“Religion is a force for good in the world” was the title for a debate in Toronto yesterday between former British Prime Minister Tony Blair speaking for the motion and intellectual journalist Christopher Hitchens speaking against it.
Hitchens, currently undergoing chemotherapy for aggressive cancer was nonetheless in characteristic sparkling form and I simply could not agree more with the majority of the points he made.
For instance (paraphrased):
Religion is destructive, is based on superstitious hokum and, a bit like communism, might briefly seem noble until you see that it steals your every freedom away. Religions require that we are created sick and then ordered to be well, and over us to supervise this is a sort of celestial dictatorship, a kind of divine North Korea … Salvation is offered at the low price of the surrender of your critical faculties.
The response from Mr Blair besides being weak saw him also spectacularly miss the point – “I do not consider the leader of North Korea a religious icon,”
An audience vote produced a victory for Hitchens, with 68 per cent opposing the resolution and 32 per cent supporting it.
I enjoyed the Hitchens book God is Not Great and found very little to disagree with. His journalistic critique of religion I’d suggest is much more user friendly than his fellow author scientist Richard Dawkins’s work.
When Hitchens broadens his scope to include international politics and war, like his nemesis George Galloway he can descend into complete craziness no matter how well he structures a point or argues a case.
On religion though he is usually just about spot on.
The Independent article reporting on the Hitchens – Blair debate is here