Video Video Audio Transcripts Pictures
Alan Keyes / Alan Dershowitz debate
September 27, 2000
Franklin & Marshall College

Does Organized Religion Hold Answers to the Problems of the 21st Century?

STANLEY MIKALAK, PROFESSOR OF GOVERNMENT AND LIBERAL ARTS (MODERATOR): Thank you very much. For those of us in this hall who are over 40, the Cold War looks in retrospect as an grand era of peace, stability, and tranquility. The dreams of a new world order emerging in the post cold war world have proven to be just that--dreams.

Two weeks ago, in the first event of the series, Robert Kaplan of the Atlantic Monthly delivered a dismal and dismaying "state of the world" address. What he presented was in fact a nightmarish future: failed and unsustainable states that collapse into religious, ethnic, civil violence, international conflicts spurred by rising population rates and inadequate resources, road warrior societies that collapse into feudal anarchy as borders become replaced by moving masses of people, and the planet increasingly preoccupied with the long-term effects of industrialization and population growth. At the same time, all of the chronic religious and ethnic conflicts of the cold war remain with us today--in Northern Ireland, in the Middle East, in Iran, in Iraq, in Cyprus, and in India and Pakistan. Then, of course, there's the state of America itself. Here at home secular and religious forces battle over prayer in the public schools, the right of women to have abortions, the teaching of Darwin's theory of evolution, and the rights of gays and lesbians. Meanwhile, as we move into the era of globalization we are witnessing the birth of a new America. A new America where private affluence and technological wizardry coexist with urban poverty, drugs, crime, violence, gangs, spiraling divorce rates, homelessness, AIDS, failing schools, and the profit-driven entertainment industry that has helped to deny our children the innocence of childhood.

Tonight, two of America's finest minds will address these questions as they debate "Does Organized Religion Hold Answers to the Problems of the 21st Century?" The procedure will be as follows: each speaker will open for 10 minutes. We will then have 12 minutes of rebuttal, and then we will have 5 minutes of closing statements. After that, we will take a short break for questions from the audience. When we take that break--if you have a question, write it on your index card, and the ushers will then bring them up to the gentlemen seated at the table over here--Deans John Campbell, Dean Joseph Voelker, and they will be joined by Dr. Bonchek.

As this panel is furiously shuffling all of these cards and getting them ready, each of the speakers will ask of the other in turn two questions. Then we will have closing reflections. After we take the questions from the audience, we will have closing reflections from the speakers. So, let us begin. We've waited long enough.

Ambassador Keyes for the affirmative. Oh, excuse me [applause] . . . one rule that's very important. Dean John Campbell will keep the time. The yellow light means one remaining minute. The red light means you're out of time. Excuse me.

Ambassador Keyes. [loud applause]

KEYES: Thank you. Thank you and good evening. Now, I'll have to start out with one proviso, I guess, because I always have found when answering questions that it is sometimes necessary to do a little work on the question before you try to provide people with answers. And I would have to start this evening with a disclaimer--one which I offer partly because, I think, one ought to be kind of humble in the face of any efforts to predict what the problems of the 21st Century are going to be. I mean, people wrote at the end of the 19th Century about what the problems of the 20th Century would be. And actually we have been through some awful horrors and some enormous tragedies and some great holocausts--none of which they foresaw.

So, it is not entirely clear that we have any idea what the problems of the 21st Century will be. And I think, we can, sometimes--maybe because turns of the century are times when people get gloomy--we can exaggerate, too, what they might be. Is the glass half-empty? Is it half-full? Are we on the threshold of enormous possibilities that will raise human beings to a golden upland of achievement, or do we, in fact, face the horrors of the 21st Century steeped in violence and chaos? Well, if human experience is any indication, we'll probably end up muddling along somewhere in the midst of all of that with some pretty horrible things and also some pretty great things. That certainly has been the case in the 20th Century.

Our growing powers and capabilities

So, I'm not going to try to pretend that I can give you a catalogue of the problems of the 21st Century. I do see challenges, though, that ought to be fairly evident to us--and that becomes increasingly acute because of some of the temptations that we give in to these days. And that problem has to do, in fact, with some of the things that have produced the more positive aspects of the world in which we live. And, right now, let us not deny that for some of us, especially here in America, the world's actually pretty positive. We're living in the midst of a booming economy in which every day, it seems, some new figure is brought forward to show us how well-off we are. Declines in the poverty rate, raises in the mediant income--all these things are just reported in the papers today, as if to provide me with fodder for the opening of my talk, I don't know. And that can't be all bad, can it? I doubt that it is.

And what is all this the fruit of? In our political debates, we like to pretend that it's the fruit of some great wisdom of this politician or that. I think we all know better, though. It is the fruit of the work and creativity of a lot of people, here and around the world. It is the fruit of the application of a lot of new wisdom and understanding that we have achieved through scientific means, and that it has put within our reach great powers, for good and ill, which at the moment are working themselves out in ways that open up great horizons of economic productivity and creativity, as we, I think, are in the face of the possibility that we shall perform in the economic realm what we have done in the physical realm--tapped into the very units of social life, unleashing in greater measure, the full potential of each and every individual to offer goods and services, not just in the little scope of their life and community but to the entire world with the push of a button. These are wonderful things.

We also see the prospects in our researches into human biology and other things that we may before too long become master of greater territory with respect even to the function and make up of our own bodies. Things that could offer cures to diseases and ways out in terms of our increasing disability in the face of old age. Wonderful prospects. Not bad ones. Why we would want to sit here all preoccupied with gloom, I don't know. But I am not. I think, in point of fact, that vistas that are quite promising do open before humankind right now.

But there is another side. A side that has been represented in the 20th Century, of course, by things some of which were obvious like the shadow that nuclear weapons cast over the survival of the world, but some of them not so obvious in terms of the implications of that power that we are garnering to affect our own nature, to alter that substance which in the past was regarded as unalterable in the way that it came to us through our biology and from the hands of nature. Great powers.

The thing that worries me, though, is not some catalogue of individual problems we may face. The thing that worries me is what may be the greatest challenge of the era to come. The fact that our knowledge will continue to increase, but there is a question mark behind the increase of moral wisdom and responsibility required in order to handle that knowledge without incredibly destructive effects. I think, in fact, that that's the great challenge of the era before us. That we will continue, no doubt, to reap the fruits of our science and to apply those fruits in ways that offer us greater power and greater control over things that in the past seemed beyond the reach of human individuals and human society. Yes, I think this will continue. And I think that applying that kind of genius and creativity, we will open up possibilities to continue to relieve human suffering and spread greater abundance as we have, indeed.

All these people talk about overpopulation . . . I remember I grew up thinking that everybody in India was going to starve--and now they export food to the rest of the world. We know for a fact that a lot of this gloom and doom stuff does not have to be. That we, in fact, have proven to ourselves the ability to apply with some measure of creativity that intelligence which God gave us to the challenges that we face. And I think we will continue to do it.

But we are also opening the door to possibilities that put into our hands powers that were unimagined in the past--over the human spirit, over the human emotions, over the human mind and psychology. Things that would allow us to create, not only in the world, but in ourselves, monstrosities of human oppression, and that could introduce into our midst new bases for bigotry and prejudice that we have not yet begun even to explore. How are we going to handle these things? As the weight of that responsibility which comes with knowledge grows ever greater in our midst, how will we do it?

See, that's where, I believe, that the question of the relevance of religion and faith presents itself in our time. Cast about as we will, I see that the last few decades of our existence are more like proof that as we move along these paths where our scientific understanding offers us greater knowledge, it seems that the affect, to a degree, of that understanding on our moral confidence has been to undermine and to shatter the foundations of our belief in the principles that even allowed us to believe that moral judgments are possible, much less that we can make them in any given circumstance.

The antidote to our pride

That means to say that as the call on our moral judgment grows greater, our confidence in those things that provide the foundation of moral judgment grows ever weaker. Except, of course, that there is an antidote. An antidote that still seems resilient even in the midst of all our efforts to talk ourselves out of it. I've often wondered at this. In a society that has, over the course of some decades, had an entertainment industry and a media and all kinds of other folks, desperately trying in every possible way to convince us that only the unsophisticated would retain any sense of faith and due dependence on Almighty God, we yet live in a day when that sense of faith and due dependence on Almighty God grows; it does not decrease, it seems, in the breasts of ordinary men and women in this country and around the world.

There seems to be an antidote perhaps writ by the finger of God on our very hearts that provides us with a sense that even as we become more God-like in our capacities, we yet become less God-like in our ability to be clear in our understanding of the meaning and proper use of those capacities. It is humbling.

And that's why I think faith is a relevant thing. See, because when you stand on the threshold of an era when the greatest temptation will be to take overweening pride in your seeming achievements and to regard them with a sense of self-sufficiency that releases you from the boundaries of ordinary moral judgment, what could be more necessary in such an era than the humbling and limiting acknowledgment that there is, in fact, a God, and we are not Him?

I think that that essential element of religious faith and belief becomes ever more necessary to our existence, and, indeed, to the survival of humanity in the course of the century to come. And it's not because we are going to be faced with terrible problems of people who are hungry and nations collapsing and chaos. I mean . . . meaning no offense to anybody, but I believe you could probably stand at the threshold of any century in human history, and being as how we could then have some foreknowledge you would probably say, "Well, they faced these terrible difficulties." No.

