While the world's religions have inspired stunning acts of creation, they also have been implicated in some of the darkest deeds in human history.
If God cannot be blamed for such moments of evil, His priests and prophets at least have a case to answer.
So what might they say? That religion is unfairly blamed -- and that we should look to other factors? Admit that there are problems but argue that on balance the good outweighs the bad? That there is no alternative; that people need religion like they need air?- Intelligence Squared
Richard Ackland is a prominent columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald writing on legal and ethical issues.
He is founder of Law Press of Australia, whose publications include The Justinian and The Gazette of Law and Journalism. Ackland has been a staunch advocate of free speech and was co-winner of the prestigious Gold Walkley for Journalism in 1999 following work as writer and presenter of the ABC's Media Watch program.
Ackland has also presented ABC Radio National's breakfast program, covering a range of issues and controversies. In 2000 he was awarded the Voltaire Prize for Free Speech.
Lyn Allison was an Australian Democrat Senator from 1996 to 2008. Lyn Allison has been a prominent advocate for women's issues, and human rights.
She served on the Senate Environment and Information Technology Committeee, and the Select Committees inquiring into gambling and Health. Following a study tour to Lebanon, Allison introduced legislation intro Parliament which would prevent Australia from using cluster bombs. Allison is the former Director of the Employment and Economic Development Corporation in Melbourne and a Councillor for the Port Melbopurne City Council.
Earlier this year she was named Humanist of the Year, for her commitment to the democratic process and support for the secular nature of Australian society.
Dr. John Lennox
Dr. John Lennox holds three doctorates in the fields of science and mathematics and is a Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science at Green College, University of Oxford.
His most recent book is God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?. Lennox also holds a degree in bioethics and has lectured extensively in Europe, both Western and Eastern, including many visits to Russia as a guest of the Academy of Science. A popular Christian apologist and scientist, he travels widely speaking on the interface between science and religion.
Like Dawkins, he has dedicated his career to science, but he has arrived at very different conclusions. "It is the very nature of science that leads me to belief in God," he says.
Dr. Simon Longstaff is Executive Director of St. James Ethics Centre. Simon spent five years studying and working as a member of Magdalene College, Cambridge. Having won scholarships to study at Cambridge, he read for the degrees of Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy. He was inaugural President of The Australian Association for Professional and Applied Ethics and is a Director of a number of companies. He is a Fellow of the World Economic Forum and a member of the International Advisory Committee of the Foreign Policy Association, based in New York.
Ian Plimer is Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne and Professor of mining geology at the University of Adelaide.
He is a prominent critic of creationism, and is famous for a debate with creationist Duane Gish in which he asked his opponent to hold live electrical cables to prove that electromagnetism was 'only a theory'. He has published over 120 academic papers and six popular books. He is also a prominent member of the Australian Skeptics.
In 2004 he was awarded the Calrk Medal by the Rioyal Society of NSW. In the late 1990s, Plimer was involved in legal proceedings concerning the location of Noah's Ark, in which Plimer was ultimately unsuccessful. His most recent book, Telling Lies For God, has a forward by Archbishop Peter Hollingsworth. Professor Plimer argues that religion is important for the fabric of society.
Suzanne Rutland is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Hebrew, Biblical & Jewish Studies at the University of Sydney and the main lecturer in the program of Jewish Civilization, Thought and Cultures.
She has published widely on Australian Jewish history, edits the Sydney edition of the AJHS Journal, as well as writing on issues relating to the Shoah and Israel. Her latest books are The Jews in Australia and Triumph of the Jewish Spirit: Forty Years of the Jewish Communal Appeal. In January 2008 she received the Medal of the Order of Australia from the Australian Government for services to Higher Jewish Education and interfaith dialogue.
Professor Vic Stenger is emeritus Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Hawaii and adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado. Stenger spent forty years doing basic research in elementary particle physics and astrophysics before retiring in 2000 and moving to Colorado. He is the author of seven books that deal with the interface between science, pseudoscience, and religion including: The Comprehensible Cosmos and God: The Failed Hypothesis - How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist. The last title was on the New York Times bestseller list in 2007. Stenger maintains that plausible natural explanations exist for for all observable phenomena and there is strong scientific evidence against anything mystical or supernatural in the universe.
Ian Plimer, Professor of Mining Geology at the University of Adelaide, argues that most atheists are in no position to attack religion if they support environmentalism, which he claims is becoming an almost cult-like religion of its own.
Suzanne Rutland, Chair of the Department of Hebrew, Biblical & Jewish Studies at the University of Sydney, argues that human beings need to belong to a group that provides altruistic and loving relationships and a belief in some higher principle, something that secular society does not provide.