While the world's religions have inspired stunning acts of creation, they also have been implicated in some of the darkest deeds in human history.
If God cannot be blamed for such moments of evil, His priests and prophets at least have a case to answer.
So what might they say? That religion is unfairly blamed -- and that we should look to other factors? Admit that there are problems but argue that on balance the good outweighs the bad? That there is no alternative; that people need religion like they need air?- Intelligence Squared
Richard Ackland is a prominent columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald writing on legal and ethical issues.
He is founder of Law Press of Australia, whose publications include The Justinian and The Gazette of Law and Journalism. Ackland has been a staunch advocate of free speech and was co-winner of the prestigious Gold Walkley for Journalism in 1999 following work as writer and presenter of the ABC's Media Watch program.
Ackland has also presented ABC Radio National's breakfast program, covering a range of issues and controversies. In 2000 he was awarded the Voltaire Prize for Free Speech.
Lyn Allison was an Australian Democrat Senator from 1996 to 2008. Lyn Allison has been a prominent advocate for women's issues, and human rights.
She served on the Senate Environment and Information Technology Committeee, and the Select Committees inquiring into gambling and Health. Following a study tour to Lebanon, Allison introduced legislation intro Parliament which would prevent Australia from using cluster bombs. Allison is the former Director of the Employment and Economic Development Corporation in Melbourne and a Councillor for the Port Melbopurne City Council.
Earlier this year she was named Humanist of the Year, for her commitment to the democratic process and support for the secular nature of Australian society.
Dr. John Lennox
Dr. John Lennox holds three doctorates in the fields of science and mathematics and is a Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science at Green College, University of Oxford.
His most recent book is God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?. Lennox also holds a degree in bioethics and has lectured extensively in Europe, both Western and Eastern, including many visits to Russia as a guest of the Academy of Science. A popular Christian apologist and scientist, he travels widely speaking on the interface between science and religion.
Like Dawkins, he has dedicated his career to science, but he has arrived at very different conclusions. "It is the very nature of science that leads me to belief in God," he says.
Dr. Simon Longstaff is Executive Director of St. James Ethics Centre. Simon spent five years studying and working as a member of Magdalene College, Cambridge. Having won scholarships to study at Cambridge, he read for the degrees of Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy. He was inaugural President of The Australian Association for Professional and Applied Ethics and is a Director of a number of companies. He is a Fellow of the World Economic Forum and a member of the International Advisory Committee of the Foreign Policy Association, based in New York.
Ian Plimer is Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne and Professor of mining geology at the University of Adelaide.
He is a prominent critic of creationism, and is famous for a debate with creationist Duane Gish in which he asked his opponent to hold live electrical cables to prove that electromagnetism was 'only a theory'. He has published over 120 academic papers and six popular books. He is also a prominent member of the Australian Skeptics.
In 2004 he was awarded the Calrk Medal by the Rioyal Society of NSW. In the late 1990s, Plimer was involved in legal proceedings concerning the location of Noah's Ark, in which Plimer was ultimately unsuccessful. His most recent book, Telling Lies For God, has a forward by Archbishop Peter Hollingsworth. Professor Plimer argues that religion is important for the fabric of society.
Suzanne Rutland is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Hebrew, Biblical & Jewish Studies at the University of Sydney and the main lecturer in the program of Jewish Civilization, Thought and Cultures.
She has published widely on Australian Jewish history, edits the Sydney edition of the AJHS Journal, as well as writing on issues relating to the Shoah and Israel. Her latest books are The Jews in Australia and Triumph of the Jewish Spirit: Forty Years of the Jewish Communal Appeal. In January 2008 she received the Medal of the Order of Australia from the Australian Government for services to Higher Jewish Education and interfaith dialogue.
Professor Vic Stenger is emeritus Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Hawaii and adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado. Stenger spent forty years doing basic research in elementary particle physics and astrophysics before retiring in 2000 and moving to Colorado. He is the author of seven books that deal with the interface between science, pseudoscience, and religion including: The Comprehensible Cosmos and God: The Failed Hypothesis - How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist. The last title was on the New York Times bestseller list in 2007. Stenger maintains that plausible natural explanations exist for for all observable phenomena and there is strong scientific evidence against anything mystical or supernatural in the universe.
Ian Plimer, Professor of Mining Geology at the University of Adelaide, argues that most atheists are in no position to attack religion if they support environmentalism, which he claims is becoming an almost cult-like religion of its own.
Suzanne Rutland, Chair of the Department of Hebrew, Biblical & Jewish Studies at the University of Sydney, argues that human beings need to belong to a group that provides altruistic and loving relationships and a belief in some higher principle, something that secular society does not provide.