The challenge that we face is not whether we will be able to meet the particular problems, but whether our pride in our capacity to find solutions for those problems by means of our science and understanding will, in fact, release in us the demon of pride that frees us from a sense of moral boundary. I believe that there is a lasting antidote to that possibility, and that it comes in the simple acknowledgment that however great our knowledge grows, it does not equal the knowledge of the One who put all things in their places. It is why I believe that the Founders of this nation in which I live had a particular wisdom when they placed before the people of this country one premise as the common premise of our life, that we are all of us created equal and endowed by our Creator with the foundation of our rights and justice. That means that whatever powers we gain and whatever powers we may claim upon this earth, we stand in the face of a greater Power before whom all human powers are equal. And those powers must, therefore, acknowledge that they are not a law unto themselves and that we must acknowledge them in our treatment of one another. We cannot allow power to replace our submission to God's will but that justice will be done. [Moderator: Mr. Keyes, time. Thank you very much, Mr. Keyes] [loud applause]

MODERATOR: Professor Dershowitz, speaking in the negative.

DERSHOWITZ: Thank you all very much for inviting me to this wonderful event tonight. I spent the whole day today preparing for this debate by carrying around a copy of the Bible. It made me feel like I'm in a different line of work--no, not preacher. Presidential candidate. Ah, because this presidential campaign has seemed to me as it were a campaign for deacon or bishop rather than a campaign for leader of the free world. I learned a lot as I always do from Ambassador Keynes [sic], but I want to read you something which also taught me a great deal. I recently came across this on the internet. It's a letter written to Dr. Laura Schlessinger.
"Dear Dr. Laura, Thank you so much for trying to educate people regarding God's law. I have learned a great deal from you, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:12 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

"But I need some advice from you regarding some of the other specific laws and how best to follow them. When I burn a bull on the alter as a sacrifice, I know it creates a 'pleasing odor for the Lord' (Leviticus 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. How should I deal with this? I would like to sell my daughter into slavery as suggested by Exodus 21:7. What do you think a fair price would be? I know I'm allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Leviticus 19:24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but some women take offense. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I obliged morally to kill him myself, or may I hire a hit man? I know you have studied these things extensively, and so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging."
Morality without religion

Now, I don't dispute what Ambassador Keynes [sic] said about the need for morality to control scientific developments. Where my problem comes up is in his attempt to correlate precisely religion and morality. When Sen. Lieberman said the following, "George Washington warned us never to indulge in the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion," he was wrong and so was George Washington. There, I said it. George Washington was wrong. Morality can be maintained without religion, and indeed it must be maintained without religion, because there are always going to be people who are not religious.

In North America today, according to a recent census, there are 27 million people who are not religious and a million and a half avowed atheists. There is no evidence to suggest they are less moral than those who go to synagogue, mosque, and church everyday. Indeed, it is my contention that a truly moral person, who acts morally--not out of fear of damnation or out of promise of reward, but because it's the right thing--if anything, is more moral. More moral. The atheist or the agnostic who throws himself in front of an oncoming bus to save a child, knowing that there is no eternal promise, that there is nothing but the grave that awaits him, is more moral than Sir Thomas More who made a cost/benefit analysis as to whether or not to face eternal damnation by disobeying the pope or face instantaneous death by disobeying the king.

Pascal's wager--which I'm sure you all know about--Pascal said, "One must bet either there is a God or there is no God. If there is a God and you don't believe in him, you will be damned. If there is no God and you do believe in him, well, no harm." Therefore, belief is the worst kind of Kennedy School cost/benefit analysis, more appropriate to a business school than a divinity school. What kind of a God would reward you for making a cost/benefit analysis and making that kind of calculation that Pascal asks you to make?

So, I think there is no correlation--empirical, logical, moral--between one's moral attitudes and what one chooses as one's tribal beliefs. Because after all, most of us remain in the beliefs into which we were born. How does that work? We chose the right religion? Few of us choose religion. Most of us simply follow in the religion in which we were born.

And organized religion is very divisive, particularly monotheistic organized religion, because it tells you "there is one true God, and our religion knows who it is--all the other religions are wrong." The recent encyclical from the Catholic Church put it very directly. "He who believes in Jesus Christ and is baptized will be saved. He who does not believe will be condemned." It's as simple as that. What kind of a God would condemn you for disbelieving in him? That approach to religion sounds like petty tyranny. If you think through faith and you try your best, in Paul Tillick's sense, of trying to deal with the ultimate, and after thinking hard and giving all the benefit of the doubt you come away saying, "On balance, I don't believe"--you should be punished for that? For that true exercise of belief by eternal damnation?

But if you make a cost/benefit calculus that leads you to say you believe, you are rewarded for that? That's not the kind of morality we should be encouraging. That's a kind of morality that leads to the same kind of cost/benefit analysis that, I think, has led to disasters in the past.

I think the problem with the Odyssey is a very serious one. How does one explain the disasters in the world? I remember when Elian Gonzalez was rescued. So many religious people said, "See, see, God is wonderful. He saved Elian Gonzalez with porpoises." Yeah, but what about those people who died? Was God not responsible for their death? "Oh, God works in mysterious ways." If you are willing as human beings to abdicate your intelligence to a being who you don't understand or know, what will that lead you to? It will lead you to being Abraham in the Bible. God comes down and says to Abraham, "Kill your son." And Abraham says, "Sure." And he's prepared to kill his son. And there have been many Abrahams in the past.

There are great many good things that result from religion. Religion does provide some answers to some problems for some people, but organized religion particularly creates division. The United States Supreme Court in an opinion in the last part of the 19th Century declared Mohammadism to be a false religion. It said that women shouldn't be lawyers because that was God's will. And more recently it said that homosexuality is immoral. That's wrong. I don't care if the Bible says it. It's wrong. It's wrong to divide people on the basis of sexual preference, of sexual orientation. It's wrong to say that women are unequal, if the Bible says so. It's wrong to say that Blacks are unequal even if the Hammite myth supports it or suggests it. The Bible is often wrong.

It is often right. Of course, it is often brilliantly right. Many of the Ten Commandments are worthy to be followed. Not all of them, but many of them. It's not worth following the Ten Commandment that says do not make a graven image. Or do not take the Lord's name in vain. I don't care about that. I don't care whether you take God's name in vain or make graven images--that's not the concern of a civic society. We can do much better than the Ten Commandments. We can have "do not lie; do not cheat." We can have commandments that are relevant. The commandments were written by human beings. The Bible was written by human beings. The Bible contains brilliant wisdom of humanity and some terribly grievous errors which have led to the Crusades, which have led to the Inquisition, which have led to pogroms, which have led to terrorism.

I agree with you that there are great dangers that I foresee in the 21st Century, and I think among the greatest of those dangers is religiously-inspired terrorism supported by weapons of mass destruction. When you give religiously inspired zealots weapons of mass destruction and you promise them that if they kill innocent people they will go to heaven, imagine what the consequences are. The same day that Joseph Lieberman said that you could not separate morality from religion, the New York Times had a picture of a leading Islamic fundamentalist calling for the destruction of the Jewish people in the name of religion.

And so, I think we need to be very cautious. I think we have to be very circumspect. I think we have to give religion its due. I think we have to respect those for whom religion is important, but equally respect those who can achieve good morality without religion. That's the American way. That's what the Constitution means when it says that no religious test shall ever be required for office under the United States. That should be a metaphor. Don't judge people by their religion or lack thereof. Thank you. [applause]

MODERATOR: Ambassador Keyes for a 12 minute rebuttal.

KEYES: I must confess that it is with some trepidation that I stand here knowing that I must begin by offering a minor correction to my distinguished colleague, especially when he is backed by such an authority as Sen. Lieberman. [laughter, applause] But you know, one of the reasons that I have a tendency to have greater respect for George Washington than Mr. Dershowitz appears to have for him is that I actually quote him accurately. [laughter, applause]

Indulge with caution

And I think it bears thinking on that our Founders were actually subtler and more sophisticated human beings than a lot of folks we have around us today. And I guess I won't make an exception for present company, but I will have to say that what Washington actually said was not that we must "never" indulge the supposition. What he actually said was we must with "caution" indulge the supposition.

I'm not going to spend a good deal of time this evening going into that difference, but it's actually a great difference. Because it meant that Washington was actually both more knowledgeable and wiser than Mr. Dershowitz gives him credit for. He, on the one hand, recognizes--if you understand, I believe, the meaning of that phrase--the possibility there are going to be good people who don't acknowledge the existence of God, and who are not good by virtue of religion. That's why he said you indulge it with caution. He doesn't say don't indulge it. He says indulge it with caution.

But what does caution imply? Well, caution implies that you're indulging in something that's dangerous. And that you move down a road that could lead to destructive possibilities, so you put on a yellow light because you want to avoid that destruction. In that regard, I think Washington had great deal of respect for the truth, because he understood that the point of statesmanship is not to win debates. It's to try to guide nations down paths that will actually avoid for them the worst consequences.

And I think that's the question we actually face here. And we can't trivialize it by pretending that anybody suggests that this or that interpretation of religion ought to be imposed by force on anybody, and so forth and so on. Furthest thing from my mind and the mind of any reasonable descent Americans, which we all understand--however we disagree about the First Amendment, one thing we know is it doesn't allow that, and that is not in question here. But what is in question is whether or not we understand the distinction that I think has to be made between what is possible for human beings and what is possible for societies.

Punishment and salvation

It's something that I think that has been recognized by both philosophers and by religious thinkers because the aim of our human life as individuals goes rather on beyond that of our life as social beings. To put it in old terminology, the aim of our life as social beings is justice, but justice is not the ultimate good for the individual. Indeed, according to my religious faith as a Christian, I can get something besides justice. If God was going to be just with me, I would be punished. Alan Dershowitz says, "Well, God shouldn't punish you just because you've come to the conclusion that you don't believe in Him," and so forth and so on.

