Religion

Be it resolved, religion is a force for good in the world...

November 26, 2010

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In a world of globalization and rapid social change, does religion provide the common values and ethical foundations that diverse societies need to thrive in the 21st century?  Or, do deeply held religious beliefs promote intolerance, exacerbate ethnic divisions, and impede social progress in developing and developed nations alike? 

To encourage a far-ranging discussion on one of human kind’s most vexing questions, the 6th semi-annual Munk Debate will tackle the resolution: Be it resolved, religion is a force for good in the world...

The Results

Pre-Debate

25%

Pro

55%

Con

20%

Undecided

Post-Debate

32%

Pro

68%

Con

CON gains 13%. CON wins

The Debaters

Tony Blair

Tony Blair

Pro

"Religious faith has a major part to play in shaping the values which guide the modern world, and can and should be a force for progress. "

Tony Blair

Tony Blair

Pro

"Religious faith has a major part to play in shaping the values which guide the modern world, and can and should be a force for progress. "

Tony Blair became a Member of Parliament for Sedgefield in 1983 and leader of the Labour Party in 1994.  He subsequently led Labour to a landslide victory in the 1997 general election, and served as prime minister of the United Kingdom from May 1997 to June 2007.  At 43 years old, he became the youngest Prime Minister since 1812.

Since leaving Downing Street, Tony Blair has served as the Quartet Representative to the Middle East. He represents the USA, UN, Russia and the EU, working with the Palestinians to prepare for statehood as part of the international community's effort to secure peace.

In May 2008, Blair launched his Tony Blair Faith Foundation which promotes respect and understanding between the major religions and makes the case for faith as a force for good in the modern world.  Faith is vitally important to hundreds of millions of people. But religious faith can also be used to divide. The Tony Blair Faith Foundation is a response to these opportunities and challenges.

The Tony Blair Foundation’s Faith and Globalisation Initiative partners with Yale University in the USA, Durham University in the UK and National University of Singapore in Asia to deliver a postgraduate programme. 

His Africa Governance Initiative delivers projects in Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Liberia, advising President Kagame, President Koroma and President Johnson-Sirleaf respectively on policy delivery and attracting investment, with a team of his staff working full time at the centre of all three governments.

As the first major head of government to bring climate change to the top of the international political agenda at the 2005 Gleneagles G8 summit, Tony Blair now leads the Breaking the Climate Deadlock initiative, working with world leaders to build consensus on a new comprehensive international climate policy framework.

In recognition of his debt to the North East of England, he has launched the Tony Blair Sports Foundation, to increase opportunities for young people to participate in sport.

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Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens

Con

"If religious instruction were not allowed until the child had attained the age of reason, we would be living in a quite different world."

Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens

Con

If religious instruction were not allowed until the child had attained the age of reason, we would be living in a quite different world.

Christopher Hitchens is a British-American author, journalist and literary critic. Currently living in Washington, D.C., he has been a columnist at Vanity Fair, The Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, Slate, Free Inquiry, and a variety of other media outlets. He is visiting Professor of Liberal Studies at the New School in New York and a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution at the University of Stanford, California. Hitchens is also a political activist, whose best-selling books, flamboyance and erudition have made him a staple of talk shows and lecture circuits.

Hitchens is noted for his acerbic wit and his noisy departure from the Anglo-American political left. Formerly a Trotskyist and a fixture in the left wing publications of both the United Kingdom and United States, Hitchens departed from the consensus of the political left in 1989 after what he called the "tepid reaction" of the European left following Ayatollah Khomeini's issue of a fatwa against Salman Rushdie. The September 11, 2001 attacks strengthened his embrace of an interventionist foreign policy, and his vociferous criticism of what he calls "fascism with an Islamic face."

He is known for his ardent admiration of George Orwell and Thomas Jefferson, and for his excoriating critiques of Mother Teresa, Henry Kissinger, and Bill Clinton. Always a polemicist, Hitchens has long been the object of both lavish praise and vehement denunciation.

An outspoken atheist and antitheist, Hitchens describes himself as a believer in the Enlightenment values of secularism, humanism and reason. His 2007 book God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything suggests that organized religion is "violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children."

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