Relation of human beings to God or the gods or to whatever they consider sacred or, in some cases, merely supernatural. Archaeological evidence suggests that religious beliefs have existed since the first human communities. They are generally shared by a community, and they express the communal culture and values through myth, doctrine, and ritual. Worship is probably the most basic element of religion, but moral conduct, right belief, and participation in religious institutions also constitute elements of the religious life. Religions attempt to answer basic questions intrinsic to the human condition (Why do we suffer? Why is there evil in the world? What happens to us when we die?) through the relationship to the sacred or supernatural or (e.g., in the case of Buddhism) through perception of the true nature of reality. Broadly speaking, some religions (e.g., Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) are outwardly focused, and others (e.g., Jainism, Buddhism) are inwardly focused.
This guy's brain must be pretty weirdly wired to end up seeing science as a religion. You can tell the reach of his sight in his notion that people "fear a warm climate" that all generations in the past have welcome. Hellooo! People fear exacerbating weather extremes, crippling droughts, devastating floods, food shortages, vast coastlines and cities flooded, spreading disease --and the dislocating wars and extinctions that are mathematically predicted to follow. Of course there is great uncertainty: the precise extent of the planet that will become unllivable if not uninhabitable, 20, 30, 40, 60%?
Richard Ackland is really great in this debate, where it comes down to according to me is what he says at the end of his speech.
"If there is no god, there's no point to religion"
The fact is, religious people have no evidence for the existence of a god and try to keep the debate from pointing that out, cause the outcome would be that the theory of religion is highly flawed.
Not only is there no evidence for a god or any miracles, the few pieces of evidence that they do have is flawed in such a way that it is laughable. The Bible and the Koran have so many ridiculous verses that nobody in their right mind could use these books as an explanation for the reason of life. However, because many people rather life in false knowledge than in doubt, they take the easy way out. This combined with religious education by parents and even schools makes religion still the most important doctrine in the world.
Listening to Ian Plimer is an example of last said, he simply can’t believe that we are the product of coincidence or call it luck. The next step he takes is filling the void with a theory that is well established and can’t be falsified, cause it is just as much impossible to proof that there is no god as that there is. However the absence of proof can’t be used as a reason to adopt the religious ways.
The point Ian makes about environmentalism is a just one though. Not accepting any criticism on the state of the environment is just as bad as not doing so in religion. However, just that environmentalists share one characteristic with religion, doesn’t make their whole theory religious. Environmentalist still take the evidence from science and can actually see the thing they fight for.
Finally on the part of Suzanne Rutland, she stresses that the emphasis is always on the bad parts of religion, and not the good parts. She goes on to talk about the ten commandments, just to leave out the ridiculous parts of the bible.
The fact that the bible has it’s good sides, doesn’t mean that reason and science are inferior. Example: Reason made us abolish slavery, the bible preaches it, the old and the new testament. (read: Leviticus 25)
Need I say more?
Originally Posted by galtexan
farber2 if God didn't give us the knowledge to become Doctors and build hospitals, then we would probably be extinct by now! Do you have any other stupid comments?
Religion is brainwashing and indoctrination. You are a fine example of both.
Ian Pilmer is a joke. He's obviously a corporate puppet that has not even used his skill of observation. All one has to do is look around. He obviously hasn't or he would notice a world ravaged by technology.
And NOW is the most important moment. He's lost in the past somewhere. He represents the cleptocracy who doesn't want us to be aware or awake. He subscibes to the fantasy that everything is fine and if we just leave it alone, everything will work out fine. That's Hollywood, not the real world. He can be compared to a resent scientific statement calling people who spend time thinking about the quality of their food as being seriously neurotic. He's blowing smoke up our you know what and I bet he's on the dole of some corporation and if not, he will be soon.
If religion supports war , violence , indifference to suffering ,then we are better off without it .
I do not care under what banner , flag or religion that brings to all people the security of peace , an end to violence , and relief of human suffering as long as we diligently work to this end plague among men .
It is disheartening to see such an intelligent group of scholars limiting the topic of religion to merely the ones centered on the God of Abraham. I cannot imagine this is due to mere ignorance or apathy, but rather the recognition that it would be ludicrous to suggest that the ever-evolving non-fanatical, non-dogmatic religions of the East could actually be questioned.
What have they provided? A short list would include Gandhian ideals, the origins of Jungian psychology, the Compassionate Way of the Buddha, and the oft-quoted verse from the Hindu Vedas - "Truth is One. Man reaches it in many ways."
Perhaps an effort should be made to recognize the value of what are less religions, but spiritual traditions, before one merely downplaying the value of religion as a whole.
How come that L. Allison singled out only these religions which are safe to name in criticism?
Fear or ignorance?
Dawkins once said “I do not criticize you because I fear you”
Ms Allison, rings the bell? it does, doesn’t it.