What: The Great Debate, as part of Brisbane Writers Festival
Where: QPAC Concert Hall
When: 8 September 2012
Event review by: Amilia Cunningham, Brisbane Ambassador

What happens when you put Germaine Greer and Bob Katter, two very controversial and polarising personalities, in a debate together?  Well… not much it seems.  The topic was ‘Reading the Bible is good for you’. Katter, Greer, and former Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway, represented the affirmative team. Californian P.I Rachel Sommerville, Magistrate Jacqui Payne, and author Benjamin Law, represented the negative team.

For the affirmative, Katter opened up the debate with references to Vikings and the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Unfortunately I struggled to find the link to the topic, and it seemed like Germaine, up on stage, did too. I expected brashness from Greer, and despite her argument of the Bible being a ‘grand delusion’ (and the reason we should read it is so we can know how silly it is). She surprised me by being eloquent in her argument (perhaps she had used up her quota of controversial statements for the Festival during the opening of it).

Holloway, having the most religious background of the three, argued that the Bible is not a book, it’s a library, and that ‘we should read parts of it that are applicable…. to reclaim it from the bigots and the homophobes’.

Sommerville opened the floor for the negative team, discussing what she called ‘Lock Up Town’ – the second biggest city in the US being those who are under some kind of correctional supervision. Surprisingly, a high percentage of those living in areas that Sommerville calls the epicentre of Christianity (Louisiana), is doing time.

Payne gave the audience a few laughs by suggesting the top two reasons reading the Bible was bad for you was that the print was too small, and it was too long, so it can’t hold your interest.  But her real argument was how the Bible had contributed to the loss of aboriginal history.

Law compared the Bible to Game of Thrones – both have ‘nudity, sex, murder, revenge, bloodshed, torture, natural disaster, and homosexuality’.  He confessed that he actually had read the Bible as a child, but with a young impressionable mind, left to his devices to interpret (or misinterpret) the Bible’s stories led him to argue that indeed, it was not good for you.

There was time for rebuttal, but most of this centred on Holloway’s disappointment that Law would poke such fun at the Bible, feeling that he trashed something that was very sacred to many people.

Ultimately, the negative team won by audience cheer. However, debating lost. While there were some good arguments for both the affirmative and negative on the topic, it was apparent that the teams hadn’t actually had the chance to sit down and plan out their arguments, leading to lack of flow between the discussions.

What did you miss? Some laughs, a few pot-shots at the Bible, everyone’s confusion at Katter, and a rather contained Greer.

Amilia and Beck attended The Great Debate courtesy of Brisbane Writer’s Festival.