Good commentary from The Emerging Scholar’s Blog (InterVarsity) on an article that appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education on respecting the rights and identity of atheistic students.
An interesting essay in the Chronicle Review, “Atheist Students on Campus: From Misconceptions to Inclusion,” (link) by Kathleen Goodman and John Mueller, argues that universities ought to do a better job of acknowledging and embracing atheist students. In a secular university, atheism has as much a place as any other philosophical or religious persuasion, I suppose, and I can imagine situations in which Christians on campus should defend the rights and inclusion of atheist students and faculty.
One of the authors’ suggestions struck me as unusual, however. They recommend that universities:
“Ensure that atheists can, like other students, explore their inner development. By inner development, we refer to the process of examining and living one’s values, ethics, meaning, and purpose. Campuses should provide the same opportunities for atheist students that they provide for students who identify themselves as religious or spiritual.”
In my observations, universities today don’t offer much in terms of “inner development” at all. Many historians have noted that a defining trend of American universities over the past 150 years has been a move away from character development and integration of life and learning as an educational mission. There is work being down on campus in these areas, but it is the work of student organizations, including InterVarsity chapters, not of the university itself.
Dallas Willard often points to the decline of moral knowledge in universities in his talks and writings. Unless you’re fortunate to have one of the rare professors who is willing to address real-life moral and character issues in (and out of) class, you won’t get much help from most secular universities in these areas.
Of course, I agree with the Chronicle writers that atheist students should have the same rights and opportunities as any other student.
I’d be interested to hear anyone else’s observations.