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Hitchens vs Blair
The Munk Debate
CH: Once you assume a creator and a plan, it makes us objects, in a cruel experiment, whereby we are created sick, and commanded to be well. I’ll repeat that. Created sick, and then ordered to be well. And over us, to supervise this, is installed a celestial dictatorship, a kind of divine North Korea. Greedy, exigent, greedy for uncritical phrase from dawn until dusk and swift to punish the original since with which it so tenderly gifted us in the very first place.
...redemption, indeed, is promised, at the low price of the surrender of your critical faculties. Religion, it might be said, it must be said, would have to admit makes extraordinary claims but though I would maintain that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, rather daringly provides not even ordinary evidence for its extraordinary supernatural claims.
...is it good for the world to appeal to our credulity and not to our scepticism? Is it good for the world to worship a deity that takes sides in wars and human affairs? To appeal to our fear and to our guilt, is it good for the world? To our terror, our terror of death, is it good to appeal?
To preach guilt and shame about the sexual act and the sexual relationship, is this good for the world? And asking yourself all the while, are these really religious responsibilities, as I maintain they are? To terrify children with the image of hell and eternal punishment, not just of themselves, but their parents and those they love. Perhaps worst of all, to consider women an inferior creation, is that good for the world, and can you name me a religion that has not done that?
....Religion forces nice people to do unkind things, and also makes intelligent people say stupid things. Handed a small baby for the first time, is it your first reaction to think, beautiful, almost perfect, now please hand me the sharp stone for its genitalia that I may do the work of the Lord.
Everyone in the civilised world has roughly agreed, including the majority of Arabs and Jews and the international community, that there should be enough room for two states for two peoples in the same land, I think we have a rough agreement on that. Why can’t we get it, the UN, the US, the quartet, the PLO, the Israeli parliament can’t get it, why not? Because the parties of God have a veto on it, and everybody knows this is true. Because of the divine promises made about this territory, there will never be peace or compromise, there will instead be misery, shame and tyrrany and people will kill each others’ children for ancient books, caves and relics, and who is going to say this is good for the world? That’s just the example nearest to hand.
TB: It is undoubtedly true that people commit horrific acts of evil in the name of religion. It is also undoubtedly true that people do acts of extraordinary common good inspired by religion.
It was Rabbi Hillel who was once famously challenged by someone that said they would convert to religion if he could recite the whole of the Torah standing on one leg. He stood on one leg and said: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That is the Torah, the rest is commentary, now go and do it.
imagine indeed a world without religious faith, not just no place of worship, no prayer or scripture but no men or women who because of their faith dedicating their lives to others, showing forgiveness where otherwise they wouldn’t, believing through their faith that even the weakest and most powerless have rights, and they have a duty to defend them.
CH: if you are going to grant this to Catholic charities, I would say, which I hope are doing a lot of work in Africa, if I was a member of a church that had preached that AIDS was not as bad as condoms, I would be putting some conscience money into Africa too, I must say. I’m not trying to be funny. If I was trying to be funny, you mistook me. It won’t bring back the millions of people who have died wretched deaths because of that teaching, that still goes on.
...the Mormons will tell you the same, you may think it’s a bit cracked to think Joseph Smith found another bible buried in upstate New York, but you should see our missionaries in action; I’m not impressed. I’d rather have no Mormons, no missionaries and no Joseph Smith.
... I’m also familiar with the teachings of Rabbi Hilel, I also know where he plagiarised the story from, the injunction not to do to another … of Confucius, if you want to date it, but actually it’s found in the heart of every person in this room. Everybody knows that much. We don’t require divine permission to know right from wrong. We don’t need tablets administered to us ten at a time in tablet form on pain of death to be able to have a moral argument. No, we have the reasoning and the moral persuasion of Socrates and our own abilities, we don’t need dictatorship to give us right from wrong, and that’s my lot, thank you.
TB: I’m simply claiming one very simple thing, that if we can’t drive religion out of the world because many people of faith believe it and believe it very deeply, let’s at least see how we do make religion a force for good, how we do encourage those people of faith who are trying to do good, and how we unite those against those who want to pervert religion.
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