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Archive for Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Theologian touts ‘robust debate’

October 4, 2006

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Thanks to the Internet, it's likely that something theologian Os Guinness said Tuesday night on the Kansas University campus will reach someone - somewhere in another part of the world - who will be offended.

"We are speaking and we are listening to others speak all around the world," Guinness said.

That aspect of modern-day life - what Guinness calls the "global public square" - was one of the issues he covered in a speech to more than 400 people in Woodruff Auditorium at the Kansas Union.

Guinness said that in a time marked by culture wars, religious violence and "exploding pluralism," it's becoming more important for humans to learn to live together despite religious and ideological differences.

"It's going to be one of the key issues that affects the future of humanity," Guinness said.

Guinness is a Christian theologian, lecturer and author of 20 books who is of Irish descent but lives in Virginia.

He said his purpose Tuesday was not to argue for Christianity. Instead, he offered a challenge to audience members: to help the American experiment succeed, in part through promoting "tough, robust debate" about ideas and beliefs. It's critical, he said, for Americans to try to persuade others to their most deeply held beliefs rather than to coerce them.

"We have fundamental differences that are incredibly important, and they needed to be debated," Guinness said.


More dialogue

As part of the ongoing lecture series "Difficult Dialogues at The Commons," Christian theologian Os Guinness will take part in a discussion at 10 a.m. today at Kansas University's Hall Center for the Humanities conference hall. The series is a joint venture of the Hall Center and the Biodiversity Institute. Tuesday's speech was co-sponsored by Kansas Public Radio.

He said leaders of both sides in America's culture wars aren't debating each other and instead are "talking about the other side to their own side."

He criticized the Christian right and suggested that the push for a Christian-oriented state at the expense of other religions actually is causing more Americans to reject Christianity.

"They have no public philosophy," he said. "They have no vision of the common good. : They're producing the very rejection they fear."

Guinness said discussion of religion in the public arena should not center on which religion is true or correct; instead, it should focus on the implications of everyone being able to have his or her own beliefs.

"The right to believe anything does not mean that anything anyone believes is right," he said.

That's a point that resonated with audience member Greg Urban, a 20-year-old KU junior from Broken Arrow, Okla.

"You can't put the Bible against the Quran and say one's better than the other," he said.

Philip Baringer, a KU professor of physics and astronomy, said he thought Guinness was a dynamic speaker. Baringer attended in part because he's been involved in debates about the teaching of intelligent design in classrooms - a topic that's put Kansas in the international spotlight in recent years. Baringer said Guinness' call for civility hit home.

"People don't know how to give an argument," he said. "They just give put-downs."

Guinness' speech, co-sponsored by Kansas Public Radio, was part of an ongoing lecture series dubbed "Difficult Dialogues at The Commons." The Commons is a joint venture of KU's Hall Center for the Humanities and the Biodiversity Institute.

Guinness will take part in a dialogue at 10 a.m. todayat the Hall Center's conference hall.

Comments

Isaac McPheeters 7 years, 5 months ago

Kodiac, The reason I said that Mr. Urban's quote was contradictory was because Guinness said that he is a Christian, hence he believes the Bible is better than the Kuran (though he said that a government shouldn't favor one over the other).

As for the statements, the quoted words are from him and came from my notes.

As for my comment about the left, I confess I was not specific and was unclear (especially since I know some conservative Christians who are politically in the left sphere). But Guinness did say that there are some people in the left who are trying to defend freedom of religion but are in essence moving closer to making atheism the state religion. There are also those in the right who would like to make Christianity the state religion (though I myself have never met any). His point was that neither should be the case and people should have the right to express their beliefs anywhere without fear of persecution or harrassment.

Finally, in reference to your disagreement with the idea that "someone has to have certain beliefs to have morality or discern what is best for the common good.", that doens't make sense. Of course a person needs to have beliefs to be moral. That person may not be a Christian or religious in the common sense of the word, but a person must have beliefs to be moral.

He pointed out that one of the questioners missed his point. One of the professors asked him what purpose religion served, saying that all the good things religion has accomplished can be accomplished without religious beliefs. Mr. Guiness didn't deny this was possible; he just said "Show me". He wanted to see a group of atheists go out and try and tackle the AIDS problem and events like hurrican Katrina by setting up relief centers and donations in the same way that religious organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation army are doing. I hope I've made myself more clear this time.

