The Instigator
Chaos_Evolved
Pro (for)
Losing
6 Points
The Contender
Who
Con (against)
Winning
43 Points

Religion is, at best, useless

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/31/2008 Category: Religion
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,455 times Debate No: 4865
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (24)
Votes (16)

 

Chaos_Evolved

Pro

At best, I argue, religion is useless.

I challenge the responder to name me an ethical action that only a person of faith could do, and not an atheist.

I also wish for everyone to consider an evil action performed, that only a person of faith would do, and not an atheist.

I argue the second takes much less time than the first. Morality stems not from religion but from human nature, and religion borrows these moral rules, and is, at best, useless.

That is on the moral issue, on to the intellectual issue...

...

Nothing. Science has superseded all claims made by any religion about the cosmos, the earth, or reality.

The one thing I can think of on the con side, is to say that it gives consolation regarding life after death. All I will say is that those who give you false consolation are false friends, I do not regard a placebo effect as useful, nor should anyone who is has the intellect to realize the feebleness in wish-thinking.
Who

Con

Religion is not useless. It has many uses. I will number some of them I can think of, that way you can count them and verify that there are >0 of them.

1. Control device

Throughout the ages, people have used religion as a tool to gain political control over people. This is indeed a use, therefore negating the topic.

2. Tool to propagate ideas

Ideas, or stances on issues, can be spread over populations by the spread of a religion. With the religion's spread, the ideas are spread too. This is indeed a use of religion.

3. Tool for easing paranoia about death

Many religions offer some hope that there's something more after this life. Whether this is true or not, the simple fact that religion gives people this hope is indeed something useful that religion gives.

4. Tool for focusing people

People have often and still often do pose very philosophical and unanswerable questions such as "why does all this even exist?" and other such questions. By answering these questions, even if the answers aren't necessarily right, it stops many people from wasting time contemplating the question themselves. These types of questions do not have a definite answer, so contemplating the answer is truly a waste of time. Taking away these types of questions from people's minds allows people to think about more important and real-world-relevant things.

5. Charity organization

The simple fact that religions often do charity work is a use of said religion. True, it's not something ONLY religions can do, but what does that change? That's like me saying that non-religious charity groups are useless because other things [religious charity groups] can do the same thing. Non sequitur for the loss. Religions carry out charity work, and this yet another use of them.

I believe five should be sufficient, though I probably could have thought of one or two more fairly easily. Religion is not useless; it has many uses, five of which I have listed.

My opponent also challenged me to name an ethical action a person of faith could do that an atheist cannot do. I will not do this, because I am not arguing that religion's use is as the origin of some kind of higher ethics. However, this does not mean it is useless altogehter. Sure, it fails at doing what many claim it does [being the source of morals], but that does not mean it does not have other uses. In fact, I have listed 5 of them above.

Now, let us hope my opponent can argue against all five uses I've listed.
Debate Round No. 1
Chaos_Evolved

Pro

Oh well excuse me, maybe I should change the word "useful", as in you are right, it can be used as a tool for dividing people, if in that way you want to make it useful, then you do win.

But if anyone without more than an IQ can gather from my entire initial explanation, I am speaking about some *good* use that can come from it.

Let me make it clear again: something that you would ABSOLUTELY need religion, otherwise it couldn't happen.

1, you just show how people can be controlled by it.

2. You do not *need* the religion for that, it can be spread otherwise.

3. "Many religions offer some hope that there's something more after this life. Whether this is true or not..." Can anyone say such a thing without at least some sort of feeling of humiliation? Oh it doesn't matter if her grandfather was a convicted murderer, her thinking he was a hero offers hope. Pathetic. Drooling in intellectual dishonesty. A false use isn't at all a good use.

4.I address this point in my initial statement. It is false consolation.

"By answering these questions, even if the answers aren't necessarily right, it stops many people from wasting time contemplating the question themselves."

How convenient! Doesn't matter if it's right, let's take the first answer offered.

Let me give you a better quote about death : once you realize it's likely you're only life, you enjoy it and appreciate it more.

About your question in the comment section, which you seem to make the claim that I was ignoring, ignorantly at that, you can find hundreds of examples any day in the newspaper. Look back at December of last year where a father killed her daughter for not wearing the Hijab to school. Look at the very doctrine of the hadith: whoever becomes an apostate must die. Look at what Pat Robertson says about gays and lesbians, or does who blasphemy against the holy spirit: hellfire.

The very fact that you ->challenged<- me to name an evil action that only a religious person could do, shows something very eyebrow-raising about you. As I hope the voters will notice too.

