Posted November 29, 2010 by The Underground Staff in Culture

Hitchens outscores Blair in Munk Debate about religion

Dubbed the voice of atheism, Christopher Hitchens recently won  a debate against former Prime Minister Tony Blair in the Munk Debate series held in Toronto, Canada.

The motion for the debate, which was organized by the Aurea Foundation group for the Munk series, was “Be it resolved, religion is a force for good in the world,” according to The Guardian.

Even before the debate began the 2,700 audience leaned heavily on Hitchens’ side, with 57 percent in disagreement with the motion compared to only 22 percent on Blair’s side, agreeing with the motion. The remaining 31 percent were undecided, Christianity Today said.

By the end of the debate both speakers won over some of the undecided, with Hitchens’ final score at 68 percent, and Blair scoring 32 percent, according to Christianity Today.

However, the Guardian said the real winner was the debate organizers, with the Roy Thomson Hall filled to capacity and an overflow crowd at a separate location where the debate was watched on TV monitors.

The Guardian said weeks before the debate, tickets had already been sold out and some were on eBay “several times their cover price.” It will air on the BBC World Service radio on Dec. 4, and on Radio 4 on Dec. 11. It can also be viewed on BBC World News and the News Channel on Jan. 1, 2011, BBC News said.

Spiritual gobbledygook

Hitchens, who wrote the bestseller God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, called religion “spiritual gobbledygook” and cited the misery that religion caused through the ages, including the exacerbation of many world conflicts, Christianity Today reported.

The atheist, who is afflicted with esophageal cancer, said, “Once you assume a creator and a plan it makes us subjects in a cruel experiment.” He compared God to a “celestial dictatorship, a kind of divine North Korea,” Christianity Today said.

He said, “To terrify children with the image of hell…to consider women an inferior creation. Is that good for the world?” Christianity Today reported.

Convert to Catholicism

Blair, who converted to Catholicism in 2007, said that while it is true that “people commit horrific acts of evil in the name of religion,” it is also undeniable that religion has been the inspiration for much extraordinary good, the UKPA reported.

Of his decisions on war as prime minister, Blair said it was “not about religious faith,” but “based on policy,” according to the UKPA. Blair said one should not render blanket judgment on all people of faith due to the “bigotry or prejudice shown by some.”

Blair cited the good acts of faith-based groups such as saving millions of lives in Africa, and caring for those who are disabled, mentally ill and destitute noting, “The proposition that religion is unadulterated poison is unsustainable. It can be destructive, [but] it can also create a deep well of compassion, and frequently does.”

The UKPA also quoted Blair suggesting that rather than try to “drive religion out,” efforts are better spent getting people from different faiths to work together, especially in the Middle East.