The truth of the matter is, according to the Bible, we all have merited punishment anyway. And we don't escape it by our own merits. That's not the point. The point is we escape it, because God is merciful. And he doesn't punish us because he has offered us, without our having to get involved in it, a way to salvation. And salvation is actually a greater good than justice. But it is a greater good that I think we recognize rightfully in this society is to be pursued by individuals according to their conscience. And that they must be respected in their freedom to seek out that path which will lead them to salvation--to think it through, to pray over it, to meditate over it, to open their hearts to it, and to follow that path which results from that--and from what I believe is in the end the grace of God in their lives. And all of that can't be done by force and nobody suggests that it should be. None of it can be imposed. Can't force somebody to be saved. And so it's never even a question--we caricature things that haven't even been suggested and then we pretend we've said something. There is a greater challenge, though. [applause]

Power only respects greater power

There is a greater challenge, though. Because, see, I don't think the Founders were as narrow minded and silly as some people want to imply. That's why Washington's phrase was quite weighty and complex. And Mr. Dershowitz's characterization of that phrase reduces it to a caricature. One of the most complex figures of our founding was probably Thomas Jefferson. A lot of people say he didn't believe in God. He sure tolerated the mention of His name a lot for a guy who didn't believe in Him, but I would actually like to say, though, that if he didn't believe in Him that's a stronger case than anything as to why we need to take a second look at the American Declaration of Independence and the acquiescence of Jefferson and some others like him in the reference to the Creator there.

Let us assume for the moment that all the Jefferson-is-atheist people are correct. See? If Jefferson didn't acquiesce in the reference to the Creator because he thought it was true, maybe he did it because he thought it was necessary. Necessary for what? Necessary in order to complete the argument that constrains human power. Necessary in order to establish a ground so that the weak and the defenseless, so that those with no power, those with no eloquence, those with no case to be made by their money or their status or anything else about them would be able to stand in the face of every human power whatsoever and demand respect for their human rights and dignity. Do we think that that comes about [applause] . . . do we think that comes about because Alan Dershowitz feels like it today, or Alan Keyes feels like it today? No.

The challenge of human history has been to come up with a principle of justice so couched that the powers that so often have claimed to be the substance of justice, must nonetheless be bound by it, and so that those who have been docilely subject to those powers in the many centuries of human abuse would never again believe it was right, even when they did not have the power to stand, for the time being, against those who oppress them. See? How do you get there? How do you get there? You see, because the argument down through human history has been, quite frankly, that "might makes right." And sure, philosophers in their closet have come up with other things. They do it all the time. But philosophers in the closet don't govern nations. Philosophers in the closet don't move human hearts and shape human conscience and characteristics directly.

That has to be done by other agencies--and, sadly, those agencies down through the years have been unconstrained in so many instances by elements of conscience, except where they were produced by incidental things. "You are my brethren in this, in that--in biology, in tribe, in ethnicity, in war--and so I will not abuse my power against you." But what about those beings left out of the purview of those definitions of community, who have nothing to recommend them in their dignity except the bare humanity that they can claim? Why respect them? Down through the ages, power hasn't had much respect for them at all.

As I said to a young lady in a class today, the challenge of all this, you see, is not just to shape the ordinary consciences, the good consciences. No. How do we get the folks who would otherwise be tempted to abuse their superiority to listen, and how would we get those who would otherwise be tempted to simply to submit to their abuse to have the courage to oppose them? That is where, I think, the Founders had somewhat greater wisdom than the people who reduce their views to a caricature. They were faced with a real problem and they wanted a solution that had some chance of being translated into a relatively lasting reality.

And they understood one principle, a little bit cynical perhaps, but nonetheless verified by much of human history, that "power ultimately only respects a greater power." Isn't that sad? Power cannot be relied upon to respect greater wisdom. That's why Plato, though he would have loved it, to have philosophers kings, understand they probably wouldn't end up that way. [chuckle] Oh, no. Power doesn't necessarily respect greater wisdom. It doesn't necessarily respect greater holiness. It doesn't necessarily respect all these things. Sometimes it does. Sometimes the Pope will come out of Rome talk Atilla out of sacking the place or whatever, but a lot of times it won't work. When people die in their rape and whole civilizations are destroyed, so that the smoking ruins left behind are today called deserts --that's what the Monguls did in great parts of the world. So, power doesn't necessarily respect this except to say, "How can you come up with something that might be a little more reliable than that?"

I think the aim of the Founders was that at least to invoke a paradigm that offered a surer foundation for our appeals to conscience. What better logic to face power with than the notion that, whatever power you have, I gain my dignity from the absolute greatest power of all. The one you can't touch. The one you cannot equal. The one that for which every human power pales by comparison. And because I think all my dignity by virtue of that greater power, even on the day you defeat me, even on the day you put foot upon my neck and trample me into the dust, I still live in the hope that my justice will rise because you cannot defeat His will. [applause]

That is not . . . that is not . . . what I have just articulated is not the statement of some abstract hope that will give comfort to philosophers as they read their books. No. What I have just stated is the kind of thing that, when you stand before a nation threatened by oppression, will move the hearts of people in that nation to lay down their very lives for sake of its liberty. I do not speak here of some thing that has not happened. Every time we have gone to war, every time we have called upon the men and women of this nation to face the ultimate sacrifice, we have not engaged in a cost/benefit analysis, telling them what wondrous things would be found in their garage when they got home, because we know it doesn't work to send people off to war and death to talk to them about the things that they know they may not enjoy. We talk to them of the great ideals and the great values we prayed over them, and finally we invoked for them their role in that eternal plan of good and justice which involves the preservation of this nation on behalf of liberty. Maybe we only honored these things in the breech, but I do know that many people fought and died for them in the Civil War, in the great world wars, in breeches around the world because their hearts were sustained by the belief that they stood in their fight for justice in the grace of Almighty God.

We forget, don't we? When we talk of the Civil Rights movement and all these things. Do you think it was an accident that Martin Luther King was a preacher? Because I know it was not. If we mean to have the courage to defend our liberty, then I believe we must preserve our reliance upon that appeal that lies beyond the reach of human power, and which, therefore, cannot be defeated in hope, even when it is defeated in battle. [loud applause]

MODERATOR: Mr. Dershowitz.

DERSHOWITZ: I mean no disrespect when I say that that rhetorical marvel of a speech could have been made by the Ayatolla Khomeini. There would be very little difference. [applause] He would be invoking Islamic rhetoric. He would be talking about the great needs of Islam. He would be talking about how when our young people go to war and kill Iraqis or kill Jews they are doing it in the name of Allah. It is precisely that rhetoric which scares me. It is brilliant. It is evocative. He got you to cheer and clap in the name of God. Ambassador Keyes is a good man, and he invokes God in a good cause. But throughout history God has been as often invoked in the name of evil, as in the name of good.

Let me go back to the initial correction. I was not quoting George Washington. I was quoting Joseph Lieberman from the New York Times. I know you have doubts about the New York Times, but let me read you--this is what the Times said. He said, quote, "George Washington warned us to never indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion." Your quarrel is with Joseph Lieberman. Your quarrel is with those who misconstrue and misunderstand.

You know, the Founding Fathers were ordinary human beings. They included racism, and sexism, and slavery in the Constitution. They spoke about self-evident rights. If they're so self-evident, why didn't the British agree? Why did we have to fight a revolution? Rights are not self-evident. They're not unalienable. They are subject to modification just like anything else.

Human rights struggles do not need God

I feel that Dr. Keynes [sic] has insulted so many good and decent people who have stood up against tyranny. Whether it be Mordechai Anielewicz who stood in the Warsaw ghetto and gave his life to trying and defeat Nazism who was a rampant and avid atheist--or whether it was the people of Tiananmen Square--we don't know their religious views. Some may have been Christians. Some may have been Shintoists and Buddhists. Some may have been atheists. It insults good and decent people to suggest that the cause of human rights is somehow associated or identified with a religion.

History belies that. Human rights just stood up primarily against religion. We hear a lot about the glories of religion. Dr. Keynes [sic] talked to us about the Inquisition. Talked to us about the Crusades. Organized religion is always having to say you're sorry for misunderstanding God's will in the past. That has been the history of organized religion. [applause] We're sorry for the Crusades. We're sorry that we slaughtered babies and children in the name of Jesus. We're sorry for the Inquisition. We're sorry for the pogroms. We were wrong then. God didn't speak to us clearly then, but he speaks to us clearly today. When we make statements from the pulpit which cause rage against homosexuals and when Baptists tell us that women must submit gracefully to the will of their husbands, they're going to say they're sorry about that. Believe me they're going to say they're sorry about that in years to come. [applause] But in the meantime, we suffer.

Look, I don't know whether God exists. I don't know that. And I tell you one thing, I am not frightened of my beliefs. If there is a God who is threatening me with damnation because I don't believe in Him, so be it. I've lived my life in conscience, and I will suffer damnation willingly in conscience against a tyrannical God who would damn me because, on the basis of the intelligence He gave me, I have come to a conclusion doubting His existence, and I will continue to be a skeptic all of my life. I take no seat to you, Dr. Keynes [sic], in my fight for human rights, in my struggle against tyranny. I went to the Soviet Union and fought for the right of dissidents without Bible in my pocket. I went and fought for the right of dissidents because it was the right thing to do. I will continue to fight for human rights all through my life--on days when I believe, on days when I disbelieve, and on days when I am skeptical.