Now, getting to the point, none of the five things my opponent mentioned are things that we couldn't do had humans let go of religion century's ago.

I thought I would have to list things that secular societies could do, that religious ones could not, but since my opponent already concedes it serves no origin in morality.

Then the usefulness of a secular society must be pressed. No witch-hunts, or heresy hunts. Or murdering university teachers were statements about history. This, as demonstrated, a theocratic society cannot do.

To conclude, for now, a religious society can do X number of things, but a secular society will be able to do X-Y+Z. As in, ALL the things the religious one can, but without the bad, and with more good. My opponent has not been able to name such a thing, or answer the challenge, voila.
Who

Con

Awesome.

First, I'll have everyone note that I never cited "a tool to divide people" as a use of religion. MY opponent's statement at the beginning of round 2, making it appear as if that is what I'm advocating, is completely warping my position. Ignore it.

:: CHALLENGE ::
First, I will respond to my opponent's answer(s) to my challenge. For those who didn't read the comment, I asked him to give me example(s) of evil things that only religion can bring about.

Here are the examples he gave:
1. A father killed his daughter for not wearing her hijab to school [Killing because of a bad teaching].
2. The hadith encourages death for apostates [A bad teaching encouraging killing].
3. Religions teach that gays, those who blaspheme the holy spirit must endure hellfire [A bad teaching, which spreads hatred].

Realize that these are not things inherent in religion. A religion can have good teachings, it can have bad teachings. It's unfortunate that most religions today have many bad teachings, but realize that this is each individual religion's fault, not the fault of 'religion'.

Also, consider that all these things are not exclusive to religion. Any philosophy can have ridiculous teachings. It does not have to be a religion. Perhaps, though, "killing because of a religious teaching" should be considered completely separate from "killing because of a philosophical teaching?" If they're completely different things, then my opponent has indeed met my challenge, since "killing because of a religious teaching", as in his first example, would be something only a religous person could do. But let us consider what happens when we allow this logic.

If we consider that "Doing X because of Y" is a different thing entirely than "Doing X because of Z", then it becomes extremely simple to complete the challenge my opponent gave me in round 1. "Donating to charity because of one's religion" is something only a religious person can do. "Helping strangers because of one's religion" is another. Indeed, all the good things that a religion could possibly urge - for each of these there would be a distinct thing that could ONLY be done by the religious.

Now that we're done with that little bit...

:: CONTENTION DEFENSE ::

My opponent is completely missing the point of what it is to be "useless". A screwdriver can be used to screw something in, but so can a small knife. Does this mean that a screwdriver is useless, because it doesn't have a monopoly on its task? It doesn't mean the knife is useless for screwing something in, either. They both can be USED to screw something in, therefore they are useful for people needing to screw something in.

For my first point, that religion can be used to control people, my opponent agrees with me completely. Therefore, for the many throughout history who have used it to do so, and anyone who would seek to do so now, it is useful in this regard.

Second, the propogation of ideas. Never before, aside from religion, have ideas been spread with so many ideas spreading together. Religion carries with is a whole host of ideas, and because religions are generally very adept at spreading themselves [which is also one of the main reasons it is useful as a control device]. Even if other things, such as non-religious philosophies, were able to spread ideas in this same manner, we are left with a screwdriver and a knife. Both are useful in this regard.

Third, I agree that it is very intellectually dishonest, putting faith in false hopes. However, I have a few things to say here. Perhaps the hope offered by some religions is not false. That possibility aside, and assuming that it is false hope to think there is life after death, what does that change? People can go insane over their death-paranoia. A man I know constantly has night terrors because he's so afraid of death. So then, isn't hope, however false, useful in preventing such things? I'm not saying false hope in general is good, but in this case, it is useful for many people.

Fourth, accepting the answer to an unanswerable question, whether or not it's intellectually honest, is indeed useful. Since the question is unanswerable and of the nature that someone will continue to ponder it until some amount of false certainty exists, the first answer is fine. It is useful in that people do not have to waste their time pondering unanswerable questions, and can spend time on more important things, like being productive or having fun.

Also, my opponent offered this quote: "Once you realize it's likely you're only life, you enjoy it and appreciate it more."
I can tell you first hand that this is not true, at least not for everyone. I became an agnostic atheist a while ago, and yet I have not suddenly been enjoying life more.

The thing that makes a person appreciate life mroe is finding something they're passionate about and pursuing it. It's true, atheists like us might have more reason to appreciate this life, but there's no way to magically just appreciate everything more, no matter how badly we want to.

