Another humanist reviews the Whitby “Decide for Yourself” religion debates

This third review, though less heavy handed, was consistent with the first two reviews collected and presented here and here. To readers who attended the events: If you would like to write a review (good, bad, whatever), email it to me at theframeproblem [at] live [dot] ca. The review is presented next.

John Manuel writes:

I sat through the 12:00 session but only the first 45 minutes of the 3:00 session, which started 15 minutes late because the first event ran late.

The first was fairly presented by both sides. I especially liked Chris’ approach that he was not there to knock religion, but I will do further research on his new word, “Agtheist,” and would have liked to question him further on his position. He said he was putting aside the question of a divine creator (the In The Beginning, God, god), but said too little about the personal relationship type god. He did comment that he did not believe in afterlife, and said that god, at the very least, seemed an unreliable source of dependable intervention. He referred to the many contradictory statements in scripture and the prevalence of events in the world that suggest god is unwilling or unable to intervene.

I left with a feeling of sadness because the Christian friends I was with believe in the creationist position and don’t “believe” in Darwinist evolution. I felt sadness that they are so blinded by their religion and so unshakeably committed to belief over reason.

As a former Christian, I believed that the more I learned about the world through science, the more magnificent God appeared to be. My friends, and the Christian presenter, seemed to equate Darwinism with atheism and atheism with immorality. Total blindness. The Christian presenter even went so far as to describe mankind as “a cancer on the earth.” The old conceived in sin crap that says we’re all less than crumbs beneath His table with visitations for the original sins of ancestors and all that.

But I was encouraged by DeCarlos’ approach to religious tolerance — something I believe in strongly. He believes, as I do, that religion brings great comfort to many and is a benign influence for good to most religious people in the world, extremists notwithstanding. Not only is his position a positive and truthful one, but it serves to enhance the image of atheism in the world.

I felt a bit uncomfortable, though, with his outright condemnation of GWBush, not because I think he was wrong, but that it was inappropriate forum for ad hominum attacks. His adversary chose wisely not to comment.

The second presentation, creationism or intelligent design, was a rapid-fire sales pitch replete with bells and whistles, punctuated by timely jokes and condescending “what did I say, class” sit-me-ups. He was a slick presenter with a well designed PowerPoint show, but obviously was not interested in debating the issue, as he feels there is no debate. I was obliged to leave for family events in the evening, but I would have left early anyway because I could see where he was going, which was nowhere. I strongly urge all concerned to ensure two-sided debate next year with a competent Darwinist presenter. One person does not constitute a debate.

Too bad he blamed his late start on the discussion that took place during the very brief break, because the real culprit was the moderator of the first event, who allowed it to go on until exactly 3:00, leaving insufficient time between sessions.

So … positive approval for the atheist position, yet sadness for some of the Christian offerings presented.

I had intended to attend both evening sessions but could not for various reasons.

While Michael Coren did not moderate, the man who did should be congratulated. Although he did run a bit overtime, he was fair, consistent and calm.

Hope these comments are helpful.


A few comments on this review:

Firstly, thanks for the review.

Regarding the presentation on Creationism by Frank Sherwin, wasn’t it just wonderful how he managed to justify a shortened question-answer period because of the run-on of the previous presentation?

Lastly, Darwinism is not a synonym of evolution. It is a derogatory term peddled by Creationists to cast evolution as unscientific dogmatic religious ideology, to link it to a-scientific moral philosophies tied to eugenics, to equate all of evolution with natural selection (which masks the difference between evolution as a scientific historical fact, and the mechanisms by which evolution occurs; further, it falsely suggests that natural selection is the only mechanism by which evolution occurs), to imply that evolutionary biology is tied to the original ideas of Darwin (as if Darwin was some sort of unquestionable authority) rather than constantly testing and improving upon them, and in general, to portray evolution as a dogmatic, authoritarian, static and immoral ideology. It is a propagandist term.

5 Responses to “Another humanist reviews the Whitby “Decide for Yourself” religion debates”
  1. MarK R says:

    I felt the comments on G W Bush were strong but hitting home a point. An attempt to get the attention of what a pro Christian government is currently responsible for. It’s one thing to hold back to prevent insulting someone but to be honest…Chris was right. Bush is an example of one finding reason with dogmatic beliefs. It’ no secret of what this leaders beliefs are and whats wrong with speaking out against them. I can understand how one might be extra sensitive to the one commenting for their beliefs which speak out against their friends beliefs which have accompanied them to the event. It’s a tough call at the best of times. I felt the whole approach Dicarlo took was truthful and nothing to hide. It must be said it you believe like many of those in attendance then you will eventually offend someone with the truth.

  2. L. Ron Brown says:

    Regarding religious vs. nonreligious sources of inhumane behaviours, I think the big thing is not religion versus atheism, it’s a lack of compassion and caring for all humans. People can cherry pick lots of things in order to conjure a justification for something that they want to do. Hitler can misrepresent evolution as if it were a moral philosophy. Christian fundamentalists can cherry-pick their Bible and prioritize Sodom and Gemorrah over admonishments to judge not lest ye be judged.

    If people had a genuine appreciation for human well-being, autonomy and dignity as their top priority, they would make efforts to be reasonable, fair, and balanced. They would not prioritize their own personal biases over open-minded consideration.

    The problem isn’t religion or atheism. At it’s core, I think the biggest problem is a lack of compassion and care for others. If people made people their top priority, reason and honesty with regard to moral considerations would follow, I think.

  3. Stoobs says:

    Actually, Hitler’s insanity might have been tied deeply to certain discredited theories that had their roots in Darwin’s work – phylogeny recapitulates ontogeny, and all that crap – but the beliefs he professed in public were pure Christianity.

    The fundamental problem with religion is that in order to maintain your faith, you must disconnect your rational faculties completely from anything related to your religion. To think too hard about it is to invite doubt, which faith does not tolerate.

    The inevitable result of this is that any psychotic would-be dictator will declare his piety loudly and often, and defend every action he takes as divinely ordained, and that some percentage of people – historically, it tends to be a large majority – will accept this without question because it is a matter for faith, not reason.

    It’s not Christianity that’s the problem, it’s faith. The stronger your faith, the more horrific the inevitable end results. Every war in history has been fought between a man who knew the truth, and another man who knew a different truth.

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