By Jantine Wignand
After both of the speakers had given the audience a warning during their personal introduction — that if you were religious and did not want to be offended and if you were an atheist and did not want to be touched by the love of God, you’d better leave the room — the Veritas Forum 2017 promised to be an interesting evening. During an event like this, two speakers with an opposing worldview engage in a debate revolving around a central theme. This year’s topic was ‘The Perfect Formula: What makes for a successful life?’ and the two speakers were Dr. Peter Roelofsma and Dr. Floris van den Berg. The forum was moderated by Dr. Jaap Hanekamp.
During the debate, Dr. Roelofsma, professor of Psychology and Cultural Studies at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, represented a Christian world view. Although he wasn’t raised in a Christian family, Dr. Roelofsma felt the desire to explore the supernatural later in his life and now works as a campus pastor. The opposing world view was embodied by Dr. van den Berg, professor of Geosciences at Utrecht University, who described himself as “an atheist but also an anti-theist” and generally referred to religion as “stupidity.” Being raised a Catholic, Dr. van den Berg became an atheist during his time at university. Currently, he is interested in humanism and Zen-Buddhism.
To introduce the topic, the speakers were asked whether they considered themselves a successful person. Dr. Roelofsma referred to his community: as long as Christian migrants were still being persecuted and he could not solve this social injustice, he did not consider himself to be successful. Dr. van den Berg also had to admit that he was not successful, because his goal to stop the animal holocaust and make the Netherlands the first society that is completely vegan, had not been accomplished yet. After this introductory question, the speakers reacted to several statements concerning success, extracted from sources ranging from the Bible to social media. One statement that sparked a lot of discussion was ‘Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.’ Dr. van den Berg noted that the definition of ‘things that (do not) matter’ is very subjective. He illustrated this by saying that while some people might find rich soccer players very successful, he could not care less. Dr. Roelofsma emphasized that you should “dare to be a fool” when you would want to become successful in innovative subjects, such as science, and that being successful at futile things, such as brushing your teeth, could also be very rewarding.
After the discussion of the statements, members of the audience could ask the speakers some questions. The lively discussions that followed were continued in Elliott in a more informal setting. Although The Perfect Formula for success had still not been discovered, the Veritas Forum 2017 certainly was a successful event.
Jantine Wigmand, Class of 2017, is a cognitive science, linguistics and psychology major from The Hague, the Netherlands.
Featured photo: LENSE