The live Intelligence Squared debate packed out the Royal Geographic Society venue on an evening when the London Underground was on strike. The performances – Dom Anthony Sutch as the utterly compelling modern-day portly Abbot asking for the right kind of bashing; the angry intensity of Peter Hitchens; the panache of Howard Jacobson’s eulogy for language; the cut and thrust of Geoffrey Robertson; the sweet reason of Matthew Parris and the calm, measured performance of the former Archbishop of Canterbury – were a plentiful reward for any tribulation of the journey.
Underneath the brilliance of the performances lies some of the most serious questions of our time: should the state be neutral when it comes to religion? how far from neutrality is Britain today? and what special dispensations from the laws of a secular liberal society can we contemplate in the name of religious belief – how far does tolerance require us to tolerate intolerance?
You can read tomes of political theory on this. Or you can watch and listen carefully to this beautiful set of performances and find embedded in them encapsulations of almost every position taken on these tricky, subtle and crucial questions of our time.
Speakers for the motion - George Carey, Peter Hitchens and Howard Jacobson
Speakers against the motion - Matthew Parris, Geoffrey Robertson QC and Dom Antony Sutch
Chaired by Jonathan Freedland