On May 15, two men, Jon Kaus and Dan Barker, will participate in a formal debate mediated by Professor of Political Science Kate Knutson, and sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian athletes (FCA). The debate entitled, “Can we Be Good without God” will be held in Alumni Hall at 7:00 p.m.
According to FCA advisors, the debate is meant to “bring to campus an event that discusses a topic that has been an issue of debate in the academic and religious spheres for centuries, in a constructive, fair environment where two sides will be presented by qualified speakers.”
The speaker in the debate that will be arguing the position that we cannot be good without God is Jon Kaus. Kaus is the Southwest Minnesota FCA director and a Christian Apologist. Christian Apologetics is a study in which one defends Christianity. He has defended Christianity in debates against August Berkshire, president of Minnesota Atheists, as well as evolutionist Steve Johnson.
“Jon Kaus is passionate about the subject of human morality and the origins of it. Using his Christian worldview, Jon gives a compelling argument for God as the source of morality,” Gustavus FCA advisers said.
Kaus’s opponent is Dan Barker. Barker once served as a Pentecostal preacher; however, he is now an atheist and president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. Like Kaus, Barker is no stranger to debating. This will be Dan’s 91st debate, many on the topic of “Can we be good without God?”
“The goal of this debate is to provoke thought and discussion on the topic of morality, in particular, the origin of our shared human morality,” FCA announced. Indeed, before the event has even occurred, it has brought many passionate responses and discussion. “I’m all for public debate, but I think this event will do more for our community in its anticipation and the ruckus it stirs among us,” Senior Philosophy Major Alex Legeros said.
The anticipation for the event has been mixed. Some argue that the debate will be too divisive. “The fact that this event is a debate means that there will be a winner and a loser. Both of the debaters are very polarized. This debate will only further incite misunderstanding between Atheists and Christians instead of fostering understanding, respect and compassion. This event is not what this campus needs.” Sophomore Political Science Major Andrei Hahn said.
However, FCA states that the debate is not meant to declare a winner, but instead present both sides equally and provoke thought on both sides of the issue. “Hopefully, ideas about morality will be challenged on both sides, only leading to further discussion and reflection,” FCA organizers said.
Senior Psychology Major Paul Huff doesn’t believe that this debate will lead to new insights for the audience. “Unlike other debates, in which you carefully weigh the points each presenter makes before deciding who made the better argument, you probably already have a clear winner in mind,” Huff said.
Despite the fears of some students that the debate will be too heated, FCA advisers are adamant that the event “allows for the event to be an opportunity for the audience to reflect on the presentations of the two debaters, without the often heated, emotional responses that arise from conversations about controversial topics such as this.”
All students are welcome to come to the event, and there will be an audience discussion and question and answer time after the debate.