After Debate, Atheist and Christian Defend Free Speech Against Gay Activists

On April 16, I, Frank Turek, debated atheist Michael Shermer at Stony Brook University on the question: “What Better Explains Morality:  God or Science?”  Following the debate, the Graduate Queer Alliance at Stony Brook wrote a letter to the editor of the school newspaper wanting an apology from the university for allowing me to speak because I expressed my opposition to homosexual behavior and same sex marriage.  They also want shut down all future debate on such topics claiming that opposition is “hate speech.”  Dr. Shermer and I decided to issue a joint response to their false assertions and totalitarian demands.  Here it is.  

By Dr. Michael Shermer & Dr. Frank Turek

It’s not often that an atheist and a Christian, who have just had a debate on campus, can be brought into agreement by a group in the audience. But the Graduate Queer Alliance (GQA) at Stony Brook University has managed to do that. Their letter to the editor on April 30 was so full of false assertions and totalitarian demands that we, Dr. Michael Shermer (an atheist) and Dr. Frank Turek (a Christian), felt compelled to write this letter together in response.

The central assertion of the GQA is that anyone who expresses a negative opinion of same sex marriage or homosexual behavior is guilty of “hate speech” and should be barred from speaking at Stony Brook University. The GQA says this while also claiming to believe “that a university should provide an open forum for controversial ideas to be discussed and debated.” We both wonder how the GQA can hold these two contradictory opinions at the same time. After all, they say they are for the debate of controversial issues, but apparently only if both debaters hold the same position and that position agrees with the GQA. Some debate!

How is disagreement over controversial moral and political issues “hate speech?” If it is then GQA’s position is “hate speech” because it disagrees with people who believe marriage should be defined in other ways. Calling people names or characterizing their arguments as “hate speech” is not good public discourse designed to discover the truth; it is bullying—the very thing GQA should be against.

To demonstrate the oversensitivity of the GQA, you should know that our debate was not even about same sex marriage or homosexuality. Our debate was about whether God or Science better explains morality. As you can see for yourself in the debate here, Dr. Turek never mentioned homosexuality or same sex marriage in his prepared opening statement. Dr. Shermer brought up those issues in his opening statement as examples of what he believes to be moral progress (hence the title of this book, The Moral Arc). Dr. Turek expressed disagreement with Dr. Shermer’s point only when Dr. Shermer pressed him to comment during the cross-examination period. (Imagine, a debate where the debaters disagree!)

The true motives of the GQA are revealed by what is not in the letter: the arguments made by Dr. Shermer in support of same sex marriage, arguments he made with great passion that elicited equal passion—on both sides of the issue—from the audience. If those in the GQA are so interested in advancing their position through sound reason and science—which was Dr. Shermer’s point—why would they not highlight the arguments offered in support of it? Instead, the GQA seems to think they have a right not to hear an opposing opinion lest they be challenged!

It’s a shame that those in GQA appear so uninterested in evidence. Unfortunately for them, as the late Christopher Hitchens put it (and Dr. Shermer elevated to a principle, “Hitchens’ Dictum”, in one of his Scientific American columns ), “What can be asserted without evidence, can also be dismissed without evidence.” Instead of citing evidence, GQA attempted to smear the character of one of the debaters and now tries to silence all future debate by simply declaring that the major issues of our day have all been decided in their favor. Don’t bother debating anything. We know what’s right and you have no right to express your wrong opinion!

What’s also problematic is that none of the derogatory assertions about Dr. Turek made by the GQA are true. For example, contrary to the GQA:

  • Turek has not written a book that “derides gays.” His book on same sex marriage (which they obviously haven’t read) does nothing of the sort as numerous reviewers have observed. By making a derogatory judgment without knowing the facts, those in GQA are guilty of the very bigotry with which they falsely charge Dr. Turek.
  • Turek never said that gays have a choice in their sexual orientation. He believes the consensus view that the causes of sexual orientation are not entirely understood. But for him, the issue isn’t attractions—it’s actions. And we all are responsible for the actions we choose.
  • Turek made no parallel between homosexuality and a Nazi propaganda video. The video was shown in Dr. Turek’s opening statement, long before Dr. Shermer brought up the issue of homosexuality. The only purpose of the video was to demonstrate that Hitler thought natural selection gave him justification to kill the weak.

