Thursday, December 21, 2006

Godly Correctness

Mark Taylor of Williams Colleges writes in a New York Times op-ed today (reg required) about the time when "A student had claimed that I had attacked his faith because I had urged him to consider whether Nietzsche’s analysis of religion undermines belief in absolutes. The administrator insisted that I apologize to the student. (I refused.)" Obviously, demanding apologies for perfectly legitimate academic discussions is wrong. But I wish that Taylor had offered more specifics. For example, what is the name of the administrator, so that we can hear the other side of the story? Taylor adds, "Distinguished scholars at several major universities in the United States have been condemned, even subjected to death threats, for proposing psychological, sociological or anthropological interpretations of religious texts in their classes and published writings. In the most egregious cases, defenders of the faith insist that only true believers are qualified to teach their religious tradition." What are the examples of death threats being made? And where have demands for true believers been given any credence? Taylor's conclusion, that critical discussion of religious ideas will lead to less violent religious zealotry around the world, is noble but unproven. The religious nuts seem to be precisely those who refuse to engage in such discussions. But whether the religious nuts are gaining influence over teaching in secular American universities remains to be proven.

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