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Blair vs Hitchens: the dress rehearsal

Is religion a force for good? That's the subject of a long-awaited debate tonight between the former PM and one of the world's leading secularists. We asked two leading writers to set out the rival arguments in advance

Christina Patterson: You really can't blame us. From the moment we slithered out of the primordial sludge, or sprang to life from a rib, or hauled ourselves upright and watched the hair drop from our stomachs and arms and legs, and were faced with a planet full of food, most of which was in a form that galloped away when we went near it, and told to help ourselves, it was always going to be hard. Nobody explained why we urgently wanted to stick bits of ourselves into bits of other creatures like us, or why, when we did, tiny, screaming versions of us emerged that also demanded hunks of mammoth, as if it wasn't already knackering enough getting hold of them for ourselves. Nobody explained why the tiny creatures sometimes died, and so did the creatures we'd been sticking our bits in, which seemed to suggest that one day we might, too.
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Roger Scruton: Just as there are bad people with religious beliefs, so there are good people without them. So what does religion add to morality and why is the addition good? The first thing that religion adds is the idea of the sacred. This idea is a strange sediment in human consciousness; it might have an evolutionary cause, but the cause does not tell us what it means. The second thing that religion adds is communion.
Read on



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