Faith Column: Religious debate stirs up discussion in Wyckham
Religious representatives discuss avoided topics in an open-forum on campus
Secular Humanists of MRU and Power to Change MRU organized a debate in Wyckham House on Jan. 27. The debate included members from the Christian, Muslim and secular perspectives on campus. The discussion was designed so that each member could have the opportunity to share their beliefs and answer questions.
The discussion was facilitated by Art Kung, who is a Chaplain at MRU’s multi-faith chaplaincy. Kung introduced the speakers: representing the Secular Humanist perspective was Christine Shellska, a member of the board of directors and secular world representative for Atheist Alliance International; the Ahmadiyya Muslim perspective was presented by Umair Khan, an Imam at the Calgary Baitun Nur Mosque, who has spent nine months overseas serving missions; the Christian perspective was represented by Wesley Hynd, who works for Power to Change and has done mission work for a year. As Kung noted, the speakers were “sharing from their own personal perspectives and they are not by any means trying to represent the entirety of their faith or non-faith.”
What is your perspective on the meaning of life?
Shellska: “I don’t believe in an afterlife. We’re aware of our own mortality. We plan our lives around death. The best we can do is to make the most of the time we’re granted.” Shellska said she believes we should strive to inspire the people we leave behind.
Khan: Khan explained that as mentioned in the Quran, “the purpose of a Muslim’s life is to live in this world in a way that he tries his best to recognize God and have a real relationship with him.”
Hynd: Hynd believes that developing a personal relationship with God is key in his perspective on the meaning of life. He elaborates and explains that we can create our own purpose, but we won’t ever be satisfied to the fullest because we are not the creators of ourselves.
What is your perspective on the nature of humans — are we inherently good or inherently evil?
Shellska: She refrained from using the word evil, as it is a religious term, opting for “bad” instead. Impulses to do bad can be explained through science — such as a problem in the brain, Shellska explains. “I don’t hold a position whether we’re good or evil or good or bad,”
Khan: God has designed us so that “the human soul will recognize if it’s doing right or doing wrong.” Khan quoted the Prophet Mohammed: “every child is born in a pure and innocent state. It is up to the society and the environment and especially his parents to teach him wrong or right.”
Hynd: “The Bible says that God created us to be good. We are intended to be good, but we are not.” Hynd elaborates and suggests that we as mankind are broken, and are a mix of good and evil.
What is your perspective on morality?
Shellska: “Treat everyone the way you want to be treated,” is a rule that Shellska believes in. With the use of science and technology, we should strive to create the best quality of life for people, she says.
Khan: “Humans have natural instincts. When your natural instincts are aligned with reasoning, and are used at the proper occasion and time, that is what high morality is .”
Hynd: “Who [God] is would define what is morally right for us, and who He is not would define what is morally wrong. Humans have this sense of what is right and wrong and we call it conscience. God designed us with this sense, says Hynd, who clarified that Christians don’t believe that other people don’t have a sense of morals.
What is your perspective on sexuality? What is sex for and why should there be or not be any restrictions on sexual behaviours?
Shellska: “[Sex] is a convenient way to procreate. It’s a really healthy way for people to express their intimacy, affection and love for one another,” but it must be consensual and between those in age of consent.
Khan: “Sexuality is part of human nature, but Islam teaches that sexuality is only good when it is controlled in the form of committed relationship known as marriage.”
Hynd: “God created sex for multiple purposes,” such as procreation and enjoyment. “It’s not only physical, but actually spiritual as well” Scientifically speaking, the most sexually satisfied people are those within marriage, he adds.
What would it take for you to reject or change your current faith or non-faith perspective?
Shellska: “Scientific evidence and personal observation of a miracle.” However, if she were to witness a miracle, Shellska said she feels she may think her brain is deceiving her.
Khan: “The day Jesus Christ comes back from the heavens physically to earth, I promise every single person that I will say my belief is wrong and I will accept exactly whatever he says.”
Hynd: “I believe that if the answer is ‘nothing’ we have a serious problem. If there’s literally nothing that would change my perspective then I’m not actually really willing to follow evidence to the roots.” It would take evidence to change Hynd’s views, he says.
After the event, the Secular Humanists MRU facebook page announced that they had an audience of over 70 people and the public discussion was a huge success. They thanked all who attended and stated, “what a beautiful standard of dialogue we have set.”