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How do you define religion?

By news editor, on 4 February 2013

  Written by Hannah Edwards, UCLU Debating Society President 2012–2013

On Monday 21 January, UCLU Debating Society held the debate: ‘This house believes that religion does more harm than good’.

Four distinguished guest speakers had been invited to discuss the topic. Speaking in proposition was Professor Peter Atkins, eminent chemist who regularly writes on the incompatibility between science and religion, and Andrew Copson, CEO of the British Humanist Association.

Andrew Copson

Andrew Copson

In opposition was Mohammed Ansar, legal advocate and visiting lecturer on islamophobia, and, alongside him, Rabbi Naftali Brawer, CEO of the Spiritual Capital Foundation and ordained orthodox rabbi.

The middle ground
In a debate as broad as this, there will always be a few points of agreement between both sides. Firstly, no one contested the point that religion does bring benefits to society. Professor Atkins credited religion with the development of modern society and science.

In addition, no one argued with Mohammed Ansar when he stated that the charitable work accomplished by religious groups is incredibly important to society. Why does it matter if an individual’s motive for ‘doing good’ comes from their religion?