Monday, January 30, 2006

The Enemy of Truth

I used to think we could co-exist with the religous folk. But frankly, I'm starting to doubt that possibility.

Here's Richard Dawkins: can't judge by example. We don't judge Christians by Hitler's claim to be one, and it is equally irrelevant that many Christians, like many atheists, are nice people. The point is that faith, even moderate faith, is pernicious because it teaches that believing something without evidence is a virtue. Moderates, as Sam Harris shows in his devastating book, The End of Faith, "provide the context in which scriptural literalism and religious violence can never be adequately opposed". Or, in Voltaire's words, "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities". One of my TV locations was a London school that follows the (American) Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) syllabus.

The day after watching my show, three colleagues told me they had interviewed, for a place at university, a young woman who had been taught (not at the same school) using ACE. She turned out to be the worst candidate they had ever encountered. She had no idea that thinking was even an option: her job was either to know or guess the "right" answer.

And you know, he's right. I see this with many of my students, students who are bright enough -- some of them are very bright -- but have home-schooled by well-meaning, intelligent fundie parents. I get them into freshman comp, where I'm meant to be teaching them critical thinking and how to evaluate texts, and it's hopeless.

"You've got to argue with the text," I tell them. "You've got to read against the grain. What's not being said on the page?" I say, and the fury and dismay builds in their eyes, because that is wrong, wrong, wrong. They do not argue with the text. They do not challenge the authority of the text. The authortity is paramount. The authority is there to lead them to righteousness, it has been given to them by God, it's not something to be challenged.

And I'm an agent of Satan, to suggest any other thing.

Or, you know, a Leftist.

Same thing.

Well, how am I meant to educate -- turn into thinking beings -- people who have minds cast in that mold?

And who want to keep that shape to their minds? Because most of them do. They like that worldview. They cling to it. They've come to the university not to be enlightened -- Good Gosh, no! -- but to get a degree in cleaning teeth, or in keeping books, or something that will let them buy their own Hummers, like Jesus means them to, somewhere down the road.

They have no interest at all, in other words, in critical thinking. Or in challenging the text. Or in challenging any sort of authority.

Educate these folk? Influence these folk? Don't I wish.


Anonymous said...

If you make a difference in just one mind, you have succeeded I know for I am one of them! :)

zelda1 said...

WE are studying Paradise Lost and while most of the ten students in the class seem so cool and so in the know, one is even a proclaimed agnostic, but they do not open their eyes when it comes to the Bible and the ideal that God is the bad guy. One student even announces her degree in undergraduate is the old testament, so I'm thinking she may have gone to one of those John Brown type universities, but she wants to argue the text, and tries to argue the text, but in the end, she believes the myth. And don't say myth, never say creation myth, oh my gosh, I just did a major sin. They are not comfortable with that. And the good and bad twins in reference to god and satan. Noooooo, oh my gosh, another bad bad sin. Oh well, that's the way the cookie crumbles.