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Debate: Religious Faith versus Atheism

Speaking in favor of religious faith: Perry King, Deacon of the Universalist National Memorial Church.

Speaking in favor of atheism: Don Wharton, Organizer of the DC Region Atheists

This debate will both confront the opposing views and explore areas of common ground which might be a basis for shared action.

There will be a question and answer period after the main debate.  Coffee and snacks will be provided.

Join or login to comment.

  • David T.

    I had a last minute emergency and couldn't attend. I'm not happy because I was looking forward to this so much. Was this recorded on video by any chance??

    December 8, 2013

    • Don W.

      Yes it is recorded. However, it will be two hour youtube video which is a heck of a lot. We may have to break it into pieces.

      1 · December 8, 2013

    • David T.

      I'll be waiting for it. Thanks a million!

      December 9, 2013

  • Mathew G.

    The title of the debate encouraged expectations of a dispute. There was something of a bait and switch when Don placed the emphasis on crossing the religion/theological divide by instead using the opportunity to advocate for a public policy or social activism coalition. Nevertheless, I give this four stars because I was very impressed with Don's skill in arguing for such a coalition. There are few people who could have argued for such an alliance with more skill than Don exhibited. He convinced some of the people in the audience, but convincing the more self-interested people with leadership positions in the church will be more difficult. Don clearly understood this and addressed some of his argument to them. Yet he did not capitulate, he insisted on not compromising on our religious/theological/philosophical differences. Very good. Five stars if not for the topic bait and switch aspect.

    December 8, 2013

    • Don W.

      Thank you Mathew. I was very pleased to hear criticism from the audience that suggested that I was too hard on Perry King. I got at least three people who waid that. I knew that I had to emphasize the positive regard for him as a person and the possibility of positive continuing relationship to achieve what I wanted. I knew that would have to be some criticism of that here for me to know that I achieved precisely the right tone. We need to find this precise mode of interaction to use these forums to increase the positive regard for atheism and the truth claims that we want to make.

      December 8, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    There was too much agreement between both sides. Perry who represented religious faith was nearly atheist already. In fact I don't know why he prays to Jesus if he doesn't believe in the miracles he did. A good debate would be between two people who truely are on different ends of the belief spectrum. So that each would have strong arguments that really challenge the other side. Also the debate seemed mostly focused on politics and what believers and atheists can agree on in terms of making a better world. I would have liked to see the debate really challenge the truth claims of the other. For example, there was no mention of the limits of science. Atheists seem content with the idea that science has the potential to answer all questions. Yet we all know that with every question answered there are always new questions unanswered. So its impossible to ever answer all questions, and that is why there will always be believers in God.

    December 8, 2013

    • Don W.

      I am in agreement that there is much virtue debating those who more differ on the religious spectrum. This worked for what it was but is just a start.

      December 8, 2013

  • Don W.

    This was a wonderful turnout. With a youtube video to be posted we might have an effective distributiion of our secular message. Thanks to everyon for your support.

    December 8, 2013

    • Bboom B.

      Post the link to the video.

      December 8, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Is there parking at the church?

    December 7, 2013

    • Don W.

      Yes there is parking. There is free residential area parking if you get away from 16th Street. Available parking spaces can be few and far between. There is also a two hour limit that is likely to be in effect in most places that might be available. We expect the actual debate to start about 7:15 and will go for about an hour before we move to audience questions, so the two hour limit should not be a problem.

      December 7, 2013

  • Sincere

    Ugh, won't be able to make it. Came down with a down yesterday evening and have been in bed all day. Sucks! :(

    December 7, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    We're looking forward to tonight.
    We're driving in from the Virginia suburbs. Is there parking nearby?

    December 7, 2013

    • Don W.

      Yes there is parking. There is free residential area parking if you get away from 16th Street. Available parking spaces can be few and far between. There is also a two hour limit that is likely to be in effect in most places that might be available. We expect the actual debate to start about 7:15 and will go for about an hour before we move to audience questions, so the two hour limit should not be a problem.