Please don't misinform us about Thomas Jefferson and about the framers of our Constitution. You make a distinction between somebody who is a Christian and somebody who is an atheist. Of course Thomas Jefferson was not an atheist! Even Thomas Paine, who wrote "The Age of Reason"--which was a scathing attack on Christianity, Judaism, Islam--was not an atheist. He believed in God. They were deists. They were deists who opposed organized religion. You'll notice that the Constitution, the Declaration, particularly the Declaration of Independence, never mentions Christianity. Yes, it mentions "nature's God," but it never mentions Christianity. It was a document designed as a document of revolution, a document of consensus. Of course it would have to mention unalienable rights.

I wish there were unalienable rights! I wish there were natural rights! I wish I could invoke God's name and God's voice when I call for freedom of speech and full equality. But I don't hear God's voice. Maybe you do, but I don't. I have to satisfy myself with hearing the voices of human beings, hearing the voices of human beings who are suffering, hearing the voices of human beings who need equality. I cannot invoke God. It would be much easier if I could. But I can't.

And don't talk about philosophers in the closet. Thomas Paine didn't sit in any closet. He went over and fought the French Revolution against the churches. He went and fought against the church in France, because the church was what the revolution, in part, was fought against. And he came back, not in the closet. He stood on the street corner handing out copies of his one-penny newspaper and of his book "Common Sense." He was no closet philosopher. He was an activist defender of human rights who did not believe in organized religion.

Justice on earth, not salvation in heaven

We've heard the parade of wonderfuls, and there are wonderful things that have been done in the name of religion--great art, some of the greatest art, some of the greatest music, some of the greatest philosophy, some of the greatest moral principles. I don't dispute the fact that some of the greatest moral principles appear in the Bible. "Tsedek, tsedek, tirdof," said the Old Testament in Hebrew. "Justice, justice shalt thou pursue." Abraham argues with God over the sinners of Sodom, "The God of all the world will not himself do justice?" The Bible is a wonderful repository of human justice. And we should respect the Bible. It is one of many sources of morality. It is not the only source. And when we think of it as the only source, what we do is we de-legitimate and disenfranchise millions of good and decent people around the world who are seeking justice, not through salvation in some world to come, but here on earth to try to end the suffering, not because of some promise of redemption or some threat of damnation, but because it's the right thing to do.

I throw a challenge out to you. What about people who don't share your beliefs in Christianity or in organized religion? What are they to do? You say you won't force them. Of course, you won't--you can't, today--but those who spoke with your voice a hundred years ago didn't feel those constraints and they did force people to share their views. What would you do with good decent and moral people who don't share your views? Who don't accept Jesus. Who don't accept Moses. Who don't accept Mohammed. Would you disenfranchise them? Would you allow them on the Supreme Court? Would you vote for a non-Christian, or a non-Jew, or a non-Muslim for President if he or she were a good person? Or do you have an exclusivist view of religion that would deny any such person the right to be a moral leader? Would you allow a non-religious or a non-believing person to be a president of a university--somebody who has to instill moral values in students--a teacher in elementary school? Do you support the Boy Scouts of America, not on some Constitutional or legal technicality; but, if you were the head of the Boy Scouts of America, would you exclude from them people who didn't believe in God--children who didn't believe in God, or Scout Masters who privately and consentually engage in a different form of sexual gratification from the kind you and I happen to prefer? I want to know what the programmatic implications of your views are, in addition to the rhetorical implications.

I think it's very important for us to know what your program is, what it means when you suggest that religion has the answers. What do you do about the homophobia of the Bible, the sexism of the Bible, the xenophobia of the Bible, the racism of Bible, the anti-Judaism of the New Testament, the anti-Islamic nature of much of Christianity and the anti-Christian nature of too much of Judaism today? Recently, Judaism had to apologize to Christianity in a statement in the New York Times about some anti-Christian views contained within the Talmud and within other Jewish sources. What is your solution to these problems? How do we deal with them? How do we deal with the residue of what religion and organized religion has left in the world today, and how do you answer the Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers when they make your speech, and when they promise your salvation through the eyes of a different religion, and call for the destruction, through force, of religion that is different from theirs. They say, if the Crusades were right, then why aren't the counter-Crusades acceptable as well? What is your answer? What is your solution? What do you say to people who disagree with you? I pose that challenge to you with the best of intentions and highest of respect, but I think the audience is entitled to your answers to those questions. Thank you. [applause]

MODERATOR: We will now have five minute closing statements. When the statements are finished, audience, please don't get up. Just sit. We're going to collect question cards. Okay? Mr. Ambassador, please.

KEYES: I think the answer to the latter question is very simple. I say, for God's sake, I respect your rights. That's exactly what is said. What I find interesting about folks who go through this litany as if there's some terrible danger from people who believe in God in America--how did we get here? How did we get to a situation where even the very mention of God's name in a public place is an embattled thing? Did we get here through legions of fanatical people battling to fasten organized religion on something? No. Actually, see--we got here through a process that was pretty well allowed and tolerated by people who believe in God, who were so anxious to be civilized and tolerant about it that they allowed folks to push the argument to such extremes that today we're the pariahs who are threatened with all kinds of abuses. And abuses they will be, too. Because at the end of the day, I want you to listen carefully to what Mr. Dershowitz said. The thing that bothers me about it is that he wants me to give up my reliance on God as the guarantor of my claim to dignity, and instead rely on him and his good conscience. [applause]

Supplanting God's authority with human power

And I've got to tell you, I think Alan Dershowitz is a man who has some admirable qualities. He and I have actually fought on the same side of some battles over the course of time. But I look back on a history that leaves me more than a little bit wary of the idea that I shall rely on the conscience and voice of the people as if it is the voice of God. For Mr. Dershowitz is all anxious to blame religion for everything. But my memory of slavery in this country is that was actually enforced by popular will. It was voted by folks who had the right to vote and fasten slavery on other people in spite of all requirements of religious conscience and decency. It was a conscience liberated from the need to respect the higher law of God, claiming just as he does that the Declaration is irrelevant, that all men are not equal, that "things are going to go as we say they go." And sure, a nice man like Mr. Dershowitz wouldn't throw me into slavery. But there are other people who sure have. And who would again. And the question isn't just what keeps them from doing it. You see, that's what he thinks I'm concentrating on. And that's not what I'm concentrating on. At the end of the day, there's going to be evil people in every generation. It's going to happen because of our fallen nature. I deeply believe this, and so something like that is going to threaten people everywhere and always as long as we're still living in the context of this fallen nature. Yes, this is true.

The thing that's always intrigued me isn't how you get into slavery; it's how you get out. You see? And the reason that I am wary of all these folks coming forward now and saying, "I wish there were unalienable rights! I wish there was a God who guaranteed all this," and so forth and so on, is that wishes don't encourage people to brave death against slavery. But the firm belief in God surely did. I know, we like to pretend that the people who were in the underground railroads, and all these folks we talk about during Black History, and so forth and so on . . . we forget that Mr. Dershowitz ridicules the idea of people who hear the voice of God, and go out and do stuff--a lot of those folks who were braving death and danger talked to God everyday, did exactly what He told them. And what He told them to do was to go out and risk everything, in spite of the fact that they had nothing and were former slaves themselves, in order to bring people out of bondage.

The weird idea that someone who stands up and respects the Founders' belief that we needed a tribunal beyond human power that would guarantee to every individual, whatever their power, the courage and encouragement to stand fast in their human dignity--the idea that that notion has some resemblance to fanaticism or tyranny or oppression or Khomeini or anything else--shows how far some people are willing to go in order to score points when they don't have a point. [laughter]

The truth of the matter is that the people who braved the dogs in Selma came from churches where they prayed beforehand in order to do so. And I will look at the example of those folks who have been through every kind of fire, who have been through every kind of deprivation, who have been through eras when they have had less than nothing, but who were able to hold on to the kernel of their human dignity because they knew it did not depend on the voice of their slave master, on the money of the beneficent liberals, it depended on God's will and God's judgment, and as their dignity came from His hands, no human being could take it away. [applause]

I will stand with greater reliance on that ground than I would on the ground that Alan Dershowitz is offering. Because I admit that, you know, a bunch of clever lawyers like Mr. Dershowitz, as O.J. Simpson proves, can probably get you out of anything. [cheering, applause]

But I warn you . . . I warn you . . . . deliver yourself again into the bondage that comes from allowing human power to lay claim to you in the absence of a divine power, and no argument by clever lawyers will get you out of that. Thank you. [applause, cheering]

DERSHOWITZ: I promised myself . . . I promised myself that no matter what the temptation, I would not get down into the gutter of personal attack. And I will keep that promise. [applause, cheering, booing]

I will tell you only that my co-counsel in the Simpson case, Gerald Uelmen, was a man who prayed to God every single day. And the idea of attacking lawyers because of the clients that they represent simply reminds one of a period of time, only fifty years ago, where that was a very important part of America.

It's one thing to accuse me of misquoting Joe Lieberman, who was misquoting George Washington--and I'm not sure who was right on that one--but to misquote me, right in your presence, really takes chutzpah! I have to tell you, did anybody hear me turn to Dr. Keyes and say to him, "I want you to give up your faith in God"? That's the last thing I would ever suggest. Keep your faith in God. Try to convert me. Try to proselytize. I have no fear of you. I have no fear of the Baptists who are trying to convert the Jews. The only time I fear religion is when it has the power of the state behind it. That's what led to the Inquisition and the Crusades. As long as this is an exchange of ideas, [applause] keep up your belief, keep up your faith, but don't make us think that the only people who died in the Civil Rights Movement were people who came from the churches. Schwerner and Goodman, who died to support the right of a race not even their own, gave up their lives, not in the name of religion, but in the name of civil liberties and civil rights, without religion at all. [applause]

And I can name you dozens and dozens of others. I have a poster in my home of Ben Shawn listing the names of the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement--some were religious, some were not. But those who claim exclusivity, that's my criticism. Believe what you want. Look to whom you want for salvation. But don't tolerate us, merely. Don't say, "It's okay what you do, but we are the dominant group. We are the ones who are in the light of the Framers. We are the ones who are right. We will tolerate you." You want to quote George Washington? I don't think George Washington was right when he said this, but with the first thing, George Washington also wrote to the Synagogue of Touro and said, "Of toleration we will speak no longer, as if by the sufferance of one group, another group is allowed to survive in this country. All are created equal."

