remember that Socialism in the USSR brooked no dissent, people shaped science to fit their concepts of socialism, suppressed people who disagreed with it without considering their arguments, and lauding various figures as national heroes (while ironically banning works of Marx that contradicted the party line). It wasn’t quite a religion, but it was definitely not a rational world view either. Its not accurate to call Socialism atheism, and pretend the two are identical.

      Also, Global Warming isn’t some sort of Al Gore cult, unless you expect thousands of scientists, mounds of data, and skeptical independent committees wrong.

    2. Remove religion entirely and you will leave a vacuum for the state or some kind of snake oil to fill.

      It’s interesting how little faith the religious have in humanity — they seem to believe that the masses must be lied to in order to be kept in line. They’re not upset at the notion of lies, merely at someone else telling them.

    3. They are the land of Goldfrapp and ABBA – That place is a utopia compared to the southern United states.

      Given that Goldfrapp is english, maybe you shouldn’t make it out like you know anything about Sweden.

      But if you had known, how is such a claim supportive of your argument that religion is benevolent?

      You cant make sense of crazy –

      At least you got that right.

      1. Thank you, never heard of Goldfrapp and for a while I thought it was some kind of schnapps. (I’m actually shocked that he didn’t mention IKEA.)
        The rest of the argument made as much sense as Goldfrapp.

    4. “I mean I chafe under the yolk of Christianity.”

      I would imagine that the more well-done the yolk, the less the chafing.

      I’m confused now; is it “polk” salad or “poke” salad?

    5. To: anonymous Posted November 16, 2011 at 6:21 am

      States throughout history have linked with religious institutions in order to gain power and control over uneducated, naïve populations who often were unable to read or write or do calculations. With the use of physical and psychological means, state and church controlled populations with violence and fear and false hope.

      Remove religion entirely and you leave a king or landlord or slave owner without the aid of religious superstitions to do their dastardly deeds.
      If one looks only at the “good” religion does without awareness or consideration of unhealthy, manipulative, exploitive, and oppressive actions in the name of some god/s, then one makes ill informed assessments, not only of history, but also of today’s church.

      I, nor my children, nor my mother, nor my grandmothers were spared beatings by prayers or interventions of religious leaders or followers. Prayers didn’t stop or prevent sexual abuse of children or in the Penn State sex abuse scandal.

      Yes, Homo sapiens have histories of spiritual beliefs and practices as demonstrated by archeological and anthropological studies from the Neolithic Age (New Stone Age), starting in about 9,500 BCE to 2,500 BCE. During this time, women played a powerful role in their religious practices because of the mystery of women bleeding every month and not dying, of bearing children and nursing them. Some call this the Age of the Goddess, i.e. “This Sacred Earth: Religion, Nature, Environment” edited by Roger Gottlieb, 1996; “Ecofeminism: Symbolic and Social Connections of the Oppression of Women and the Domination of Nature” by Rosemary Radford Ruether; “Messages from the Past: The World of the Goddess” by Riane Eisler.

      I don’t want to bore anyone with a litany of violations of human and nature’s wellbeing by religious doctrine, but to just remind you of The Crusades when illiterate Europeans invaded the Holy Lands to take away Muslim control and to remind you of the advanced culture of Islam that Christians wanted to displace.

      Christians murdered, tortured, and mutilated, human beings and destroyed communities, farms, water supplies and industry in the name of their god. Priests and preachers murdered men and women for being witches and some cut off noses of those of another “Christian” faith.

      Don’t insult me with pleadings of the “good” religion has done throughout history. Your claims merely reveal your lack of education and failure to recognize atrocities that occur, even today, in the name of some god.

      Yes, Sweden is able to maintain a humane and decent culture without interference from religions. They understand morality and ethical behavior without bowing to an un-seeable, un-knowable, un-responding superstition.

      Perhaps you “would rather Christianity than so many other things that would fill the vacuum.” You have every right to believe as you do … don’t stuff your faith and beliefs down my throat and get out of my way when teaching children fairy tales instead of science. Keep your god off my money, out of my government, away from my laws.

      Your brain may have told you a god made you and everything that is. Well that explains you. Too bad! My brain tells me to look, listen, discuss, learn, explore, experiment, and pay attention to cause and effect. From such observations, develop a hypothesis and test the principle, always keeping in mind that I am not here to control or oppress or dominate or make you happy. I am here to participate in life, with all my faculties, loving and caring for others and myself while being able and willing to stand up to fascism.

