The Columbia Humanist Society, a new group at Columbia dedicated to secular discussions about politics, society, and everything in between, had its first big event last Wednesday, when they invited A.C. Grayling to give a small lecture in Hamilton. A. C. Grayling, first Master of London’s New College of the Humanities. He’s written numerous books, most notably The God Argument; the Case Against Religion and For Humanism, which he was promoting at the event. All agog atheist Artur Renault reported:
After a long introduction by a CHS member, A. C. Grayling stepped up to the podium with his outrageous gray mane and warmed up the crowd with a warm humblebrag: “One thing I’ve learned in my career is that if you do less, you get to speak earlier.” From that point on we could see that his gentle British humor would keep us company throughout the lecture.
The beginning of the speech was an interesting digression from the general trend of New Atheism, because Grayling said he didn’t want to change anyone’s mind: he just wanted to examine the argument. He noticed that after 9/11, religion seems to have penetrated public life in a new way. Previously, religion was something private and out of the public eye. But since, thousands of books have come out preaching religion and about half a dozen have come out speaking against it, including those by Grayling’s friends Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Steven Pinker, and no public debate seems to be free from the influence of faith.
Grayling separated this phenomenon into three different debates that are often confused. The first he called the atheism debate: what is in the universe, and what controls it? The second, the secularism debate, regarded the role of religion in society—he stressed that it’s possible to be religious and secular. The final debate, he said, was one of ethics: how do we lead our lives?
What did he say about that?