Debating Christianity and Education in a Secular University

‘It is time that the Scottish Education became fully secular – hence all religious practice should be removed’

This was the motion that Abertay University set for me to debate with my old sparring partner Alistair McBay of the National Secular Society (Sadly Megan Crawford of the Scottish Sec3bmfhzwiaa-t-x-jpg-mediumcular Society was unable to attend).     The debate was well attended and went well.   You can listen to it by clicking on the Sound Cloud link below – this is a recording from a students phone so is not high quality but you can get the gist and hear the content fine.  I would suggest that by far the most interesting bit is the Q and A about half way through….

There was a vote before hand with roughly two thirds being in favour of the motion and one quarter against.  After the debate there was another vote and although there was a little movement in my favour (two people changed to me and one went to Alistair), that was not the real point.  I found the whole thing fascinating and enlightening.  Alistair is a good speaker, but he said nothing that I had not heard before.  What was much more interesting was the reaction of the students.   The vast majority of the questions were for me.

 

Here are some of the basic lessons I would take from this:

  1. Students and academics in general have little or no idea about religion in general and Christianity in particular.
  2. Ignorance leads to prejudice, mockery and intolerance.  Consider this – a majority of students in this debate voted that all religious practice should be removed from education.   Even for those who want it.  There is no equality, diversity and tolerance here!
  3. 16426404_10208491449176912_1548059640_nAtheistic Secularists have faith that their secularism is neutral, when clearly it is not.   This is the most dangerous kind of prejudice, because if your default emotion is that your view only is the obvious right one, then you are not able to consider other viewpoints.
  4. The Christian worldview is rational, consistent and wholistic. In the post-modern market place of ideas we have the best product!   We also have by far the most radical.  We are not the ones defending the status quo to the priveliged!  We are challenging it.
  5. img_0381When students are presented with an alternative viewpoint many are open to consider something they had never thought about before.  I had several conversations afterwards which showed that.   Kudos to Abertay University for allowing this kind of discussion and debate.  Many secular institutions are so convinced of their own superiority that they would never think of allowing an alternative point of view.
  6. Therefore Christians need to be in the public square – not ‘defending’ the faith just in our own churches, but rather ‘attacking’ (questioning, undermining, challenging) the faith/presuppositions/prejudices of those who have been indoctrinated into the secularist worldview.    We need to do so in an open, tolerant, loving, gracious, humorous, brave and intelligent manner.  I know I fail in this in many ways – but at least I try.

Battle for the Mind – The Importance of the Church’s Involvement in EducationBattle for the Mind – The Importance of the Church’s Involvement in Education

 


8 thoughts on “Debating Christianity and Education in a Secular University

  1. I agree that atheist secularism is not neutral. I certainly found this to be so debating Secular Scotland. What I found most frustrating was that folk weren’t able to appreciate this. It’s as though there’s a mental block.

    I’ve given up on Secular Scotland. I found it too stressful and too time consuming. I was not there to mock Christianity. When I did mock, it was because I believed a particular expression of Christianity was fair game for a slagging. On the plus side, my protagonists acknowledged that Secular Scotland is a very hostile environment for Christians. It appears to have further been acknowledged that the term ‘religionists’ is oftensive. Most encouragingly of all, other Christians occasionally pur their heads above the parapet and made contributions.

      1. Sadly I have enough stress in my life at the best of times. In fairness I think Gary Otton is trying to widen its appeal. He realises one can be a secularist and a Christian. He seems more moderate in his views that he once was. He seems a decent enough guy. However fighting with some of the others is an up hill battle and not one I have the stamina to fight.
        Of course the place of religion in society is an interesting and important question. Whilst I retain a degree of sympathy for the establishment, I find myself a pragmatic secularist. Christianity is now one idea, and a not particulary prominent one at that, in the market place of ideas. I think Christianity now needs to earn a place of respect in competition with other ideas. We need to take the considerable move towards atheism, especially amongsy the young, seriously. Neither do I think that Christians in general can ignore the church scandals of recent years. They are a vile stain on the church in general, not just those denominations most directly affected.
        How we challenge these perceptions is a separate isdue and one you and I will probably never agree on. However I would like to think that notwithstanding our very different outlooks we can agree to disagree in a spirit of brotherly love. I know you’re not a fan of St Mary’s Cathedral or of anything that goes on there. But please believe me when I say there a many good people in the congregation; people that love the Lord; people with ‘the heart of the matter’ as we used to say.
        I’ll say this. You are absolutely correct about post-truth and ‘safe spaces’. With some, serious debate is all but impossible. Only recently I was told that ‘all cis white men are assholes’. Oddly this was by cis white individuals including men. That’s really quite depressing. When I challenged that particular view, I was told only that I was behaving like a cis white male asshole would be expected to!
        Somehow we need to identify some middle ground. Actually I don’t really believe the majority of folk are either alt right fascists or liberal snowflakes. These groups are certainly noisy but not really representative. I agree with you further that Brexit, which I didn’t support, and Trump have brought out the worst in people. Some of the comment from SJW types has been nothing short of hysterical. It’s a pretty turn of events when I find myself agreeing with right wingers such as Douglas Murray and Brendon O’Neill. And even with you!
        I don’t really know how you identify, or engage, the middle ground that might be prepared to listen to what one has to say. I’ve spent years trying to occupy a relatively middle of the road pragmatic position, trying to hear what both sides are saying, only to recieve dog’s abuse. I recall what a friend in the ministrywith whom I shared a flat of and of whom I was very fond, late of Applecross and Leverburgh used to say: “sit on the fence then sooner or later you’ll get your backside bitten”. Wise words!

  2. Great that you have had a positive experience with students being open to something new.

    I can vouch for what you say about atheism not being neutral. Same goes for feminism, Black Lives Matter, in fact any of the cultural Marxist idealism.

    Dare I say the same being true about Christianity not always being neutral.

    But then not every expression of Christianity is representative of Christ.

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