      December 7, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    So sorry I can't make this event. But - any such discussion is incomplete and inadequate unless you distinguish between religious BELIEF (immature in its most literal expressions) and spiritual FAITH (meaning something more like TRUST in the goodness of our existence.) FAITH (in the way I mean it) understands religious beliefs metaphorically, sees the various religions as simply localized expressions of a common human need to connect with something greater than ourselves, and is the most mature endpoint of a successful open-ended spiritual search. It is NOT belief in a specific deity, or naive acceptance of the childish, simplistic existential answers disseminated by the local preacher. Rather it is acknowledgement that the totality of our existence is far more beautiful, complex and interconnected than our everyday reality would suggest. It is the strength and humility to find that mystery compelling in its complexity, rather than fearsome or threatening. = spiritual maturity.

    December 2, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Thanks to both of you for your interest (and understandable disagreement) with my comment. My point is that most of society proceeds as though unaware of the distinction between PRE-critical belief - and POST-critical faith. The former is common and clearly articulated in our society. It is fun and easy to rebel against. The latter is becoming more common in our society today, but is not at all articulated clearly. Nor can one rebel against it using the binary logic to which most of us limit our thoughts on our most important existential questions. I aim to elevate the level of debate beyond the black and white distinctions between belief and non-belief. I aim to establish common ground between the critical (blatant nonbelievers) and the post-critical whose faith tends to be closer to atheism than it is to a literal belief stance.

      December 4, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Post-critical people can be found outside churches - SOME of the "spiritual but not religious" are post-critical - AND the post-critical are also found sitting quietly inside almost any denomination of any church, AND among much of the clergy. As long as this charade continues, as long as the post-critical are not heard or recognized, as long as our clergy go about limiting their preaching to the literal level under the presumption that the common person is too limited to understand what this is all about, the more ridiculous PRE-critical belief becomes in our society. And the more unnecessary divisiveness and strife we have among those with different belief stances.

      December 4, 2013

  • Ashley

    I am a tentative yes. I may have to work on Saturday. But if not, count me in!

    December 3, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I wish there was a maybe button!!

    November 27, 2013

  • rodney

    I asked of the organiser, but an answer was not forthcoming. I use a wheelchair. Is Perkins Hall below the sanctuary wheelchair accessible?

    November 1, 2013

    • Don W.

      Rodney, I got this from Perry King:Hi Don, I read the blog and noticed that someone wanted to come who used a wheelchair. We are not accessible but do have a Gavanta stair climber which I know how to operate safely and will ensure that the person gets to Perkins Hall. We have an assessable rest room. We are in process of becoming accessible but our progress was stalled when we hired a consultant who we feel overcharged us and we had to go to court. I am now talking to another consultant. Our church building was built in 1929 and was never made accessible. It is something I'm embarrassed about and am working to rectify this. Feel free to give my email to this person if he has more questions. thanks, Perry

      November 2, 2013

  • zeteothink

    Lance is in

    November 1, 2013

  • Norm

    I rather see a debate with an extremist group to address tolerance. This debate between a diety-base belief system vs a non-deity-base belief system isn't likely to get us anywhere, but it should be entertaining. Of course, I'm defining a belief system as a system of thought that doesn't have a reality based premise.

    November 1, 2013

    • Don W.

      The relationship between secular communities and moderate or liberal religious communities is a hot topic in recent times. I find much of the accomodationist discussion in our community to be either frustrating or outrageous. That is because such people seem to have a consensus that there is something very wrong with Richard Dawkins and others of the so called New Atheists. My view is that much if not most of religion is an extreme problem and we should not ignore that reality to play nice with religious folks.

      2 · November 1, 2013

  • Mathew G.

    If one goal is to try to convert public opinion to be more accepting of civic equality for atheists then almost any audience with theists probably has people that could be so converted, including even the people as diverse and liberal as a typical UU congregation. I debate this question on the internet with strangers, and my experience is that when we represent our perspective intelligently the result can be positive. We should be having more such debates, but it is important to be well prepared and do this well, it can be counter-productive if it is done poorly.

    November 1, 2013

  • Jason

    Out of town that day... I hope the skeptics come by. It's really a skepticism discussion - believing things you know ain't true vs honesty about reality.

    October 18, 2013

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