The Instigator
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The Contender
Con (against)
4 Points

Organized Religion has Inhibited Societal Progress

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/24/2010 Category: Religion
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,090 times Debate No: 13766
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (3)
Votes (2)




Resolved: Over the course of human history, organized religion has actively inhibited the advancement of science, medicine, and human rights.

Opening argument: I will construct my argument around the following two areas that organized religion has impacted negatively: Science and human rights. I will focus on Christianity and use it as my primary example, though my argument may be extrapolated to all three of the world's major monotheisms.

1. Science.
Over the course of history, religion has had an autocratic rule over much of human thought. The church sought to repress the questioning of theological traditions and critical thinking. This can be seen all the way from heliocentrism (the Catholic church criticized and ostracized Galileo for developing the theory)(1) to stem cell research (taxpayer-funded research was withheld during the Bush administration in accordance with the wishes of Chrisian lobbyist groups)(2).

2. Human Rights
Organized religion has been a major obstacle for human rights and continues to rationalize discrimination today. The two most relevant human rights cases at the moment are abortion and gay marriage. The church opposes both a woman's right to make her own decisions about her own body and a homosexual's right to marry the person of their choosing (I will not be footnoting these as the church's opinions on these issues is common knowledge. If this is an issue, I will throw a couple of links in my next argument.)

Best of luck to my opponent.

(1) Finocchiaro, Maurice A. (1989). The Galileo Affair: A Documentary History. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-06662-6.


Thank you for creating this debate! I'm new to, and have been waiting for an interesting topic to debate. You have supplied it, and I express my gratitude in competing with me. Best of luck to you, good sir!

Now, to begin, I will present my argument. I will then review my opponent's contentions:

1) Organized religion promotes charity and hope, both essential to the promotion of societal progress (progress being defined as "positive development"). Religious people donate more to charity (and the promotion of welfare) than those who are non-religious. [1] Also, it is important to note that organized religions provide support for the spirit and attitude of these people who perform acts of charity.
Realize, as well, that teachings of organized religions spread hope. Hope that all people are created with intrinsic value, and that we have a higher purpose to fulfill in order to make our way into paradise after death. And according to a psychological study [2] having "hope" increases "happiness and well-being". Religions provide self-purpose, a sense of community, charity, and hope. [3]

2) There are many organized religions. My opponent refers to the "Big Three" monotheisms, but it is important to note that even in Christianity, for example, there are multiple denominations. [4] In fact, the founding of one organized religion (Protestanism) led to social progress leading up to the Renaissance when it challenged the Catholic church. Thus, we see organized religions as a whole are constantly improving one another and causing social progression.

Now to refute by opponents claims:

1) My opponent states organized religion has restricted scientific and medical gain. This is not true. For example, the Islam culture was perhaps the most intelligent during Medieval times. Their faith revered knowledge and created huge leaps in science, medicine, architecture, literature, and mathematics. [5] Also, through the interaction of Christians and Muslims during the Crusades, this information was spread throughout Eurasia significantly improving trade, well-being of nations, and essentially pulling Christendom out of the Dark Ages into the Renaissance. [6]
Also, it is stated that Christianity disagrees with stem-cell research. My opponent is creating a sweeping generalization of organized religion when he does so. Not all denominations do. In fact many organized religions have no definitive stance, period. [7]

2) Lastly, my opponent touches human rights. He states organized religions oppose gay marriage. Again, this is not always the case. This is a sweeping generalization. Buddhists, Quakers, Reform Jews, and Unitarian-Universalists, just to name a few organized religions, do not oppose homosexuality. [8] Also, my opponent commits the fallacy of "petitio principii" when he begs the question of whether abortion is right or wrong. He does so when he states organized religions inhibit human rights by opposing abortion. We have not established whether abortion is moral or immoral, or if it is a "human right". Because there is a sufficient doubt to this proposition, it is fallacious and should not be considered.

In the end my opponent claims that organized religions inhibit science, medicine and human rights. As I have shown, his points are not valid as he would make them appear. Organized religion HAS resulted in huge social progression.