      The institutions of family, church, community, education, laws, law enforcement, and health care, have interfered with good mental and physical health for far too long.

      Homo sapiens did not move out the Stone Age because they ran out of stones; they learned healthy, effective, efficient ways of solving problems, resolving conflict, and creating a just society. God had nothing to do with it.

      1. Amen. So very well said, and definitely a keeper for future reference. Related to the evil done in the name of the church, I recently noted that it has taken nearly 500 years for the Lutheran church to apologize for the killing, burning at the stake, and cutting out tongue and other torture of anabaptists for the ‘heresy’ that baptism ought to be a conscious, considered decision of an adult.

  5. Yes, whenever someone claims that without religion people will all be scumbags or that redistributive tax systems lead to disaster, you do tend to wonder whether they have ever heard of Scandinavia.

  6. In all the Arab/Israeli peace talks, the overriding view is that the two sides have a right to their religions and that they just need to find a way to make nice. Well, I’m sorry. As long as that continues nothing will happen. The planet is facing a nuclear catastrophe because of this. A voice is needed, saying that it’s time to ditch ALL of this nonsense, emphasizing that it all developed in something like 1/10 the time since the last Ice Age, and that the differences are largely based on myth. And if they wail about their history, hammer on the EVIDENCE that we all came out of Africa ~60kyr ago.

    1. saying that it’s time to ditch ALL of this nonsense

      Absolutely no disagreement here.

      emphasizing that it all developed in something like 1/10 the time since the last Ice Age

      A factual error. Depending on which particular line in the sand you want to use, the end of the Ice Age (if it has ended ; a different topic) was between 13000 and 9000 years ago, which by your criterion would leave 1300 to 900 years for the development of religions. If you work the other way, and look back to the start of evident religion not later than the early Egyptian monumental architecture of around 5000 years ago. That would put the alleged end of the ice age at 50000 years ago ; wildly too early.
      Analogies are nice ; but if you’re going to create a new one (and this one looks new to me), it’s probably a good idea to make them reasonably accurate. Otherwise you’ve left yourself a hostage to fortune, and one day you’re going to have to spend excessive effort correcting your analogy.

  7. So, the only reason David Wolpe is “good” is because of fear of a greater power!
    I think the average bacteria is morally superior to that.

    1. No no silly, he doesn’t mean himself, he means all those OTHER PEOPLE out there. THEY can’t be trusted to play nice. They can’t of course, that’s why we have laws and police. Funny how countries with lots of religion still need laws and police.

  8. A world without religion would be Nietzsche’s world. It would be a world in which ultimately the only value is power.

    No, a world in which the only value is power is the world depicted in the Old Testament and other artifacts from the Iron Age. Yahweh in the OT has all of the trappings of an Iron Age ruler; his only real value is that he’s the most powerful god out of them all. Even more so, Yahweh has all of the trappings of a male alpha primate.

  9. I went to the debate and found it entertaining. The opposing side (Wolpe, D’Souza) did remarkably well I thought, thanks to Wolpe being very well prepared and forceful. Grayling and Chapman didn’t counter his arguments about how the extensive (and often unreported) charity/volunteering work of the religious disproved the proposition. I missed Hitchens terribly.

    1. That is, as far as I can tell, one of the strongest points in favor of religion. It is important for atheists to develop their arguments about this point or they risk getting out manouvered in debates with well prepared theists.

      1. Indeed. The argument carries great weight, and it would be distressing if the argument (religious people are more charitable) is true. Wolpe and S’Souza both quoted a fair amount of statistics on this topic that I hadn’t heard before, but then during the Q&A a gentleman in the audience called out D’Souza for completely distorting the book he had cited, and that the opposite conclusion could be drawn from the book if funding issues (?) was taken into account. I would be curious to look into that if a transcript becomes available (I don’t remember the book or the numbers).

        1. Don’t worry, as Tom Rees notes “Atheists Are Generous-They Just Don’t Give to Charity“:

          “If a pollster asked how much you give to charity, what would you say? Some pretty exhaustive analyses from Arthur Brooks (a professor of business and government policy at Syracuse University) suggest that if you’re nonreligious, the figure you’ll report to the pollster will likely be smaller, on average, than the numbers claimed by the religious. Score one for religion: clearly it makes for nicer, more generous people. That, at least, is the message that Brooks would like to leave you with (for more on Brooks, see Tom Flynn, “Are Secularists Less Generous?” FI, August/ September 2010).