And they're not created equal because of God. They are created equal because that's just the kind of country we have chosen to live in. All men and women are not created equal in Iran. All men and women are not created equal in many churches where women cannot aspire to leadership in those churches. So equality was not an aspect of religion. You talk about the slaves who invoke God's will--you forget to remind us that the slave owners also invoked God's will. Read the literature of religious slave ownership. [applause] They can quote the Bible as reliably as you can. The Bible can be quoted for virtually any proposition, certainly those dealing with slavery and freedom.

There's a wonderful Hasidic story of an old Rabbi in Poland, and man came over to him and said, "You say never to say anything bad about anybody because it's a sin in Jewish law to engage in lashon ha-ra (bad words), but I bet I can come up with somebody you can't say good word about." And the Rabbi said, "Who?" And he said, "Atheists." And the Rabbi said, "No, there's one time in your life when it's very important to be an Atheist." The student was shocked for the Rabbi to say it's important to be an atheist, when? He said, "When a poor person comes to you for charity, act as if there is no God. Act as if you are the only person on the face of the earth who can save that poor human being, and give him charity, not because God wants you to give him charity, but because THAT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO." [applause]

And I am suggesting to you that doing the right thing, because it is the right thing, is even more moral than doing it because someone more powerful than you told you to do it. [applause]

* Question & Answer Session *

MODERATOR: If you have a question and have written the question on an index card, please hold it up and our ushers will filter out and grab as many as they can. And our team will begin to filter them. Dr. Bonchek?

Our speakers have agreed that Mr. Dershowitz will ask the first question, and Mr. Keyes will have two minutes for an answer. We're having two minutes for the answers to the questions. Thank you, Mr. Dershowitz.

DERSHOWITZ: I'm going to repeat the question I asked, and which was met with resounding silence. I really want to put you on the spot. Do you think that an atheist is qualified to be President of the United States, a member of the United States Supreme Court, a university president of a liberal arts college, or serve in other leadership roles where morality is essential?

KEYES: What I find interesting is that you ask questions in the abstract that can only be answered in the particular. I have met decent folks who don't believe in God. And that's why I think Washington said that you must "indulge with caution the supposition" that you can't support religion without morality. I would not, however, wish as a matter of social justice to rely on this possibility. And that's what we're dealing with here, and what you don't want to see. You wish to speak to us as if what we're debating is the possibility of individual human goodness and morality, and that's not the issue. The issue is on what reliable grounds can we base social justice and those things which are required in order to sustain the claims of the powerless in the face of the temptations of power. And you refuse to answer that question. And that being the case, you ask me how I would cast my vote for an abstract individual, and I will tell you quite honestly, I don't owe you that explanation and I can't give it to you. It's not your business how I cast my secret ballot. That's why it's secret. [applause]

But I'll tell you something else. I have been throughout my political career, and I am always careful to couch the arguments of morality in such a way that any individual of decent conscience can work hand in hand with me for the sake of those things that will strengthen the fabric of our moral and decency. I exclude no one and work with everyone who is willing to join with me in standing on those principles of decency, beginning with the American principle that we are all of us created equal and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. And unlike Mr. Dershowitz, our Founders did not exclude the Iranians, and the Iraqis, or anybody else who might be oppressed. They embraced in the purview of their universal conception all human beings, all those who were encompassed in our humanity under the rubric of God's will. And I will not retreat from that universal claim of justice. [applause]

DERSHOWITZ: But you also won't answer my question. It's a complete cop-out to say you won't tell us about your secret vote. Mr. Keyes, you ran for President of the United States. Had you won, you would have had to make Supreme Court appointments. You cannot duck this question. [applause] Had you been President of the United States, and a qualified atheist had been put on the list, a man who absolutely and categorically says, "I know with as much certainty that you know that God exists, I know that God does not exist." Would you have disqualified, or would have nominated that person to the Supreme Court? You can't wiggle out of that question.

KEYES: Alan, Alan. This is, by the way, the reason that I would not trust Mr. Dershowitz to be the guarantor of my rights. See? Because in case of fact, I do have the right to wiggle out of that question, if I feel like it. And that is why we have . . . [Dershowitz: And pay the consequences] Excuse me. Excuse me. Therefore, I put into your hands the powers to dictate what shall be my choices and my conscience, then you will, as you are trying to do, abuse that power in order to coerce me into accepting your domination. [loud cheering, applause] Hold on, hold on. Wait. Wait. Wait. I'm supposed to have two minutes, uninterrupted, I thought, by you. [Dershowitz: Go ahead.]

Second point, second point. I think we're seeing a clear illustration . . . because the same thing that you say, that I can't duck this question and that, I suppose you believe I can't duck either your requirements that I should accept what the Bible tells me is wrong--sexual activities that the Bible believes are wrong. You believe the state has the right coercively to dictate conscience on these points, [commotion] and under a civil rights rubric force us to accept what is contrary to our religious conscience. You would trample on my rights in the general society, even as you would seek to trample on them here!

But I would have to tell you this though. There's an easy answer to your question. I wasn't, in point of fact, the only reason I'm pretending to duck it right now is so I can make a point about your high handedness, but the truth of the matter is and anybody who knows me know the answer to your question, I would, and I said this during the campaign, so I'm not ducking anything, I would only appoint to the Supreme Court, I would appoint to any position of responsibility in the United States Government where it was in my responsibility to do so, individuals who believed in and accepted the principles of the Declaration of Independence on which this nation was founded. And I find it difficult to believe that you will that accept the principle that the Creator gave us rights when you deny the principle that the Creator exists. [applause]

DERSHOWITZ: I think I understand the answer. Correct me if I'm wrong. You would disqualify an atheist from being appointed to the Supreme Court, thereby violating the text of the Constitution which says that no religious test shall ever be required for holding public office in the United States and, [applause] . . . wait a minute, I'm not finished. And you have the nerve to suggest that I would be denying your civil rights by allowing two gay men to engage in homosexual conduct in the privacy of their home. What right do you have to prevent that from happening just because you're offended by it? What a turn about! My G--, this gives sophistry a new name! [applause]

KEYES: You know what's interesting. Two things are true. First of all, Mr. Dershowitz, I invoke no sectarian religious principle whatsoever. But I will stand here before the face of America and the world, and I will say unequivocally, without fear of any consequences, that I will stand and fall and die for the principles of the Declaration even as I our ancestors did! And that I will, as they did, draw the line against those who would try to deprive me of its protections! [Dershowitz: Even if the Constitution . . .] No, you had your say.

Now, and second, with respect to the business of homosexuals. Do you know what's interesting about this? He stands there and pretends that what is at issue in our society now is what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms--and you know that's a lie. When you tell the Boy Scouts that they have to have homosexual scoutmasters, you're not talking about what goes on in the privacy of somebody's bedroom. [Dershowitz: Yes, you are.] [applause] You are talking about . . . You are talking about what will be imposed as a matter of law upon the consciences of those whose religious beliefs cannot abide the practice. [applause]

And that is not a matter of private morality. That is a matter of public right, guaranteed by the First Amendment--which states clearly, you're not supposed to interfere. Not with, by the way, beliefs. All these folks like to pretend that the First Amendment is about what you believe, and what your opinion is, and all this sort of stuff. No, it's not. It says the "free exercise of religion." Last time I looked, "exercise" meant action and activity. Sitting around thinking about running around the track is not exercise. [Dershowitz: You have it exactly backwards. You have it exactly backwards.] It's exercise if you go out and do it.

Therefore, what he is trying to tell us is that his rubric, which now seeks to use the rubric of civil rights to dictate the moral conscience of every individual in America, to remove from the purview of moral judgment activities that have been essential to the meaning of ethics and moral judgment from time immemorial, and now trampling on what have been the sacred rights of our heritage from long before the Constitution was written--you will say that you are going to dictate how I shall, before my God, respond to those requirements of His will. That is precisely what I mean. He accuses me of speaking like Khomeini. I think you see him here acting like him. [applause]

DERSHOWITZ: Okay, my turn. You couldn't have it more backwards. Free exercise means exactly the opposite of what you think it means. Free exercise gives a higher priority to freedom of conscience and freedom of thinking than it does to freedom of action. I can cite you a hundred Supreme Court decisions to that effect.

You love citing the Declaration of Independence, but you hate citing the Constitution. The Declaration of Independence is not the law. It is rhetoric. The Preamble to the Constitution is not the law; it is rhetoric. The law is that no religious test shall be required and you have told us in vague terms, but I think I understand you correctly, that if you were president you would violate [Keyes: No] the explicit terms of the Constitution by refusing to appoint to the Supreme Court somebody who didn't believe in God's law, namely an atheist.

