Discussion challenges thoughts on faith

A conversation centered around faith, humanity, and the intersection between identity and work sprouted at the Veritas Forum last Friday. Sponsored by the Rensselaer Christian Association, the Graduate Christian Fellowship, Alpha Sigma Phi, and Sigma Gamma Tau, “Is Science Enough?” facilitated an open discussion between two professors of differing faiths: Christian Professor Cullen Buie from MIT and agnostic Professor Amir Hirsa from RPI.

The forum began with brief introductions from each guest, speaking to his personal journey of faith. Buie described a turning point while picking up his brother from football camp at Ohio State University, which led to his discovery of engineering and a summer program by Multicultural Achievement Committee Scholars. After graduating high school, Buie enrolled in Ohio State, and became exposed to Christianity as a result of interacting with his roommate. Buie grew inspired by his roommate’s way of life and shortly thereafter converted to Christianity. He describes, “It seemed like an easier way to live,” and “Any success I’ve had is because of God.” Later, Buie narrated the day his sister suddenly passed away, and attributed his perseverance to his faith in Jesus, ultimately stating his strength in faith developed that day as a result of a family tragedy.

Following Buie’s’ emotional presentation, Hirsa presented his journey of faith in PowerPoint slides and light humor. He displayed a circle, representing roughly a hundred years of life expectancy and colored a quarter in to represent his faith as a Muslim. Next came a family tragedy, and another quarter piece to represent his faith as an atheist. In contrast to Buis’ response to a family tragedy, Hirsa reacted by retracting his faith. Following a rough estimate of 50 years, came a miracle, which Hirsa suggested was the birth of his children. The second half of the circle was labeled as “blissfully agnostic,” “hopefully optimistic,” and a question mark.

With a better understanding of the guest speakers, the conversation moved into various topics such as who you are versus what you do, money versus greed, and politics.

As these topics were discussed, the speakers provided agreeing answers. On the first topic, regarding how society values human beings, both professors agreed that society values individuals by their career, instead of who they are and what they have to offer. Hirsa continued with the idea that money is the cause of human corruption, as it defines human value. Buie clarified, “The love of money is the root of all evil,” quoting the Bible.

To conclude the forum, questions were collected from the audience and directed to the guest speakers. Questions fell along the lines of “Is human suffering justified,” and “What life event would cause a change in your faith?”

Both professors offered words of wisdom to the audience. Most notably, Buie noted, “We don’t have tomorrow guaranteed,” and Hirsa stated, “Constantly question what you think or what you believe… [it is the] only way to grow.”