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JOHN CHUCKMAN

POSTED RESPONSE TO COLUMNS IN THE INDEPENDENT AND THE GLOBE AND MAIL

The Munk Debates are a set of silly, costly farces, contributing nothing to advancing knowledge.

This one is particularly ridiculous both for the characters of the individuals involved and the intellectually throwback nature of the topic.

You cannot debate or rationally argue religious matters. You can try, of course, but then you might just as well debate about ghosts or boogeymen or garden nymphs and their impact on society.

This Munk Debate was literally that silly.

The scholastic philosophers tried for ages to apply logic to religion, trying to prove the existence of God and other religious matters countless times. It was all for nothing, and gradually philosophers recognized the pointlessness of the exercise.

The word science means knowledge, while religion proudly claims the world of faith or beliefs as its subject. You simply cannot apply the methods of science to the substance of religion.

Now, of course, you can argue, endlessly, about particular beliefs or faith, and many people do, but it is all a complete waste of effort. We have centuries of Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and others telling each other where they have matters wrong. It all leads absolutely nowhere in advancing knowledge or even tolerance. Indeed, it has provided the substance and motive for endless wars, tortures, and miseries.

This Munk Debate is also extremely cynical, by several measures. Any organization, attempting to establish a reputation for contributing to enlightenment, which puts on this kind of circus is unworthy of respect.

Moreover, the motivations are so clearly money-making – all those involved being handsomely paid for their trouble – and the grabbing of cheap publicity, for we know the general populace is always ready to get excited on aspects of the topic of religion. The publicity this silly event has generated should be embarrassing for any organization with pretensions to enlightenment.

Putting two big names on a stage to carry out this money-making frivolity is worthy of impresario/convicted fraudster Garth Drabinsky, but again, what utter cynicism to use a genuine war criminal like Tony Blair, a man with the blood of tens of thousands on his hands, giving him a stage to blubber about beliefs while collecting yet another paycheck. He is a man with no shame, no conscience, but an ego resembling a cancer out of control.

Hitchens is a very clever, eloquent man, but everyone knows his views on the subject. He too was just there for a quick paycheck. Moreover, he too is a man of highly questionable ethics, one who worked hard to make Bush’s criminal invasion of Iraq acceptable.

We speak today of such things as infomercials and product placement in news broadcasts. Well, thank you to the Munk people for offering up a glutinous helping of both.

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