Thank you kindly, and now I wait for my opponent's response.

Debate Round No. 1


Thank you, Con, for the timely response. I will begin by addressing my opponent's contentions before developing my own further.

1) My opponent has pointed to religious support for charity and "hope" and while it is true that many organized religions support charity work, the religion part of the equation is not necessary; it really comes down to actual people donating time and money. There are many secular charities [1] that do excellent work with no religious association whatsoever. This proves that it is people who contribute to charity and not religion. There are also examples of discrimination within faith-based charities where individuals have been dismissed due to their religious beliefs [2].

2) The second point my opponent makes is about particular denominations within the major three monotheisms "constantly improving one another and causing social progression". I will touch on this issue further in my own contentions later, but would like to point out that this is only societal progression within the framework built by organized religion in the first place. It's like if a convicted murderer were to assault someone and then be praised for his progression to the point where he no longer kills his victims.

My point:

1) I am going to condense my own contentions to one major point here because I feel like the rebuttal of my earlier claims also focused on only one argument. My opponent has responded to my points about the way in which organized religion has sought to stand in the way of the advancement of human rights and science by saying that not all religious denominations do so; only a few take this position and therefore I am making a generalization. While it is correct that not all religious denominations oppose the major issues within these topics, ONLY religious organizations oppose them. There are no secular groups standing in the way of stem cell research or gay equality. Without the intervention of organized religion, these issues would not be issues and our society would be better off for it.



I congratulate my opponent on his response. However, there are significant failings in his attempt to discredit my argument. I will now go over the various claims from the debate:

1) Again, my point stands that "happiness and well-being" is spread by organized religion through the advocation of hope. Also, my opponent claims that religions are not necessary for charity, and certainly I will not state that charity will not happen without them. However, the fact remains that organized religions result in MORE charity than any secular cause. In a poll by the SCCBS, it was discovered religious people are 26% more likely than a secularist to donate to charity and 23% more likely to volunteer for no other reason than their faith alone. [1] Thus, without their religion, there would be far less charitable acts committed. Also, from this same poll, religious people are 10% more likely to give to secular causes than secularists themselves!

2) Also, in my opponent's original argument, Pro claimed organized religions oppose science, e.g., the Catholic Church vs Galileo. They do not oppose science for the sake of opposing science. They only did not accept heliocentrism because SCIENTISTS of the time believed in geocentrism. The evidence scientists had observed supported geocentrism, and therefore the church supported that theory. At the time, Galileo's theory was not perfect and therefore could not be accepted by a SCIENTIFIC community and the Church chose to agree with the science presented. [2] They did not oppose it simply because they did not like it; but because it was not proven.
Note as well that Jesuits praised scientific achievement. Some of history's greatest scientists were Christian - Newton, Pasteur, Lavoisier, Kepler, Copernicus, Faraday, Mawwell, Bernard, Hesienberg, and Gregor Mendel! [3] The reasons for their scientific breakthroughs? Attempting to discover the order of nature that their faith said God created. It was religious motivations that caused enormous gains in astronomy, biology, chemistry, and physics during the Renaissance.

3) Religions are not the only groups to oppose gay marriage. Ayn Rand, leader of the Objectivist philosophy movement, was an atheist who stated that homosexuality went against our evolutionary purpose and thus was "immoral" and "disgusting". [4]
And again, religions do not exclusively oppose gay marriage. According to PRRI, 51% of white Catholics, 54% of white Protestants, and 57% of Latino Catholics supported gay marriage. [5] You can see that religious people can and have shown support for gay marriage, even when being "religious".

In the end, my opponent is attempting to claim that organized religion somehow aims to keep society from reaching progress in science, medicine and human rights. But is it not organized religion which has greatly contributed to the progression of science, medicine, literature, and the arts; as I have shown with the Jesuits and the Muslims?
My opponent says they oppose this progression simply for the sake of opposition, along with giving the example of Galileo. I have shown that the Church opposed Galileo's science because they supported the science of the time; not just for the sake of religion.
Religions are contributing to human rights by supporting the well-being of all; it is those of religion who donate more to charity, and even to charity that supports non-secular purposes.
Therefore, in the end, organized religions are not actively inhibiting societal progression; it is evident that organized religion are propelling us to substantial societal gains and progress.

