Prior to the debate, the organisers had commisioned a 23-country poll on religion by Ipsos.
Some 48% of the 18,192 people questioned by Ipsos took the view that "religion provides the common values and ethical foundations that diverse societies need to the thrive in the 21st Century".
Fractionally more - 52% - supported the view that "religious beliefs promote intolerance, exacerbate ethnic divisions, and impede social progress in developing and developed nations alike".
Rich countries were less likely to see religion as a force for good than poor countries - the main exception being the United States, where 65% said it had a positive impact.
The Ipsos poll, conducted in September, found that Europe was the region most doubtful about the benefits of religion, with just 19% in Sweden agreeing that it was a force for good.
At the other end of the scale, in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, it was seen as a positive force by more than 90% of those questioned.
Within North America, there was a pronounced divide. In Canada, only 36% agreed with the positive view of religion whereas 64% saw it as a negative force - figures almost exactly the reverse of those in the US."