Now, one more point please. One more point please--I let you finish; you let me finish--and that is, homosexual rights do mean the right of a homosexual to practice consensual sex in his bedroom. And I want to ask you this direct question. What would you do if there were two homosexuals who never left their bedrooms, never involved themselves in gay causes on the street, and the Boy Scouts which received much federal aid and state aid and uses public schools, etc., if the Boy Scouts asked them the question, "Are you homosexual?" And because, you know, homosexuals are moral people and tell the truth and don't lie. They told the truth and they said, "Yes, we practice homosexuality only in the privacy of our bedroom." Would you not disqualify them not only from the Boy Scouts, but from service on the Supreme Court and other high positions of government?

KEYES: Alan, do me a favor. Don't put words in my mouth.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, put words in your own mouth! [commotion]

KEYES: The second question . . . excuse me. First of all, what you're trying to tell us then is that the Boy Scouts of America do not have the right to act on their religious views, that "the free exercise of religion" does not mean that we actually get to exercise religion. It gets to mean, I suppose, that we think about it. But that when we want to exercise it in a way that, when it goes against the politically correct requirements of Mr. Dershowitz, we shall face the coercive force of law that will come down on our churches and our pulpits and our Christian youth associations--because that's what the Boy Scouts is--and will dictate . . . [Dershowitz: Nobody told me it was a Christian organization when they invited me to join it.] Excuse me. And will dictate . . . and will dictate to us what shall be the content of that morality which corresponds to our religious conscience.

I find this to be the most incredible instance of sort of doublespeak I have ever heard. We will now have a First Amendment in which the free exercise of religion does not mean that you get to practice your religion! We shall now have a Constitution in which the rights of conscience means that you shall be subject to government's brutal dictation in violation of your conscience!

I know, and by the way, a few minutes ago, I don't understand where Mr. Dershowitz got the idea I had said anything uncomplimentary about him. I believe I praised and complimented him for the work that he did on the exculpation and deliverance of O.J. Simpson. If he takes that as a derogatory remark, what does that tell you about his view of the whole case? [laughter, commotion]

But leave that aside, what I did at the time was simply to suggest that we couldn't rely on the same cleverness to get us out of bondage. And I would remind you of it again. When Mr. Dershowitz is dictating who shall be the scoutmasters, who shall be in your youth organizations, who shall preach from your pulpits, who shall stand as examples of what you believe to be moral probity and God's decency. When Alan Dershowitz is dictating with his understand of force and coercion and civil rights what shall be your religious practice, please remember what I said, because it's quite obvious. But when that comes around, he's not going to be using his legal talents to get you out of bondage; he is using every bit of his legal talent to put you in the bondage of his ideology. [cheering, applause]

DERSHOWITZ: Let me respond, please. I think the Boy Scouts of America are going to be pretty upset with that defense. We've heard tonight that the Boy Scouts of America are a Christian organization. In other words, we are told that the Boy Scouts of America could discriminate against the Jewish scoutmaster as well.

The Boy Scouts don't claim to be a Christian organization. I was a scout. I was a Boy Scout. I was a Cub Scout. My Orthodox Jewish father was a den master. Nobody told us it was a Christian organization at the time. It discovered it was a Christian organization when suddenly gays were being excluded. And they needed to find an after-the-fact justification. Look, any organization that wants to--be it a synagogue, a church, a mosque--can exclude anybody it wants, but don't ask for government aid. Churches don't come to schools . . . [Keyes: I want to tell you something.] Let me finish. Churches don't go to the federal government and say stock our trout, our ponds with trout. Churches . . . Please let me finish. Churches don't come and mosques don't come to the federal government and demand that the President of the United States be the honorary president, as he is of the Boy Scouts, of various mosques and churches and synagogues. President Clinton is not the president of my synagogue last time I looked.

We're not talking about imposing on you. We're talking about an organization which claims to stand for everything Americanism is about--the scouting, the moral values--and that's precisely why it's an abomination for an organization like the Boy Scouts to claim that they are moral and to still exclude gays and under your principle, exclude Jews. I just have one last point to make, please. [Keyes: No, no. I have a point to make.] Do not contribute to the Boy Scouts of America. Do not contribute. Withhold your support. If the United Fund includes Boy Scouts in your district, don't contribute to the United Fund. Withhold all support. Let's see if it's really a private . . . [booing] [Keyes: Mr. Dershowitz] . . . let's see if it's really a private, sectarian organization. If you think your boo's are going to scare me, you don't know me.

KEYES: What I find fascinating. [commotion] What I find fascinating about Alan's, what shall I call it, "commentary," is that he stands before us using the term Christian as if it is somehow synonymous with exclusionary. [Dershowitz: It is. It is. It excludes me. I'm not a Christian.] Hold on. Excuse me, sir. You out of your own mouth have proven yourself to be a liar. [Dershowitz: Oh, now we're really getting into the batter, right?] You just told us, didn't you, that you were not excluded because you were Jewish. And that is the truth of the matter. As a matter of fact, a lot of people . . . [Dershowitz: I was not excluded because it was not Christian.] Let me finish. Whether you're Jewish or Muslim or Hindu or whatever, [Dershowitz: But not gay.] our country was founded on the Declaration principles groups come from all over the world to settle here precisely because they knew that America believes in God and, therefore, will not interfere with their religious freedom.

And finally, if you are going to go on a tirade about the Boy Scouts, [Dershowitz: Yes] I'll tell you this. I'll tell you this. Poor Girl Scouts succumbed to political correctness, and have been on a slide ever since. The Boy Scouts have stood firm for the principles of moral conscience . . . [Dershowitz: So has the Ku Klux Klan!] [boos, commotion] . . . they are supposed to represent. They are not . . . [commotion] They are not striving to discriminating on any basis, except to say that they have the right to establish for themselves what shall be the positive principles of probity and character by which their organization will stand. [Dershowitz: And the White Citizen's Council only discriminates on one ground as well] If you are going to tell me now that the American people must give up their rights of First Amendment conscience, must surrender the free exercise of religion, every time they take a dollar from the government, [Dershowitz: Yes, absolutely] or accept a politician in their midst, then we know what your plan for us all!

DERSHOWITZ: Yes, that's right. My plan is private support for religion. No public support for religion. It's consistent. It's what the First Amendment said. I don't have to support your bigotry, sir! [commotion, applause]

Do you want to ask me any questions? I'm not afraid of your questions.

MODERATOR: Do I have a mike? Thank you.

We'll be here forever. It's really kind of wonderful. Isn't it? [applause] I'm a professor and a moderator. I'm not a lion tamer. [laughter]

However, we have some very interesting questions from the audience, and we'd like to ask them. And we'll ask them one and another in turn. And the answers will be roughly two minutes. Otherwise, we'll be here forever. Wonderful questions. The first one's for Mr. Dershowitz: "What makes something right?"

DERSHOWITZ: That's a wonderful question. It's something I'm writing a book about. It's called "Doing Right." In my book, I reject natural law. I also reject simple legal positivism. Something is right--you have to struggle over that. It's very, very difficult. There are no any simple-minded answers. It's not because God says so. Certainly I don't hear the voice of God. I don't believe any human being has ever heard the voice of God. But what is right is very difficult. What's right is what experience has taught us over generations is right. In my book, I say it's much easier to know what's wrong than to know what's right.

We know what absolute evil is. We've seen it. We've seen it in the name of secularism, Nazism. We've seen it in the name of atheism, Communism. We've seen it in the name of religion, the Inquisitions and the Crusades. We know what evil is. We know what wrong is. Right is a process. Writing is process. A process of eternal search beginning from the first human beings, moving through the great philosophers through religious leaders through civil leaders.

I DON'T KNOW WHAT'S RIGHT! [commotion] I know what's WRONG. But I have something else to tell you, folks. YOU don't know what's right! The minute you think you know what's right, the minute you think you have the answer to what's right, you have lost a very precious aspect of growing and developing. I don't expect ever to know precisely what's right, but I expect to devote the rest of my life trying to find it out. [applause]

MODERATOR: Thank you. I have a question for Mr. Keyes. "When is the most resent instance, in your opinion, in which organized religion did provide an answer to a problem in American society?"

KEYES: I think that we're seeing response from a lot of folks of faith. And, by the way, you notice that I never use this phrase "organized religion"--because I'm not entirely sure what you mean, what you're talking about. Religion as an institution is one thing. But institutions, in the end, have to do with the faith and the ethics and the belief that they embody. And I'm talking about the organic whole of that faith and belief as it translates into action.

And I think the most recent example of a good effect has been the abstinence movement, in which after years of nonsense and lies from all these sex educationists--teaching our children to do what we really didn't want them to do--we actually have folks stand up once again and say that in order to keep folks from having sex at an age they shouldn't, you need to fill their lives with a positive understanding of their responsibilities to parenthood and family and to God. And I think that those movements which have had folks coming forward, taking the pledge when they're fourteen, gathering in great numbers in order to reinforce a sense that it is in fact cool to remain outside of sexual activity, and to do that in the light of prayer and God as part of a community of faith--I think it has had an enormous positive impact on oncoming generations, and we have yet to see the end of it, thank God, because it is still growing. [applause]

MODERATOR: This will be a short question--a short answer. "How can you advocate, Mr. Dershowitz, separation of church and state, when this statement is not in the Constitution, but found only in a letter by Thomas Jefferson which has been taken out of context?"

