Does God exist? Gentlemen, you have two minutes

The leaders of campus atheist groups debated with representatives of a local church over the age-old question.

Photo: Benjamin Trnka
Junyi Lee, campus president of Woodlawn's Living Hope Church, speaks at the "Are There Good Reasons to Believe in God?" panel in Stuart Hall on Monday evening.

Stuart Hall was abuzz with talk of sin and science Monday evening, as religious and secular community members tackled one of life’s most contentious questions: Are there good reasons to believe in a god?

In a debate hosted by the Spiritual Life Council (SLC), the faithful and the non-believing sparred over the historicity of holy texts and the ethics of religious institutions.

Arguing against the existence of a divine presence were Divinity School student Josh Oxley, whom the Spiritual Life Office brought on as a Humanist Adviser in 2010, and physics graduate student Ben Zalisko, who founded the Secular Student Alliance.

The pair went up against Brad Beier, a pastor at Living Hope Church in Woodlawn, and third-year Junyi Lee, the church’s campus president.

Lee began by presenting human dignity as a product of God’s creation, while Zalisko criticized religion’s monopolization of “moral high grounds,” arguing for ethics separate from religion. Zalisko also examined God’s existence through the scientific method, concluding that believers had not met the burden of proof.

In his rebuttal, Beier defended the validity and historicity of the scriptures as foundational documents and sufficient proof. He also characterized God’s existence as necessary in order to explain the social phenomena of sin, evil, and suffering.

However, Oxley asked the audience to focus on the talk’s central question and to avoid distracting questions, like “Is it pragmatic or beautiful to believe in a god?”

The debaters elaborated on the compatibility of religion and science, sources of morality, and shifting interpretations of religious texts, finally coming to a stalemate.

Many from outside the University turned out for the debate.

Khaldoun Sweis, a philosophy professor at Olive-Harvey College downtown, encouraged his students to go the debate for extra-credit. “I wanted my students to be exposed to critical thinking, especially about one of the most important questions of life,” he said.

Andrew Hulede, one of Sweis’s students, appreciated the engaging discussion. “The debate just spurred so many questions, and it just felt so good to know that these thoughts are still alive,” he said.

However, Griffin Jackson, a Harris School graduate student, said he wished that the debate had focused on larger issues. “The debate ended up getting trapped in and bogged down by irrelevant details—details that both sides should have just have acknowledged as non-falsifiable,” he said.

This followed similar debates from the Christian Fellowship, the Secular Student Alliance, and the Philosophy Club. Still, SLC President Philip, who moderated the debate, said he hopes to sponsor similar events incorporating other religious perspectives.


  • Ben Zalisko

    FYI, I’m a graduate student in chemistry and biochemistry, not physics.

    The full video for the debate can be found here:

  • zuma

    The following are the extracts to show the orderliness of the galaxies.
    a)The formation of each new galaxy would follow the same pattern that each orbits around its own centre base:
    Refer to the website address,, The second paragraph of the subtitle, Galaxy, mentions with the phrase, each orbiting their galaxy’s own center of mass. Or in other words, when a first galaxy was formed in this universe in the beginning, it orbits its own centre of mass despite their irregular shapes of design. When the second galaxy was formed, the same pattern would appear that each would orbit each own centre base. And so on and so forth. For instance, if the first galaxy would be generated by Big Bang theory, it would not be possible that all the stars or planets or whatever that are within the galaxy would orbit each own centre base from the beginning especially this was the first galaxy that was formed and no substance would have existed before its formation. If the first galaxy were formed through Big Bang theory, all the planets or stars or whatever that are within the galaxy would be moving in the mess with disorderly manner without guidance instead of orbiting its own centre base if nothing would be controlling the formation of the universe. The outcome (that each galaxy would not be created in such a nice manner that each would orbit its own base) is that there would be a possibility that the stars or planets or whatever within each galaxy, that were created, would fly all around the universe without guidance and even to the extent that they would crash with each other to cause ultimate devastation of the universe so much so that our earth would turn up to be not in secure place. How could Big Bang Theory be able to create the first galaxy in the beginning so much so that all the stars or planets or whatever that are within this galaxy would orbit its centre base especially no substance should have been existed prior to the formation of first galaxy? How could Big Bang theory be able to create the second galaxy and the subsequent ones to follow suit the first galaxy’s pattern that each would orbit its centre base? Besides, how could the Big Bang Theory be able to create multiple galaxies in such a way that the creation of each new galaxy would maintain a distance from the old galaxy so as to avoid crash with another easily?
    The orderliness of the formation of galaxies ever since its first formation to be that each would orbit each own centre mass, gives the signal that something must have existed in the creation of the universe to ensure their unique movement . Religious people call it God.
    b)Each time when a new galaxy has formed, the same pattern would occur that something would hold this galaxy together with another so that it would not turn the whole universe into a mess and scientists call it to be gravitational force.
    The following is the extract from the third paragraph of the category, Milky Way, from the above website:
    ‘In 1750 the English astronomer Thomas Wright in his An original theory or new hypothesis of the Universe, speculated (correctly) that the galaxy might be a rotating body of a huge number of stars held together by gravitational forces, akin to the solar system but on a much larger scale. The resulting disk of stars can be seen as a band on the sky from our perspective inside the disk.’
    If this universe were created by Big Bang theory, the first set of galaxy would turn up to be in the mess that it would not give any warranty that all the stars of planets or whatever that are within the galaxy to orbit its own centre of mass. Besides, when the second set of galaxy would be created in the next, it would not give any warranty that it would follow the first galaxy to orbit its own mass centre and it also would not warranty that the universe would hold these two sets of galaxies together in continuity. And so on and so forth. If this universe were created by Big Bang theory, the first set of galaxy would turn up to be in the mess in hitting against each other. The second set of galaxy, that would be created, would be worse than the first without revolving around its own centre of mass but flying around the universe with random order since nothing would hold these two together. And so on and so forth. There must be something that is in control for the creation of this universe. Religious people call it God.
    c)When a new spiral galaxy is formed, spiral arms would rotate its own centre with angular velocity. Despite there would be some step-back to alter its own velocity, it would still return to its original velocity and yet the same pattern, angular velocity, maintains to beautify the universe. Besides, most importantly it would return to its own velocity whenever something has caused it to accelerate its speed.
    The following is the extract from third paragraph under the sub-title of Spirals in the same website address as mentioned above:
    In spiral galaxies, the spiral arms do have the shape of approximate logarithmic spirals, a pattern that can be theoretically shown to result from a disturbance in a uniformly rotating mass of stars. Like the stars, the spiral arms rotate around the center, but they do so with constant angular velocity…As stars move through an arm, the space velocity of each stellar system is modified by the gravitational force of the higher density. (The VELOCITY RETURNS TO NORMAL after the stars depart on the other side of the arm.)
    If the spiral galaxy were created by Big Bang theory, it would not give any warranty that the first creation of the existence of spiral galaxy would result in velocity to return to its original speed after its acceleration due to some prior influence. What if the spiral galaxy would not return to its original velocity, the spiral galaxy would keep on increasing its speed whenever its speed is influenced by other factor. The whole spiral galaxy would turn up to be in disaster since it keeps on increasing its speed non-stop without reducing its speed to original stage. The forever increasing speed for spiral galaxy would cause its heat to rise up and even be burnt up eventually.
    There must be something that would control the speed of spiral galaxy so that its speed would not rise beyond control or be over heated. Religious people call it God.
    The above show that the nature reflects the existence of God.