Going into a discussion titled, “Big Questions: Is There A God,” I had feared the worst. I had just finished a class of Global Commons in which we’d discussed the consequences of privatized searches and user-catered results on the internet. These results propagated forums of so-called public discussion which in actuality consisted of total avoidance of any argument one might find uncomfortable or disagreeable. In such an environment, often known as an echo-chamber, people engage in discussion without opposition; they use their own confirmation bias to their advantage and nod incessantly in agreement with one another.
It might have been this class, or perhaps prior experiences of the like, which gave me a very pessimistic view of how the discussion might turn out. Despite my agnosticism, it was actually atheists I feared to be in the majority.
I’d conversed with a student who had negative opinions regarding any and all believers earlier in the week; to see him rant about their apparent ‘ignorance’ did not make for a pleasant experience.
When it came time for the actual event, I was pleasantly surprised. A dozen people, including myself, met around a bonfire on the Student Union patio for the discussion. The organization hosting the event, Crave, provided Starbucks coffee and a plethora of snacks for participants.
Crave is an official Christian student organization (though none of its members attend the same local church) that started two years ago at the University of Tulsa. After poor management had put a temporary stop to regular events, Senior Katherine Witcher and her friends sought to revive the group this semester.
Admittedly, I was the only non-Christian at the debate, a detail that would have perplexed me had it not been been for the others’ willingness to voice their own and question each other’s varying degrees of faith. Some were creationists who believed much of the Bible should be taken literally. Others were more ‘interpretive’ of the events depicted in the Bible, nevertheless believing the messages at its core. While most of the participants were students, some came from other universities entirely, and two of the members were well past graduation and had just stopped by to participate.
The discussion itself opened with the Problem of Evil, to which a man cited Einstein’s supposed argument: Light could not exist without Dark, Good could not exist without Evil.
From here the conversation progressed into the ability to which we are able to exercise free will, and the degree to which God controls the events which affect our world. Some participants went so far as to believe that there was a greater good behind every tragic event—even death.
Later still, we discussed whether the many different faiths which exist across the globe stand as a testament to God’s existence or as evidence for his nonexistence. In the end, the Christians still believed and I wasn’t quite converted.
Still, debates like these are not a waste of time. At a time when many perceive students as intolerant of any opinion with which they might disagree, one must take every opportunity to expose themselves to all the little controversies they can find. Like bacteria to the immune system, you might find it strengthens your own beliefs, or better yet, it might even give you a new perspective of those you perceived as ‘incorrect.’
Overall the debates were civil, laid back, and participation was very equally dispersed. I fear I might have appeared a militant at times, but otherwise I’m glad to have attended and hope to see a rise in participation in the future.
On Tuesday, November 17, another meeting will be held at 5:30 at the same location, the ACAC patio. Invitation is open to everyone, and the discussion will be centered on the existence of miracles. Crave hopes to begin hosting such debates regularly, and eventually a Christmas concert—so long as SA approves.