Some examples of controversial debate topics include abortion, the use of torture, the death penalty and foreign policy/the role of America in the world, among others. Topics that prompt emotional responses generally make for the best debate subjects because there is a high likelihood that the debaters are emotionally invested in the discussion on one side or the other. Consequently, good debate topics generally fall into one of two categories: political or religious.
A discussion about induced abortion is controversial because it touches on peoples' ethical, moral and philosophical values. As of November 2015, abortion laws vary by state in the United States, with some requiring a waiting period and distribution of fetal developmental information, indicating a variance of beliefs surrounding the procedure. Debate also may include a discussion about the passing of laws that state a pregnant woman needs consent of others to get an abortion, particularly if the woman is a minor.
The use of the death penalty is controversial, with opponents stating that there are times when innocent people are executed, and supporters arguing that the death penalty offers retribution for victims of murder. Supporters also highlight that the cost of the death penalty is more efficient than a sentence of life in prison.
The United States uses military intervention, which is also a subject for debate, to control a perceived foreign conflict. Those who support it state that it has the potential to save thousands of lives and can force corrupt foreign governments to disband. Opponents highlight that the intervention is often extremely violent and should only be used if extremely necessary. Opponents believe that governments often fail to exercise peaceful solutions to conflict.
Regardless of a debater's religious association or political orientation, these characteristics tend to be opinion-defining. It is important to note that just because two individuals share either the same religion or the same political viewpoint does not mean that they agree on the issue. Even individuals who share both of these occasionally disagree due to innate perspectives based on their origin and upbringing.
Good debate topics are those that are either religiously or politically charged. Excellent debate topics, however, are those that are both. Perhaps the best example is abortion. Both sides of the aisle in the political world have very strong opinions about the practice of abortion, and religious communities (and atheist and agnostic communities, for that matter) often are even more passionate in their condemnation or support.