Post-Debate Follow-Up

Aporia, the student philosophy group, hosted a post-debate lunch on the Tuesday following the debate between Professor Walter Sinnot-Armstrong and Dinesh D’Souza about whether it’s possible for people to be good without God. Both speakers were invited, but unfortunately D’Souza was unable to attend.

More on the post-debate discussion after the jump.

The discussion began with the moderator asking those in attendance what they thought of the proposition. The room overwhelmingly agreed that yes, people can be good without God. One participant agreed, but stipulated that it is harder for the irreligious to be good than the religious: he elaborated that the religious find meaning in something other than themselves. Starting on a non-self-centered base immediately gave the religious an advantage in terms of being good. Another person countered that there was nothing more selfish than wanting to be with God.

Another interesting point was debated as the discussion turned to the Euthyphro Dilemma, a subject Professor Sinnot-Armstrong had brought up in the debate. The dilemma is simply this: is the good called good by God because it’s good, or is it good because God says so. If the first, then God is unnecessary in morality; if the second, then if God declared rape to be good it would be good. Those taking up D’Souza’s side in the debate attempted to dissolve the dilemma by equating God with good; to be not good is to be separate from God.

Professor Sinnot-Armstrong was mostly interested in discussing various bible verses that are at odds with more modern conceptions of morality. A favorite example of his was 2 Corinthians 14:34: “Women should be silent during the church meetings. They are not to take part in the discussion, for they are subordinate to men, as the Scriptures also declare.” Tensions rose and this was the only part of the lunch that was palpably heated as one participant, bible in hand, pointed to verses contradicting the aforementioned verse. Another claimed that this digression was radically off topic. As could be expected, very little was resolved.