Believers, atheists to ponder age-old question: Is there a God?

By Megan Neff

Humanity has yet to reach a definitive answer, but UK students will get their chance at a forum tonight to ask, “Does God exist?”

Seven panelists will represent atheism, Christianity and Islam at the forum “Does God Exist?: Arguments from Both Sides,” tonight at 7:30 in the Student Center Small Ballroom.

Event director Bryan Kennedy, a journalism sophomore, said he cannot guarantee the forum will provide an answer to this age-old query but said he promises it will generate discussion within a diverse community. Kennedy is also an occasional writer for the Kernel.

“Especially in college, you’re around so many different people who don’t know what their feelings are for different things,” Kennedy said. “Somebody going against the normal, everyday religion is pretty interesting — it’s good to try to see where they’re coming from.”

The discussion aims to give students a better understanding of beliefs other than their own so they can build relationships with people and ideas that are unfamiliar to them, Kennedy said.

Two members of UK SHIFT, the Society for Humanistic, Intellectual and Free Thought, will represent atheism, along with Edwin Kagin, national director of American Atheists Inc., a national educational organization for


A university campus is an ideal place to host this type of discussion, Kagin said.

“A university is the place that people should be able to have an exchange of ideas without getting harmed for it,” he said.

Three students from UK Campus Crusade for Christ will speak for Christianity. Ben Hornback, a member of CRU, agreed to be on the panel because he said the Bible calls on Christians to defend their beliefs.

“It’s something that a lot of Christians and a lot of people in general just don’t do,” said Hornback. “They don’t know why they believe what they believe. They’re told what to believe and they just kind of accept it.”

A member of the Muslim Student Association will represent Islam.

One of the atheist panelists, UK SHIFT founder and president Adam Leedy, said his organization endures attacks from many religious angles.

“We are constantly painted as amoral, anti-American, angry militants or any other negative description you can think of,” Leedy said. “We are really just normal people who happen to have our own ideas about religion.”

According to the 2008 Statistical Abstract, 77 percent of adults in the United States identify with the beliefs of Christianity. Less than one percent is reported to identify with Islam and one percent with atheism.

Despite its majority, Christianity also suffers from misconceptions, Hornback said.

“Occasionally in intellectual conversations, people say, ‘Oh, you’re Christian. Clearly we should stop talking because it’s going to be over your head,’ ” Hornback said.

Kennedy said he will moderate the forum but hopes the audience will have its own questions to further the discussion.