King's College Should Host the Debate

Approximately one month ago, I issued an open debate challenge regarding the existence of the Christian god to the entire King's College community. To date, not one person from King's College (even theologians, priests, ministers, etc) has not accepted the challenge. Finally, Mike Pasquini, a graduate of King's College with a minor in theology has accepted the challenge. When I initially proposed the idea for this debate, I expected to have the debate in a large venue (the Burke auditorium) that can seat a large crowd. Unfortunately, some people think that this event shouldn't even be a debate and want the event to simply be a discussion for a very small crowd only consisting of King's College students and faculty with no outside persons. This defeats the entire purpose of the debate challenge and appears to go against the King's College mission statement and the purpose of a liberal arts education.

King's College should allow for the debate to be held because it an opportunity for individuals to discuss and an audience to listen to arguments concerning what might be the most important question that any individual can ponder, “Does God exist?” King's College is a liberal arts college that is committed to searching for the truth that “encourage[s] students to get involved so they not only grow academically, but personally, socially and spiritually as well” (http://www.kings.edu/aboutkings/index.htm). A debate of this sort will certainly allow for students to get involved so that they grow and think about important issues.

King's College's mission statement states that the college “provides students with a broad-based liberal arts education which offers the intellectual, moral, and spiritual preparation that enables them to lead meaningful and satisfying lives” (http://www.kings.edu/aboutkings/missionstatement.htm). A debate of this sort will advance the mission statement.

Their mission statement also states that the "Holy Cross sponsorship and the Catholic intellectual tradition are important components of a King's education. Fr. Basil Moreau, C. S. C., founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, expressed his vision of educating the whole person, both mind and heart, as the essential philosophy of all Holy Cross schools.” If King's College views the Catholic intellectual tradition as something important, which they do, they should be willing to host a debate where this tradition can be discussed at an academic, intellectual level. Apologetics, reasons for defending belief in God, are an important part of the Catholic intellectual tradition. A debate of this sort will allow for someone to defend and challenge the Catholic faith.

Many students and people of the community (and outside it) will certainly attend this debate and listen to arguments from both sides of the issue. In addition to King's students, many more people can be invited to attend the event. Mike Pasquini owns a local buisness and will certainly promote the event and draw people to the debate. I host a blog, have a wide network of followers, have various friends all over Pennsylvania who will attend, and can invite members from my organization (the NEPA Freethought Society) to attend. This is a great chance to educate the community and dispel ignorance that people might have about various issues and arguments. Many people have not heard arguments for God's existence and many people have also not heard arguments against God's existence. Because of this ignorance of the arguments, believers often don't come to a reasoned decision about their belief and make really bad arguments for their positions.

Various Catholic institutions regularly have debates regarding religion and certainly do not hesitate to organize, promote, and endorse these events. Catholic Universities and colleges such as Notre Dame and Biola University have hosted debates and drawn very large crowds. Students and faculty at King's will certainly be interested in attending this event because the Moraeu lectures, for example, draw very large crowds, so why would this event not draw large crowds? King's College also hosts various other events that are open to the public. Why should this event be any different?

Some people may worry that people may come into the debate and cause problems, but this concern is unwarranted because King's College and other universities and colleges host public events and no violence or vitriolic statements are made. If there is suspicion that there would be a problem, King's College security guards can be at the event to ensure order. Every event has a chance for people to act in an unruly fashion, but this does not mean that we should cease having public events such because this is a slim possibility. Events at Biola and Notre Dame have occurred without any violence or vitriol and have allowed for an intellectual discussion of important issues.

King's College certainly isn't shying away from issues of belief and unbelief because it has classes that present arguments against God's existence. Since this is the case, King's College should be willing to discuss these issues that are discussed in classes in a venue that is open to the public.

As a liberal arts college concerned with pursing the truth and educating students and the community, King's College should be consistent with its mission statement and allow for a debate in the Burke Auditorium that is open to the public. A discussion in a very small venue that is limited to members of the King's community will demonstrate a shying away from King's College's mission statement and forfeit an opportunity for education of many individuals in a large venue.