Philosophy and Religion
As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, I wanted to note something a bit curious.
Coach Brown asserts that professors like me are teaching our beliefs and, in particular that we’re teaching atheism:
"(It’s) the same way that the faculty, those professors in existentialism and philosophy are telling these same players, ‘There is no God. There is no right from wrong.’ When they get to my office at 2:30, I’m just de-programming all that stuff. I’m giving them my version, what I believe is the truth. Are we a university of diversity? A university of tolerance? Tolerate that,” Brown said to cheering.
Brown, of course, doesn’t know anything about me or my colleagues. Nor has he ever been in one of my classes. But anyone who knows me knows that I’m not simply committed to teaching my students how to think critically, as I said in a couple of my previous posts, but that I also don’t personally believe the things that Brown is so certain I believe.
First of all, I’m the director of the university’s human rights program. So the notion that I want my students to believe that “There is no right from wrong” is clearly mistaken on its face. I’m not clear how I’d run a human rights program if I adopted the perspective of relativism that Brown says he’s working so hard to combat.
But secondly, one of the big reasons I couldn’t possibly be brainwashing my students to abandon their faith is because I’m not someone who believes they ought to.
I’m a (fairly) observant Jew; I keep Kosher, I attend religious services every Saturday; I moved from Lincoln to Omaha so that I could participate in (and raise my children in) a vibrant Jewish community. In fact, I scheduled this post to publish on Saturday … but I’m not at my computer today.
Of course, none of that shows up in my teaching because my private beliefs have nothing whatsoever to do with my work.
I’m not attempting to teach my students to do what I do or believe what I believe. And when I teach Marx or Nietzsche, I’m not teaching them to believe what those philosophers believed. I’m introducing them to ideas and arguments with which they might be unfamiliar, and I’m asking them to think about and evaluate them.
In other words, I think it’s possible for students to learn something that challenges with their personal beliefs and not abandon those beliefs. And I think it’s sad that Coach Brown apparently doesn’t agree, and that he’s so comfortable dragging professors at his university through the mud in order to justify his own proselytizing.