Letter to the editor: Avoid soundbite arguments, even in religion debates

Matthew Brown

In his column in the opinion section on Monday, Sept. 23, Michael Glawe discussed the fact that religious debates often include the speaker using a standard of truth (namely the Bible) that is not agreed upon by both sides. He laments that among the religious, there are no “true arguer[s], like Socrates” who reason from the ground up. While it is untrue to assume that there are no true arguers among the religious, I agree that there should be better intellectual discourse in the free-speech zone.

First, it is an observational fact of political or religious debate that both sides often use what are known as soundbite arguments. This is when a person will present their case in a short length and in a way that suggests that any further dialogue on the matter is unnecessary. These arguments are often hasty generalizations or are just plain fallacious, but it doesn’t matter. Often when you disagree with the argument, you are instantly written off as being unreasonable.

That being said, I believe that Glawe’s statement, “Evidence of [Socrates’] existence is about as loose as the existence of Jesus Christ,” is a similar soundbite. This point is not central to the main point of his article, with which I generally agree. It is thrown in as a quip for which no evidence is given. The existence of Jesus is not unimportant, but I will say no more on this issue other than that Glawe has assumed a burden of proof that must be supported with evidence.

This brings me to my second contention. In our discussions of religion, we must focus on the main issues rather than getting side tracked. The critical questions on which Christianity stands or falls are often overlooked. I argue that the core claims that are salient to discerning the truth of my religion are as follows:

1. God exists.

2. Jesus rose bodily from the dead.

Most people would agree that the probability of Christianity being true is significantly increased if these two propositions are true. It is these crucial issues that we ought to discuss in the free-speech zone, rather than the statements made in order to draw in a crowd.

Reasonable dialogue about religion is one of the things about college I have most enjoyed. Most noticeably, Fridays at the free-speech zone have been a place of dialogue between Christians, members of the Atheist and Agnostic Society and the various people who happen to walk by. There is indeed an intellectual case that can be made for Christianity. Just as the Apostle Paul debated with the philosophers of Athens, there are Christians today who are ready to give an answer to the skeptics’ honest questions. Regardless of what one believes, all students should work to seek truth with an open mind.