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Kodiac 7 years, 6 months ago

Alethia,

These are interesting points and I thank-you for pointing them out. I do not agree that the Urban quote "contradicts" Guinness. I do however question the relevancy of this quote to what Guinness is saying. It also seems like you are attributing statements to Guinness that are not contained within this article. It would help to know what your references are or what source you are citing. I also robustly disagree with the comment that Guinness makes about the liberal left trying to make atheism the state religion. As a person considered to be left of center, I find it insulting that someone would accuse me of being an atheist. In fact I would challenge Guinness to define what he means by liberal left and what percent of that group actually consider themselves to be atheists. I would also challenge him to explain the difference between trying to establish freedom of religion as opposed to "making atheism the state religion". I also disagree with the idea that someone has to have certain beliefs to have morality or discern what is best for the common good. I know many atheists who are I would consider to be morally upstanding citizens. Morality is not necessarily connected to any religion or set of beliefs which is what I think Guinness is implying here.

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Isaac McPheeters 7 years, 6 months ago

I must say this article is quite biased. Dir Mr. Guinness criticize "Christian fundamentalists"? Yes he did. But he was equally critical of liberal leftists.

He pointed out that the left (in an effort to keep the government from favoring a single religion) has attempted to make atheism the main religion which clearly goes against the first amendment. He also criticized the teaching these days that religion is a "private" affair and not to be involved in public life.

And I must say I am puzzled as to why Mr. Urban's quote is in this article at all since it is contradictory to what Mr. Guiness said. He was very clear that you can argue which is true. What he was saying that in a public square like Congress, it would be pointless to argue the "roots" of a person's belief who wanted abortion to be illegal or legal for that matter. Instead, we should argue the ramifications that belief will have on society so as to discern what is best for the common good.

If the writer of this article would like to email me, he is welcome to debate his differing view with me in a robust, civil manner.

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moderator 7 years, 6 months ago

It is always nice to see a Christian that does not desire theocracy. The neocons want state supported religon at the cost of individual freedom. No thanks.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

"a little dig at conservative Christians. Implicating that they are the main culprits."

In this country, they are, although not all conservative Christians are so intolerant.

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davisnin 7 years, 6 months ago

Yes yes a great example! 'Everyone should believe what I believe and there should be no discussion' is exactly what I said there. Thanks for pointing that out!!

I was referring to the article-

"He criticized the Christian right and suggested that the push for a Christian-oriented state at the expense of other religions actually is causing more Americans to reject Christianity.

"They have no public philosophy," he said. "They have no vision of the common good. : They're producing the very rejection they fear."

Guinness said discussion of religion in the public arena should not center on which religion is true or correct; instead, it should focus on the implications of everyone being able to have his or her own beliefs."

And by referencing that I meant, that either KU brought in an especially "progressive" "Christian" that speaks of it as a philosophy instead of the truth as he sees it, or that a perhaps balanced dialogue was referenced by Mr. Weslander in a way to give a little dig at conservative Christians. Implicating that they are the main culprits. And in either case the underlying bias would not be surprising from public universities or the media at large.

Sorry, I'll try to be less succinct from now on.

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JackKats 7 years, 6 months ago

So he has been reading LJW blogs! No arguments and only put downsl

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prioress 7 years, 6 months ago

"People don't know how to give an argument," he said. "They just give put-downs."

The heart of the matter, it appears to me. Our toxic culture encourages this and discourages dialogue. The Internet makes it worse, not better.

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Roadkill_Rob 7 years, 6 months ago

Amen davisnin! Good job of missing the whole point of his speech and providing an example of his argument at the same time.

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jcantspell 7 years, 6 months ago

davisnin im not sure what you mean pleas clearafi

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

That guy's an idiot. My God can beat up his God any ole day.

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davisnin 7 years, 6 months ago

So KU brings a "Christian Theologian" that seems to not actually believe it is the most correct religion and speaks out against other Christians? Or is this just the selective quote slant of the article? Either case wouldn't be surprising.

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