DERSHOWITZ: I would advocate the separation of church and state even if the Constitution called for the merger of church and state. I don't get my views and my ideas from the Constitution. The Constitution is an interesting document, but my sense of right and wrong doesn't come from the Constitution. I would have opposed slavery even when the Constitution permitted slavery. I would have opposed women not being allowed to vote even when the Constitution forbade women from voting. So, it's not a particularly wise question: "How come I support the separation of church and state?" I support the separation of church and state because it's the RIGHT THING TO DO! It was a great experiment. [commotion]

The only reason I am here today is because of the separation of church and state. If we didn't have a separation of church and state, as a Jew, I would not be a first-class citizen. I would be subordinate to that which was established by the church. [commotion, applause]

I think many countries in the world today are copying the American ideal of separation of church and state. So I don't think we need to debate about whether or not Jefferson's letter to the Baptists was taken in context or out of context. All this hero-worship of Jefferson, and Washington, and Adams is just so much worship of human beings--you would think that religious people would think of that as much akin to graven image.

I think separation of church and state is the right thing because history and experience has shown us that when church and state merge, it is bad for religion, it is bad for the state, and most important, it is bad for human dignity and rights. [applause]

MODERATOR: "Mr. Keyes, you spoke of wonderful medical advances. These will come from gene therapy and stem-cell research. Would you support such therapies?"

KEYES: If we have to violate human dignity in order to increase human knowledge, then I don't think that we'd better follow the Nazi imperative and start dealing with human beings as if they are things, just because we think we'll get something out of it. That is precisely the kind of judgment that I think that we need to be wary of.

I cannot forebear, though, but to point something out here that I found most fascinating just now. You'll notice that a few minutes ago, Mr. Dershowitz was talking as if the Constitution should be my guide to conscience, and then I noticed that just now he rejects that as a guide to conscience. Now hold it. Now, isn't it fascinating, when I am in a dilemma, where I need to make a judgment in the context of American life about rights and wrongs, I appeal to the Declaration, a document of our common heritage--which, in its implications, binds me as it binds you and others. What Mr. Dershowitz seems to appeal to is his own infallible judgment. [commotion, applause] [Dershowitz: I said I didn't even know what right is.]

And therefore, we must conclude, I suppose, as have a lot of the liberal judges and justices, that we no longer have a government in which the Constitution or anything else is relevant. The only thing that is relevant is their moral probity, their moral conscience, their moral outrage--governed, as it seems, by no moral principles. Along the way of Mr. Dershowitz's search, we may litter the world with the lives of innocent babes and the rights of religious practitioners. But we should not worry about this, because we no longer need a guide in principle for our judgments of right and wrong, because we have Alan Dershowitz to take its place! [commotion, applause]

I will tell you truly, I will take the Declaration over Mr. Dershowitz every time, all the time, as my guide to what is right and wrong. [applause]

DERSHOWITZ: I want to respond to that, please. You're all here, you heard me say, "I don't even know what right is. I try my best to try to reach right." And then you hear this man characterize my views, as I would impose my definitions of right on you. Is he listening to the same person who is speaking here today? [commotion, applause]

And I have to tell you that I take personal, deep offense, as a man who had forty members of his family murdered in the Holocaust, by hearing any comparison between the horrors of Holocaust and FETAL STEM RESEARCH TO SAVE HUMAN LIVES. That is a deep, deep insult. [applause]

KEYES: Shall we have a sterile competition to see which of us looks back on the greater heritage of oppression and disaster? I hope not. Because I think the long record of several centuries of abuse would be quite sufficient to establish the heritage in my background. And it is one of the reasons, by the way, that I have wholeheartedly and always will commit myself to the struggle to make sure that such abuses are not perpetrated against anyone as you very well know are part of my own background.

But leave that aside. I'm not putting words in Mr. Dershowitz's mouth, because I'm just asking you all to see what he's doing here tonight. And what you do speaks more loudly than anything I can say.


MODERATOR: I have one final question for each speaker, one for both of them. We'll take final closing reflections, and it's been a great evening. [laughter] "Mr. Dershowitz, my beautiful wife was killed in a car accident twelve years ago. What would your suggestion have been at the time to provide me with the strength to get through this difficult time, a psychiatrist or Prozac?"

DERSHOWITZ: Surely there's no way I would ever suggest to somebody I didn't know how to get through a terrible trauma like that. If religion is what gets you through that trauma, fine. That's wonderful. People have different ways of responding. When I went through a health crisis with a member of my family, I found that praying to God was not my form of solace. In fact, that's when I first learned that I was a skeptic. But I'm not a moral imperialist. I would never ever suggest that you not seek solace in God. That's wonderful. Religion, as I've said over and over again, provides some very, very important and very good benefits. But don't condemn others who have been through similar situations, and say that there's somehow something wrong with them. It's a great insult to say that there are no atheists in the foxholes. There are many atheists in the foxholes.

I remember once being on an airplane, I was told by the pilot, who was flying out of Denver Stapleton Airport, that we were in a "disaster situation"--he used that word--the flaps of the plane had gone. People prayed. I didn't pray. I wrote letters to my children. I was an agnostic in the foxhole. There's no one right answer. There's no one right solution.

And I think it trivializes it to point to Prozac or psychiatrists. For some, that may give solace, for others, it may not. In fact, I think it trivializes the question to put God, Prozac and psychiatrists in the same question. There's no one right answer. Read Job. You'll see how complex and difficult facing tragedy and facing disaster is. And in the end, of course, Job's friends don't comfort him, and Job's God doesn't really comfort him. It's a dilemma that no one will ever solve. There are such dilemmas. We will never know the answer. [applause]

MODERATOR: I have a similar question for Mr. Keyes. "You said that Christians allowed the name of God to be taken out of documents and speeches. That Christians are now threatened. How then do you justify the discrimination that homosexuals face on a daily basis? I don't believe Christians know what it means to be threatened. I can't remember the last time a Christian was physically attacked for being a Christian."

KEYES: I don't know, I would just have to say that apparently the questioner isn't reading reports that are coming to us from Sudan, from China, from all over the world, and apparently doesn't read newspapers about the attacks that have been perpetrated against Christians in this very country within in recent memory. I'm sorry you don't read those things, because it seems to me we ought to be concerned about violence against people, not because it's against Christians, or against homosexuals, or against anybody else. We ought to be concerned about it because it's violence, and that violence violates the fundamental dignity of every human being, whatever might be their particular sexual orientation or creed.

That protection of human rights must be accorded to everyone, not because they are good people, but because they are human beings. God has taken care of that, whether they are good or bad. It's one of the reasons, under our system, why even bad folks get to have a defense--because you can't assume that just because they did something wrong, they don't have basic rights and dignity. That, by the way, is what we get in this country from founding our beliefs on our respect for the authority of the transcendent God. At the end of the day, even our judgments about right and wrong do not constitute the ultimate tribunal of human dignity. And I think that's a good thing: the name of God invoked in order to free us from the temptation to act like God.

And that is precisely the meaning of the Declaration. It is precisely the influence of the Declaration that I champion in this country today. And what I find interesting is, that where as my understanding and invocation of God leads to the conclusion that we must restrain even our most righteous impulses, Mr. Dershowitz's discarding of our respect and allegiance for God leads him to the conclusion that we can use the force of law in order to coerce conscience into accepting such things.

Final point. There is a serious distinction between homosexuality and things that can be rightly subject to a civil rights understanding. Why? Well, as a black person, I've thought a lot about it. See, 'cause I'm a black guy. When I got up this morning, I was a black guy. When I go to bed, I'll be a black guy. You could try to talk me out of this, it's not going to work. It's beyond my control. Now, some people would like us to believe that human sexual behavior is similarly beyond the control of the individual. What I'd like you to think on is whether or not any human morality in which we hold human beings responsible and accountable for the choices they make subject to the passions of biology, etcetera, that we are all subject to, can survive the notion that human sexual orientation puts us in a condition where our actions are beyond the purview of our control. This is destructive of the very principle of human moral capacity, and it cannot be accepted. That is why it has to be left in the realm of moral judgment.

Now, that doesn't mean that, coercively using the force of law, we'll storm about the country, getting everybody to behave. That's not the point. The point today is that you can't coercively use the force of law to force everybody to accept as moral that which their faith and conscience says is immoral. You can't use a specious civil rights argument to remove from the purview of legitimate moral judgment human actions that must be subject to moral judgment, if they are to remain in the realm of human accountability and responsibility.

And that's why I reject this whole movement. We must reject it, because on the day we accept it in principle, do you think that the homosexuals are going to be the only ones who are going to stand up to clamor for release from accountability? Are they the only folks who are subject to passions that arise from their make-up or claimed make-up? Anger, jealousy, violence, all kinds of things are traceable in part to that "law in our members" which reflects instinct and other possibilities that are not entirely under our control. If we accept the notion that that frees us from all moral accountability, do you know what we've done? We haven't liberated anybody, my friends. Do you know what we've done? We have destroyed the very idea of human freedom if we do that. Human freedom requires that we respect in all human beings the capacity to choose between right and wrong. If they are, in fact, in their actions simply determined by their genetic or other circumstances, then the very idea of freedom is a farce. And that would mean our whole way of life is laughable. [applause]

MODERATOR: I'm going to give Mr. Dershowitz a chance to reply since Mr. Keyes went over. [Keyes: But that was my question. Huh?] [commotion]

DERSHOWITZ: There are some of you who just don't like to hear the other side. Well, you'll be surprised that I agree with Dr. Keyes on this one. I do think that homosexuals, like heterosexuals, can control their behavior. I just don't think it's wrong to be a homosexual! I just don't think it's wrong to engage in homosexual conduct! [applause] I just don't think that governments [Keyes: Why are you doing this?] have the right to judge you on your sexual preferences. I don't think it's the government's business, when my wife and I engage in private sexual conduct, whether she's on top or I'm on top. That's just none of the government's business! [commotion, applause] And I think it's no difference, when a male engages in sexual gratification with a male, or a female engages in sexual gratification with a female. There must be a zone of privacy, which is beyond the control and authority, not only of the state, but also of Dr. Keyes' morality. [Keyes: No.] He simply has no right to tell two adults, who choose to gratify themselves in a certain way, that they're wrong. And he has no basis for his conclusion. What is he going to do, cite some biblical verse? [Keyes: Alan.] The same Bible that says that a man who engages in homosexuality with another man, by the way, must be executed (I don't think you support that!), also supports the burning of witches. It also supports the stoning of recalcitrant children. We don't get our morality from--at least I don't, I think reason . . . and you don't! As proof by the fact that you don't stone recalcitrant children, and you don't burn witches. You don't get your moral . . . [Keyes: Alan.]

