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Religion has been a positive force in culture - Comments

Daisy Skipper's Avatar Comment 1 by Daisy Skipper

What?! This is down the street and I missed it.

@hitchbitch needs to use twitter to announce his appearances.

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 15:18:20 UTC | #877456

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 2 by Ignorant Amos

Very enjoyable discussion, great to see the Hitch in excellent form and looking better complete with the hair, even if a just little gaunt.

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 16:20:11 UTC | #877473

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 3 by Red Dog

I'll listen to any debate with Hitchens in it. I think he could make a great argument for either side if he wanted to. But to be honest it strikes me as a rather silly question. I mean its hard for me to imagine any rational person saying that religion has resulted in absolutely ZERO positive impact on culture. Even Dawkins states that the King James bible is rather poetic in many parts. And its hard for me to believe any rational person could claim the opposite, clearly religion has plenty of negative effects.

So the question really comes down to balancing the negative vs. the positive. I think the net negative is much greater but I don't really see that much sense in arguing about it, its not something you can measure like you can measure the speed of a sub-atomic particle.

For me the real question isn't does religion contribute more good or bad but is religion true? That I think is the part of the argument where we do have clear unambiguous answers and the answer is no. So then even if religion did result in more net good do we really think that ultimately humanity is better served by believing in things that aren't true because they make us feel or act better or are we better served by seeking the truth?

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 16:26:51 UTC | #877479

Peter White's Avatar Comment 4 by Peter White

This was billed as a debate. I was disappointed to listen to the entire "debate" only to find that in fact there was no debate at all. Hitchens stated the negative case extremely well, as one would expect. But the person chosen to state the positive case made no case at all, and even was rude enough to admit that he was ducking the question.

In order to have a debate, both sides of the question must be presented and defended. The good doctor chose not to engage. Shame on him, and shame on the organizers of this sham.

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 16:36:19 UTC | #877481

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 5 by ZenDruid

Yeah, Brummett certainly serves up some waffle. I can't help thinking that this was a light-duty rehab session for the Hitch.

Being bearded myself (and prone to a bad habit), I have a small pro-tip for Mr Hitchens: stop playing with your face as you speak.

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 17:05:17 UTC | #877489

Vorlund's Avatar Comment 6 by Vorlund

Religions are political systems and thousands of years ago were platforms across which tribal and community loyalties could be bridged. In moving from tribal sized communities to nations and states, religions were one way of identifying members of a state.

They are now obsolete, in order to move to a global community of humankind we have to step over the fact that religions are also divisive by virtue of the fact that they enable people to identify themselves as different to other groups.

It was useful upto about 1500 years ago to have state potlic and religion intertwined its now time to realise we are part of a human family and not muslim, Xtian, jew and the like.

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 17:05:27 UTC | #877490

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 7 by ZenDruid

@Vorlund

Tribal warfare is the bedrock of all Abrahamic religions.

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 17:18:04 UTC | #877495

justinesaracen's Avatar Comment 8 by justinesaracen

It's great to see Hitch still going at it, but Brummett was not much of an opponent, was he? One of those way liberal non-dogmatic Christians who sounded agnostic half the time. No fun in facing HIM down. Hitch is so much more inspiring when he dukes it out with the likes of Ann Widdecombe (sp?).

This was from only four months ago, so it looks like Hitchens is hanging in. After so many months of silence, and his essay on losing his voice, I feared he was on a morbid decline.

Well done, Hitch.

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 17:30:02 UTC | #877499

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 9 by Premiseless

Christopher's,

Engaging a position to trump scriptural precedents,

Revealed me, the greatest poetry of my life!

My ability to be me, and see of others like he,

Defies awe, with an awe so great,

It resonates for all.

Dof!

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 17:45:12 UTC | #877504

ChadSteinback's Avatar Comment 10 by ChadSteinback

Everyone must watch this video. #wegotscared http://youtu.be/Ela3ChTzFcA

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 17:49:47 UTC | #877505

huzonfurst's Avatar Comment 11 by huzonfurst

Pretty much a game of softball here, but it was encouraging to see Hitch still out there swinging as well as getting his voice back. Someone has to be in the 5% who survive his condition and I'm sure we're all rooting for him to be one of them.

