Brother Jed, MU atheist to debate Thursday

Jed Smock will leave his spot at Speakers Circle for a formal debate.
Brother Jed Smock preaches on Speakers Circle in October. Dave Muscato, member of the MU Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists and Agnostics is set to debate Smock on Thursday.

Jed Smock, commonly referred to as Brother Jed, and MU student and atheist activist Dave Muscato will face off Thursday night on campus in a debate.

The debate, hosted by the MU Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists and Agnostics, will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Physics Building and is open to the public.

“I’m going to be defending the truth of Christianity by basically pointing out that the Christian religion answers the basic questions of life,” Smock said. “It gives reasonable, coherent answers to these questions that I don’t think Atheists can answer.”

Smock, who often speaks in Speakers Circle and travels to different campuses across the country, defended himself against critics who call him intolerant.

“I am intolerant of evil,” he said. “I am intolerant of sin, idolatry. So is God. Not that I want to deny people the opportunity not to believe, but I’m warning them of the terrible consequences if they choose not to believe in God.”

Muscato, a junior who is also an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church in Seattle, will debate opposite Smock. The church’s website advertises free ordination for all.

“I’m not trying to de-convert people,” Muscato said. “What I’m trying to do is show that the conclusions people like Brother Jed hold are not rational conclusions. Insofar as the evidence, logic and reason show, there’s no rational reason to believe that this stuff is factual.”

Muscato often debates Smock and his followers in Speakers Circle, but this is the first time they have had a formal debate at MU.

“I thought it would be beneficial for Christians to hear it in a more controlled situation than you have in Speakers Circle,” Smock said. “I don’t necessary hope to convince Dave (Muscato), but I’m sure a lot of people will be attend the debate who haven’t made up their minds.”

Last year, the two debated in front of about 50 people at Smock’s house, discussing “Why I Am A Christian” vs. “Why I Am An Atheist.”

“The problem with that is there’s not really a conflicting point,” SASHA spokesman Jeremy Locke said.

This year’s topic is “Is Christianity True?” — a topic both sides agreed was more debatable.

“That’s a really different topic than ‘Why I Am A Christian’ because you can believe something even if it’s not necessarily true,” Muscato said. “It’s a different topic, and I think we’re going to get a lot of mileage out of it.”

SASHA decided to sponsor the debate this year with hopes of providing a bigger and more conveniently located venue, Locke said. Organizers expect that college students, professors and administrators will attend.

“I once read an article about a survey of college professors asking them about what they think is the most important thing about the college experience,” Muscato said. “Over 90 percent of them said the most important thing is learning how to think critically. I think it’s important for people this age to learn how to think critically, to be exposed to different cultures. The better you know how to think critically, the better off you will be later off in life.”

But Smock says it is important for students to hear this information for educational purposes.

“I think there’s not much emphasis on religion and theology in the classroom,” he said. “This gives them the opportunity to hear the theology type of view."

Organizers expect the debate to be formal, but don’t anticipate any tension.

“We usually have good-spirited, thorough interactions while he is out there,” Muscato said. “I’m confident in my position that Christianity isn’t true. I don’t have to show that their claims are false, just that they are inconclusive.”

Smock said he is not nervous for the event.

“I’m confident that I have the advantage because I have truth on my side," he said. "So I don’t think I can lose."

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