Two giants of theism and atheism clashed over a divisive and controversial question: Does God exist?
The Campus Bible Fellowship (CBF) and Secular Student Alliance (SSA) teamed up to plan the debate. Leaders from each group chose representatives to argue each respective side.
Scott Star, president of the SSA and a senior double-majoring in math and engineering, invited Matt Dillahunty, the host of a radio and television program about Atheism in Texas, to speak on behalf of the atheists. Daniel Vangor, president of the CBF and a junior majoring in computer engineering, chose Jay Lucas, a pastor from Ohio, to argue for God’s existence.
The debate, held 7 p.m. Saturday in Lecture Hall 1, was packed with both Binghamton University students and Binghamton area residents.
Star said he felt the debate would lead to more cordial relations between two ideologically opposed groups.
“We’re big on interfaith dialogue,” Star said. “Interfaith dialogue creates a sense of acceptance and tolerance, and that’s one of the goals of our group.”
Vangor said he met Lucas while at a similar debate at Baptist Bible College.
“We thought Jay would do a good job representing our side of the ‘does God exist’ question,” Vangor said.
Lucas is the founder of the Isaac Backus Project, an apologetics mission that argues for the existence of God and the contemporary application of the Gospel.
Star said Dillahunty was his top pick among a list of speakers endorsed by the national branch of the SSA.
Dillahunty hosts “The Atheist Experience,” an Austin public-access television show with fans from around the globe, and an Internet radio show called “Non-Prophets Radio.”
“He’s one of my favorite atheists,” Star said.
Lucas argued that God is logically necessary for objective morality to exist.
“In an atheist world, there can be no such thing as universal objective moral absolutes,” Lucas said.
Dillahunty, on the other side, emphasized the burden of proof required to prove the existence of God.
“A logical argument isn’t simply true until it’s disproved,” Dillahunty said. “The premises must be demonstrated to be true and that requires supporting evidence.”
Logan Kokx, a freshman double-majoring in physics and mechanical engineering, said he felt Lucas took a unique approach to the debate, although he still felt Dillahunty was the winner.
“I thought the approach of Jay was definitely different by not going with the typical ontological argument and teleological argument,” Kokx said. “I thought Matt definitely won the debate for me, especially when he quoted the slavery texts in the Bible and Jay said that slavery was OK [in biblical times].”
Julia Reidy, a freshman majoring in integrative neuroscience, said that as a Christian, the debate gave her something to think about.
“I definitely think it challenged me,” Reidy said. “I am a strong Christian but I think it’s nice to hear the other side, and appreciate it, and think about it.”