Via the Huffington Post, we have a splendid example of what’s going on in American higher education these days. It comes in the form of an email written by one Dr. Charles Negy, a professor of psychology at the University of Central Florida. He wrote to the students in his course on “Cross-Cultural Psychology” on the subject of “religious bigotry,” a subject with which he clearly has some personal experience.
He starts off by telling his students some pedestrian things about the purpose of a university, developing critical thinking, yada yada, and then got where he really wanted to go:
Critical thinking is a skill that develops over time. Independent thinking does not occur overnight. Critical thinkers are open to having their cherished beliefs challenged, and must learn how to “defend” their views based on evidence or logic, rather than simply “pounding their chest” and merely proclaiming that their views are “valid.” One characteristic of the critical, independent thinker is being able to recognize fantasy versus reality; to recognize the difference between personal beliefs which are nothing more than personal beliefs, versus views that are grounded in evidence, or which have no evidence.
Those would include some of the most cherished beliefs of certain schools of psychology (some aspects of Jungian thought, for instance, are simply made up out of whole cloth, and even resembles some forms of religious mysticism), but that’s not what concerns him:
Last class meeting and for 15 minutes today, we addressed “religious bigotry.” Several points are worth contemplating:…
Students in my class who openly proclaimed that Christianity is the most valid religion, as some of you did last class, portrayed precisely what religious bigotry is. Bigots—racial bigot or religious bigots—never question their prejudices and bigotry. They are convinced their beliefs are correct. For the Christians in my class who argued the validity of Christianity last week, I suppose I should thank you for demonstrating to the rest of the class what religious arrogance and bigotry looks like.
Not being in the class, I can’t say what kinds of arguments his students might have used. The typical 20-year-old hasn’t had much practice with apologetics, after all. Sometimes they are simply reduced to sputtering, “but it’s the truth!” Not the most effective way to proclaim the gospel.
But I suspect that there might have been at least a few students who were able to actually marshall some evidence and some reasoned arguments. They might not have been the best, or the most convincing. But I think it’s evident that for their professor, it would not have mattered. What seems to have him exercised is simply that some of his students had the temerity to argue “that Christianity is the most valid religion.” Doing so, he says, is “religious arrogance and bigotry.”
Negy, of course, represents the religion of secular liberalism. In that faith, it is taken for granted (and rarely argued with evidence or logic, as Negy doesn’t bother to do here) that all religions are equally “valid,” which is to say that they perform some socially or psychologically useful function for their believers, though they have nothing to do with truth, and are impervious to either evidence or logic. As such, to argue that any particular religion more greatly conforms to the reality of the world, or to an objective standard of truth, is the highest form of heresy. And in the religion of secular liberalism, heresy is better known as “bigotry.”
It seems to have not even occurred to you (I’m directing this comment to those students who manifested such bigotry), as I tried to point out in class tonight, how such bigotry is perceived and experienced by the Muslims, the Hindus, the Buddhists, the non-believers, and so on, in class, to have to sit and endure the tyranny of the masses (the dominant group, that is, which in this case, are Christians).
I laughed out loud when I got to this part. Negy apparently does not know any real, live Muslims. If he did, he would know that among the Islamic faithful, the belief that Islam is the final, unquestionable, superior, and ultimate truth is universal. Judaism is called a “gutter religion” practiced by the offspring of monkeys and apes, while Christianity is similarly denigrated. Even among those who don’t stoop to inane insults of other religions (as I suspect none of the students to whom Negy wrote did), it is taken as a given that Islam is divinely revealed truth, and that doubting it is a slap in the face of Allah. Muslim student group on college campuses all over America act on that belief, and in many instances seek to limit or shut down debate that might call it into question. For Negy to label Christian students who argue for the superior “validity” of their faith “bigots,” and then hold Muslims up as people who would be justified to be offended by the claim, is the height of secular liberal arrogance and bigotry.
Moreover, this “let’s just put our fingers in our ears so we will not hear what we disagree with” is appallingly childish and exemplifies “anti-intellectualism.” The purpose of a university is to engage in dialogue, debate, and exchange ideas in order to try and come to some meaningful conclusion about an issue at hand. Not to shut ourselves off from ideas we find threatening.
Fine. So apparently a child is teaching this class. See, what Negy is doing is denigrating the belief–the idea–of some of his students that Christianity is the most “valid” of all religions. Moreover, he uses the ultimate secular liberal insult (“bigot!”) as a way of shaming those students into abandoning that belief, or at the very least not expressing it in class. So who is it really that is being “appallingly childish” and “exemplifying ‘anti-intellectualism’”? The students who wish to take a position of which the professor disapproves, or the professor who calls names when someone takes such a position?
Universities hold a special place in society where scholarly-minded folks can come together and discuss controversial, polemic, and often uncomfortable topics. Universities, including UCF, have special policies in place to protect our (both professors’ and students’) freedom to express ourselves. Neither students nor professors have a right to censor speech that makes us uncomfortable.
Except that at UCF, in Charles Negy’s psychology classes, the professor has the right to stick odious labels on beliefs that he does not share, and browbeat students into repudiating long-held and cherished beliefs. Nice indoctrination center you’ve got there, Doc.