Joined: Aug. 2005
Religion belongs to "the abject childhood of our species", Christopher Hitchens told an audience at Westminster Hall in London last night. The author and journalist condemned the "medieval barbarism" of religious conflicts the world over and urged those listening to oppose the religious impulse whenever it shows itself. "It shows very well that religion is created ... by a species half a chromosome away from a chimpanzee," he spat.
He was defending the motion that "This house believes we'd be better off without religion", and he had some formidable artillery on his side - the philosopher Professor AC Grayling and the evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Dawkins, to whom Mr Hitchens referred tongue-in-cheekly as a "spokesman for the moderate wing" of the atheist movement.
First to pick up the gauntlet was Dr Nigel Spivey who teaches classical art and archaeology at Cambridge University. "When I'm asked to imagine a world without religion is ends up looking like the suburbs of Swindon," he lamented, after painting a picture of a grey and featureless world lacking religious inspiration. Erase King's College chapel, the Parthenon, the Sistine Chapel, the Taj Mahal and you get the picture..............
The real question is whether the best of humanity is already inside us or whether it needs faith to bring it out. For Mr Hitchens it is possible to have the good without the faith (and hence also without the interfaith wars in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq and the rest). "It's called culture."
If I fly the coop some time
And take nothing but a grip
With the few good books that really count
It's a necessary trip
I'll be gone with the girl in the gold silk jacket
The girl with the pearl-driller's hands