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.
Lyn Allison for one thing is misquoting the bible, no surprise there those foolish atheist like her always does! Oh and she knows with out a doubt how this universe was created...then that makes her all knowing...She is arrogant! Oh in she seems to care so much for witches and how religion hurts children, yet it is OK to kill over 70,000 unborn babies everyday due to abortion, right? The Irony of these people like her makes me sick!!!!!!!
It was disappointing to hear all of the participants bogged down with the concept of religions (plural) rather than religion/spirituality in general. Would the world be better off without relgious factions fighting against eachother? clearly. Would the world be better off without the concept of religion? That is more nebulous. What purpose does religous belief serve? Is it important? Is it helpful? What are the benefits and drawbacks of spirituality? That would have been a much more interesting debate.
Someone just handed me a book called "The Tender Carnivore" by Paul Shepard. From what I've read it makes the case of making environmentalism- or to be more precise, "Deep Ecology"- a religion even stronger. Deep Ecology has a very specific ethical basis- the exalting of the non-human or 'natural' as an end in itself, of seeing any human activity that intrudes upon or alters the 'natural', even agriculture, as evil and anti-natural, an 'eco-centric' standard of values as opposed to an 'anthropocentric' view- which essentially reduces human life to a non-value or a value no graeter than the lowest of the lifeforms. All this is found in the philosophical worldview of many of the world's religions, including the "Garden of Eden" myth that creates an idealized perfect past before the "fall of Man".
One can still be an environmentalist and not subscribe to Deep Ecology. Just like feminists come in all colors of the ideological rainbow, one can be from the Right or Left and share a common environmental agenda. But I believe the Deep Ecologists should come clean, come out and declare themselves a religion. It could become much more organized and consistent with their stated beliefs without necessarily dogmatic. It could have its own rituals, its own set of devotions, even a sacred literature...I mean this in all seriousness. There is nothing wrong with creating a new religion. As a religion it can impart meaning, motivation and community to those who choose to follow it. It can enter the public discourse of ideas on an equal footing with other religions and beliefs. Just as an Mormon or a Baptist can run for public office guided by his personal faith without making it policy, so can a member of the environmentalist religion bring his faith into the public sphere- without pretending that what they are promoting is science.
hmm, I don't know. I guess there are a lot of reasons.
1. To explain what they don't know. Back in the day it might have been what causes lightning. Yet, some core questions still remain... like how we got here.
2. To give meaning to life/death. Are we really nothing more than animals roaming the planet... not really different than a cat or dog? So religion helps with this. You are here to serve god... there is a greater life later on.
3. Identity. I don't know if people invented it for identity, but we surely continue it for that reason. It becomes part of you... the same as culture.
4. To provide a super-law. It's possible leaders invented religion to give them and their laws more authority.
5. Man was drugged out or crazy. This is highly possible. If someone was crazy or on drugs, they might suffer delusions and then convince themselves they heard something supernatural. Those beliefs then spread.
6. Then again, its possible God really exists and man didn't invent anything :P
7. Can't think of much more off the top of my head.
Appreciate your post. Why does mankind invent religion? Is it to justify their acts (no matter how detrimental to others) that advance the physical well-being (i.e. modern creature comforts/conveniences) of their own individual lot in life and/or that of the collective group to which they belong? Would like to know the thoughts of you and/or others.
Would the world be better off without political ideologies, nationalism, different cultures... ?
That is the same question as asking would the world be better off without religion. All the 'bad' things spoken about religion are found in any other 'belief system'
If the religious divide causes someone to kill because they are Christian and the other is a Hindu. What difference is that from killing someone killing someone because they are French and not British?
If religion messes up science as the birth control example did... how is it different that environmental religion caused bad science to embrace ethanol... where any reasonable person could have seen the rise in food prices, the deforestation, the lack of a significant reduction in carbon...
If I force you to convert to a religion... how is that different than forcing me to convert to your political ideology (socialism, capitalism, communism, fascism...).
Basically, religion is no different from any other belief system that mankind has invented and it has all the good and bad that comes along with it.