The event, hosted through a partnership between the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus student groups The Atheist Nighthawks and Baptist Collegiate Ministries, is set to take place 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, March 18, at the Robinson Ballroom in the university’s Gainesville campus student center.
The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are encouraged.
Dan Barker vs. Nick Peters
What: Debate on the existence of God
When: 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, March 18
Where: University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus, Robinson Ballroom, 3820 Mundy Mill Road, Oakwood
Price: FreeMore info: Online
“I’ve been wanting to hold a debate like this for a long time now, and it’s just now that I’ve had the opportunity to actually do it,” said Jeff Burt, president of The Atheist Nighthawks.
Burt said Barker is a “big deal” and he’s happy to be able to bring someone of that standing in the atheist community to the debate.
“I believe that we’re all better off when we have more information and when we’re exposed to more ideas,” Burt said. “Whether or not our side is the correct one, that’s what the debate is about. It’s about listening to what the other people have to say and trying to get to a better place as far as what you believe.”
For Josh Pendley, president of the BCM, it’s not simply about information. The debate is a chance for everyone to hear about the Bible and what he believes in.
“I hope that people will be able to hear what the bible says about this topic,” Pendley said. “The Bible isn’t errant … the Bible is true. Whether people believe in it or not, it’s still objective truth that applies to everybody.”
The debate of whether God exists is a topic Burt considers to be “classic.” Some people may think it’s repetitive and not productive, but he hopes the debate has the opposite effect, especially on a college campus and in a North Georgia community.
The goal for The Atheist Nighthawks isn’t to “de-convert” people from a religion, but to help make people more “aware that there are people out there” like Burt, an atheist.
“We’re not bad people and we’re not completely unreasonable,” Burt said. “I think it can help create more unity and that’s kind of already been our experience working with the BCM. We’ve had really great interactions. Everyone has been working really hard to do their part and make this happen, so we’ve already created some unity I think.”
Still, Pendley said there are “stark differences” in the beliefs of each group but having open discussions in those differences can benefit everyone.
“While we do strongly hold that the Bible is objective truth, that doesn't mean we’re not open to discussion,” Pendley said. “I do think it’s good to hear different perspectives. As far as what perspective is true, I would strongly say that the only objective truth would be through the Bible.”
Although the topic of the existence of God is sometimes considered taboo, Burt is hoping to change that with the debate. He believes discussing a topic like this — even if it makes some people uncomfortable and careful judgement has to used — can bring people together.
“The thing I think people struggle with is just knowing what people believe,” Burt said. “People don’t talk about this stuff, they don’t engage. It’s that unwritten rule, ‘You don’t talk about religion and politics in polite company.’ But I think that’s a mistake … Some people don’t have as much of a problem talking about it and those people are great to engage with.”