College students have a real aversion to classroom discussions about religious doctrine, a veteran academic argues in a recent essay.
Writing in The Atlantic, Michael Roth, the president of Wesleyan University, describes an environment in his class where even the mere discussion of religious teachings in a critical, non-historical context elicits silence from his students.
“As a teacher, I find remarkable resistance to bringing religious ideas and experiences into class discussions,” he writes.
Roth notes that any “factual theological question” he poses to his students is immediately met with an answer. “But if I go on to ask students how one knows in one’s heart that one is saved, they turn back to their laptops,” he continues.
“They look anywhere but at me—for fear that I might ask them about feeling the love of God or about having a heart filled with faith.”
From the article:
As a nonbeliever myself, I am not trying to convert any student to any religion. Yet how to discuss religious faith in class poses a major challenge for nonreligious colleges and universities. How can such an institution claim to educate students about ideas, culture, and ways of life if students, professors, or both are uncomfortable when talking about something that’s been central to humanity throughout recorded history?
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