The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
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Sara Hummadi, Video Editor • May 18, 2024
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Reflecting on a semester of debating

As our weekly column on religion draws to a conclusion, I thought it might be useful to reflect on why Michael and I took up this challenge in the first place.

Last semester, I was writing a weekly column in which I was a sort of lefty apologist. The idea was that every political issue has two sides worth debating and that both perspectives were equally valuable. I disagree wholeheartedly with this media perpetuated myth of “false balance,” so perhaps it was a bit hypocritical of me to participate in such a debate.

Moreover, I drew plenty of criticism. As a liberal, I’m used to people on this campus disagreeing with me. But beyond that, I could tell that I was boring a lot of my readers because I was more or less making the same point every week. Now, plenty of journalists get paid to say the same thing every other day; just look at Tom Friedman and Paul Krugman. However, if people really weren’t getting anything out of my polemics, I felt that such disconnect was a failure on my part.

Then, of course, my good friend and brother Michael confronted me, telling me he was sick of agreeing with the points I made every week and that he wanted to take me to task. So this semester, we decided to forego those insurmountable political discussions in favor of an equally insurmountable topic: religion.

Ostensibly, a weekly column where an atheist and a Christian have an intellectual sparring session might suffer from the same brand of “talking heads” syndrome that people mocked me for last semester. And indeed, I got considerable flak from my readers this time around about effectively saying the same thing every week again.

Perhaps one of the most valuable lessons I learned from this exercise is that, at a certain point, there really is a gap that we atheists and Christians simply cannot bridge in our philosophical discussions. Like it or not, Michael and I will simply never agree about the meaning of life, or the nature of objective morality without the existence of God. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t have a civil and interesting conversation.

Even more importantly, these weekly discussions have proven to me just how often we can agree in spite of our differences. In the years since Michael and I have become friends, it is positively frightening how often I have found myself agreeing with him about contemporary ethical issues. Christians and atheists have quite a bit they might never agree about, but we share a common denominator: a fundamentally human search for the good life. Even when we most vehemently clash, the universal nature of the human condition ties us together.

Lastly, I found this opportunity valuable because it was a chance for me to air a perspective that often goes ignored. Lefties have their own TV network; atheists, on the other hand, are not able to make their voices heard unless they are particularly loud and obnoxious (a certain Oxford biologist comes to mind). I wanted to show people that rational nonbelievers do exist and they have a voice worth expressing.

I have no doubt Michael and I will continue these debates. Whether or not they take the form of more Daily Campus op-eds is up in the air. Regardless, I’m proud of the discussions we had. I stand by all the pieces I wrote, and I have found each of Michael’s opinions especially valuable. I hope our readers found our exchanges as enlightening as I did.

Bub is a junior majoring in English, political science and history. 

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I have enjoyed the opportunity to engage in conversation with Brandon Bub this semester over a broad range of topics. It stands as a reminder to me that it is always refreshing to find others who want to ask ambitious questions and search for answers together even if we end up at divergent points.

There is no better place to find like-minded people than in a university setting. Challenging assumptions and breaking new ground intellectually and spiritually characterizes a meaningful collegiate experience. Instead of begrudgingly engaging in academic work (of which I myself am guilty), we should wholeheartedly embrace the chance to delve into big questions about love, God, morality and truth.

Bub and I have attempted to create bits of thought on these various topics, while sincerely holding onto our beliefs. We hold drastically different religious beliefs, yet we are able to come together to discuss common concerns of pursuing the good life.

Avoiding those who think differently, politically, religiously or otherwise, we severely hinder our own development and the wisdom and knowledge we may be able to lend to others.

I appreciate the Daily Campus giving us the space to have this discussion, which, admittedly, is not the typical content of the paper. This is probably due in no small part to our preconceived notions about the subjective and personal nature of religious beliefs. However, they are not merely subjective and personal, but communal. Our beliefs affect others and often make claims that can be examined in light of reason and facts. Thus there is an imperative to make sure that what we believe not only feels good, sounds good or is reasonable to us, but manages to interact in civil ways with the beliefs of others.

While Bub and I, more or less, disagree or hold different views on everything we have discussed this semester, we can at least joke with one another about each other’s views, poke fun and challenge in congenial ways.

Generosity, compassion and a posture of humility pervade all of our discussions.

Richard Dawkins, Westboro Baptist Church and Islamic extremists lack the willingness to engage to understand, to love and to revel in the common human experience.

Instead, these parties seek to destroy the other with words or weapons, all of which are horribly violent and undignified. If what we have embarked on this semester stands for anything, I hope that it is for the opposite of violence and ignorance.

As people graduate, take their final exams, and transition into summer plans, I hope that every SMU student is encouraged about life itself. What we do, say and think is important. Every action bears tremendous weight for our moral and spiritual lives, so we must live with an understanding of both our own finitude and imperfections and also the purpose for which we were created.

Dearman is a junior majoring in political science and philosophy.  

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