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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 1, No. 19 September 6, 1938

Otago Wins Dull Debate

Otago Wins Dull Debate

V.U.C. Five Points Behind

Most of the students present at Massey Agricultural College to hear the debates for the Joynt Scroll had heard better debating in their own college halls. The standard was certainly high, but as Mr. Oram said, the public were entitled to expect something a great deal higher. The Universities were making a public appearance; the teams were supposed to be the best speakers from their respective colleges; we were putting on a full-dress show. But if we wanted to impress the public we failed.

The audience smiled frequently and nodded its head in appreciation of a point well made and thought the students looked nice; but there was no thunderous applause, no scandalised expressions, no excitement. With a subject like "Religion has been throughout the Ages an Obstacle to Progress," one might expect bright students to give the public a shock, pleasant or otherwise, but instead, that placid monster went home quietly to supper, talking about the lovely building.

The tone of the contest can be judged by the fact that there was only one "sensation" throughout the three debates. Mr. A. L. McCulloch shattered the calm with an interjection from his place on the dais and then looked as if he wanted to get under the table. His remark was ignored, and there were no further incidents.

The chairman during the afternoon was Mr. A. J. Gilmour, of Massey College, and during the evening, Mr. A. P. Blair, president of N.Z.U.S.A. The judges, Messrs. M. H. Oram, J. Murray and Rev. J. Hubbard, all of Palmerston North, placed Otago first and Victoria second.


. . . Religion is either dope or dynamite and it is a tragic fact that with 99 out of 100 it is a dope—the "opiate of the people."

. . . The social reforms in the nineteenth century were a mere stunt to give an illusion of progress.

. . . Religion gives its sanction to every warship launched.

. . . You cannot dissociate religion from religious institutions, because man is a social being, and therefore his religon always tends to be organised as an institution.

. . . After the Reformation the Bible instead of the Church was set up as the tyrant.

. . . When Christianity was a banned sect, its followers uphold freedom of worship. When they became the dominant sect, they changed their ideas.

—Miss D. Fowler.

. . . It is true the Pilgrim Fathers, a religious people, founded modern America. It is true they were jolly fine people. But it was because of religious persecution they left America.

—D. M. Smith.

. . . The church has always been defeatist in its attitude to social problems.

. . . The church explained slavery and injustice as having been ordained by God as punishments for sin.

. . . In the East, religion is responsible for the two greatest obstacles to progress: ancestor worship and the caste system.

—R. Hurst.

. . . Social progress is retarded by vested interests. The church itself is a vested interest.

. . . The Industrial Revolution was accompanied by a great religious revival. While men were on the breadline, the church was more concerned with the hereafter.

. . . Greece and Rome made their greatest progress when religion was at its lowest ebb.

. . . Religion developed out of superstition rather than supplanted it.

—P. Day.

. . . By promises of future bliss, religion takes people's minds off present problems. For centuries Russia advanced scarcely a whit, mainly because of the power of the church.

. . . Napoleon re-established religious institutions because he saw they would assist him to maintain his tyranny.

—J. S. Rumbold.


Mr. O'Callaghan (Otago) who secured the highest points, had a very fine debating style. A comparison between the marks accorded to him and to Mr. Almers (who had second highest) shows that for matter he was only one point ahead. The marks for method were the same, but his manner placed him three points ahead. His gestures were few and natural, and his sincerity obvious.

Though his reply was marred by the use of some rather thin "debaters' arguments," his opening speech was logical and convincing. His speech was forceful but did not display the gift for epigram evident in some of the others speakers, notably Mr. Myers.

Special praise is due to Mr. Morrison, whose performance, considering the circumstances, was remarkable. On Friday morning Miss M. Shortall wired that she had missed her train and could not be present to second Mr. Almers. The latter, after frantic efforts to find a seconder, located Mr. Morrison, who gallantly came to the rescue of religion and V.U.C. He had only from 11 a.m. to prepare his speech. These facts and his high marks testify to his debating ability.

To make any attempt to report the speeches would be fair neither to the debaters nor the reader. It would involve too much repetition. Briefly, the affirmative attacked churches as religious institutions and the negative attacked them as irreligious institutions. We have not space to report involved logic, but most of the memorable sayings are given as food for thought.


The detailed marks allotted were as follow:—
  • Otago.—Mr. M. G. O'Callaghan: Matter (maximum 40) 33, method (maximum 25) 20, manner (maximum 35) 25, total 78. Mr. S. W. P. Mirams: Matter 30, method 15, manner 20, total 68. Treatment by both speakers (maximum 50) 35, reply (maximum 25) 17, grand total 198.
  • Victoria A.—Mr. J. B. Almers: 32, 20, 22, total 14. Mr. N. A. Morrison: 31, 19, 17, total 67. Treatment by both speakers 35, reply 17, grand total 193.
  • Auckland.—Miss D. Fowler: 26, 14, 22, total 62. Mr. P. Day: 28, 16, 20, total 64. Treatment by both speakers 30, reply 18, grand total 174.
  • Victoria B.—Mr. A. L. McCulloch: 26, 14. 21, total 61. Mr. C. A. Myers: 30, 15, 18, total 63. Treatment by both speakers 25, reply 12, grand total 161.
  • Canterbury.—Mr. R. Hurst: 22, 16, 16, total 54. Mr. J. S. Rumbold: 29, 19, 17, total 65. Treatment by both speakers 25, reply 13, grand total 157.
  • Massey.—Mr. D. M. Smith: 28, 17, 22, total 67. Mr. R. D. Bamford: 20, 12, 18, total 50. Treatment by both speakers 20, reply 14, grand total 151.


. . . The affirmative claim that in the early days learning and culture were confined to the monasteries. That at least admits that the religious people of those days were the learned ones.

. . . Religion, so far from being an obstacle, is rather a great and profound influence to the progress of the individual.—M. G. O'Callaghan.

. . . The monastic system laid the very foundations of modern progress. By the example of their own lives, the monks taught the people how to live usefully.

... A pupil of Adam Bede founded the first universities. Even if Roger Bacon was damned by the church, he was an intensely religious man.

—N. A. Morrison.

. . . Howard was fulfilling his Christian duty by his work for prison reform; and also the influence of his work helped, in some small way, to modify the forms of society which produced the prisons.

. . . Buddhism stands for peace, mercy, and compassion, and a reverence for life in all its forms. Is there a sounder basis for progress?

. . . In order to apply Christianity, we must have a change in the social system.

. . . Religion is the ambulance corps in the army of progress.

—J. B. Almers.

. . . The strength or weakness of a race largely depends on its religion, because religion gives a nation its ethics, law and morals. Religion enabled the Israelites to throw off the power of Egypt.

—S. W. P. Mirams.

. . . Religion has aided progress by resisting superstition.

. . . Religion celebrated the month of May as the feast of the Virgin. The superstitious therefore said it was unlucky to marry in May.

—A. L. McCulloch.

. . . Personal religion has never yet hindered a man from doing what he thought right for the benefit of the world.

. . . It is better to have a cave-man armed with a club than a cave-man armed with bombs.

. . . Religion is as distinct from the church as the soul is from the body.

—C. A. Myers.