          But hang on a moment. There’s more to generosity than handing over cash to a charity, and there are plenty of other ways to help your fellow humans. How do the nonreligious perform when it comes to generosity in kind, rather than in cash? There have been a few studies looking into this, and they reveal a rather different picture. […]

          These results are not flukes. When assessed in objective, unprompted conditions, the religious are consistently found to be no more generous, kind, or caring than the nonreligious.”

          Rees also notes all the confounds. One of them is that “a large part of religious charity goes, to a large extent, straight into the pockets of co-religionists”.

          “Put private and public giving together, and Denmark—one of the least religious countries in the world—is clearly the far more generous nation.

          Do the nonreligious give less to charity than the religious? Well, the data are a bit muddy, but on the balance of probabilities they should, I think, be found guilty as charged. But does this mean that the religious are more generous than atheists? Here the data are clear. The resounding answer is no!”

          So atheists beats religious three times over: we usually ride less on tax exempts, we usually give more, and we usually put less of the given back in our own pockets!

          1. I wonder, do the religious give to charities Their beliefs or religious authorities approve of only, or to all charities regardless or religious supports or no religious support at all.

          2. “If a pollster asked how much you give to charity, what would you say? Some pretty exhaustive analyses from Arthur Brooks (a professor of business and government policy at Syracuse University) suggest that if you’re nonreligious, the figure you’ll report to the pollster will likely be smaller, on average, than the numbers claimed by the religious. Score one for religion: clearly it makes for nicer, more generous people.”

            Is there another interpretation of this? Could the religious be more likely to exaggerate the amount that they give to charity?

  10. DW: The idea [that we’d be better off without religion] is a modern.

    Is Wolpe classifying everything from the enlightenment on as modern? He must be, since Hume suggested this in the late 1700’s.

    Lucretious, Seneca, Aristotle, and many other greek and roman writers commented very cynically on religion, basically implying that its mostly a bunch of made-up stuff useful for political control but that’s it. Plato’s ideal republic didn’t have religion.

    This attitude might not technically count as ‘better off without it,’ but its not exactly a ringing endorsement of religion’s truthiness.

    1. Well, high-profile pop-historian Dick Harrison would agree that a couple of hundred years is well within one human generation if it’s


      Because History is magic like that.

  11. I really don’t care for Rabbi Wolpe… he seems like the sort of person who has a variety of stock answers to various questions and has never bothered to sit down and realize that they contradict each other. I’ve read about him trying to tell people that the Exodus never happened (as is correct) and then use Moses and Abraham as examples of how circumcision has long been part of Jewish culture. Really? You can’t admit they don’t exist and then use “from the time of Moses” as a way of justifying your tribal practice anymore. It seems like he runs into the same problem with the stuff Prof Coyne quoted.

    1. That, and christian Europe was moral because “pagan morality was embedded in the bones of Europe.”


    2. Not too far off, really. I gather we Protestant atheists do have a different worldview from Catholic atheists.

      I assume something can be gleaned from comparing the French welfare state to the Dutch one.. Or more likely Northern and Southern Germany.

  12. I don’t see the first two extracts as necessarily contradictory. The first seems to argue that religion doesn’t inevitably make people behave badly, the second that it can do so.

  13. “If there hadn’t been the Catholic church, what on earth would have impelled some sort of secular Inquisition?”

    Haven’t you read about the Cultural Revolution, the Stalinist purges and the Killing Fields?

    1. Were the atrocities of the Stalinist purges and the Killing Fields justified by atheism or a belief in secularism? No.

      Were the atrocities of the Inquisition justified by a belief in religion? Yes, indeed they were.

      It is not a fault of religion or secularism that crimes are committed by people who hold those beliefs. It is a fault of religion that it is used to justify committing or covering up crimes.

      1. “Were the atrocities of the Stalinist purges and the Killing Fields justified by atheism or a belief in secularism? No.”

        Jerry’s implicit challenge had no such requirement. His utopian vision questioned whether the Inquisition would or could have happened without the RCC. The mere existence of the atrocities I mentioned — committed by regimes that were explicitly and intentionally secular — demonstrates that religion is not required.

