He started his lecture by explaining the -isms. Atheism, anti-theism, secularism & humanism. I will lay out his most important arguments and then address them:
1) He said that as a secularist he supports the right of everyone to exist in an open society but then he said that people should combat(exact word he used) the Catholic and Protestant Faith schools in the UK. He said that the campaign against Christian Faith schools in the UK is headed by a Rabbi and that "proves" that you can be secular and religious at the same time.
2) He said that atheism is not anti-theism and that atheist people are metaphysically neutral, they do not make any claim on whether God exists or not and they do not either deny or affirm such a metaphysical position but then he turned around and said that faith in God is irrational and lacking evidence which requires indeed a metaphysical position.
3) He claimed that Justinian closed down the Philosophical Schools of Athens and that led to the initiation of the Dark Ages.
4) He claimed that goblins and fairies are ontologically the same thing as God.
5) While closing he answered his own question: "why am I not doing debates anymore?" to which he said that when they invited him to a panel they would put a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim and a Buddhist and himself and that he was always outnumbered so he gave up the exercise and only does lectures and speeches now. Poor victim, he has got a CBE, he is a Professor in a few British universities but the damn damn world is being cruel and unfair against him.
Funnily enough we have heard such nonsense from our resident atheists in here numerous times, and I was given the opportunity to discuss these matters with him. I first corrected his claim about Justinian during his speech by raising my hand and he asking me: "would you like to correct that"?
To which I replied: "Justinian did not close the Philosophical Schools of Athens, they simply moved to the University of Constantinople". He said that I am right but that he meant that Justinian sacked the Philosophers from Athens, to which I responded that those schools were private and that Athens due to losing its economic & political significance as well as due to the plague, there was no longer enough work for these philosophers in Athens and they packed their bags and moved to Constantinople instead, where the tradition of philosophy carried on being cultivated uninterrupted for another thousand years and more. Byzantium never had a Dark Age as such and is in fact the nation that founded primary, secondary and tertiary education as we know it today. Whether Northern Europeans experienced a dark age is also debatable because they never had an enlightened age to begin with. This "interruption" took place during his speech and was the only interruption that took place. He turned red, gave up the argument and moved on with his speech.
Once the speech was finished, people could ask questions and I too was given this right by the President of the Atheist Society. When my turn came I posed these questions to him:
a) "If you support the right of religion and faith schools to exist in an open society then why are you telling people to combat their existence?" And if you are neutral then why are you giving lectures "Against All Gods"?
b) You equated, goblins & fairies to God in order to ridicule the concept, but ontologically, Anselm's God: "that from which nothing greater can be conceived of" has absolutely nothing to do with a fairy or a goblin, they are totally different beings and when we measure our actions against something, we do not take a fairy or a goblin as our point of reference, rather we take the most perfect being that we can conceive of.
He said "but they are both imaginary magical beings" to which I replied that sharing attributes does not make 2 things equal just like sharing the earth does not make humans equal to each other or to other animals or to micro-organisms and also that a straight line is an abstract, imaginary, non-physical thing but we do use is to make measurements, regardless. At which point he told me that "I am not convincing anybody in here and that I have hogged all the time and that someone else should ask questions".
The next person who asked a question said he was an atheist but interested on the psychological benefits of confession, he said that he found confession beneficial and asked Grayling whether he envisioned atheism offering such a thing at some point in the future.
Grayling replied that it is possible and that he is hopeful that all religious functions should be replaced by secular ones.
Later on I approached that person and told him that in my view religion is not only beneficial through confession but through order and discipline, I asked him whether he has any experience with poor chav people and whether he has witnessed the way they live in squalor and how they raise their children. I told him that poor Christian, Jewish, and Muslim families in council estates raise their children with a lot of education, manners and a moral compass, and that all three are lacking from chav families, he told me that the Italian mafia that goes to church every sunday proves my argument wrong to which I responded that: "Do you believe that if the mafia stopped being religious and catholic, it would also stop being the mafia?"
That concluded our interaction.
Later outside I met 2 young students of History at Selwyn College, a Welsh guy and a person from Hong Kong with whom I had the most engaging debate on the subject as we walked to Selwyn College where I had parked my car.
...take your common sense with you, and leave your prejudices behind...