Dr. Ed Buckner, an atheist educator, said his public conversation with UWG professor and Christian Dr. Daniel Williams isn’t likely to resolve anything.
“It won’t be a matter of coming to the ‘right answer’ that is conclusive, since there are so many alternative religions and points of view that no one is fully knowledgeable about,” Buckner said. “Not every side will be presented — that would be impossible.”
The discussion, titled “Christian Origins in the Light of History: An Atheist and a Christian Discuss the Evidence,” is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday in Kathy Cashen Hall on the UWG campus. Dr. Lori Wilson Snaith, a senior lecturer in English at UWG, will moderate the event.
Williams said he hopes attendees will benefit from the discussion, particularly those who are questioning their beliefs.
“I want anyone who is questioning the credibility of Christianity or who is investigating questions about Jesus Christ as a historical figure to come to this,” WIlliams said.
Instead of engaging in a formal debate, the two speakers will openly discuss substantially different perspectives and conclusions on the effects of history on Christianity.
“We’re not calling it a debate because it won’t be a contentious, hateful event — we’re looking more for a thoughtful discussion between us,” Buckner said. “I’m looking forward to a civil, but interesting, discussion.”
Williams agreed, saying he will avoid taking any “cheap shots.”
“There will not be any personal attacks,” Williams said. “I will try to understand his perspective, but still present my convictions. I’m not looking to score some cheap shots.”
The two were connected when Williams saw Buckner make a presentation at UWG recently.
“During his presentation, he made a statement that his decision or conviction to be an atheist stems from his academic or historical studies,” Williams said. “I thought that would make him a good fit for this discussion and that he would benefit students the most.”
The discussion will give each participant a chance to present his own perspective on the historical evidence regarding Jesus, the origins of Christianity and Christianity’s place in history, particularly American history. Both Buckner and Williams will make 15-minute presentations. They will then have an additional five minutes to respond to the opposing view. To conclude the event, the audience will have the opportunity to ask questions after what promises to be a lively and informative discussion.
“He will make the first and last statements,” Buckner said. “He has the burden of proof on his shoulders, so the discussion will essentially be under his control.”
Both participants hope that people on the opposite side of their view attend the discussion, to hear another side of the issue.
Both speakers are accomplished authors and educators.
Buckner, who has a doctorate in educational leadership from Georgia State University, is a board member and former president of American Atheists. He is also the co-author of “In Freedom We Trust: An Atheist Guide to Religious Liberty.” Buckner resides in Smyrna and has spoken hundreds of times across the nation and in Great Britain.
Williams is an associate professor of history at UWG and author of “God’s Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right.” He teaches courses on the history of Christianity and American religion at the local university. He received a Ph.D. in history from Brown University in 2005 and has been a professor at UWG since 2005.