Joseph An | In defense of religion
Honest-to-God | Religion and intellectualism are not mutually exclusive
March 1, 2012, 12:36 am · Updated March 1, 2012, 3:43 am·
Finding one’s place in college is a difficult task, but finding a place for one’s faith is even harder.
Most people that I’ve come across don’t mind that I’m religious, but they do insist that I don’t be too religious.
In fact, most of them think that it’s interesting (read: humorous) that a college student in the 21st century still believes things in the Bible. Since my faith is regarded as something interesting, humorous and nothing more, I’m expected to be able to put it aside once in a while.
To many of my interlocutors, my faith is acceptable so long as it serves to make me happy.
Last week, John Lennox, a professor of mathematics from Oxford University, spoke about faith — Christian faith in particular — to a capacity audience at Irvine Auditorium. Of the topics addressed that night, one that caught my attention was his exhortation to all Christians on campus not to assume the inferior position or the burden of proof in intellectual discourse about faith and God.
I wanted to tell Lennox that this is not possible at Penn. As my fellow columnists College sophomores Hayley Brooks and Ali Kokot so aptly noted, there is no such thing as intellectual discourse on our campus. An intellectual discourse about religion is even harder to find.
Last semester, I took a course with a professor who took jabs at religion every once in a while. He did as if to prove to the rest of us that he was of the intellectual, sensible variety of the human species. He would make passing remarks such as, “there are still people who believe in creationism, or the resurrection of Jesus. I mean, come on!” to which I nearly blurted, “and what’s wrong with that?”
If I had actually challenged him on the spot, I wonder if my professor would have elaborated on why these beliefs were ludicrous to him.
Most people cannot definitively prove or disprove things such as creationism or the resurrection of Jesus. What troubles me is that they don’t take the time to investigate and are quick to criticize religion as a departure from reason. This phenomenon is both the result of and the cause of a post-religious culture — where religion is seen as outdated and divorced from society.
When Pennsylvania declared 2012 the Year of the Bible, outrage ensued. Many politicians who had initially approved of the legislation subsequently retreated and apologized for their endorsement.
I personally don’t know what dedicating a theme year to the Bible would have achieved, but what concerns me is the public’s outrage against the slightest semblance of religiosity in our government.
What exactly was ruffling critics’ feathers? Were they not comfortable with controversy or do they just think that Christianity is wrong? If a merely symbolic gesture such as the Year of the Bible was rejected based on arguments about the separation of church and state, this puts religion in a perilous place.
The Veritas Forum event, where Lennox spoke, was wrought with similar wariness. Efforts were put in place to make the event inclusive of other religions and perspectives, but I think that Lennox couldn’t have cared less about whether he was being biased. According to him, we’re all born into some form of bias.
In a world with different systems of belief, our “reasoning” only serves to confirm or reject existing biases. It doesn’t prove anything. When an atheist claims to have used the tools of reasoning to “disprove” God, what he or she has really done is simply to confirm his or her biases against God. After all, it takes an equally great leap of faith to believe that God doesn’t exist.
Joseph An is a College freshman from Vancouver, Canada. His email address is email@example.com. Honest-to-God appears every other Thursday.