The Daily Gamecock

Pastafarians question rationality of religion

Atheist, Christian engage in debate

Well over 70 believers, atheists, agnostics and skeptics filled the Gambrell Hall auditorium Wednesday night for an intelligent and rational student-operated debate over the Christian faith.

The Pastafarians at USC hosted the debate between the organization’s co-founder Andrew Cederdahl, a fourth-year political science student, and Michael Glawson, a philosophy graduate student and theology graduate of Southeastern Bible College. Glawson was Cederdahl’s teaching assistant for a philosophy of morality and ethics class last semester.

“We want to illuminate points of contention to be addressed in a civil manner,” debate moderator and Pastafarians President Axton Crolley said.

Cederdahl began with the argument that Christianity is ultimately irrational. Cederdahl’s argument was based on the stance that reason and faith represent conflicting values.

He went on to define reason as a system that is empirical, tentative, cumulative, transmissible and skeptical, and he extracted verses from the Bible that seemed to directly conflict with each of these characteristics. He pointed out that faith involves low evidence and an incorrect use of reason known as apologetics that leads one to reach any conclusion. “Show me evidence,” Cederdahl said, nearing the conclusion of his argument. “If God does miracles, we should be able to qualify that. What’s so wrong with being skeptical?”

In contrast, Glawson opened his initial argument with an invocation from the opening of John Milton’s “Paradise Lost.”

Glawson said that followers of Christianity for the reasons that Cederdahl mentioned were indeed irrational but that Christianity itself is rational. He took a different approach to the definition of rationality.

“Rationality is doing the best you can in your circumstances,” Glawson said. “That is, it is the relationship you have with your beliefs. Rationality is not the property of the beliefs themselves.”

Glawson said that one can rationally believe Christianity because there is good evidence for the truth of the religion.

He addressed the three fundamentals for Christianity: the existence of God, the “specialness” of Jesus and the belief that Jesus literally rose from the dead. First, Glawson argued that all things that came into existence did so for a cause, and God would be the best candidate to initiate the physical existence of our universe.

Glawson’s next argument focused on the resurrection of Jesus. He relied on three facts: that Jesus was buried, Jesus’s tomb was found empty two days after the burial and on different occasions many people had experiences of the risen Jesus appearing before them.

He said the resurrection was most likely not contrived because Jews had no concept of a dying and rising messiah and that there were many who died in horrible ways because of their convictions to Christ’s resurrection. Glawson quoted Gerd Ludemann, a New Testament scholar, who agreed that several Jews did in fact report seeing the resurrected Jesus.

The debate then entered into cross-examination where Cederdahl asked Glawson, “What is God?” Glawson answered that there is no definition but that God is immaterial and all-powerful. Glawson asked Cederdahl why he didn’t believe in Christianity, and Cederdahl returned to his lack of evidence argument.

Third-year classical studies and history student Joel Iliff, a self-proclaimed Christian interested in becoming a minister, attended the debate. He said “people need to know how to enter in a relationship” with a higher being and that he did not care for Cederdahl’s interpretation of oral culture because people can pass down history for many generations.

“Hopefully, people who have come are encouraged to think about why they believe what they believe,” Crolley, a first-year anthropology student, said. “The main thing I’d like to emphasize is the reminder to think and not be afraid to question. Questioning can only lead to affirmation.”

The Pastafarians at USC are hosting annual “Pasta Party” Thursday, March 3 to raise money for a Good Samaritan Free Clinic, as well as an “Ask an Atheist” event after spring break. They usually meet Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. in room 112 of LeConte College.