[4] "The Moratorium on Brains," Ford Hall Forum Lecture [Boston, 1971]
Debate Round No. 2


LevezVosSkinnyFists forfeited this round.


M.Torres forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


LevezVosSkinnyFists forfeited this round.


My opponent has failed to rebut any of my arguments. Therefore, they stand and Pro's points are invalid. Vote Con. My arguments, that show exactly how religion supports societal progress, have not been refuted. They stand and thus the resolution is negated. Vote Con. Now, for conclusion's sake I will go over the arguments:

1) Religions promote "hope" and hope is scientifically proven to be beneficial, psychologically (as cited above). Proven.
ALSO, charity is charity, but the fact remains religious charity is bigger than secular charity and contributes far more to society (as cited above). Proven.

2) My opponent's claim against science surrounded two problems: stem cell research and heliocentrism. I showed the only a few religions officially oppose stem cell research, and that a vast majority have no opposition to such research. Thus, organized religion as a whole does not "actively" seek to inhibit this research because many religions do not "actively" seek to inhibit research. My opponent's claim is false.
ALSO, as I stated, religions AT ONE TIME opposed heliocentrism because scientists did not agree with it. The cause was not religious. The Galileo incident is mostly hyperbolized and misconceived, as I stated above. My opponent's claim is fallacious; and false.

In fact, it is evident religion supports science even today. They are not mutually exclusive. CERN, one of the world's largest and most renown physics research center, conducts research that is supported by the Catholic Church. [1] The Church supports the research because they believe it will not conflict religion, but reveal the greater divine design. They are incredibly interested in the LHC experiment intended to discover the origins of the universe. Is this religion opposing scientific achievement? Is this religion opposing societal progress? No. I have shown organized religions support both endeavors. The resolution is negated.

3) I have given an example of a renown, secular, atheist who opposes homosexuality. My opponent said without religion, we would not see opposition. Thus, his claim is false. I have also shown that a majority of those in renown religions support gay marriage (cited above). Therefore, organized religion is not the only opposition to human rights; Pro is false. I have shown religions support human rights (gay marriage) Pro thought they did not; Pro is again, false.

My opponent's two claims (from his first post) cannot stand. Overall:

1) My opponent cited opposition to stem cell research; not all religions oppose. Pro is false.
My opponent quotes the "Galileo" incident; based in science not religion, and exaggerated. Pro is false.

2) My opponent states ONLY religions oppose gay rights; secular, atheistic philosophies also oppose. Pro is false.
My opponent states religions oppose abortion; this is not necessarily "wrong" because we have not established in this debate if abortion is a "right". Pro is false.

My arguments stand unrefuted:

1) Religions inspire hope and happiness; essential to societal progress. My opponent never even attempted to refute this or the studies I quoted.

2) Religions contribute FAR more charity than secular causes. This is beneficial to society. My opponent never showed opposition that religions result in more charity.

3) Religions support science (e.g., Islam, CERN, etc.), and thus societal progress. My opponent never showed disproof of any of this.

I thank my opponent for providing my first debate on DDO! I also congratulate him in his endeavors. However...

With Pro's arguments negated, and my claims valid due to lack of refute, the resolution must fail. It is evident of the debate that organized religions do not actively seek to oppose societal progress because of their faith. Organized religions actively seek to promote societal progress IN good faith. Thank you. Vote Con.
Debate Round No. 4
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by 1dustpelt 4 years ago
"Catholic church criticized and ostracized Galileo"
Dude Galileo was Christian
Posted by M.Torres 5 years ago

I forgot to post my citation in my last post! I apologize. Here it is above.
Posted by m93samman 5 years ago
"Has inhibited" implies that it has happened once or more. That is undeniable; change the wording to something like "organized religion has actively sought to inhibit..."
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
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