Religion causes more division than unity

That’s the conclusion the audience at the Metropolis 2018 conference reached after a debate on the subject.

The Ethics Centre’s Dr Simon Longstaff moderated the debate under Chatham House rules, meaning that no one could report what the participants said verbatim and attribute it to them.

This, he said, was because participants had their ‘side’ of the debate allocated to them. Rather than reflecting on their own opinions, they explored the ideas and subjected them to scrutiny.

The University of Western Australia’s Farida Fozdar and author Sunil Badami spoke in favour of the motion. Jawad Syed (Lahore University, Pakistan) and Peggy Levitt (Wellesley College, USA) spoke against.

Both sides stressed that the subject was complex, and that faith could be divisive or a unifying force. Dr Longstaff observed that the topic was “not binary” and that it was a matter of determining whether religion had contributed more to disunity or unity.

The affirmative argued that the way that the world religions argued that their own way was the only correct one led to the persecution of religious minorities.

The audience heard that there are 4,200 religions around the world, with Christianity having around 80 denominations. Biblical texts, the affirmative team argued, had been used to justify slavery and war.

‘Religion’, the negative team argued, was misunderstood, and was not to blame for the world’s major problems. They said that it should not be confused with its “misappropriation” for political ends.

Audience members answered a poll on the question before the debate took place, with the result being 56 percent in the affirmative and 28 percent against, with 16 percent undecided. After the debate, the final numbers were 59 percent affirmative, 33 percent negative, and eight percent undecided.

Metropolis 2018 ran from 29 October to 2 November at Sydney’s International Conference Centre (ICC). According to the event’s outgoing chair, Dr Howard Duncan, the event seeks “to enhance immigration policy through empirical information.”

Metropolis 2019 will take place in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor




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