Cambridge Forum and the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard welcome Greg Graffin, the lead singer and songwriter for seminal punk band Bad Religion, as he receives the 2008 Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism. The award, which was given last year to novelist Salman Rushdie, is sponsored by the Humanist Chaplaincy and Harvard Secular Society. Graffin, who is also a life sciences professor at UCLA and an expert in religious belief among scientists, will speak about his experience in music and science and his views on humanism in general, ideas which he discusses in length with history professor Preston Jones in the book Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant?: A Professor and a Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism & Christianity. Graffin will follow his acceptance speech with an acoustic performance and a question and answer session.
Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant? follows the extraordinary correspondence that ensues when Preston Jones, a history professor at a Christian college and a fan of Bad Religion’s music, sends Graffin an appreciative e-mail on a whim one day. For several months, Jones and Graffin send e-mails back and forth on big topics like God, religion, knowledge, evil, evolution, biology, destiny and the nature of reality. Jones believes in God; Graffin sees insufficient evidence for God’s existence. Over the course of their friendly debate, they tackle such cosmic questions as: Is religion rational or irrational? Does morality require belief in God? Do people only believe in God because they are genetically predisposed toward religion? How do you make sense of suffering in the world? Is this universe all there is? And what does it all matter?
In this engaging book, Jones and Graffin’s actual e-mail correspondence is reproduced, along with bonus materials that provide additional background and context. Each makes his case for why he thinks his worldview is more compelling and explanatory. While they find some places to agree, neither one convinces the other. They can’t both be right. So which worldview is more plausible?