Finally, on the issue of tolerance, it appears that GQA only wants to tolerate ideas they agree with. That’s not tolerance. That’s totalitarianism. You can only tolerate ideas you disagree with. Moreover, you will never learn and grow (the essence of a university) if you hear only one side of any issue. As Dr. Shermer points out in The Moral Arc by quoting same sex marriage advocate Jonathan Rauch: “Good ideas outcompete bad ideas in the marketplace of free exchange.” Now that’s a good idea rooted in the very foundation of a free society.

Unfortunately, GQA is expressing a totalitarian impulse to silence all opinions that dissent from their own. As a free people, we must not adopt such an unlearned, intolerant and unconstitutional position. This atheist and Christian agree with same sex marriage advocate Andrew Sullivan who wrote against this totalitarian impulse this way: “If this is the gay rights movement today—hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else—then count me out. If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us.”

Speaking Engagements in Texas For Your Diary

Last week I had two opportunities to speak in the Carolinas. At Winthrop University, South Carolina, I presented the case for the historical credibility of the New Testament. At a church in Winston Salem, North Carolina, I also had the opportunity to give a talk on intelligent design. Both events were well attended, and we had a lively Q&A following my talks. The picture below is from my Winthrop University presentation on the New Testament:

For those who were unable to make my talks, there will be at least a further two opportunities to hear me in Texas. In both cases, I am going to be presenting the case for the historical credibility of the New Testament.

On Saturday, August 30th, at 7pm, I will be presenting at Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, TX, in room W202. An online map can be found here. A campus map is also available here. It is really easy to get to the room: parking is available on the second story of the parking garage on the west side of the church and then, as you go into the W building that connects to the garage on that second floor, the room is immediately to the left as you walk in.

On Thursday, September 4th, at 8:30pm, I will be presenting for the Reasonable Faith chapter at the University of Texas at Dallas (full lineup of speakers available here), FN 2.102 (click here for map). Click on the FN building to get a map for that building. Click here for information on parking.

I hope to see some of you there. For more information, feel free to contact me on Facebook.

Top 100 Universities Go with Liberal Graduation Speakers

Most of our top universities continue their liberal leaning right through the graduation ceremony.  Todd Starnes provides a complete listing of university graduation speakers from Harvard on down. This despite the fact that many of these universities were founded by Christians on Christianity.

For example, Harvard, whose namesake was clergyman John Harvard, was founded to train ministers of the Gospel.  This is from a website affiliated with Harvard:

Harvard University was founded in 1636 with the intention of establishing a school to train Christian ministers. In accordance with that vision, Harvard’s “Rules and Precepts,” adopted in 1646, stated (original spelling and Scriptural references retained):

“2. Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisedome, Let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seeke it of him (Prov. 2:3).

3. Every one shall so exercise himselfe in reading the Scriptures twice a day, that he shall be ready to give such an account of his proficiency therein, both in Theoreticall observations of Language and Logick, and in practical and spiritual truths, as his Tutor shall require, according to his ability; seeing the entrance of the word giveth light, it giveth understanding to the simple (Psalm 119:130).”

The motto of the University adopted in 1692 was “Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae” which translated from Latin means “Truth for Christ and the Church.” This phrase was embedded on a shield as shown to the right, and can be found on many buildings around campus including the Widener library, Memorial Church, and various dorms in Harvard Yard. Interestingly, the top two books on the shield are face up while the bottom book is face down. This symbolizes the limits of reason, and the need for God’s revelation.

Consistent with “Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae” and the purpose of Harvard’s founding, our fellowship is dedicated to discovering and experiencing Truth (Veritas) for the sake of Christ and his church.

Is it any wonder why the majority of students fail to attend church during college and many walk away from Christianity permanently?  Students are fed liberalism throughout their college experience.

But why have our universities and much of our country gone liberal?  It’s not because the truth supports liberalism or is contrary to Christianity.  It’s largely because Christians went anti-intellectual and failed to defend the truth.  When you turn out the light, darkness is right there.

The Intolerance of those Fighting for "Tolerance"

This is an article on my I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist presentation that a homosexual group protested last night at Ohio University. Notice one student said that I shouldn’t be speaking because anyone opposed to homosexual behavior and same-sex marriage is “hateful.”  The people who say they are fighting for “tolerance” are often the most intolerant! All Americans– regardless of our moral or religious views– need to speak out against such totalitarianism before we are not able to speak at all.

