BYU Professors Meet with Atheists for Panel Discussion

Below is the link to my latest article with the Student Review.


I had to be objective and impartial in my reporting for the Student Review.

Now that I’m on my blog, however, I get to be opinionated.

1. I thought the panel discussion was largely a disaster. The original intent of the panel was to discuss and dispel stereotypes and myths about Mormons and atheists. It quickly turned into a debate, however.

2. The largely atheist audience members in attendance acted like children. I’m okay with applauding your “team” in a debate, but the audience had embarrassingly poor manners. Boos, braying, jeers, vulgarities, etc., came flying from the atheist crowd at the Mormon panelists on more than one occasion.

3. I felt like Joanne Hanks contributed next to nothing in the discussion. Most of her comments about her experience in a polygamous cult had next to no relevancy for what Mormons experience and how Mormons live their lives and how Mormons practice their faith. Not to diminish her awful-sounding experience, but rather to say there was no real reason for her to keep bringing it up as a club to use against Mormons other than to score rhetorical points.

4. I thought both Holzapfel and Haws did a good job. I’m of course biased since I know both of them, including Holzapfel very well, and am a Mormon, but I actually think they held their own, given the hostility of their audience and the attacks by Silverman.

5. I’ve got to hand it to David Silverman. He’s passionate, and he’s not afraid to speak his mind. There’s something to be admired about his candor. It also seemed like he actually wanted to learn more about the Mormon practice of baptism for the dead. He was also fair, at times, in making sure Holzapfel and Haws got a chance to speak in the midst of the atheist crowd booing their responses. But then again, he’s clearly a dogmatist and a fundamentalist. He’s a religiously zealous atheist. He’s also breathtakingly insulting. According to Silverman, religious people are brainwashed dupes who are victims of childhood indoctrination. Poor theist wretches like me need to be saved by enlightened, noble, graciously condescending atheists like him and his group. It’s not merely a matter of honest, sincere, intelligent people having disagreements of opinion. Nope. We theists are sick, infected with the faith virus, and we need big brother atheist to save us.


I really had my hopes up for this event. I thought it would be a good opportunity for dialogue and discussion. It really wasn’t.

Too bad. Maybe next time.