Is Religion A Force for Good in the World? Hitchens vs Blair


Below I will post videos of a recent debate between Tony Blair (pro) and Christopher Hitchens (con) on the question of whether religion is a force for good in the world.

Friday, November 26, 2010. Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto, Canada.
The official resolution, "Be it resolved, religion is a force of good for the world".

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So far I've only listening to their opening statements. The question framing the debate is the wrong question. Of course religion does good. And it does evil. It is not a matter of eliminating religion but of opening it to change. I'm with Wilber on the general idea of development of religion, and I think that is also (one of) the stated purpose(s) of this forum. But in the name of defending religion against the likes of Hitchens, Blair seems to decry the bad acts while not getting at their root causes, something Hitchens is quite articulate about. There is an enabling apologetics offered for religion, as if its only bad people who pervert it. This misses those metaphysical foundations that are actual causes of such acts by good people (again a point for Hitchens).

This forum explores how to make religion (aka spirituality) postmetaphysical. And yet there is still a strong tendency to defend religion as it is against the likes of atheists like Hitchens, who apparently sees no useful place for it. Perhaps in our reactive defense we enable those very metaphysical attributes that we purport to want to change, at least by giving them a pass? What harm is there in believing thatTara is "real," after all?
Hi, Ed, your points are well taken. I've also only listened to the opening statements so far, and I agree the debate itself is somewhat badly framed. As one commenter on the video pointed out, Blair only has to show one or a few good acts by religion to "win," whereas Hitchens would appear to have to demonstrate that religion never has done good -- a losing proposition from the start.

About giving religion a "pass" and not challenging some of the metaphysical bases and concurrent absolutist tendencies that lead to such harm, I also think that's a good critique and that Hitchens therefore brings an important challenge to moderates or Integralists interested in preserving "religion" as an institution or "force" in the world (even though I think his reading is excessively negative and dismissive).

But regarding your last remark about "Tara" being real (based, I'm guessing, on my discussion of Tara sometimes having ontological weight), I think you've misread me if you think I'm advocating acceptance of Tara as a "real" metaphysical or mythic being (a la the manner critiqued by Batchelor, e.g. as free-roaming beings at large in the world). I've suggested that such beings can function relatively autonomously from the directive center or the ego in the experience of practitioners, after the manner of dream figures or certain visionary experiences, but I am not suggesting they exist independently of the mind of the individual perceiving them. (There are cases in the annals of "spiritual emergency" where an individual suffers from the apparently autonomous and tormenting activity of a "guardian" or other meditatively cultivated entity, which is experienced as an external and "haunting" force. I think this is a pathological state but believe there are possibly ways to work "constructively" with such states or modes of cognitive functioning as well (without requiring a literal, mythic or metaphysical belief system. So...I'm still suggesting a reinterpretation of common traditional views.)
No no Balder, I wasn't suggesting you said Tara was real in that sense. I got the gist of your view from that thread. What I was suggesting is that to give a pass (not saying you do personally) to those who actually believe Tara IS real in a literal sense, that it is a harmless belief and might even do the believer good (again not the point), is to enable a literal metaphysical belief system that has real and often harmful socio-political consequences. As one example, (since you referenced the Batchelor thread, see "letting daylight into magic") consider the Dalai Lama's actions re: Dorje Shugdun.
And recall this thread, the shadow of the Dalai Lama.
Blair bogusly insinuated that without religion people would not have the motivation to do good. What of all those atheistic, secular humanists? What of postconventional morality? No metaphysical God is needed for this kind of motivation, and to the contrary a strong case could be made that metaphysical belief is a hindrance to such "more inclusive" compassion.


theurj said:
Blair bogusly insinuated that without religion people would not have the motivation to do good. What of all those atheistic, secular humanists? What of postconventional morality? No metaphysical God is needed for this kind of motivation, and to the contrary a strong case could be made that metaphysical belief is a hindrance to such "more inclusive" compassion.

Please go ahead and make your case.
I'd suggest starting with the cases already made in the referenced links above: Batchelor, letting daylight into magic and shadow of Dalai Lama threads.
I believe this thread also introduces a "secular" approach to cultivation of many traditionally "religious" virtues and orientations: Inspiring Naturalism.
I meant please go ahead and make your case, strong or otherwise, that "...metaphysical belief is a hindrance to such "more inclusive" compassion."
I know what you meant and I directed you to threads where I (and others) have made this case before. Also listen to Hitchens, who makes this case as well.

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What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

This group is for anyone interested in exploring these questions and tracing out the horizons of an integral post-metaphysical spirituality.

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