10/26/2008- The La Crosse Area Freethought Society (LCAFS) and the Campus Crusade for Christ co-sponsored a debate on the topic: “The Bible: Fact or Fiction? Is the Bible Reliable?” The two individuals that were selected to debate this topic were Dan Barker and Dr. Mark Chavalas. The event was held on Sunday, October 26, 2008, in the Valhalla auditorium of the Cartwright Center on the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse Campus. The event was a huge success, drawing a standing room only crowd, with the number of attendees estimated at over 800.
Dan Barker is co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation out of Madison, WI. He is a prominent atheist who used to be a pastor. After becoming ordained, Dan Barker served in a pastoral capacity in three California churches. For 19 years he enthusiastically participated in evangelical preaching, missionizing, evangelism and Christian songwriting. Dan has written more than a hundred Christian songs which are either published or recorded by various artists, and two of his children’s musicals continue to be best sellers around the world. After a period of intensive study and introspection, Dan Barker “threw out the bathwater and discovered there is no baby there.” His books include, “Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist,” and the newly released “Godless: How An Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists.” Dan, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), have been involved in the La Crosse area. Several years ago, the FFRF was involved in the case against continuing to allow the 10 Commandments monument to be displayed on public land in downtown La Crosse, and was more recently involved in the Holmen cross controversy.
Dr. Mark Chavalas is a member of the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where he has taught since 1989. He received his PhD at UCLA, where he specialized in ancient Near Eastern History and languages. He is particularly interested in relations between ancient Mesopotamia and Israel. He has participated in nine seasons of archaeological fieldwork in Syria, especially at the site of Terqa, an Amorite city on the Euphrates River during the mid-second millennium B.C. Among his publications are the co-edited “Mesopotamia and the Bible (2002)” and co-authored, “Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (2000).”