The anti-God squad

Religion belongs to "the abject childhood of our species", Christopher Hitchens told an audience at Westminster Hall in London last night. The author and journalist condemned the "medieval barbarism" of religious conflicts the world over and urged those listening to oppose the religious impulse whenever it shows itself. "It shows very well that religion is created ... by a species half a chromosome away from a chimpanzee," he spat.

He was defending the motion that "This house believes we'd be better off without religion", and he had some formidable artillery on his side - the philosopher Professor AC Grayling and the evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Dawkins, to whom Mr Hitchens referred tongue-in-cheekly as a "spokesman for the moderate wing" of the atheist movement.

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For what it's worth, the atheists won the day with 1,205 votes for the motion and 778 against. And although many of the arguments marshalled on both sides were as old as religion itself, the debate ended up hinging on surprising territory. Both sides tried to lay claim to the virtues of doubt and to the idea that theirs was the more optimistic view of human nature.

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