Fanaticism, fundamentalism, superstition and ignorance. Religion is getting a bad press these days. Much of the conflict in the world, from the Middle East to Nigeria and Myanmar, is often blamed on religion.
But how are things from a different perspective? Defenders of religion claim Adolf Hitler was an atheist. Communism under Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot or Mao Zedong banned religion, but also massacred millions. And science brought incredible and amazing advances, but also pollution and the atomic bomb.
A critic of religious dogmatism, Professor Richard Dawkins revolutionised genetics in 1976 with the publication of The Selfish Gene, which explained how evolution takes place at the genetic level. He has since written 12 more bestsellers, including The God Delusion which sold millions of copies, was translated into more than 30 languages, and catapulted him to the position of the world's foremost atheist.
Mehdi Hasan interviews evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins at the Oxford Union and asks: Is religion a force for good or evil? Can it co-exist with science? Is science the new religion? And why if god does not exist, is religion so persistent?
Head to Head is Al Jazeera’s new forum for ideas, hosted by Mehdi Hasan.
It is a gladiatorial contest tackling the big issues of our time, like faith, democracy and freedom of speech in front of a live audience at the venerable Oxford Union.
The Union has hosted such outstanding orators as Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and is no stranger to challenging intellectual debate.
In the first three programmes we will be arguing the rights and wrongs of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories, the trouble with Islam today, and the truth behind climate science, with some of the most provocative exponents. They will be presenting their arguments to Mehdi before opening up the discussion to take questions from the audience.
- Israeli settlers: Patriots or invaders? on February 22 at 1930GMT
- The trouble with Islam today on March 1 at 1930GMT
- Kiss your world goodbye on March 8 at 1930GMT
To be part of the Head to Head audience, and to join the debate contact: firstname.lastname@example.org