Saturday, 27 November 2010

Blair/Hitchens & 'the heart of a heartless world...'

The public debate staged in Toronto last night between Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens on the issue of whether religion is 'a force for good in the world' appears to have been won quite decisively by Hitchens. The New Statesman kindly offers a transcript in 3 parts. I consider these to be The Best Bits:
- "What I say to you is at least, look, what we shouldn't do is end up in a situation where we say, we've got six hospices here, one suicide bomber there - how does it all equalise out? That's not a very productive way of arguing this..."
- [On what is 'the point' of religion] "Stimulating the impulse to do good, disciplining the propensity to be selfish and bad."
- "...if you are a person of faith, it's part of your character, it defines you in many ways as a human being. It doesn't do the policy answers, I am afraid. So as I used to say to people, you don't go into church and look heavenward and say to God, 'Right, next year, the minimum wage, is it £6.50 or £7...?' Unfortunately, he doesn't tell you the answer. And even on the major decisions that are to do with war and peace that I've taken, they were decisions based on policy, and so they should be, and you may disagree with those decisions, but they were taken because I genuinely believed them to be right."

- "Religion forces nice people to do unkind things, and also makes intelligent people say stupid things."
- "The cure for poverty has a name, in fact. It's called the empowerment of women…Name me one religion that stands for that, or ever has."
- "...there's a sense of pleasure to be had in helping your fellow creature. I think that should be enough, thank you."

And gentlemen, thank you.

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