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Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012 1:33 a.m.

Pastor, skeptic clash in God debate

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Rev. Carter Griffin outlines his "rational reasons why God exists" at a GW Catholics-sponsored debate in the Marvin Center Wednesday night. Elise Apelian | Hatchet Staff Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Juliana Tamayo.

No one can blame Rev. Carter Griffin and John Shook for not settling Wednesday night’s debate question: Is there a God?

Griffin, a Roman Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, and Shook, director of education at the secular nonprofit Center for Inquiry, participated in a heated two-hour discussion in the Marvin Center Grand Ballroom about religion, morality, science and the existence of God.

The debate was sponsored by GW Catholics and moderated by Associate Dean of Students Tim Miller.

Griffin said he looked to outline “rational reasons why God exists.”

“Why is this not a delusion? Why is this not just a projection of what we want to be? We have to look at our evidence,” Griffin said. “We have to look at what science is telling us, what the cosmological arguments are telling us, what design and beauty are telling us.”

Griffin encouraged people to make up their own minds about religion and the question of God, but wanted to use his voice to push back against doubters.

“My experience has been that there is a prejudice against Christianity, so I think it’s important to try to present a rational and articulate alternative,” Griffin told The Hatchet before the debate.

Shook, on the other hand, pointed to human suffering as a pathway to skepticism toward religion.

“Life is a great risk, and evidence [of God] is scarce – if there is a God, she couldn’t blame us for being skeptical,” Shook said.

While Griffin acknowledged that questions linger for God’s existence, he said faith is rewarded by enabling meaningful lives.

“I’d say the Christian narrative is the one that actually gives meaning. God doesn’t cause suffering and evil, but he does hallow it with the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Griffin countered.

A central point of the debate was the basis for morality, with Shook defending non-believers for maintaining a strong moral compass. He also argued that religion has not kept up with cultural and scientific progress.

“It’s strange how this mysterious guy can suddenly be so noble when it comes to morality,” Shook said, referring to God. “Atheists know rape is wrong. For all times and all humanity, people have known this, and atheists are no different. A great authority can’t define morality because authorities change, scriptures change.”

Shook described himself as a “skeptical atheist,” saying he wasn’t looking to go out of his way to disprove God’s existence, but it was what evidence led him to believe.

Dan Grossano, a missionary with the GW Newman Catholic Student Center, said that while he thought Shook was too abrasive during the debate, he still credited him for making sound arguments.

“It was kind of more of a tie. Both sides had good points to make. I don’t feel like there was an overwhelming winner. I think Dr. Shook had better points to make, but it wasn’t an overwhelming victory,” Grossano said.

  • Skeptical Atheist

    I think to call it a tie is pretty unfair… despite me being fairly biased I’d say that Dr Shook was far more willing to push Rev Griffin’s buttons and most neutrals in the audience would agree that Dr Shook came out on top.

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