"Harvard’s Crisis of Faith"

I read this article on Newsweek.com this morning and thought it was worth sharing. There […]

Sean Norris / 2.16.10

I read this article on Newsweek.com this morning and thought it was worth sharing. There is a debate on Harvard’s campus over whether or not the school should require undergrad students to take at least one class on religion during their time there. Read it here.

It is a helpful reminder of how the secular world views religion in general, and it brings up that wonderful old friend, the false dichotomy between religion and reason. Granted, I had a very hard time understanding the main points because I am closed-minded religious nut, and I don’t use my brain. Couldn’t resist;) Enjoy!

Some highlights:
– Steven Pinker, the evolutionary psychologist, led the case against a religion requirement. He argued that the primary goal of a Harvard education is the pursuit of truth through rational inquiry, and that religion has no place in that.

– In Pinker’s view, human progress is an evolution away from superstition, witchcraft, and idol worship—that is, religion—and toward something like a Scandinavian austerity and secularism. (Pinker is one of those intellectuals who speak frequently about how sensible things are in Europe; one suppresses the urge to remind him of the Muslim riots in the Paris and London suburbs.) A university education is our greatest weapon in the battle against our natural stupidity, he said in a recent speech. “We don’t kill virgins on an altar, because we know that it would not, in fact, propitiate an angry god and alleviate misfortune on earth.”

– Harvard’s distaste for engaging with religion as an academic subject is particularly ironic, given that it was founded in 1636 as a training ground for Christian ministers. According to the office of the president, Veritas was only officially adopted as its motto in 1843; until then it had been Christo et Ecclesiae (“For Christ and the Church”).

– Harvard students are increasingly “churchgoing, Bible-studying, and believing,” says Jay Harris, the dean who administers the General Education program. “We have a very strong evangelical community. We have women walking around in hijabs.” The disinclination of the faculty to bring religion front and center puts teachers at risk of being radically out of step with their students.

– Sophomore, Ryan Mahoney said, “I do not think there would be any openness to discussing God in any of the classes I took last year,” he said. “But acknowledging the fact that religion exists and that it’s not lunacy to believe in God would be helpful.” To dismiss the importance of the study of faith—especially now—out of academic narrow-mindedness is less than unhelpful. It’s unreasonable.