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Join us this month for an intellectual no-holds-barred yet civil debate on one of the most contentious topics known to the humankind.
Background: the topic of religion is perhaps one of the most controversial one of them all. It also poses one of the most universal questions that virtually all humans ponder — "who are we and why are we here"? Many believers say that their religion has all of the right answers regarding one of the most fundamental questions — even if the teachings conflict with rational thinking, or is antithetical to, modern science. In many faiths, challenging the virtues of the religious dogma of one's faith is considered as an anathema; all the while as they view and dismiss other faiths as being morally inferior. Furthermore, our society depicts the nonbelievers of faith as soulless creatures blindly meandering through the journey of an unsanctimonious life.
TOPIC I: Is the world better off without religion?
The issue is whether, on balance, the existence of religion and its institutions, have been a force of good towards humanity.
Throughout the viciously-cyclical nature of the human history, many wars were fought, many military conflicts and violence have ensued, hundreds of millions -- perhaps billions of people -- killed, tortured, enslaved, or be subject to the imperialistic colonial subjugation, lands violently pillaged from the rightful owners . . . and the story goes on and on . . . all justified in the name of religion.
Yet the Believers assert that their faith provides them with certain "purpose and guidance" needed for the spiritual enlightenment; moreover, many assert that religion gives them a sense of an identity. Additionally, many often cite the charitable nature of many religious institutions as the impetus behind contemporary altruism and the "humanitarian" movement.
The question for this topic goes hand-in-glove with a branch of historical studies known as the "counterfactual history" (e.g., the "what ifs"). For this topic, we'll debate and examine the following -- absent the powerful and influential religious institutions, how would the modern world appear? Would it be better than the status quo currently with the everlasting ripple effects of religion?
TOPIC II: Is America truly a "Christian" nation?
The U.S. Constitution guarantees the exercise of free religion, that protects the interests of the believers, as well as the nonbelievers. Yet, a poll after poll shows that many Americans believe that America is a "Christian" nation. Moreover, this contradicts with the notion of the "Separation of Church and State" originally espoused by Thomas Jefferson and others regarding the "Establishment Clause" of the First Amendment.
Over many years, the wavering line of distinction between faith and the cultural norms has become a bit fuzzy. Religious influences have all but become ubiquitously intertwined with various aspects of everyday lives for many Americans — from the ceremonious sing-along chants of "God Bless America" at baseball games to the near-universal celebration of Christmas. On this debate, we expect an inevitable ideological clash between the cultural warriors, the "politically-correct" thinkers, and the strict constitutionalists to wrestle in a verbal dissent sprinkled with a small dose of revisionist history proffered from each side.
TOPIC III: Is God necessary for morality?
Fyodor Dostoyevsky famously wrote in The Brothers Karamazov that if God doesn't exist, then everything is permitted. This is meant to say that the existence of God is a requirement to have a functioning moral system and society.
But is this really true?
Supporters say that God is necessary to have objective moral values and that without God, morality is merely a matter of opinion. Critics point to the morals of religions like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam which support the subjugation of women, gays, and condone slavery -- as evidence that morality does not come from God or religion, but instead has a naturalistic and philosophical basis.
On this debate we want to explore the arguments on both sides of the divide and to see whether morality requires God or whether God has nothing to do with morality.
Proposed event schedule:
5:00 to 5:30 - Background and Introductions
5:30 to 6:30 - Debate Topic I
6:30 to7:30 - Debate Topic II
7:30 to 8:30 - Debate Topic III
8:30 to 9:30 - Post-event social hour
- Similar to a televised "townhall" debate format.
- Approximately six to eight debate participants on each side; the remaining attendees will be part of the townhall audience. There's no mandatory requirement to participate or actively debate -- so attendees can sit back and observe.
- The townhall audience members can also ask questions directly to either debate groups.
- New debate participants will be selected for each of the two topics.
Here's a photo of the building entrance:
Once you enter the building, proceed to the banquet ("Amenities") room, as shown below:
If you wish to stay for the post-event social hour, feel free to bring snacks and/or beverages to share with others.