Does society need religious faith? Speeches and extracts from my debate with John Waters

by Michael Nugent on March 23, 2013

All speeches and some extracts from my recent debate with Irish Times journalist John Waters in NUI Galway on the topic: Does society need religious faith?

Michael Nugent opening speech

John Waters opening speech

How do you get from the idea of a god to Jesus?

On the nature of religion

Michael Nugent closing speech

John Waters closing speech

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 doubtthat March 23, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Well, if nothing else, you’ve learned what you need to do to promote lots of comments…

Through your opening, I very much enjoyed it. I’ll have to listen to the rest in little chunks throughout the day, but it would be nice to have a little debate about this sort of issue.

Well done.

2 doubtthat March 23, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Have you broken down the “religious folks give more to charity” claim in the US. I know that we get the stats from IRS records – charitable contribution – and that includes giving money to the church. Though clearly churches do engage in a great deal of positive charity, I don’t think it’s the case that every cent given through tithing (another issue about whether that constitutes “giving”-do we “give” taxes to the government?) is automatically spent on charity.

For example, the Mormon Church spends a massive portion of its tithing income on extravagant churches and the accumulation of property. I don’t think this is “wrong,” but it certainly doesn’t strike me as charity.

3 Michael Nugent March 24, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Thanks, doubtthat.

Here are the studies that Phil Zuckerman cited regarding giving to charity.

Secular Americans donate less of their income to charitable causes than the religious:

Regnerus, Mark, Christian Smith and David Sikkink 1998. ‘Who gives to the poor? The influence of religious tradition and political location on the personal generosity of Americans towards the poor.’ Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 37:481-93

Most secular democracies donate most money and aid per capita to poorer nations:

Center for Global Development 2008 ‘Commitment to Development Index 2008’

4 Edward Gemmer March 24, 2013 at 5:41 pm

I greatly enjoy these kinds of debates, and it’s good to see people with various beliefs talking about them publicly. I don’t see any reason we need religion, but I’m definitely in the camp that believes we as atheists should focus on how we can value religion and religious people.

5 Cian March 25, 2013 at 2:26 pm

great closing speech

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