Christophobia: Confronting the Problem of Religious Discrimination on Campus

I came across an outstanding article regarding religious discrimination on school campuses written by Paul Copan.  An excerpt from the article is below. Paul is quickly becoming one of my favorite philosophers/apologists.  His material is oustanding.  I just finished his book entitled, True For You But Not For Me, and will be posting a review soon. 

by Paul Copan

SYNOPSIS

“Western universities claim to promote religious diversity and freedom of speech, but in practice Christianity is often ridiculed or censured. Openness to discussion and debate over matters of truth has been replaced with a religious pluralism that argues “all religions are the same” and “religious truth is subjective.” All religions, however, are not the same; they make radically different and exclusive truth claims about the nature of ultimate reality and of humankind. The Christian who recognizes this fact and rejects religious pluralism is often singled out for censure — all viewpoints are considered equal, except Christianity.

How can Christians and non-Christians approach the spectrum of religious claims fair-mindedly and for the common good? We must begin by understanding the true meaning of tolerance and religious pluralism. Tolerance has come to mean the acceptance or “celebration” of all views as true. True tolerance, however, recognizes the real difference in religious truth claims, yet allows others to think differently. All persons are equal, but all beliefs are not equal. Moreover, the fact that many religious beliefs exist (religious diversity) does not mean that they are all true (religious pluralism). People with different religious views can coexist, but only by understanding and exercising true, respectful tolerance can we avoid errors that censure Christianity and blur the real differences between religious truth claims.

American Enterprise recently exposed the myth of political diversity on university campuses. Departments at Harvard and Cornell, for example, have one or no faculty member on the political “right” but several dozen on the political “left.” At the University of California in Santa Barbara, the ratio across five departments was 1 (“right”) to 72 (“left”)! The study concluded that there is “a wider — and freer — cross-section of human reasoning and conviction in the aisles of any grocery store or city bus.”1

When it comes to religious diversity, Yale University law professor Stephen L. Carter has observed “a trend in our political and legal cultures toward treating religious beliefs as arbitrary and unimportant, a trend supported by rhetoric that implies that there is something wrong with religious devotion. More and more, our culture seems to take the position that believing deeply in the tenets of one’s faith represents a kind of mystical irrationality, something that thoughtful, public-spirited American citizens would do better to avoid.”2 The common opinion is that the devout can pray and worship as they wish, but they “should keep their religious ideas — whether good or bad — to themselves.”3 This mindset treats religion as a personal hobby rather than something foundational to one’s life, permeating and informing all that one does both privately and publicly. The result is that religious thought is marginalized or censured.

One former Harvard student recalls the silence she encountered regarding the most fundamental religious truth: “I had become deeply disturbed by many of my classes in which we were never able to ask whether or not there is a God. A student who is never challenged to ask such questions may be a student divorced from the possibility that a God exists, and that in knowing a loving God we might find the purpose of human existence.”4

Where religious ideas are discussed, an unwritten orthodoxy says, “All religions are basically the same.” Some academics, especially those in religious studies departments, say, “We affirm all religions,” but I would submit that religious beliefs are affirmed only if they do not “rock the boat.” The one heresy on university campuses is orthodox Christianity. The Christian who rejects religious pluralism and who maintains that public reasons (i.e., objective evidence) can be given for God’s existence and for the historical Jesus is singled out for censure. Why? Because she has rejected the default position that religious truth is purely personal and subjective.

There is an anecdotal story of a professor who, on the first day of classes, would hold up a Bible and ask incoming students, “How many of you believe this is the Word of God?” After several students had raised their hands, the professor would toss the Bible out an open window and say, “That’s what I think of your Bible.”5 Whether or not this actually happened, the current environment is such that it is conceivable. What would be the reaction, however, if the book was the Qur’an or some feminist book or Karl Marx’s Capital? The campus would be up in arms! The environment is that of George Orwell’s Animal Farm — all viewpoints are equal, but some are more equal than others. The message is, “Be sensitive to every group on campus — except Christians. Don’t insult anyone — except Christians.”

Islam is defended as a “peaceful religion,” but when one raises questions about Muhammad as a warrior, the history of Islam (remember, the Crusades responded to Muslim aggression!), the condoning of religious militancy in the Qur’an and Islamic traditions, and the miserable human rights track record of most Muslim countries, one draws the accusation, “Islamophobic” — while the truth and implications of such claims are never discussed. (There exists no parallel charge such as “Christophobic.”)

In light of such double standards, I offer some observations about religious diversity as well as suggestions as to how Christians and non-Christians might approach the spectrum of religious claims fair-mindedly and for the common good. This will help us avoid two errors: singling out Christianity for censure and ignoring the essential differences between religious truth claims.”

To read more click here.

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