This post is written by Emily Judson:
On the 24th of January SOAS debsoc gathered forces for the first public debate of 2013. The motion read “This House Believes that, on balance, organised religion has been a force for good” with Peter McKean and Rebecca Tan teamed in proposition versus Sam Wheldon-Baynes and Ismaail Qaiyim in opposition. After a SOAS-style late start, an obscure room booking in a new building (had anyone previously heard of the Faber Building?) and a last-minute reorganisation of chairs, the teams were set to go. The turnout was excellent with over 50 people in attendance and lots of new faces in the audience.
Side proposition offered an interesting case linking religion to societal cohesiveness and overall benefit derived from morality and actions, such as charity, prescribed by religion. This was furthered by analysis of religion as a positive societal institution and its role in bringing, for example, compassion and comfort into people’s lives in both the private and public spheres. Opposition rebuttal included analysis of whether religious compulsion, phrased almost as moral coercion, to certain actions is actually good, followed by description of an innate human moral compass regardless of religious affiliation. The nature of the organisational structures of religion was criticised as were historical tendencies for religion to be used as a tool, subject to extensive interpretation, as a force for conflict and oppression. Questions from the floor included a query into the debate’s assumptions about human nature and a call for more in-depth analysis of the organisational element of religion.
Both sides offered fantastic speeches and poignant ideas about the role of religion and its interpretation in society. After the debate concluded we moved to the SU bar where members of the audience took the subject into their own hands. Thank you to all who attended for your contributions and we hope you found the debate interesting.
The next event will be held on Thursday the 14th of March: