April 9, 2012

Prof. Peter Boghossian on Faith

Peter BoghossianThe Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science linked to an interview Georgia Perry (The Portland Mercury) did with Portland State University philosophy professor, Peter Boghossian. After reading it, I have to admit that I am quite jealous of the academic freedom Dr. Boghossian enjoys at Portland State. Granted, he's in Oregon and I'm in Mississippi, but it is so refreshing to hear that he can say what he's been saying and keep his job.

According to Perry, Dr. Boghossian "…is well known around campus for directly challenging his student's faith-based beliefs." I'm going to assume that the apostrophe is in the wrong place at that he challenges the beliefs of more than one student. If not, I think I might actually feel sorry for the one student!

But directly challenging students' religious beliefs? I have little doubt that I would be fired if I did that. The thing is, I wouldn't only be fired. I'd also have my professional reputation destroyed. There would be ethical complaints filed, and I'd likely be stripped of my professional license and kicked out of at least one professional organization.

I agree completely with Dr. Boghossian when he says, "As long as people remain silent, this juggernaut will continue." At the same time, I recognize that not remaining silent is going to have to look a bit different for me than it does for him. I can continue to model and encourage critical thinking among my students. I can continue to express opposition to religiously-motivated bigotry and to offer support to groups that are often demonized on fundamentalist Christians on campus (e.g., atheist and/or LGBT students). But I probably can't do much more than that thanks to repressive speech codes. I probably can't directly challenge the religious beliefs of my students or colleagues. And for now, that will just have to be okay.

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