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 18:11:54 UTC | #877514

Marc Country's Avatar Comment 12 by Marc Country

To quote Robertson Davies, "Culture is simply the way in which people live. The culture of the cave man meant sitting on a rock gnawing a bone. The culture of Germany between 1935 and 1945 involved making soap out of Jews."

Religion has obviously been a malign force on culture, since it consists in the focus on and promotion of the false. As far as art goes, religion has only ever supplied the subject matter for art, which is neither here nor there: the content of art always lies in the execution.

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 18:18:47 UTC | #877517

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 13 by Red Dog

Comment 12 by Marc Country :

Religion has obviously been a malign force on culture, since it consists in the focus on and promotion of the false.

I agree and I think that's really the important point to argue. If there really is a God then it certainly makes sense to understand what He wants people to do. But if there isn't then I don't care if believing in God makes people better or not, my morality is that the truth is the most important thing. So arguments about how religion makes people lead better lives are wasted on me if religion isn't literally true.

Of course not everyone agrees with us. When you look at the arguments of the more subtle defenders of religion (I'm reading Chris Hedges book right now and I think he makes this case) it really comes down to "we don't care if religion is true, acting as if it is makes people better".

The problem is that they seldom if ever say it so directly. They go in all sorts of rhetorical circles (as Brummet does here and Hedges does in his book) talking about different kinds of truth or different ways of knowing the truth, etc. I think they do that because if they just came out and said "people should pretend to believe in religion even if its not true" very few people (even most people of faith) would find that very satisfying.

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 18:30:29 UTC | #877519

meticulotar's Avatar Comment 14 by meticulotar

Comment 12 As far as art goes, religion has only ever supplied the subject matter for art, which is neither here nor there: the content of art always lies in the execution.

Thank goodness someone has hit the nail on the head! I can't understand why these two seem to have been trying to evade the question in this debate?

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 19:33:05 UTC | #877544

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 15 by Stafford Gordon

I'm delighted to learn that Christopher Hitchins is, apparantly, on the mend.

His mind hasn't been altered or diminished by one jot or tittle.

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 19:53:43 UTC | #877555

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 16 by Schrodinger's Cat

Religion has been a positive force in culture

That's a bit like arguing smallpox has had a positive infuence because one can find a handful of survivors where a smallpox pustule destroyed a cancerous wart.

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 21:06:34 UTC | #877590

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 17 by Mr DArcy

Well it wasn't exactly a shootout at the OK Corral, - more a question of pillowcases at dawn. Hitchens made some good telling points, which our kindly professor, as he admitted, "ducked". Apparently academics are allowed (and paid) to do just that!

Hitchens' quote from the Archbishop of Canterbury in (?)1960 was brilliant. A cleric welcoming nuclear war!

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 21:11:38 UTC | #877591

jardino's Avatar Comment 18 by jardino

I'm not usually given to clapping my hands in front of my monitor, but after Christopher's closing remarks, I did.

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 21:48:11 UTC | #877598

liq's Avatar Comment 19 by liq

Hitchens was great, the academic not so much.

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 21:53:11 UTC | #877601

boogerjames's Avatar Comment 20 by boogerjames

I looked up Dr. Brummet on google and got sent here.

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 22:00:41 UTC | #877602

sanban's Avatar Comment 21 by sanban

Great to see Hitch countering this wishy-washy prevaricating apologist. Some good moments there and best of all, Hitch looks like he's on the mend!

Tue, 04 Oct 2011 00:02:05 UTC | #877631

Carl Sai Baba's Avatar Comment 22 by Carl Sai Baba

I don't think we should need to do the balancing act where we compare the benefits of knowledge vs. the benefits of insanity and ignorance. As if those two options deserved equal consideration!

But for those who insist on dragging out the scales of culture... try to imagine that the past 5,000 years of theocracy may have delayed scientific progress by even 50 years. That's not improbable at all, and imagine how much further ahead we might be. Even a mere 1% of that is not worth giving up because there are a handful of colorful paintings in some museum. Fuck you, I want the real progress.