And fifth, as my opponent did not even address, religion can be used as a charity organization. Yes, secular charity orgs exist. That, like the knife for the screwdriver, does not take away the fact that religions are USEFUL in doing charity work.

My opponent now gives us some things that only secularism can acheive. "No witch-hunts, or heresy hunts. Or murdering university teachers were statements about history." This could happen with or without religion, and a secular society would not necessarily acheive this.

First, let us consider that religions can get rid of their bad ideologies [the ones that promote things like witch hunts, etc]. Or, another way this could happen, we could only get rid of the religions that have these bad ideologies, and simply make new religions or use the benign ones of today. In this way, it would be possible to acheive "No witch-hunts, or heresy hunts. Or murdering university teachers were statements about history" while still living in a largely religious society.

Next, let us consider that bad ideologies can indeed exist without religion. Regardless of religion, people can still hate gays, and even think that gays should be killed for being different. Isn't this a witch hunt? If not, change this for any definition of witch that you prefer. "Anyone who holds different ideas than X"? These people can be hunted in secular society if a bad enough ideology exists.

I have shown that religion is useful, which is the supposed topic of the debate.
I have either completed my opponent's challenge or he has been unable to complete my own counterchallenge.
I have shown that the bad things associated with religion are not necessary parts of it. Blaming the concept "religion" for the bad religious teachings that exist is like blaming the concept "philosophy" for other bad ideologies.

And with that, I will let my opponent make his closing arguments.
Debate Round No. 2
Chaos_Evolved

Pro

What a salad of slanders.

I'm sorry I might not have been clear the first time, I should have said religion is useless, as in bad uses don't count, but after defining what I want, you still don't seem to understand it.

1. "First, I'll have everyone note that I never cited "a tool to divide people" as a use of religion."

I never said YOU DID. I said,

"Oh well excuse me, maybe I should change the word "useful", as in you are right, it can be used as a tool for dividing people, if in that way you want to make it useful, then you do win."

What I meant by this was: By usefulness, please make a case where it can be used for good, when nothing else can. I am well aware, AND THIS IS MY POINT, that where no problem exists, it CAN CAUSE ONE. And you repeatedly fail to address it.

"Realize that these are not things inherent in religion. A religion can have good teachings, it can have bad teachings."

Again, you say this, this is my point to begin with. It can teach good, yes, but NONE of its good comes EXCLUSIVELY from it, as in you can get the GOOD from elsewhere, but not the BAD.

I said in my first response: "Let me make it clear again: something that you would ABSOLUTELY need religion, otherwise it couldn't happen."

I don't think you read this at all, or you wouldn't say 'A religion can have good teachings, it can have bad teachings."

Now, when you compare religion to philosophy you are way over your head. philosophy begins where religion ends. Who was it that said, "At worst, the mistakes in philosophy are ridiculous, the mistakes in religion are deadly"?

Well I disagree with him on one point, the muslim IS NOT making a mistake when killing his daughter of she becomes an apostate. Philosophy is questions we may never answer, RELIGION is answers which we may never question.

Steven Weinberg's famous quote, where he says "Normally, good people will do good things, bad people will do bad, but if you want a good person to do bad, give him a religion."

This is because you can meet a rabbi, who's perfectly nice, or a muslim, but then when it comes to the birth of the baby, it's time to mutilate the genitals. Because it's a covenant with god, ANYTHING is possible and indeed obligatory.

You can see how for these past rounds my opponent still doesn't get it, even when spelled out in cold print. Yes people can do bad, and good, but NO good is such that it would be non-existent without religion. There is however, many bad.

Then my opponent just goes in a circle, but these bads can exist anyway; no they cannot. The idea of divine reward for dying for a god cannot exist without a god-worshiping RELIGION.

Hence, back to what I think the rest of the readers on this site will understand, there is NO goodness at all that would not exist if it weren't for religion, but there are MANY bad that exists BECAUSE OF AND ONLY BECAUSE OF religion.

Finally, if you want just one more proof that my opponent doesn't care/ read / want to read his opposition.

"And fifth, as my opponent did not even address, religion can be used as a charity organization. Yes, secular charity orgs exist. That, like the knife for the screwdriver, does not take away the fact that religions are USEFUL in doing charity work."

I refer you dear readers to my first statements made in the first counter-argument.

"
Oh well excuse me, maybe I should change the word "useful", as in you are right, it can be used as a tool for dividing people, if in that way you want to make it useful, then you do win.

But if anyone without more than an IQ can gather from my entire initial explanation, I am speaking about some *good* use that can come from it.

