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Monday, August 20, 2012

Academic Freedom and Freethinking Academics

Apolitical atheists don't understand why I expend so much intellectual energy on atheism. I understand their bewilderment. To them it must be like Seinfeld, a show about nothing. To an apolitical atheist, and by that I mean someone who is apolitical about their atheism although not necessarily on issues of class, race, gender, etc., the paucity of religious thought is self-evident. You might think it could be relegated unceremoniously to the scrapheap of history. Religion, however, is more tenacious than that and has earned for itself the most strident scorn that is routinely offered up by antitheists. As long as antitheists stop at coercive repression, any judgment that they have gone too far can be dismissed as a false equivalence between actual persecution and withholding the customary exemption from derision reserved for doctrines of a religious nature. Religion should stand or fall on its merits like any other institution. Far form being about nothing, atheism for me is about everything the religious mind must deny to preserve faith.

A friend and academic colleague pointed out that that my Facebook posts betray a preoccupation with atheism. She noted the puerile humor of some of the posts. For a moment it seemed our conversation had become an intervention if it hadn't started as one. If that was her objective, she was successful. Mind you, I appreciated the challenge to set a higher bar for myself and  value her opinion and her friendship. She made me rethink the way I expend my energy. I began blogging shortly thereafter to crystallize my thinking in the hopes of channeling it into worthwhile, publishable material.

My academic preparation has taught me to think critically. As a psycholinguist, I identify most closely with Sam Harris because of the cognitive perspective he brings to the table. You don't have to be a cognitive scientist to conclude that religion is an anathema to higher learning. You don't have to be a biologist to appreciate Richard Dawkin's derision of creationism, or a historian to understand Jefferson's secularism or a political scientist to note Emma Goldman's antitheism. You don't have to be a physicist to admire Carl Sagan's Humanism or a literary scholar to recognize Twain's skepticism or relish the rapier wit employed by Hitchens and Wilde to eviscerate theism. There is a point of entry from a variety of disciplines to make a substantive contribution to atheist thought. You only need to see the nexus between freedom of thought and a better world.

1 comment:

  1. I like the idea of upgrading our postings about religion from simple derision to rational, pointed critiques. Sometimes, however, a simple "WTF?" says it all.