'Religion is redundant and irrelevant': Richard Dawkins takes on ex-Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams in Cambridge debate
Friday 01 February 2013
Prominent atheist professor Richard Dawkins described religion as “redundant and irrelevant” as he took on the former Archbishop of Canterbury in a debate.
Speaking at the Cambridge Union debating society, Prof Dawkins argued that religion hindered scientific endeavour by "peddling false explanations".
Dr Rowan Williams offered a counter-argument, saying that religion undoubtedly had a place in the 21st century and that the issue was not whether it should exist, but what our attitude towards it should be.
He added that modern attitudes towards human rights had their foundations in religious traditions.
The pair were part of a debate last night on the proposition that "religion has no place in the 21st Century", in front of an audience of about 800, who packed the famous 200-year-old university debating club's chambers.
It was religion that turned out to be the winner - at the end of the debate, the house voted to reject the proposition, stating that it did believe religion had a place in the 21st century.
Early in his address, Prof Dawkins made a provocative comparison between Christian and Islamic traditions, describing himself as a "cultural Anglican".
"I'm grateful, by the way, to be a cultural Anglican when you think of the competition," he added.
"If I were a cultural Muslim, I would have something to say about that faith's appalling attitude to women and various other moral points."
Stressing that his central concern was simply whether religion was true, he summed up his argument by describing religion as a "cop-out".
"It is a betrayal of the intellect, a betrayal of all that's best about what makes us human," he said.
"It's a phony substitute for an explanation, which seems to answer the question until you examine it and realise that it does no such thing."
He added that in the scientific world, religion was a "pernicious charlatan".
"It peddles false explanations where real explanations could have been offered, false explanations that get in the way of the enterprise of discovering real explanations," he said.
In his address, Lord Williams said: "Religion has always been a matter of community building, a matter of building relations of compassion, fellow-feeling and, dare I say it, inclusion.
"The notion that religious commitment can be purely a private matter is one that runs against the grain of religious history."
Lord Williams added that respect for human life and equality was inherent in all organised religion.
"The very concept of human rights has profound religious roots," he added.
"The convention of human rights would not be what it is were it not for the history of philosophical religious debate."
Philosopher professor Tariq Ramadan, Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association and Douglas Murray, founder of the Centre for Social Cohesion, also took part.
- 1 Howard Jacobson: Let's see the 'criticism' of Israel for what it really is
- 3 Belgium fan Axelle Despiegelaere lands L'Oreal campaign after World Cup viral photo
- 4 Britney Spears sings 'Alien' without Auto-Tune in embarrassing leaked audio clip
- 5 PornHub begs users to stop uploading video clips of Brazil getting beaten 7-1
Instagram of US airport security chiefs: Lipstick knives and IED training kits among items seized
Game of Thrones author George RR Martin says 'f*** you' to fans who fear he will die before finishing Westeros saga
Mick Jagger denies being World Cup curse and reason for Brazil’s embarrassing defeat
Israel-Gaza crisis: ‘We just want it to end… We don’t deserve to live like this’
Israel-Gaza crisis: Eight killed in Gaza Strip cafe while watching World Cup semi-final
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
There’s a nasty smell in the political air – and it’s coming from the Tories
£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BI CONSULTA...
£35000 - £45000 per annum + 36 days holiday and more: Deerfoot IT Resources Li...
£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: PHP Software Developer - Hertfordshire An es...
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Long term contract role - Electrical Pro...