Let me make it clear again: something that you would ABSOLUTELY need religion, otherwise it couldn't happen.
"

This is what I am saying, I have repeatedly said, once I realize I wasn't being clear enough from the gate, that I want to hear of something good that only religion can do, and without religion , we could never do. If you are going to say (you are not saying this, it is an example.) That I am going to murder you because my book tells me to. Yes, then it is *USEFUL* in the sense that it is useful but for bad. I am trying to argue against religion here, by saying how it provides NOTHING, NOTHING good that we couldn't get from elsewhere, hence it is USELESS.
Who

Con

Did my opponent miss my screwdriver/knife analogy completely? To be useful, something does not have to be THE ONLY SOURCE of its use.

A toaster can be used to toast bread. So can a toaster oven, or a regular oven, or a fire.
And yet they are ALL useful in this regard.

A pizza can be used to satisfy hunger. So can a hamburger, or a salad. And yet, they are ALL useful for this.

A secular organization can be used for charity work, as can a religion. They are both useful for this.

A secular philosophy can be used to spread ideals of goodwill and what not, as can a religion. They are BOTH useful for this.

Something does NOT have to be the only source of its use to be useful. IF that were true, barely anything in the world today would be useful.

Also, my opponent DID say that I cited 'dividing people' as one of the uses of religion. He said, "as in you are right, it can be used as a tool for dividing people"
"You're right, it can be used as a tool for dividing people."

See that? Go read it in the original context, too, I haven't warped its meaning.

Also, keeping with the Chris Hitchens rip-off act, my opponent explains that only a rabbi or a muslim is going to mutilate a baby's genitals [circumcision]. Not only is the wording here only representing one viewpoint [that circumcision is evil somehow, simply because it changes the body], but it's also much more than just Rabbi's and Muslims who do it. Even among those born today, the majority of males are circumcised. You'll find that Muslims and Jews are very much not the majority in the US. People do it for a variety of reasons: wanting their kid to fit in, easier upkeep of hygiene, etc. As we see yet again, religion is not the ONLY source of this supposed 'evil'.

Indeed, let me end this as swiftly as possible now.

1 Something does not have to be the only source of some use to be useful. If this were true, nothing would be useful. See my many analogies.

2 My opponent conceded that religion does charity work, though they are not the only ones. Therefore, this is a use.

All my other uses are valid, too.

Therefore, I have shown that religion is not useless. Cut and dry, there's nothing else to it.

Also, consider how well I showed that religion calms people who would otherwise be paranoid about death, driving them to insanity or causing them to have night terrors. I showed this last round, and its certainly a good that secularism would have a hard time providing.

Here's what I wrote last round:

"I agree that it is very intellectually dishonest, putting faith in false hopes. However, I have a few things to say here. Perhaps the hope offered by some religions is not false. That possibility aside, and assuming that it is false hope to think there is life after death, what does that change? People can go insane over their death-paranoia. A man I know constantly has night terrors because he's so afraid of death. So then, isn't hope, however false, useful in preventing such things? I'm not saying false hope in general is good, but in this case, it is useful for many people."

Yet it went unrebutted. Not that it's necessary for me to provide a use that ONLY religion can supply, since that's not the topic. The topic is whether or not religion is useless, and I have shown numerous uses thereof.
Debate Round No. 3
24 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by jason_hendirx 8 years ago
jason_hendirx
WE WIN THE INTERNETS WOOO7
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 8 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
Far worse than useless. Useless things don't go on crusades :D
Posted by jason_hendirx 8 years ago
jason_hendirx
Even though the language was that of utility/lack thereof, it was, I think, implicitly about morality. Thus the fact that your stance on the lies inherent in religion is horrid is quite relevant. It may not reflect on your character, and probably does not, but it does weaken the morality of your pro-religious stance substantially. That, I would hold, is key to truly winning this argument.

Those examples of things that have "alternatives" were quite spurious. The alternatives to screwdrivers are knife-blades and coins, at least for the purposes that screwdrivers are commonly put to. Hamburgers serve their purpose almost unfailingly well, as anyone can attest to their deliciousness. I think we will both agree, however, that the first metaphor is irrelevant because there are many things that can serve ALL the purposes of religion with equal, if not greater effectiveness, and religion does not serve the purposes it is supposed to serve as well as a hamburger sates one's hunger.

As for its utility as a lie, those things you say are SMALL lies for specific instances. You tell a dying relative that he'll go to heaven for the last 2, maybe 3 weeks of his life. You break the bad news to your kids that Santa Claus doesn't exist at the age of 10. Any later, and Child Services buries you alive. And the "Does this dress make me look fat?" example is... is beneath contempt. You can NOT compare those lies to whole systems of thought that are designed to utterly circumvent reasoned debate.

