Where the atheist got it right at University of Illinois

A debate between atheist and Christian authors on the topic “Does the Christian God Exist?” drew 1,200 people to Foellinger Auditorium at the University of Illinois last week. It comes as no surprise that we think Dinesh D’Souza, the Christian, won the debate, which was sponsored in part by St. John’s Catholic Newman Center and is summarized in a story in this issue.

But there was one comment by John Loftus, the atheist, that every Catholic should agree with, particularly as we enter Lent.

“This is really a very important question,” said Loftus of the evening’s theme. After stating that truth, Loftus’ views and ours pretty much parted company.

But here comes Lent, with its even more important follow-up question: “Since Jesus does exist, what does that mean to my life?”
Lent is a time to seek the answer. Yet as the meatless Fridays go by, some of us opt for a Christ-less Lent. We treat Ash Wednesday like New Year’s Day, making resolutions that may be personally beneficial — watching less television, giving up a fattening food or two — but we ignore the meat of Lent, which is a deeper relationship with Christ.

Speaking on Ash Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI gave his answer to the “What does Jesus mean in my life?” question in one word: conversion.
Our lives have to change.

“Conversion means to change the direction in life’s journey, not by making tiny adjustments, but by an authentic and real about-face,” said Pope Benedict. The Lenten season calls Christians to turn ourselves fully over to Jesus, he said, who will reward us “with friendship with God and the grace that comes with it.”

Does the Christian God exist? It’s an important question, even to atheists. What does a “yes” answer mean to our lives? We would do well to debate that this Lent, and let the Lord win. — Thomas J. Dermody

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