Debate between Professor Avalos and Tom Short

Dr. Avalos, Religious Studies Professor, and Tom Short, professional preacher, debated morality on April 4.

Absolute, relative state of morality debated

By Zhaia Wineinger – Special to the Daily

Published: Thursday, April 4, 2002 2:00 AM CST
People contradict the moral laws they try to uphold, said an associate professor of religious studies.

The Rock and the ISU Atheist and Agnostic Society sponsored a debate between Hector Avalos, associate professor of religious studies, and Tom Short, national Christian speaker. Avalos and Short spoke to more than 300 people in the Curtiss Hall auditorium Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. on whether morality is absolute or relative.

Short and Avalos were each allowed a 20-minute opening statement followed by three alternating rebuttals.

Short began the debate by saying his goal was not to change anyone’s mind, but to induce a dramatic effect on the audience.

“We’re not trying to impose a view on anyone tonight,” Short said. “I’m hoping, I’m praying, that your life will be better as a result of tonight.”

Avalos, an atheist, opened his argument by defying absolute moral law and said Christians are not following Biblical laws. Avalos discussed the Fourth Commandment in the Bible, which states Christians are not to work on the Sabbath. According to the Bible this is punishable by death.

“Do you want to kill everyone who works at Wal-Mart on [the Sabbath] .?” Avalos asked Short.

Avalos used passages from the Bible to convey present-day punishments that are contradictory to the punishments God sets in the Bible.

“I feel [the passages Avalos used] are poor biblical interpretations,” Short said.

Short discussed instances of conflicting moral law. He said most people would choose “the lesser of two evils,” but that he prefers “the greater of two goods.”

“There are exceptions when there is a higher command to obey,” Short said.

Avalos referred to Short’s Web site, which cites Short’s beliefs that Hitler was not a Christian. Avalos quoted Hitler as saying he was fighting in the name of Christianity.

“If you’re going to call Hitler one of the most evil men of the 20th century, I hope you would call Martin Luther evil,” Avalos said.

Avalos said Luther approved of stealing from and killing Jews.

“This is the blueprint for the Holocaust,” Avalos said. “Hitler was only following [what Luther set out to do]. He just had better technology.”

Andrew Brodie, Ames resident, attended the debate but felt Short preached more than he debated. “Tom Short gave a good sermon,” he said.

Elana Walker, sophomore in Spanish, said she wasn’t pleased with the debate.

“Tom Short did a good job with why Christian morality is good,” Walker said. “But Dr. Avalos just tried to degrade Christian morality, and that’s not the debate I came to hear tonight.”

Copyright © 2009 – Iowa State Daily
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