As one of the first 300 people to get into the epic debate between Chi-Alpha and Sam Houston Atheist Alliance last night, I walked in with a number of prejudices. I think everyone there, whether secretly or not, expected: name calling, disrespect, general consternation and maybe a little riot here or there.
From what I understand, there were many people turned away due to space constraints. There was banging at an emergency exit, and those turned away spoke openly of revolt. For some moments, I feared for my life and planned an escape.
Slight disruptions aside, it was an excellent event. It was important for me to understand that this wasn’t a debate between atheism and Christianity. It was a debate between four representatives from Chi-Alpha, and four representatives from S.H.A.A. The debate was not intended to convert the audience or get changes to our facebook religious status. As Brian Louden put it, it was done to “kill the taboo of religion” in the public.
Any university or college that promotes higher education requires events like this to thrive. Rather than withdrawing into our ignorance, prejudices and misconceptions, this collegiate discussion forces us to see others as they are, and not as we think they are.
I respected both sides equally, though my heart went out to the Chi-Alpha representatives. As the defenders of Christian theism, they had to shoulder the weight Christianity’s 2,000 of history; the good, and the bad. They had to answer for the crusades, the Inquisition and every other act of malice committed by someone under Christianity.
The only similar burden the S.H.A.A. representatives might encounter was when they mentioned that science was good. The scientific method has been used to create vaccinations for diseases and a myriad of other benefits for mankind. At the same time, scientific research has been employed to create a myriad of ways to level a city with the push of a button.
If anything can be drawn from this, it is that mankind is capable of great evils just as it of great goods. Whether or not you believe in an objective evil, it is obvious that “Christianity” can inspire good Samaritans just as easily as it can inspire religious fanatics. Mankind can use science to mend broken bones, and burn cities down.
This kind of dialog between differing ideologies has astounding potential. It is the very stuff that nurtures the university system. I look forward to continuing this open communication between respectful individuals. We, as a student body, should look towards expanding this idea beyond just “Atheists versus Chi-Alpha.” Maybe the next debate will be held at Johnson Coliseum.