Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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This debate centers on the statement: The Catholic Church is a force for good. Presenting this debate is Zeinab Badawi and BBC News. Arguing for this statement is Archbishop John Onaiyekan, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Abuja and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, and Ann Widdecombe MP, a Member of Parliament for 20 years. Arguing against the statement is Christopher Hitchens, an English-American author and journalist, and Stephen Fry, British actor, writer, comedian, author, television presenter and film director.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Recognizing the fact that the Catholic Church didn’t have “good” people representing their position, tell me how you would have voted before and after this debate and whether you are religious, agnostic or atheist.


  1. #1 Tony P
    December 6, 2009

    That was awesome. The Catholics were really stretching at the end. You could see that both the Archbishop and the MP were clearly annoyed by some of the legitimate questions.

    And for the more numerically inclined:

    Before After Difference Pct of Total Pct Ttl After
    Agree 678 268 410 31.89% 12.30%
    Disagree 1102 1876 774 51.83% 86.13%
    Undecided 346 34 312 16.27% 1.56%
    Totals 2126 2178 52

    That 52 I attribute to people not having voted the first round.

  2. #2 anti_supernaturalist
    December 8, 2009

    ** why settle for opinion when data exists for an answer?

    But the question is irrelevant — it should be “Is RCC doing any good that could not be done as well or better by secular institutions? One might add: “at an equal or lower cost ?”

    What does it matter that religious groups do good deeds as long as these are not part of gaining converts or otherwise extending their political power?

    the anti_supernaturalist

  3. #3 Gregory
    December 12, 2009

    What a farce!
    for the Catholic side, they chose an Archbishop whose first language is obviously not English, so you cannot understand him. And, a layman, who is quite a lightweight and is not knowlegable about catholicism. On the other side, two very popular and very articulate (although quite nasty) actors who already have a huge public support. What a joke from the beginning!

  4. #4 StrigoiTemplar
    December 29, 2009

    While I do think that the deck was stacked in favour of the anti-motion side (in both speakers and audience) I think there’s a very important thing to be taken from this debate, namely that when it comes to debate the Catholic Church doesn’t really have a leg to stand on, at least in terms of its moral track record.

    Now, to be fair there are some arguments I can think of that the speakers could have used on the Pro-Catholic side, but I suspect they would have been lost in the shuffle as the second half of the debate basically turned into damage control.

    Going into the debate, I was against the motion.
    Leaving the debate my opinion was unchanged.

  5. #5 Greg du Pille
    January 1, 2010

    In response to Gregory @3:

    Granted the Archbishop gave a very poor performance, but I don’t think that this was down to language, merely poor oratory … he just seemed unprepared for the “meat” of the debate.

    Anne Whiddicombe is altogether another matter. She was a former Conservative minister and no political lightweight. She knows (or should know) how to win a debate, given the appropriate ammunition.

    In this case, though, it appears that she was outgunned, not only because of the popularity and eloquence of her opponents, but because she had been given such a desperately poor hand to defend in the first place.

  6. #6 Wily Coyote
    June 5, 2010

    The Pope himself could have been there to defend the Church and had no better chance of winning the debate. The time when most people gave the Church the benefit of the doubt has passed and it’s downhill all the way now for the RCC. I didn’t see a victory of atheism over the argument for religion. We’ve just never experienced real religion, so all we saw was an easy victory over a dreadful pseudo-religion.

    The Christian Church was progressively gutted of Christ’s real teachings during the first three centuries after Christ’s execution, marked by the murderous eradication of Gnostic sects. The hatchet job was finished off at the Council of Nicaea in 35AD. The problem was in converting a very elitist affair – enlightenment (salvation) for those who had ears – into a crowd puller. Some dumbing-down was needed; some rather difficult concepts had to go (like evolution of the soul over many sessions in the schoolhouse).

    As for the Resurrection, the foundation of the Church Christ had no connection with, it had to be made literal so that there’d be no argument about what it meant, no matter how absurd. To top it all off, salvation after a single life term had to be adopted in order to keep bums on seats and the coffers full.

    Constantine’s Pagan Roman Church was an abomination right from the start, one that no one could defend against an articulate opponent, let alone the likes of Hitchens and Fry. The real damage caused by the Church never got a mention in this debate. It’s worth doing again, worded as follows: The greatest crime aginst humanity was perpetrated by the self-appointed representatives of God.

    Now that would be interesting.

  7. #7 wily coyote
    June 5, 2010


    The ‘2’ was missing from the date 325AD for the Council of Nicaea. Sorry about that.


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