@Ragnar Rahl

Yes, religion is, fundamentally, non-evidentiary. It is the enemy of all thoughts empirical. If it isn't useless or inherently prone to bad teachings, it still mocks our capacity for reason. In which case it is worse than useless, wouldn't you say?
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 8 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
"
1. A father killed his daughter for not wearing her hijab to school [Killing because of a bad teaching].
2. The hadith encourages death for apostates [A bad teaching encouraging killing].
3. Religions teach that gays, those who blaspheme the holy spirit must endure hellfire [A bad teaching, which spreads hatred].

Realize that these are not things inherent in religion. A religion can have good teachings, it can have bad teachings. It's unfortunate that most religions today have many bad teachings, but realize that this is each individual religion's fault, not the fault of 'religion'."

Actually it's the fault of religion's methodology, the "Anything goes" grab bag known as "I have FAITH in x." Since it's not an evidentiary methodology, it does nothing to mitigate the possibility of bad teachings, whereas evidentiary methodologies do, bad teachings are harder to find evidence for. Since one cannot use a methodology that is both evidentiary and nonevidentiary, and thus the introduction of a nonevidentiary removes the mitigation potential of an evidentiary...
Posted by Who 8 years ago
Who
Yeah, I failed to rebut my opponent's statement that religion has alternatives. So what? Screwdrivers have alternatives, they are not useless. Hamburgers have alternatives, they are not useless. Religion has alternatives, it is not useless. And that is what this debate is about. Re-read the topic if you feel uncertain about this.

Also, it is not bad of me to say that a lie might be useful. Think about a scenario with a man dying in a hospital, his family coming to visit him. Even on TV and movies, family will often tell their dying relative that they're gonna be just fine, or something to that effect. and we, as humans, empathize with that. In general, at least.
We think it's just dandy that little kids are taught about santa or the tooth fairy, for an astoundingly lesser psychological good.
Or what if a girl asks a guy 'Does this dress make me look fat?' In this scenario, let's say it does. Society empathizes with a guy who lies and says "no", and society thinks the guy who says "actually, it does" is just a jerk. Though I must admit, I am the second one. However, I would be foolish to ignore the usefulness of lying in this situation. Sure, it might not be sometihng I'd do (just as I wouldn't start a religion to ease people's fears), but that doesn't mean there's no use to it.

So why then does it reflect badly on my character for me to point out that while religions might be lies, they do indeed have useful psychological effects?
Even if that was some horrible stance to have, this is a debate. Debaters are free to use whatever arguments they wish, including ones they don't actually agree with. But feel free to judge me; be suspicious all you will.
Posted by jason_hendirx 8 years ago
jason_hendirx
Chaos_Evolved's language was strong, to be sure. Religion is surely not useless. But it is an institution with MANY alternatives, and his opponent failed to refute that. And he also rather blatantly lacked any compunction about the idea that religion is a useful LIE. Even though he later says that they may or may not be lies, he seems to feel that the possible falsehoods of such concepts as the afterlife is morally irrelevant to the psychological good that they do. Even though it's supposedly bad form to attack an opponent's character, I do think that anyone who holds this kind of stance should be looked at with a good deal of suspicion.
Posted by Blessed-Cheese-Maker 8 years ago
Blessed-Cheese-Maker
Great debate, I found myself wavering between pro and con as I read the arguments.

I believe Xera's evaluation is correct and Pro's use of the word 'useless' in his contention made his argument untenable.

His points about religion however were very pertinent and in my opinion quite accurate.

Con wins by default, but his argument was very compelling as well.

The only detraction in this argument was the veiled personal attacks utilized by both parties. Other than that it was an awesome subject and debate. Thanks both of you.
Posted by Xera 8 years ago
Xera
well I can't type today.

yp = to
Posted by Xera 8 years ago
Xera
Katana, by making that requirement PRO tried yp change the resolution from "religion is useless" to "religion is unnecessary." Con simply refused to allow PRO to put an unreasonable demand upon his burder that would not exist by the actual resolution.

PRO never made that argument into the resolution he stated "I challenge the responder to name me an ethical action that only a person of faith could do" This challenge did not reword the reslution, it was simply an adendum to it, and as CON proved, not a necessary componant to refuting the actual resolution.
Posted by Who 8 years ago
Who
I explained that his expectations did not fit the actual definition of useless. I explained the actual definition. I am the only one who succesfully argued his side of "Religion is, at best, useless." My opponent was arguing some other thing, that had nothing to do with uselessness. Surely that's not my fault.
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