Kyle ButtCOLUMBIA, S.C. (BNc)- A gospel preacher will debate a former Assemblies of God pastor turned atheist at the University of South Carolina.

Kyle Butt, gospel preacher and staff member of Apologetics Press, and Dan Barker, co-president of Freedom from Religion Foundation, will debate the existence of God Feb. 12, 2009.

The discussion will be held in the university’s Russell House Ballroom at 7 p.m.

Barker will affirm, “I know the God of the Bible does not exist,” and Butt will argue, “I know the God of the Bible exists.”

The debate is sponsored by the Pastifarians student group as a part of Darwin Day, said the FFRF website.

According to their Facebook website, the Pastafarians at USC are a “multipurpose organization for atheists, agnostics, skeptics, freethinkers and the collectively known ‘non-religious’ students at USC. Major goals and agendas shall include having like-minded fellowship, providing a supportive community for the non-religious, combating religious bigotry with comedic relief, promoting pride in our beliefs and convictions, safeguarding the wall of separation of church and state, as well as doing community service in the name of Humanism.”

The Freedom from Religion Foundation describes its mission as “an educational group working for the separation of state and church.” It seeks to promote what it considers the constitutional principle of separation of state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

The Apologetics Press website describes Kyle as a graduate of Freed-Hardeman University, where he earned a B.A. with a double major in Bible and communications, and an M.A. in New Testament. Currently, he serves in the Bible department at Apologetics Press and as editor of Discovery magazine. He speaks frequently around the country at youth rallies, lectureships and gospel meetings.

Kyle is author of A Matter of Fact, and co-author, with Eric Lyons, of The Dinosaur Delusion, published by Apologetics Press in 2008.

BNc asked Andrew Cederdahl, a second-year political science major at USC and President of the Pastafarians at USC, about the debate. Below are his replies.

BNc: How were the debaters chosen to represent their respective sides in the debate?

AC: The debaters were chosen based on their credentials and aptitude for defending their respective stances. We wanted to make this debate challenging to both the debaters as well as everyone in attendance, so our goal was to find the best of the best. I think everyone can agree that our choices of Dan Barker and Kyle Butt exemplify our effort to accomplish this.

BNc: Will other debaters participate besides the two mentioned above?

AC: No other debaters will participate, but the audience will have some allotted time for questions.

BNc: What type of format has been established for the debate and how much time will the discussion take?

AC: We will use a format that has been approved by everyone in advance, and we think it gives the best chance for both sides to adequately defend and dispute each proposition. Each debater will have one 15-minute introduction, one 10-minute rebuttal, one cross-examination period of five minutes, entertain audience questions for an equal amount of time, and deliver one five-minute concluding speech. The debate itself will last approximately one and a half hours.

BNc: Is the debate open to the general public?

AC: The debate is free and open to the public.

BNc: What are the objectives of the Pastafarians in sponsoring the debate?

AC: Because we are a secular student group, we have had full discretion about what we wanted to do and who we wanted to invite to our annual Darwin Day celebration. Instead of organizing an event and only including our secular perspective, we have decided that a real dialogue about religion in South Carolina is more important. All too often, religion is just assumed or internalized by the vast majority of our society. We want to challenge all people, including people of every faith and no faith at all, to examine their own convictions. We hope this will promote individualistic critical reflection and a better understanding of opposing religious ideologies rather than a tendency to merely demonize opposition.

BNc: Is this the first debate of this nature sponsored by the Pastafarians? If not, what other debates have been held?

AC: This is the first debate we have sponsored, but we have done several events in the past which have been designed to promote dialogue about religion. One such event was what we did for Darwin Day last year. We had a Christian biologist give a lecture and take questions about evolution and its implications on religion. This year, we also sponsored a showing of the documentary “Jesus Camp” and had an audience discussion about the activities portrayed on the film, with a presentation from a sociology professor on the characteristics of cults.

BNc: Will the debate be published in print or online, either in text, video or audio?

AC: We are still working out these details, but the debate will most likely be filmed and produced.

UPDATE: The debate may be viewed here. Kyle afterwards wrote “A Personal Note About the Darwin Day Debate.”