Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Does God Exist? Friel-Barker Debate - Closing Arguments

The debate wound to a close with Closing Statements, Dan Barker first followed by Todd Friel.

"Hell is not reasonable justice," Barker began. He emphasized that we don't treat our children the way we are told that God will treat us. We don't send our children to the gas chamber for their faults, particularly for not flattering our egos. We don't even torture legitimate adult criminals. The punishment should fit the crime.

Barker potentially alienated the room by declaring that Friel's sermons might work for "weak believers." Sin, Barker explained, is an artificial concept invented by the religious. "If salvation is the cure for sin," Barker quipped, "then atheism is the prevention." By not acknowledging certain behaviors as sinful, an atheist has no need to feel guilty for those behaviors. While true, this can be misleading. Both believers and non-believers agree that murder, rape, theft, certain forms of lying, etc. are morally wrong even to the point of requiring punishment. Believers call these actions sins but they also include other strictly religious actions as sins, such as blasphemy and impiety. Naturally, atheism can be seen as a prevention of the second type of sin, not the first. By not emphasizing the difference, Barker left open the possibility that he is advocating licentiousness.

Barker ended his segment deploring Friel's arguments and declared that if Friel honestly believed what he said he did then he was both morally and intellectually bankrupt, a pointless and possibly ad hominem attack on Friel.

Friel ended the Closing Arguments segment with a long emotional appeal and contradicted himself repeatedly. He said he wasn't there to threaten us. He said he wasn't there to scare us of hell, then immediately said that we should be horrified by it. He never addressed Barker's objections that Hell is not reasonable justice or that infinite punishment for finite sins is morally bankrupt. Instead, he focused on his assertion that God has offered to save us from Hell.

According to Friel, God is merely a rescue worker offering to save us from a Hell that God has no control over. And yet again, according to Friel, Hell is real (despite that Friel offers zero evidence that Hell exists), God is not to be "trifled with" (another threat) and that if we are scared of Hell then that's a good thing. This despite the fact that he opened the exchange saying he wasn't there to scare us about Hell. So which is it?

"Lose the presuppositions," Friel pleads. In other words, just believe it. Don't think too much about it, just believe that you're a horrible sinner that offends God with every thought, but God magnanimously stifles his offense to offer us a means to overcome the fact that he's offended by us.

The question under debate was "Does God exist?" It was not, "Does Christianity offer value?" or "What does the Bible say about the human condition?" Barker began the debate refuting Friel's arguments but ended with emotional responses to Friel's dogma. Friel began the debate offering some evidence for the existence of God and ended it with a plaintive altar call to accept his narrow flavor of Christianity: "God should give you Hell but he offers you Heaven and if you will call out to him, he will hear you . . . Think of Jesus Christ dying for you, which will crush your heart and lead you to godly sorrow and repentance." All unproved assertions. What Jesus Christ, a crushed heart, or repentance have to do with the existence of a supernatural deity is left unexplained.


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