Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Another Questionable Op-Ed in the D...

I disapprove of religious zealotry, to be sure, but does it really pose that large of a threat to the Dartmouth educational experience? I had no idea that our College on a Hill was overrun with Christian fundamentalists due to our campus being too tolerant of religion. Lucy Stonehill '10 calls out a religious classmate in her Daily Dartmouth op-ed today and writes:
If, however, [her classmate] had endeavored to detach his reasoning from his personal creed and emotion, he would have understood — if only minimally — the critical comments of his peers. Furthermore, he would not have had to frantically rack his brain in order to regurgitate the memorized snippets of Sunday School “fact” that leave no room for alternate interpretations of God’s benevolence. Such feeble attempts to defend the sacred book were blatant acts of religious apology — in other words, denial. More importantly, however, they solidified an already existing belief of mine — namely, that expressing religious zeal is antithetical to academic learning... The undue “tolerance” we have for the imposition of religion upon any secular educational institutions — let alone those with Dartmouth’s outstanding academic reputation — is a troubling phenomenon that can only inhibit learning.
It's not that I disagree with her, per se -- obviously, there's a huge difference between religion studies and religious evangelism, and it's generally agreed upon that religion should largely be kept out of public schools. But... is this a problem at Dartmouth at all? I feel bad for her classmate, even if he is a religious zealot and thus (it seems to follow...) worthy of our utter contempt.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Has Joe Malchow always written "God" without the middle letter?

jamiehunt said...

Don't think so, but Zak Moore wrote the post.

Anonymous said...

Zak is Jewish, so that follows.

Nathan Empsall said...

Ms. Stonehill was writing about me, and this is the first time in almsot 21 years I have ever been called a zealot, or religiously closed-minded. Let's set aside for a moment the fact that I get along spiritually with conservative evangelicals, liberal mainline Christians, agnostic Democrats, athiestic lefties, and my fellow NAS majors.

In class that day, I was advancing the viewpoint that there are multiple valid interpretations of Genesis, and we cannot understand what Christians believe about creation unless we consider the multiple ways they read the text. Stonehill rejected that view and was insistent on a literal interpretation of the document and the understanding of Genesis that follows. Despite her insinuations to the contrary, I never rejected or dismissed her view, I merely tried to broaden the discussion. Similarly, my evidence was not "irrelevent," it defines the context of the text. My reasoning was not "obscure," it was based on the first-year curriculum of Episcopal seminaries (including Harvard and Yale). I ask you, which approach is more close-minded, insistence on one and only one interpretation, or a broader approach? Stonehill did not give the details of the class discussion, but now that you know what was said, ask yourself anew: which approach truly inhibits learning, and which is more academic? Indeed, the professor who usually teaches the class (but is on leave this term) normally teaches the view of Genesis I was advancing, and his replacement e-mailed me after class to thank me for my respectful, open-minded tone and Biblical knowledge.

I hope that Christine will frontpage either this comment or the note I just sent her.

Nathan Empsall said...

I should add, the evidence I discussed was the academic view that Genesis has multiple authors and two creation stories. I suggested that a metaphorical rather than literal approach (and indeed, most texts of that time were understood as metaphors by their immediate audience) teaches the same lessons but is also compatible with science.