Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Atheists and Christians in Conversation

by Christi Sevits

This past Thursday, a lively discussion took place in the Sullivan Science building between atheists and Christians. The event, aptly named Atheists and Christians in Conversation, drew an impressive crowd of over two hundred. Dialogue between the religious and nonreligious has the potential to get heated fast, and Atheists and Christians in Conversation was no exception. Shying away from the tension of religious discussion is precisely why the conversation was necessary in the first place. Nothing will be resolved unless we talk about it in the open!

Two of our own members, UNCG students Bobby Littlejohn and Julia Alexander, represented the secular viewpoint. English professor Chris Hodgkins and local pastor Jeff Miller represented the Christians. Club President Phillip Drum was the moderator. The debate was sponsored by our group as well as Christian apologist organization Ratio Christi.

The debate began with an introduction from each of the panelists. Each side then had the opportunity to question the other, allowing for rebuttals when necessary. The last segment consisted of answering written questions from the audience. There were questions addressed to individual panelists, one side or the other, and some to both sides. The inquiries ranged from the common "Where do atheists get their morality from?" to "Are non-Christians like Gandhi in Hell?"

Despite the tension, the panelists were respectful to one another. The audience refrained from outbursts (other than us atheists briefly scoffing at Dr. Hodgkins' statement that the United States was a "Christian nation"). Overall, the environment remained positive and engaging. Even after the debate, several curious audience members approached the panelists to ask any unanswered questions they had.

This was the first time Bobby and Julia represented our club in a campus discussion, but they didn't let the stress get to them.

"I really appreciated being able to participate in this event," Bobby commented.  "We had a passionate yet respectful discussion and I think we were both able to better understand where the other side was coming from. With so much religious strife in the world right now, I think the issues we talked about are more important than ever."

Julia expressed similar sentiments, saying "It was a good experience. There were lots of logical fallacies, but it was non-hostile and lots of fun."

Great job, Bobby and Julia!