Overall, the evening went very well.  Most of the protesters (whom I thanked for coming) stayed for the entire two hour presentation and heard the evidence for Christianity and the Gospel.  Despite the content of the presentation, the protestors  only asked questions relating to morality and homosexuality– nothing about the evidence presented for truth of the Bible.

The American University: Lockstep Liberalism

Surveys show that American universities are more likely to demand lock-step conformity to liberalism and secular humanism rather than championing the free exchange of ideas. In a column posted at AmericanThinker.com, recently-retired professor Ron Lipsman offers his first-hand observations:

“The overwhelmingly liberal atmosphere on campus is well known. In the one place in society at which there should be diversity of thought, exploration of conflicting ideas and a propensity to challenge conventional wisdom, we have instead a mind-numbing conformity of opinion and a complete unwillingness to entertain any thought or idea that deviates from the accepted truth. That conformity encompasses:

  • The legitimacy of virtually any program that promotes the interests of minority and female faculty, staff and students, even if the program is blatantly racist or sexist — justified by a belief that America’s past unjust treatment of blacks, American Indians and Japanese-Americans, and its unfair treatment of women render such discrimination necessary and lawful.
  • A multicultural mentality, which preaches that America’s Eurocentric, white, Christian heritage is responsible for colonialism, imperialism, racism and sexism, and that its replacement by a culture that “celebrates diversity” will transform the US into a more just and humane society.
  • A distrust of free markets and democratic capitalism, and its severe limitation in favor of a centralized, government-controlled economy that will redistribute the wealth of America more fairly.
  • A denigration of religious belief and its replacement by the “worship” of secular humanism, with mindless environmentalism occupying a central place in the new religion.

. . . I believe the liberal brainwash has been so effective on campus — and in the national educational system in general — that many in the liberal majority can’t even fathom that there is anyone who doubts the legitimacy of their point of view.

My final observation is the following. The liberal hegemony exists in many quarters of the country beside academia — e.g., the mainstream media, major foundations, law schools and the trail lawyers they produce, public school teachers, the Democratic Party, even big corporations. But none of these can maintain the atmosphere as effortlessly as campus profs and administrators. Politicians encounter opposition from their constituents; the media from its readers, listeners and viewers; trail lawyers from their clients; and corporations from their stockholders and consumers. But the educational establishment-both higher and lower-encounters little resistance. The students are ignorant, the parents are cowed, and Boards of Regents are cowardly. The ivory tower is alive and well in America and the intellectual product it presents is completely one-sided. What a tragedy for our nation and especially for its youth.”

The need for CrossExamined college events has never been greater.

Turek vs. Hitchens II, Debate Video

Thanks to Christopher for a second opportunity to debate.   The question of this debate is “What Best Explains Reality:  Atheism or Theism?”   Recorded at the College of New Jersey!  (Also available to view on line here.  If you’d like to order a DVD of this debate, click here).

Frank Turek vs. Christopher Hitchens: What Best Explains Reality? from Andrew Ketchum on Vimeo.

Salvo Magazine: Leftist Indoctrination on Campus

As you know, our ministry addresses the fact that 75% of Christian youth leave the church after leaving the home.  One reason for this is the fact that Christians are not equipped with the arguments for Christianity before they arrive in the generally anti-Christian environment known as the college campus.  Salvo magazine is one tool you can use to equip Christian students. For the next week you can download a free copy of this edgy and informative magazine at the blog of our ministry partner Stand to Reason.  Look for the July 31, 2009 entry called “Salvo Free Offer.”

In it you’ll find articles such as:

10 INDOCTRINATION 101
A new orthodoxy has a stranglehold on American
colleges and universities
by Mark Linville
26 PICK YOUR POISON
Academic bias is ubiquitous, but choosing the
right college can minimize the damage
by Les Sillars and John Basie
46 STATE OF THE U
Just how bad is the indoctrination at American
universities? We ask David Horowitz
by Marcia Segelstein
63 QUAD PRO QUO
“Here’s your money,” say today’s college students,
“Now give us our degrees!”
by Marcia Segelstei

and other topics including Hate Crimes, Naturalism vs. Supernaturalism, and Intelligent Design.   While I’ve only had a chance to read a couple of the articles so far, this publication looks extremely intelligently designed!  And right now the price is right.