        That said, many Soviet purges (to take one example) were indeed predicated upon the government’s commitment to atheism and upon its opposition to religion qua religion. You might take a look at the Daniel Peris book, Storming the Heavens: The Soviet League of the Militant Godless, for details.

  14. The only thing that militates against power is the sense that there’s something higher.

    Right, a higher “power”. In other words, “might makes right” is still in effect, it’s just that there’s something bigger than all of us enforcing its will on us. That’s still an issue of power, it just makes all humans the victims of it.

  15. Thank you so much for reporting on the program, “The world would be better off without religion.” with Anthony Grayling and Matthew Chapman vs. Rabbi David Wolpe and Dinesh D’Souza. I look forward to seeing the debate and thank you for helping do that. Very many of my comments on the internet revolve around violence in the family and my email responses include many who dislike my comments, telling me to remain silent, praying for my spiritual state, and even the terrible sexual threats that come to one who makes too much noise. I absolutely agree, words such as “respect”, “tolerance”, and “forgiveness” need to be reserved for those worthy. What good are these values in the face of reality?

  16. ” . . . the strange duo of Rabbi David Wolpe and Dinesh D’Souza.”

    Just curious, what makes this a duo sufficiently “strange” to warrant making mention of it? Is the strangeness in this particular pairing? Or is it that one or both individually are “strange”? Or are they “strange” for simply being religious?

    Regarding D’Souza, the word “infuriating” comes to mind much more quickly than “strange.”

    Ah reckon we all have our days whar we’re a bit tetched in the haid and considered a right smart peculiar.

    A relative of mine once went out of her way to inform me that a friend of mine was “a little odd.” Must have been more than a little, else it wasn’t worth the mention. By what standard is someone “strange” or “odd”? Mere subjective opinion?

  17. How is a country in which almost a quarter of the population believe in God, a model for what the world would be like without religion? If 23% of the world’s population were religious that would be on the order of 1.6 billion people.

  18. I was at that debate! I took a whole page of notes, so here are some quick impressions:

    Of the four debaters, I actually think the rabbi, David Wolpe, came off best. He was the most polished speaker of the bunch and had a lot of facts at his disposal, which showed that he’d put a lot of preparation into this. By contrast, Dinesh D’Souza was a good speaker, but he didn’t come off very sympathetically. The audience actually booed him at a few points, such as when he argued that it’s perfectly acceptable for the Vatican to own so many priceless treasures of art and architecture, because it was the popes who commissioned them in the first place. (Thankfully, the atheists didn’t overlook the obvious rejoinder, that the popes were the ones who commissioned those artworks because they had all the money.) There was also a kind of stunned silence when he claimed, near the end of the debate, that Indians welcomed Christian colonizers because it was a way to escape the caste system.

    I think Chapman and Grayling held their own, but they missed several opportunities to land really devastating blows. I was furiously scribbling the whole time, and I thought of at least a half a dozen good comebacks they missed. In response to Wolpe making the case that religion inspires charitable giving and volunteerism, they could have pointed out that violent groups like Hamas also offer social services and charity, which underscores the point that religious volunterism has more to do with tribalism than morality. They also didn’t discuss whether it’s social organization, rather than religion per se, that encourages believers to give more: it’s just easier to remember to do it when the opportunity is always in front of you.

    In response to Chapman discussing the harm of creationism and anti-intellectualism generally, D’Souza claimed that it’s just a “1% minority of religious rednecks” who support those ideas. That was a really outrageous and absurd claim that the atheists could have hammered him over, but they let it slide. Similarly, when Wolpe argued that no one takes literally the Bible verses about, say, chopping off a woman’s hand if she grabs a man’s testicles, Grayling missed a chance to point out that Wolpe was actually advocating picking out the good verses and discarding the bad ones, which was exactly what he accused them of doing earlier on.

    Both Chapman and Grayling brought up religious homophobia and mistreatment of women, which neither Wolpe nor D’Souza did anything to rebut. Grayling also made the clever move of bringing up Stalin early on in the debate, comparing Soviet communism and religion as similar in that they’re both “totalizing ideologies” that brook no dissent. That was a nice trick to preempt and defuse the inevitable ploy of tarring all atheists with the communist brush, not that stopped D’Souza from trying it anyway.

