Existence of God to be debated at conference

By Ben Steelman
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Published: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 4:57 p.m.

A public debate over whether or not God exists will be part of an all-day conference Saturday at Thalian Hall.

The "Elephant in the Room" conference is being sponsored by the Archangel Gabriel Foundation, the Wilmington-based non-profit that is the parent company for Wilmington Catholic Radio WBPL, 93.1 FM.

Two sessions are planned, both open to the public. The morning session, beginning at 10 a.m., will pit atheist vs. Christian speakers. The afternoon session, beginning at 12:30 p.m., will explore divisions between Catholics and Protestants.

"This will be a civil dialogue, done in a spirit of respect," said Peter Lamporte, one of the organizers. "We want to put ideas on the table and have a respectful discussion of our differences."

The name "Elephant in the Room," he added, was chosen because the conference wants to deal with issues that are basic to most people but are seldom discussed.

Representing the atheist position will be Herbert Berg, a professor of philosophy and religion at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. An academic specialist in Islamic studies, Berg hold master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Toronto. His latest book is a biography of Elijah Mohammad, the longtime leader of the Nation of Islam movement in the United States.

The Protestant spokesman will be the Rev. Robert Zins of Charlotte, director of A Christian Witness to Roman Catholicism, an evangelical ministry that focuses on Catholics. A former member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and a convert from Catholicism, Zins holds a master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and has ministered to churches in Texas and Vermont.

The conference's Catholic spokesman will be John Martignoni, director of evangelization and stewardship for the Roman Catholic diocese of Birmingham, Ala. Founder and president of the Bible Christian Society and a Monday afternoon host on EWTN Live! radio, Martignoni has been involved in Catholic apologetics for many years. He founded Queen of Heaven Catholic Radio in Birmingham and has appeared on a number of Catholic TV and radio programs.

While in Wilmington, Martignoni will give a talk on "Apologetics 101" at 7 p.m. Friday at the parish hall of St. Mark's Roman Catholic Church, 1011 Eastwood Road. The program is free, but pre-registration is required. Those interested may register through

Ben Steelman: 343-2208


What: The Elephant in the Room Conference, a religious dialogue

When: 10-11:30 a.m. Saturday (atheist-Christian debate) and 12:30-3:30 p.m. Saturday (Protestant-Catholic dialogue)

Where: Thalian Hall, 310 Chestnut St.

Tickets: Free

Details: (626) 921-4961

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