Hitchens-Turek Debate

On Tuesday night, I debated atheist Christopher Hitchens, author of God is not Great:  How Religion Poisons Everything, at Virginia Commonwealth University. The topic was, “Does God Exist?” 

Thanks be to God (and to you for your prayers) because I don’t think the debate could have gone much better.  There were several atheists who approached me afterwards to say that I had won.  One young lady actually apologized for being an atheist!  Her position was not well represented, and she said that the arguments for God were. 

Hitchens was his usual charming and witty self (I really like him and said as much), but he did not answer any of the eight arguments that I presented for the existence of God.  And as many in the audience acknowledged, he dodged nearly all of my questions.  

Here is the introduction of a long e-mail sent to me two hours after the debate by a VCU Philosophy professor who attended (this professor told me that he is completely “non-religious”):

Dear Dr. Turek,  I wanted to say once again that I greatly enjoyed your talk and that, in my judgment, you clearly and unequivocally prevailed against Hitchens. Your two mind-body arguments were, I thought, very good, as were your modernizations of the cosmological argument and the teleological argument. I was also moved by your argument that, given how vanishingly close to zero are the chances of there being any sort of life, let alone intelligent life, it is more reasonable to infer that there is a God than it is to infer that there isn’t — the first an inference, but not the latter, being an ‘inference to the best explanation’, as philosophers of science would say. 

This is from a Christian student who has doubts:

My name is Jeremy and I was at your debate tonight. I will tell you what, you opened up a new can of worms at the VCU campus.  You have opened the eyes of many of the “atheists” that go to VCU and well, you did an amazing job.  You have really opened my eyes up a little bit more to the fact that God exists.  As a Christian, I still have my doubts sometimes.  I am not going to lie.  But by faith I believe.  Something that Mr. God himself Chris does not comprehend. (That was a great closing statement that you made)  But thank you so much for coming to Richmond and actually answering questions and having a reliable debate unlike Chris who beat around the bush and really bashed you when he did not have an answer.  People on the group said you did a good job and you made up some minds. 

Here is an account of the debate from an atheist and a Hitchens fan who was very disappointed:  http://rudyhenkel.livejournal.com/2726.html(Note:  This gentlemen erroneously thinks I do this for money.  My honorarium for the debate goes to CrossExamined.org. He also dismisses my arguments without answering them and mischaracterizes a few things, but he tells the truth about Hitchens.)

 

We video recorded the entire debate, and interviewed many who attended.  As soon as we produce the final version, I’ll let you know where you can see it (we intend to post it on You Tube and put it on our TV show).

Thank you again for your prayers and support.  Our next college event is September 23 at UNC Charlotte. 

CIA: Your Chance to Make an Impact with Christian Apologetics

If you have some expertise in the area of Christian Apologetics, we are looking for instructors to help us take I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist to students and churches around the country.  Greg Koukl and Brett Kunkle of Stand to Reason, and Jason Reed of Southern Evangelical Seminary will join me, Frank Turek, in leading the CrossExamined Instructor Academy (CIA), August 13-15 in Charlotte, NC.  Hank Hanegraaff, The Bible Answerman, will join us for a special Q and A on Wednesday night August 13.  This is a great opportunity for you to make an impact through apologetics. But hurry– the application deadline is June 24.  Click here for details.?

Atheists Have No Basis for Morality

Monday night at UNC Wilmington, despite no cooperation from the school (see my last post), just over 200 people showed up for part 1 of I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.  Several atheists asked questions– actually made statements– and struggled greatly when I asked them to offer some objective basis for morality from their atheistic worldview.   They kept trying to give tests for how we know something is moral rather than why something is moral.  One atheist said “not harming people” is the standard.  But why is harming people wrong if there is no God?  Another said, “happiness” is the basis for morality.  (After I asked him, “Happiness according to who, Mother Teresa or Hitler?,”  he said, “I need to think about this more,” and then sat down.)  This says nothing about the intelligence of these people– there just is no good answer to the question.   Without God there is no basis for objective morals.  It’s just Mother Teresa’s opinion against Hitler’s.

