Being a new member of the community here, I’ve been listening to all of the previous POI podcasts and doing some subsequent reading by authors such as Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins etc. I’m starting to become a little more aware now of some of the ways religious ideas seem to still be ever-creeping into secular areas, especially education. A good example popped up today while reading the newspaper.
The following was excerpted from today’s [i:dc58aa3fdb]Tallahassee Democrat[/i:dc58aa3fdb]. It seems to be pretty representative of a benign (on the surface at least) idea to include into everyone’s college education the study of religion, or theology. I’m sure many of us who strive for a free, scientifically-based examination of any and all subject areas, including religion, wouldn’t necessarily disagree with with this goal, and the author here almost seems to be ascribing to this ideal—at first. The second and third paragraphs in the following excerpt reveal the true nature of the author’s proposition, that being to return the "truth" of religion to a student body desperately in need of the moral guidance that only religion can supply, via it’s "forms of reasoning unavailable through other disciplines." He further goes on to say that this reasoning "says there’s a truth out there that defines the reality of the world we live in. A scary thought" Funny, but I always thought that scientific inquiry had been doing that for a long time now. The prospect of equating the religious "truth" as a reasonable alternative to scientific inquiry is the truly scary thought.
It’s easy to dismiss this kind of thing as clueless but harmless, however it automatically gains some credibility just due to it’s publication in the first place. This also seems to me to be yet another example of how this insidious mindset persists and is growing in scope.
I plan to put together a letter to the editor regarding this column and its general ideas, but my first thought was to bring it up here and get some thoughts on this kind of thing from the forum. What do you all think?
[i:dc58aa3fdb]The Tallahassee Democrat[/i:dc58aa3fdb] - Originally published January 27, 2007
Excerpted from [i:dc58aa3fdb]Bringing religion back into higher education [/i:dc58aa3fdb]by community columnist Chris Timmons
"What we need at universities today is not only a grounding in liberal arts, but religion, that which orders the whole man to love, decency and contemplation of truth. Isn’t the university the center of civilization’s knowledge and desire for truth? Isn’t the university designed exactly for the high aim of forming the right people for the tough task of maintaining civilization? Theology, although relegated to the dustbin, is the basis for Western civilization’s understanding of liberty and democracy. The real tragedy is that the university is supposed to be a place with democratic forms of doing things embedded in its function. Instead, it has become an insular, monologue-driven clique of academics talking past each other, obscuring reason and debate, and rejecting serious claims to alternate forms of reason while making everything else equal by throwing away truth.
Bringing theology back into the debate in higher ed gives students a real chance at learning to explore forms of reasoning unavailable through other disciplines. It encourages integrity, character and respect. It says there’s a truth out there that defines the reality of the world we live in. A scary thought.
By the way, it propels learning on a scale and in a way that is more diverse than the narrow specialties that produce the miseducated careerists. While theology may never again be taken seriously at the university, sometimes we have to remind ourselves of its benefits. Theology is plainly necessary for living, as Matthew Arnold would say, "steadily and whole."
The full text of this column can be found at http://www.tallahassee.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070127/OPINION05/701270304/1006/OPINION