Wednesday, October 3, 2012

An Open Letter to Dr. Charles Negy, Humanistic Bigot

In a recent article in the Charlotte Observer (found here), University of Central Florida professor Charles Negy explains a situation that occurred in his class between himself and some "religious bigots" who happened to be Christians.  In response to this interaction, he wrote an email that went viral on the internet and it can be found here.

While I agree with some of Dr. Negy's points, there is a fatal flaw in his logic which ends in a contradiction- as well as Humanistic Bigotry. I don't take this term lightly. I would never use the word bigot unless I deem it necessary, and this is one of those few instances.

First, I agree that these students were likely "out of line" and they had likely never questioned their religious upbrining. For this, I applaud Dr. Negy. The university is, in fact, a place where life's greatest questions should be considered and people with opposing beliefs should be respected and tolerated.   He writes in that email, "Critical thinkers are open to having their cherished beliefs challenged, and must learn how to “defend” their views based on evidence or logic, rather than simply 'pounding their chest' and merely proclaiming that their views are 'valid.'"  I can't agree more, but this is where my agreement with Dr. Negy abruptly ends.

His main tirade against these students read, "Students in my class who openly proclaimed that Christianity is the most valid religion, as some of you did last class, portrayed precisely what religious bigotry is. Bigots—racial bigot or religious bigots—never question their prejudices and bigotry. They are convinced their beliefs are correct." Well isn't that interesting. First, Dr. Negy challenges the fact that we actually believe that some of our religious beliefs are TRUE.  Isn't it possible, Dr. Negy, that some religious believers have actually considered their "prejudices and bigotry," and came out on the other side still believing in their religious beliefs?  As we'll read below, it's because of your own bigotry and assumptions that this is unfathomable.

Lastly, Dr. Negy wrote, "One characteristic of the critical, independent thinker is being able to recognize fantasy versus reality; to recognize the difference between personal beliefs which are nothing more than personal beliefs, versus views that are grounded in evidence, or which have no evidence." Here's the problem with this statement, it is the result of an unexplained presupposition and yes, even humanistic "prejudice and bigotry."  Here is his assumption: all religions are fantasy.  This is the prevailing view of cultural anthropologists, but they don't feel the need to explain or justify this claim. They just assume that religion is merely cultural and has no universal or absolute truth therein.  My point is this, Dr. Negy, why don't you follow your own standards? You've mocked Christians for their unproven assumptions, yet you have one of your own.  You are convinced that your beliefs are correct, but instead of justifying your humanistic approach, you assume it, then you are shocked when a few religious zealots assume their own presuppositions and publicly reject yours. Why not start your class with honesty and integrity, and openly state your belief in humanistic naturalism, then the students might not be so shocked when you claim that religion is merely a human invention or when you label those students, who firmly believe that religion is reality, "religious bigots."

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