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April 12, 2013

Atheists and agnostics to hold Reasonfest

Third annual gathering will present debates on religion on KU campus.

The Society of Open-Minded Atheists & Agnostics (SOMA) at the University of Kansas will be holding its third annual Reasonfest convention next weekend.

The free conference at Alderson Auditorium in the Kansas Union is for those with no religious affiliation, those questioning religion or those just curious about the atheist experience.

Michaelyn Everhart, society president, said 300 had registered so far for the event. “Last year, the average was about 350, and some talks draw a lot more.”

This year’s Reasonfest theme is “Modern Morality: Making Ethical Decisions in a Secular Society.” An interfaith panel on the evening of April 20 featuring Christian, Muslim, Jewish, atheist and Hindu representatives will discuss how each worldview approaches morality and take audience questions about their views on various moral issues. Keith Lowell Jensen, a nationally touring comedian, and Shelly Segal, an Australian singer-songwriter, will perform after that.

A 2-on-2-style tag-team debate titled “Moral Combat: Atheism vs. Christianity” will be held April 21 in the afternoon. Nationally known atheist speakers J.T. Eberhard and Matt Dillahunty will compete against John-Mark Miravalle, a doctor of theology at the School of Faith, who offers classes to University of Kansas Students at the St. Lawrence Center. He will be joined by his father, a professor of theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio.

Before the debate, Nate Phelps, previously of Westboro Baptist Church, will speak about his experience in leaving the controversial group and offer advice on dealing with the group.

Events begin at 9 a.m. both days. Attendees are encouraged to bring at least one nonperishable food item, hygiene product, over-the-counter medication, new or gently used clothing item, or children’s toy or book for donation to the Harvesters food pantry and the Lawrence Community Shelter. For more information: Reasonfest@gmail.com.

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