Far less heat was generated than in the last debate. With both speakers proclaiming their atheism, and most of the audience self-identifying as non believers, the result was never in doubt.
The proposer Jean Yates, began by recognising the good works conducted by various religious groups, such as running soup kitchens, helping the homeless and promoting countless charities in the UK and around the world. But all this she offset against the harm caused by the world’s main religions, which she declaimed as: patriarchal to the point of suppressing the aspirations of women; reactionary towards progress in the sciences and changing social mores; divisive by nature, especially in advocating hostility towards competing religions; complacent in failing to match action with fine words.
The opposer, Paul Chandler saw the issue as far more complex, and how its more often that followers betray their creeds to suit their own political or violent agendas. As for totalitarian regimes which are heathen by nature (by demanding total obeisance to party or state) they offer no guiding set of values, but only fear of an unforgiving authority. Quoting Voltaire: ‘If God did not exist, he’d have to be invented.’
The audience piled in with ‘anti-religion’ observations, such as abuse, intolerance, terrorism and edicts to rise against followers of rival faiths or infidels. In sum, the world’s religions were generally felt to be out of step with our modern, rational world.
With too few religious champions to muster a stronger response, on this occasion the secular case held sway.
To close the evening votes were cast as:
10 supporting the motion, 5 against and another 7 not cast.