The massive postering effort of the campus Christian clubs almost went down for naught. A friend of mine saw the "Does God Exist?" posters plastered on railings, walls and bulletin boards and glibly read "Does 600 Exist?" Luckily, someone pointed out to her the correct understanding of the posters before she got too excited over the prospect of a sequel to Zack Snyder's 300.
Luckily for both the campus Christian clubs and the Freethinkers, enough people read the posters correctly and were interested enough in the actual topic to show up and fill the auditorium in Mac Hall. The debate over higher powers has been around, presumably, since the dawn of the human species, so one would expect the issue to get a little worn out and boring after a while. Apparently this is not the case. Neither does it look like there's going to be any kind of a consensus reached in the foreseeable future. But if actually coming to an agreement on the matter is not the motivation to put on events like this, what is the purpose behind them?
It's reminiscent of a sporting event -- albeit an intellectual, scholarly sporting event, without beer. As a fan of either one side or the other, you end up groaning in pain as your side trips and fumbles or you find yourself in a frenzied high as your team blows away the competition. Debates of this sort are verbal sparring matches aimed at the intellects of everyone involved. Though you may walk out proud of your team or aghast at their uselessness, you're not likely to switch loyalties as a result of the outcome.
Of course, the comparison can only go so far. Though there may be some die-hard fans out there who would disagree, it seems fairly safe to say that all things considered, it doesn't matter whether you cheer for the Riders or Stampeders. The issue of God, though, has rather more ramifications, as it's intimately linked to issues of morality and the afterlife, among other things. The people at the "Does God Exist?" debate seemed to grasp this, because while the debaters haggled over issues like the origin of the universe and the galaxy's suitability for life, the questions texted in by the audience had mostly to do with the origin of morality and virtue.
Is it rational to believe in God? In order to debate that properly, the term "rational" would first have to be better defined, as it was apparent that both the atheist and the religious debater understood the word differently. The atheist understood it in the same way someone placing bets at a sporting event would understand rationality -- that is, is it rational to put your money on a high school hockey team when they're up against the Flames? The religious debater understood it as someone betting whether or not a bullet is going to hit them. If there's even the smallest chance they're going to end up shot, it's rational to dodge. So what's the purpose behind debating the rationality of something when the term rationality has yet to be defined itself? Well, at the very least, it's a university tradition. But even if it doesn't make you change your mind on anything, perhaps someone will say something that sticks in your mind for the next 10 years before you know what to do with it. And isn't the point of university to make you think?