    1. That myth of the “Indians welcoming the christian colonisers” is so often repeated by Dinesh D’Souza, he might almost have started to believe it is true. True, Hinduism has had a big problem with the caste system, but the fist (and by far the most succesful) religious attempt to remove it was Buddhism, back in 500BC. Even in 1930s when BR Ambedkar, the architect of India’s current constitution, wanted to make a religious statement, he and his myriads of followers chose _Buddhism_ to convert to, not Christianity.

      Further, what often gets overlooked abroad that the caste system is so ingrained in some pockets of Indian society that religion is no escape from it. In far flung parts of rural India, where the caste system is the most severe, even Christians and Muslims flaunt their castes (which are also officially recognised for affirmative action purposes).

      Another factor blowing holes in that thesis is the presence of Christianity in India since the 1st century CE, and that of Islam since the 11th century CE. Why would the “Indians” wait 600 years (assuming first that Islam and Buddhism were not to their liking) to welcome the European colonisers, who in turn systematically destroyed Indian economy from being one of the world’s leading ones in the 17th century to make it one of the world’s poorest nations by the time they left in the 1940s?

  19. Why is it that these people are always so provincial?

    You want to know what happens in a society with no supernatural beliefs? Take a look at China before European contact. It was, by far, the most civilized region of the world for a couple thousand years, with no “higher power” to look up to.

    And I’m again reminded of a great Mencken quote: “People say we need religion when what they really mean is we need police.”

    1. … a society with no supernatural beliefs? Take a look at China before European contact. It was, by far, the most civilized region of the world for a couple thousand years, with no “higher power” to look up to.

      You could argue with whether China, India or Europe were the “most civilized” culture on the Earth at date X, and people do argue the point, vigorously. But to assert that China had no religion during this interval? That’s not going to fly. They did have several religions, which were not particularly deistic, but were religions nonetheless. Principally they had several variants of Buddhism, as well as Confucianism. The latter is strongly influenced by various animistic beliefs that pre-dated it, with a strong dose of ancestor worship mixed in there too.

  20. “A world without religion would be Nietzsche’s world. It would be a world in which ultimately the only value is power. If there isn’t a transcendent value, then the strongest wins.”

    You mean, just like this world?

    Power isn’t some phantom of the opera, jeering and jigging maliciously behind the machina. It is the case, and tautological, that aggregations of power exert influence.

    Contrary to Wolpe’s belief, this also is not Dragon Ball Z, and there is no cosmic H.R. Geiger tyrant ruling and vaporizing planets with an iron fist. Large groups of people add their influence to the pots of governance and exert their own demands, which frequently happen to coincide enough to credibly mandate a particular wish.

    The Leviathan of society is also a Shen Long.

  21. I agree, this was a good debate – but I did miss the ferocity of Hitchens to put the religious in their place.
    Dinesh came off very apologetic to the Catholic Church and Missionaries invading with swords and Bibles, yet critical of secular regimes. A humanist would say these are all unfortunate events, but Dinesh is so blinded by his faith, he sees them as necessary evils for Gods big plan. That’s like saying “Slavery in the US wasn’t so bad, see we had this great cotton industry!”
    The theme that continued to thrive was that religions were more charitable than secular ones. One could argue that the reason for the charity was not in the interest of the human, but for the sake of their “soul”. Coming from a Christian background, I was instructed that missionary work was to win souls for Jesus. I went to Mexico and built houses in order to have a reason to witness to unbelievers. Although I did have empathy for the humans there and I did connect with them on that level, I had another motive. Now in retrospect, it does seem very dishonest. Christians are also expected to tythe 10% of their income to God. But again, this is self serving as they believe they will be “blessed” for doing so.
    I don’t see that selfishness in Humanism. I give back to my community now because it is a good thing to do and I feel good doing it. I don’t expect to be blessed or win souls for Jesus – it just satisfies a human desire to help my fellow man. And I don’t need swords and Bibles to make that point. The trick is to convince the religious that they can still have motivation for doing good things without the dogma. They fear walking away from it, because they have been told by Wolpe and Dinesh that they will succumb to their inherent evil desires and become like Adolf Hitler.

  22. Turned it off when Wolpe made the idiotic point that if you were to remove religion from the world, then the majority of all aid operations in the world would collapse. How can anyone pretend that this guy is a serious thinker??

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