Justin Vacula [the writer of this article], on behalf of the NEPA Freethought Society, has challenged religious individuals in Northeastern Pennsylvania to a formal public debate on whether any gods exist or if religion is needed for a person to be a moral individual. In the text of the debate challenge, Vacula notes that he “is an atheist who maintains that there are no good reasons to believe that any gods exist.”
The debate challenge has been published on Vacula’s website and in the opinion section of the Citizen’s Voice newspaper. Letters to the editor were also sent to the Times Leader and the Scranton Times-Tribune, but they have not yet been published.
A debate of this nature, which is quite infrequent in Northeastern Pennsylvania, will allow for a great educational opportunity. Questions relating to religion and morality are very important to consider and should be very relevant for people regardless of whether they are religious or not.
A person from Luzerne, commenting on the debate challenge in a letter published in the Citizen’s Voice titled “Caller for debate about God so much wants to believe,” notes that the debate challenge “sounds…like a cry for help” and also says that Vacula “wants so much to believe in God but needs assurances from others who do.” A letter like this is interesting because the writer has no evidence to suggest that his claims are true. Vacula also does not believe propositions on the basis of whether he likes them, wants to believe them or because they may be considered to be comfortable, but rather believes propositions because they accord with reality and have good reasons attesting to their truth value. This should be quite evident after reading the work published on Vacula’s website.
Rodney Collins, organizer and chairman of the NEPA Freethought Society, commenting on the debate challenge, notes that there is no need for belief in God in modern society and says that this debate needs to happen. Bill Dickerson, member of the NEPA Freethought Society, says “Religions have been given a free pass for too long. It is time we [atheists] start questioning these beliefs.”
Another NEPA Freethought Society member, Gwen Stewart, says “There needs to be awareness brought to the public that non-theists have value systems in our society.” A very common myth amongst some religious circles is that atheists have no foundation for morality or are otherwise immoral individuals because they do not believe in any gods.
Members of the NEPA Freethought Society and many others who are residents of Northeastern Pennsylvania are waiting for someone to debate Vacula. Although there is no shortage of religious individuals in Northeastern Pennsylvania with some qualifications to debate Vacula, none yet have accepted the debate challenge.