Brother Jed, atheist debate Christianity for crowd of 200

The debate was hosted by MU Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists and Agnostics.
Jed Smock, also known as Brother Jed, speaks to a large crowd about Christianity during a debate against David Muscato on Thursday in the Physics Building. The debate was hosted by the MU Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists and Agnostics.

Jed Smock, also known as Brother Jed, was once an atheist, and atheist activist Dave Muscato was once a Christian.

But Thursday night, Smock defended Christianity in a passionate yet good-spirited debate hosted by Columbia Atheists and MU Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists and Agnostics.

“I’m here tonight to bear witness to the truth for Christianity,” Smock said. “The ultimate expression of truth is in the Bible.” The two speakers debated the question, “Is Christianity True?”

“I’m not here to debunk Christianity,” Muscato said. “I am arguing that Christianity is not true. I’m here to poke holes in his argument.”

About 200 students and professors watched the debate, which was sometimes serious and at other times generated laughter.

Among the topics discussed were the origin of life and whether the Bible is a verifiable piece of evidence.

“Virtually anything any of us claim to know is stated by scientific authorities,” Smock said. “You probably haven’t put them to test in the laboratory yourself. You assume the books you read are right. So I appeal to the Bible.”

But Muscato argued the New Testament has been altered greatly.

“We don’t even have the original manuscripts,” he said. “All we have today is a little scrap that’s part of the Gospel of John. The first complete copy of the New Testament we have doesn’t date until the fourth century. It contradicts itself.”

Many in the audience listen to the two speak in Speakers Circle regularly, but others said they came initially for the free pizza served.

“The pizza was enough for me to be interested in coming, but when I heard it was a debate with Brother Jed, I was excited because he is quite a character on campus,” junior Max Smith said. “And to hear that another educated person is debating him, I knew it was going to be worth my time.”

Smith said he was curious to see how Smock operated in an environment outside his turf on Speakers Circle.

“I feel like Brother Jed is often the one arguing at people, but is not always at a place where he has to listen,” Smith said. “Here, he’s not running the show.”

The two also debated morality, questioning where moral foundation comes from.

“We all have a sense of guilt,” Smock said. “I say it comes from a moral being. I think a lot of people in our mental institutions are there because of guilt.”

Muscato agreed humans have dignity, but argued it doesn’t come from religion.

“You create meaning in your own life based on what you contribute and what’s important to you,” he said.

Smock grew passionate as he argued the virtuosity of Christianity.

“If men universally love their enemies, as Jesus taught, that would eliminate war,” he said. “But most men will rob, steal and cheat if they think they can get away with it. The Christian won’t rob, steal or cheat because he knows it’s not virtuous. If everyone were Christian, the world would be a better place.”

Smock and Muscato debated in 2010 at Smock's home in front of a crowd of about 50 people.

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