Let me finish! Please, I know you think you know what's right. [Keyes: Excuse me.] I know you think that you have total control over right and wrong. [Keyes: Excuse me.] But maybe some people in the audience would like to hear an opposing view. [applause]

KEYES: I actually . . .

DERSHOWITZ: The Bible . . . Those who quote from the Bible for their morality always selectively quote. That was the point of the Dr. Laura letter. They always quote selectively. Is there anyone in this room who would execute gays? Is there anyone in this room who would burn witches? Is there anyone in this room who would stone recalcitrant children? Of course not. Then why do you quote the part about homosexuality? You are misusing the Bible to serve your own political agenda. And that is a graven image. [applause]

KEYES: Can I point something out here? I'd like to point something out here that I find very interesting. See, what I'm fighting for is not the right to impose my moral belief on homosexuals. Matter of fact, I have expressed my view that the use of coercion to impose my moral belief on homosexuals would be wrong. So to characterize my position in that way is totally wrong. But what's interesting . . . now, think about this, y'all--put little subtitles in our discussion here. He keeps saying that that's what I'm going to do, and then he does it.

I believe I don't have the right to interfere with the private activities of others. I don't have the right to go out and do any kind of violence against anybody on account of their sexual orientation, I don't have the right in any way to contravene their basic rights and civil peace and property, in any sense whatsoever, because of my moral judgment of their sexual activities--have never claimed it, would never claim it, would defend to the death the right of individuals to be free of that kind of coercion.

But you know what's fascinating? What he just told you is that he wishes to take away my right to believe that that activity is wrong! [applause] He wishes to take away my conscientious understanding! And sure, we can stand here, and we could debate biblical passages, and we could trade views, and we could do this and that--that's part of the wonderful freedom of expression in this country. But the other part of that freedom of expression is that when we get down off this stage, he gets to live according to his rejection of the Bible, and I get to live according my affirmation of its beliefs. [applause]

And what he has just told you is that it is his intention and his agenda to take away, not my right to do, but EVEN my right to believe! And I've got to tell you, that's exactly the road down which they wish to take us. And that is totalitarianism. Which seeks to control . . . [commotion, boos] . . . Which seeks to control . . . [commotion, boos] . . . Which seeks to control . . . [commotion, boos] . . . It seeks to control not just action, but attitude and opinion and conscience, and to take away the right even to HOLD a belief that Mr. Dershowitz believes is incorrect.

Well, I'll tell you something. I still thank God, again, that is it God from whom I get my unalienable rights, not the tender conscience of Mr. Dershowitz--because apparently, my right to believe in the Bible and to make my moral judgments according to my understanding of God's word and will is precisely what he intends to take away. [applause, commotion]

DERSHOWITZ: You know that's not right.

KEYES: It's what you just said!

DERSHOWITZ: My turn. My turn. You know that with Voltaire, I would die for your right to express your bigotry anywhere. [commotion, applause, boos] But I would never take away your views. [Keyes: That not what you just said, Alan.] I would never take away David Duke's views. I would never deny anybody the right to express bigoted views. But I . . .


KEYES: We need a replay. You said the words, sir, that I do not have the right to make that judgment that homosexuality is wrong. You spoke the words! [Dershowitz: Let me tell you what I said.] And thank God, there's a tape here that will show it.

DERSHOWITZ: There is a tape. Let me be very clear. You have the right to express any views you choose. If you express the view that homosexuals who engage in homosexuality in private is immoral, I accuse you of BIGOTRY, and I defend your right to that bigotry, but I do not defend your right to impose that bigotry on others. [Keyes: Neither I . . .] You know that I'm the defender of every bigot who would express views anywhere in the country, including you.

KEYES: Neither I . . . you see this again. Neither I nor others claim that right. I do not claim the right to govern your behavior or their behavior. I do claim the right to govern my behavior, to govern the behavior of those accountable to me in my family, and to join in free association with others in my associations in my religious communities, [Dershowitz: I believe that, I support it] to act according to those beliefs that are according to the will of God as I in conscience understand it. And you just said that you wish to take that away.

DERSHOWITZ: I never said that, and I would never take that away. I want to ask you direct question. Do you support sodomy laws? Do you support sodomy laws?

KEYES: Actually, it has been my long-standing public position I do not believe that laws that require that we go into the private bedrooms of people for their enforcement are feasible, and I have not supported those laws, no.

DERSHOWITZ: No, no that's not what . . . I'm not talking about "feasible." I'm talking about . . .

KEYES: Excuse me, I answered your question. You simply said do I support the laws, the answer to the question . . .

DERSHOWITZ: You answered the question in terms of "feasibility."

KEYES: See, here again!

MODERATOR: Gentlemen . . .

DERSHOWITZ: Would you vote for a statute . . . [Keyes: Hold it, hold it. I want you all to understand.] Would you vote for a statute that declared it to be criminal to engage in sodomy?

KEYES: I want you to understand what continually happens--and I don't think it's just with Mr. Dershowitz, I think it's with a lot of folks like him. I just said that I reach a conclusion, I state my reason for reaching it, and then, even though the conclusion is clear, and he would accept it--that we shouldn't have sodomy laws where we try to dictate what people are doing in their bedrooms--he now wants to dictate my REASONS for supporting it!

DERSHOWITZ: I don't want to dictate, I just want to understand it.

MODERATOR: Instead of having closing statements, we're going to have one final question. [Audience: no!] And each of our speakers will have two minutes to respond, and they'll get the same question. [commotion] And next year, the moderator will have a whip. [laughter]

**[gap in tape]**

KEYES: . . . believers and unbelievers can best work together on the basis of understanding the limits of our own claims to make judgments about right and wrong. The whole thrust of everything I have been trying to get across this evening is that I believe that the common ground on which we stand, at least in America, is that because we are in the face of tribunal beyond our will, we must accord equally to all others rights that we must respect, and on the basis of that mutual respect, move forward to work together in those areas where we can cooperate.

Second, I also believe that it's necessary to do what our Founders intended us to do. Instead of trying to impose homogeneity in terms of religious conscience and views, what they said was, there shall be no imposition at the national level, but at the level of communities at the state and local level, of course folks can get together and work together to realize a positive vision of the moral good in their community. I think that that's what the Constitution was intended to guarantee, and what liberals today are seeking to destroy. In a society in which we work together on the basis of mutual respect, and work separately on account of that mutual respect, in communities shaped on positive moral visions that we may not share, we can get along in peace even as we pursue those goods on which we cannot always agree--in terms of the meaning of happiness, salvation, and those larger purposes of human life, that justice must respect, but that it cannot always achieve. [applause]

DERSHOWITZ: Now I need translate for you exactly Dr. Keynes [sic] was saying. He said the First Amendment forbids the national government from establishing churches, but allows each state to establish an official religion for the state. That is what he said. [commotion, boos] You may not like it, but that is what he said! He said that the Constitution forbids that national government, but people at the local level can get together and establish churches. That is the established right-wing view here. And if that's his way of solving the problem--if Pennsylvania is going to establish one religion, and New York is another religion, it is a road and an invitation to disaster.

Just one final word. Only one really bad word was used here today. Dr. Keynes [sic] called me liar. He called me a liar, and the tape will show it. . . [commotion] because he said that I lied when I said that the Boy Scouts were a Christian organization, and yet they let me in as a Jew. Remember what I said. I said I did not believe the Boy Scouts were a Christian organization. He said they were a Christian organization. And the best proof that they were not a Christian organization is that they let me in. You know, the Ten Commandments says thou shalt not bear false witness against the neighbor. [commotion] Don't judge all religion by what you've heard here tonight.

Yes, believers and non-believers and skeptics can all live together and get along. But there cannot be an imperialistic imposition of religion by the state or by the church. All people must be equal--believers, skeptics, disbelievers, atheists, and those who chose religion. Unless we are all deemed equal, and unless the morality of disbelief is deemed the equivalent of the morality of belief, we will simply be tolerated, and that is not the American way. Thank you. [applause]

MODERATOR: The Bonchek Center was created to bring before the public significant open-ended issues involving reason, faith, and ethics. Our purpose is to allow formidable thinkers on all sides of significant issues to present their views and foster human reasoning at the highest levels. In this, our first Bonchek debate, I think we have succeeded. You've heard a great deal here tonight. But reason involves reflection. If you leave here with your prejudice merely massaged, this evening will have failed. The purpose of this evening was to get you to think. And never forget what Voltaire said, as Mr. Dershowitz mentioned, "I disagree with everything you say, but I would give my life for your right to say it."

Personally, I want to say, in my thirty-five years at the college, I have never spent a more intellectually stimulating and exciting evening, and I'd like to thank our speakers.

Terms of use

All content at, unless otherwise noted, is available for private use, and for good-faith sharing with others by way of links, e-mail, and printed copies.

Publishers and websites may obtain permission to re-publish content from the site, provided they contact us, and provided they are also willing to give appropriate attribution.