A New York University student’s Facebook post that her professor frequently referred to the Bible as a “Book of Spells” and “The Original Harry Potter” sparked a feisty debate among the NYU community, a back and forth that played out publicly on the social media website.
The debate transpired in late December on New York University’s “Secrets” Facebook page, on which students can anonymously post comments on subjects that range from admitting to cheating on a final exam to watching a roommate have sex. Facebook users can then comment on the “secrets,” albeit using their profile and name.
A student secret posted on the site Dec. 21 was that their “ConWest teacher freshman year for ‘antiquity and the 19th century’ referred to the Bible as a ‘Book of Spells’ and ‘The Original Harry Potter’ regularly when he would use it as a piece of the lecture. I am not even that religious, but found it so disgusting and disrespectful that I had no choice but to file a complaint. He no longer teaches classes at NYU.”
The comment prompted about four dozen responses, many of them using harsh and accusatory tones against the student who lodged the complaint. The responses led to an opinion column in the university’s student newspaper calling for more civility on the secrets Facebook site.
Plenty of the Facebook commenters supported the complaint over the professor’s Bible bashing.
“I’m a pretty hardcore atheist, but even I think (the original poster) was correct in doing what s/he did,” one response stated. “A professor should never use his or her position of power to proselytize. No one was learning anything by the professor insulting the Bible. It’s completely irrelevant and unprofessional.”
Another comment echoed those sentiments.
“This has nothing to do with the plausibility of Biblical stories,” it stated. “We could sit and argue that all day and we would just agree to disagree. The issue is that a member of NYU’s faculty would feel comfortable crudely insulting the beliefs of his students (and a large portion of the world population). Fact: most people in the world hold some kind of religious belief. Many find Christianity/their religions to be sources of hope and comfort. For others, it’s part of their culture and tradition. So no one, not even some pretentious douche bag professor at NYU should be that disrespectful and childish in an academic setting. Glad he got fired.”
Not everyone was thrilled with the situation, however.
“Way to use your backward beliefs to ruin somebody’s career and make it harder for people who actually want to learn to do so, theist b**ch,” noted one response.
Others took a more academic approach to their critiques.
“As someone with an immense respect for many different modes and channels of religious faith, I certainly empathize with those who feel awkward when their beliefs are demeaned in a classroom setting,” one responder noted. “However, when examined through science, most scripture is fantastical and ludicrous. While not politically correct, comparing the Bible, Qu’ran, Haggadah, even (and especially) the Gita, etc., to fiction novels can be an apt critique of exactly what we are taught by the scriptures we follow, sometimes a bit blindly.”
At least one comment jested with sarcasm that “the bible has talking snakes, pregnant virgins, and a magical boat that can somehow fit every animal in the world. Yeah, he was definitely ‘wrong’ in saying that. 5 bucks says that if a Christian professor said something offensive towards non religious people, dude would still be teaching.”
Meanwhile, several posters debated whether the complaint got the professor fired, and chastised criticism of the educator.
“The bible and Christianity as a whole is deeply imbedded in magic and sorcery,” one said. “I honestly hope that your ignorance did not get someone fired.”
Another put bluntly: “You helped someone lose their job.”
But others were not so convinced, with one commented arguing “who knows if your complaint aided in his firing, but I’m pretty sure he likely had other complaints befall him in order to get sacked. … I’ve seen my fair share of bad teachers and wrote them harsh critiques on their evaluations, yet they still continue to teach.”
Another summed it up by saying: “Far worse teachers at NYU don’t get fired; somehow I doubt your complaint had anything to do with it.”
Jennifer Kabbany is Assistant Editor of The College Fix.
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