The televised event took place before a 2700 strong audience in Toronto. According to an article in the Telegraph,
(Hitchens) appeared to win over the audience, which voted two-to-one in his favour following the debate, which argued the motion “be it resolved, religion is a force for good in the world”.
With all due respect to the former Prime Minister, this one must have been like shooting fish in a barrel for the likes of Hitchens. It’s hard to argue that Christianity has been “a force for good in the world” in light of the tens of millions who lost their lives in the religious wars it inspired, or the institutionalized intolerance and bigotry it has been responsible for, or the hundreds of thousands of innocent women hung or burned as “witches” in Europe during the Middle Ages, or its promotion of the mass torture of “heretics,” or its repeated massacres of Jews and other religious minorities. As for Islam, it is not the predominant religion in North Africa, or Syria, or Turkey, or parts of Europe because it is a “religion of peace,” but because it was imposed by force. Anyone with any doubt about whether it is a “force for good in the world” in spite of its bloody history, its institutionalized oppression of women, and its rejection of the separation of mosque and state must have been asleep since 911.
It doesn’t really matter, though. What does matter is whether these religions are true or not. If one of them is true (and they can’t both be true at the same time because they are mutually exclusive), then the question of whether it’s a “force for good” becomes moot. We then become the subjects of an absolute tyrant with a smiley face, and we can like it or burn in hell for billions and trillions of years, just for starters. As Hitchens puts it, “Once you assume a creator and a plan, it makes us objects, in a cruel experiment, whereby we are created sick, and commanded to be well. And over us, to supervise this, is installed a celestial dictatorship, a kind of divine North Korea.” Edward Fitzgerald summed up our situation in similar, but more poetic terms, in his fanciful “translation” of the Rubaiyat. Don’t let the prospect depress you, though. For reasons set forth by a simple French priest named Jean Meslier in his Testament more than two and a half centuries ago, and improved on very little in the intervening years, the chances that we will sizzle in hell forever for the pleasure and edification of the elect are rather slim.