The atheists’ responses to the cosmological and design arguments– the arguments that show us that the universe exploded into being out of nothing and did so with amazing design and precision– were “we don’t know how that happened.”   This is simply an evasion of the evidence that clearly points to an eternal, immaterial, powerful, intelligent, personal and moral First Cause of the universe.   Since nature itself was created, this Cause must be beyond nature or “supernatural.” 

We got plenty of encouraging comments from the believers who attended. And there will be a lot more written about this event when popular columnist Mike Adams posts his next column later this week.  Just to give you a preview: during the Q&A Mike, who was our host, asked all faculty members to stand up.  Only one person other than himself did.  Out of 400-500 professors at UNC Wilmington– a school where the faculty claims to be champions of “diversity”– only two show up to a talk about the most important subject anyone could discuss (God)? Adams will have a field day with this.  Track his columns on Townhall.com here.

UNC Won't Allow Announcement of CrossExamined Seminar

Mike Adams, popular Townhall.com columnist and my host for tonight’s I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist talk at UNC Wilmington, reveals the anti-Christian bias in that school’s administration here.  They won’t even allow a post announcing the event on the the university’s “public” web bulletin board.   So much for the people who are supposed to be champions of tolerance, free expression, and diversity. 

This bias is one reason CrossExamined.org exists– most  college campuses indoctrinate students into an anti-Christain viewpoint.  That’s why someone from the outside (us) must come in to give evidence for Christianity, and even then it is difficult to get the most basic of cooperation from the administration.   I’m not whining, just stating facts. 

I’ll let you know how the event goes later this week.

Over 1500 Attend "I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist" at NC State

The CrossExamined “I Don’t have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist” tour visited NC State’s Reynold’s Coliseum on Thursday night February 7.  Over 1500 students attended the seminar which was hosted by Campus Crusade of NC State (http://clubs.ncsu.edu/crusade/).  My thanks to Mike Mehaffie and his CC team for their tremendous work in making the event a success.   The attendance far exceeded their expectations, and both Christians and non-Christians attended.  

Despite the fact that 75% of Christians leave the church during college, many of them appear to have a hunger for answers about God and Christ.  So do their atheist friends.  If you are a supporter of ours, thank you for helping us bring answers to college campuses.  

We are currently looking for a date to conduct Part 2 of “I Don’t have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist” at NC State, so stay tuned.   If you would like to bring us to your particular campus, please contact us by clicking here.

Over 2000 Attend "I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist" at ONU

Last week we launched our invasion of college campuses for the Spring with two major events at Olivet Nazarene University (ONU is a one-hundred-year-old Christian university about 80 miles south of Chicago, but it may be best known as the site for the Chicago Bears Training camp). I spoke to 1800 students and faculty at chapel in the morning and nearly 400 at a smaller venue that night.

Despite being a Christian school, there is a faculty member at ONU who has convinced many of the students to believe in evolution. I didn’t know that going in, but I sure stirred up a lot of controversy by making a strong scientific case for creation and intelligent design. Several questions during the Q & A period had to do with evolution. Afterwards, many of the students, and even some faculty members, expressed great relief to finally see compelling evidence for creation and intelligent design. One professor, who was visibly moved by the evidence, said, “Wow, you really expanded my understanding of God and his creation with the arguments you presented.” It’s always gratifying to affect the professors positively because they have an ongoing influence with the students.

If evolution has crept into even our Christian universities, you can only imagine what’s being taught at typical secular schools. It’s no wonder why 75% of our kids are leaving the church!

Two secular schools are next. We head to NC State on February 7th for an I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist seminar in Reynolds Coliseum from 8 to 9:30 p.m. The next day I’ll spend four hours taking questions, first from the Campus Crusade team and then from the students. A return visit to Appalachian State will happen Monday, February 25.

One more exciting note: our weekly one-hour TV show called I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist beings Sunday night, February 17 at 6 pm. on DirecTV Channel 378.  Now, we don’t charge students for college events, and we pay to produce the TV show and the CrossExamined website. That’s why we’ll only be able to help our kids see the truth if you continue to support us both prayerfully and financially. Please pray as we again enter the lion’s den, and make a high-impact donation securely by selecting Donate on the left. Thank you for partnering with us!