The video of the thought provoking Atheism Vs Theism public debate: “What’s the Point of Believing in God?” is now online. The event originally occurred on 13th October 2016, at University College Dublin, Dublin, Republic of Ireland.
Dr Dan Deasy, Lecturer and Assistant Professor in Philosophy at University College Dublin.
Scott Evans, Anglican Chaplain at University College Dublin.
Katherine Beirne, campaigner for Atheism, Secularism and Humanism, and radio presenter.
Abdullah Al-Andalusi, co-founder of the Muslim Debate Initiative.
Review by Abdullah al Andalusi:
‘My debate in Dublin at the University College Dublin (UCD) yesterday. Alhamdulillah there was a good turnout with many attendees from the Philosophy Society of UCD, as well as Muslims from the UCD Islamic Society (both of whom hosted the event), and other students and members of the public who came too. The debate was titled “What’s the Point In Believing In God?’, and was an interesting phrasing of what was thought by many simply to be a debate about the existence of God, because it also included the question of the possibility of morality without God within it.
On the opposing side was Dr Dan Deasy, a professor at UCD’s School of Philosophy. Alongside him was Katherine Beirne, a representative of the UCD Atheist, Secularist and Humanist society.
Speaking on the ‘theist’ side alongside me was UCD’s Chaplain, Scott Evans, a charismatic anglican theologian and preacher. The debate started out with each of us presenting a ten minute opening statement, followed by questions from the audience.
I made a rational argument for why the real question of the debate shouldn’t be what the point of God is, but ‘what is the point of human life (and existence)?’. I made arguments from some new(ish) angles about how the unencumbered human mind can detect the existence of God through thought about the ‘effects’ he causes – the observable universe. Just like we believe in Black Holes despite the fact that we cannot observe them, by detecting the gravitational effects they produce on nearby stars, or when they pass in-between light traveling to us from a star.
However, I felt that is where the rational arguments came to an end in the debate. My colleague, Mr Evans, made a very eloquent and emotional presentation, which gave credit to his ability to speak from his heart. Despite this however, he argued that he couldn’t prove God existed, and sometimes doubted He existed *but* he never doubted that God loves him. His premise was ‘I feel this way, and I can’t make you feel my way, but I feel this way’. Now personally, he seems like an amiable and affable person – however, I felt that these arguments were not too helpful for this debate, and I couldn’t shake an unnerving and unfortunately all-too-common feeling of ‘wingman failure’ that frequently seems to occur when I debate alongside liberal-theists. However, Mr Evans redeemed himself with some pertinent points he made during the Q/A.
As for the Atheist speakers, they were quite humble as well, and not aggressive – maybe that’s just the Irish way. I have always got the impression from my experience of the culture of Ireland, that it is generally laid back, humble and convivial, one of the many reasons I love Ireland and going to visit. In the league of english-speaking countries, it is one of the top (Sorry Canada, you’ve got competition).
Dr Deasy started off questioning God’s existence, and instead of making arguments against it, was content simply to argue that he wasn’t too convinced by Theism. Katherine Beirne admitted that she wasn’t used to doing debates, and didn’t want get people to stop believing in religion, but she iterated that it was her personal choice not to believe in God. Although she conceded that intellectually she was more an Agnostic than anything else.
The Q/A was really entertaining, with some common arguments against religion being brought up, and the majority of questions from the audience being directed at me and my theist colleague. While this meant that me and my colleague could elaborate our positions, it meant that the theists started dominate the speaking time in the Q/A. As you’ll see in the video Insha’Allah, I tried to rectify this by telling the audience to asking questions to the other side as it was unfair ‘our side’ dominating the Q/A because people only wanted to direct questions to us. This is a debate after all.
That being said, Dr Deasy didn’t really contest anything I said throughout the debate (which surprised me, since he is a Philosophy professor). He agreed with me towards the end on a few things (no, he didn’t start believing in God, he just accepted that some of my arguments were valid ones).
Anyways, I thoroughly enjoyed the debate and discussion afterwards, as well as visiting Ireland generally’.