Tue, 04 Oct 2011 02:25:46 UTC | #877667

Carl Sai Baba's Avatar Comment 23 by Carl Sai Baba

Barf. Same old "extremism is the problem" nonsense. Yes, the creation of the universe is ambiguous in the christian bible, but "they shall be put to death" is not. But let me take back that concession on Genesis--it only sounds ambiguous when considered with modern scientific knowledge, knowing that a "day" only has meaning when a planet is rotating in the presence of a sun. To the ignorant people who wrote it, 6 days probably seemed like a clear statement.

"Sure and certain" is a characteristic of extremism, but it is not the heart of the problem. The problem is that people are so often merely sure enough to make the bad decisions. As with his voting example, somebody is going to get elected. If you voted for a bad guy, it doesn't matter how sure you were when you made the choice. You still did it.

Tue, 04 Oct 2011 03:01:49 UTC | #877672

Functional Atheist's Avatar Comment 24 by Functional Atheist

Not much of a debate, but it was an enjoyable discussion. Brummett was too amiable and fuzzy to properly clash swords with Hitch, which led both participants to wander from the central proposition.

Brummet wasn't so bad, really. He waffled, yes, but it wasn't painful to listen to him. He made an occasional reasonable point, and was unfailingly gracious and courteous.

Hitch looked and sounded good--he tried to work up to indignation on a couple occasions, but once he realized Brummett wasn't going to engage him in that manner, he relaxed and appeared to enjoy himself.

If you seek fireworks you'll be disappointed by this. Accept it on its own terms, as a meandering conversation that approximates the format of a debate, and you'll likely be pleased.

Tue, 04 Oct 2011 06:54:40 UTC | #877689

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 25 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 22 by Carl Sai Baba

But for those who insist on dragging out the scales of culture... try to imagine that the past 5,000 years of theocracy may have delayed scientific progress by even 50 years. That's not improbable at all, and imagine how much further ahead we might be. Even a mere 1% of that is not worth giving up because there are a handful of colorful paintings in some museum. Fuck you, I want the real progress.

Well....just to really cheese you off....there's probably a parallel world out there where ancient Greece never fell, their science flourished.....and within a few hundred years ( i.e around the time of Jesus ) they were landing men on the Moon. They have no Xtianity or Islam as evolution was discovered in their 150BC.

I don't think the domination of religion into the 21st century was inevitable at all. We just seem to have drawn the short straw, out of all the possibilities.

Tue, 04 Oct 2011 07:26:28 UTC | #877692

Vorlund's Avatar Comment 26 by Vorlund

Comment 7 by ZenDruid :

@Vorlund Tribal warfare is the bedrock of all Abrahamic religions.

You don't need a religion to get tribes fighting, survival pressures are enough for that, an organised religion is a moving force in unifying warring factions into coalitions large enough to overwhelm or assimilate other groups. Mohammed and islam demonstrates this better than anything else.

Tue, 04 Oct 2011 08:21:48 UTC | #877702

Jussie's Avatar Comment 27 by Jussie

Would that defense hold in a courtroom?

"Yes, i admit, I killed the man. But! I've made some fancy paintings."

Tue, 04 Oct 2011 08:35:52 UTC | #877706

hfaber's Avatar Comment 28 by hfaber

@Jussie: That's exactly the point. Even if a religion is sometimes a force for good, you just can't cancel good and bad things out.

Tue, 04 Oct 2011 09:02:37 UTC | #877712

Daisy Skipper's Avatar Comment 29 by Daisy Skipper

"In the beginning god made the cosmos. To the contrary I say. The gods that we’ve made are exactly the gods you’d expect from a species that’s about half a chromosome away from being a chimpanzee."

Love it!

Tue, 04 Oct 2011 17:23:56 UTC | #877830

DrawingYou's Avatar Comment 30 by DrawingYou

I'm so glad to see Christopher looking and sounding so good. To be sure; he is one of our greatest warriers of free thought. I hope we have him for many more years to come.

Tue, 04 Oct 2011 22:14:32 UTC | #877941