Pecan Pie

Social Anxiety from the South

Here I Go Again; an Atheist in the Hen House

Baylor University has a lot of things. A Baptist foundation. A great football team. And the only sociology of religion post-graduate program in the country.

*le sigh*

One of the major considerations for me applying to Baylor, besides how it will affect my family for me to move so far away, is how does an atheist survive in such a religious environment? I previously attended Shorter University (formerly Shorter College) and it could be said that’s where irreligion began to take hold. In looking around Google for some insight into the secular student experience at Baylor, I found the article in the Baylor Lariat below, written by a professor of theology at the school.

Atheism’s moral philosophy not consistent with Baylor’s mission

I started to go through this article point by point and then I realized something. The entire premise of this article is based on atheism as its own religion or philosophy. But, we all know it is not. Atheists, just like Christians, Muslims and Jews, have varying opinions and degrees of empathy, intelligence and negative attitudes about a number of things. Why don’t atheists give as a whole? Well, we do, but one reason we wouldn’t might be because there isn’t some huge atheist “church” we all rally behind. We give of our time and volunteer hours to the number of causes we believe in that are available for us to give to. My family gave to Toys for Tots this year, last year I gave to an individual friend in desperate need in conjunction with a group of friends, before that I gave to a cause that helps find adoptive families for special needs children. Sometimes when we give as a group, we are rejected outright.

Atheism does not have answers to why we should be kind, though biology does a pretty good job with that or what the meaning of life is, because atheism only says one thing much in the same way that theism says but one thing. There is no god. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. Theism says but one thing, there is/are god(s). Secular humanism, atheistic Buddhism, Catholicism, Jainism…these are philosophies and theologies that might answer these questions asked by the professor. Atheism does not.

So, the strawman argument here fails miserably. I’d be happy to answer any questions asked of me about why I think empathy and giving and kindness are a good idea or what I think the purpose of my life is, but those things are not informed by atheism, because atheism does not inform. It only explains one aspect of a person and that is they do not believe in a god. That’s all. No matter how hard the religious try, they cannot force us to adopt theology, even one without god. I don’t want to be informed by a philosophy and I don’t want to be forced to turn one belief I have into a whole dogma…and I don’t know any other atheists that do either, frankly.

Maybe before spouting the horrors of an “atheist worldview” one might choose to understand what “atheism” means, that it actually lacks a worldview, especially a professor of theology at a renowned university, no?

Written by thelittlepecan

January 12, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Posted in atheism

4 Responses

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  1. Honey, after reading this and the Lariat article, I’m even more stumped about why you would want to go to school there. Sure, they have the post-graduate program you want (in name at least), but what do the ignorant have to teach you?


    January 13, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    • Surely you know me better than that. I’ve got professors who know some of the faculty, we’re actually considering a candidate at UWG that is about to receive his doctorate from there and I’ve already been checking out the program.

      I actually never had a problem with a professor at Shorter and I would never assume that just because a person took a position at a school that they automatically line up with everything that institution stands for. We all know how hard it can be to get a job and yes, I’d sacrifice some of my religious freedom in order to get the education I want. Especially since, well, there’s a hell of a lot of research and observation opportunity for me just by placing myself in that environment.

      The sociology faculty is from all over. LSU, UW, Purdue, Texas A&M, USC, SUNY, and Notre Dame. Every faculty member has a vitae and list of recent publications for review on their website. Every faculty member has been prominently and recently published in peer-reviewed journals.

      So, while some parts of the school might be “ignorant”, it seems unlikely the sociology department is. Baylor is a top tier university, maybe despite their Baptist affiliation, and when a mentor whose opinion I value greatly invites me to consider it, I’m inclined to take that seriously.

      I don’t know that this is where I’m going to end up, but it’s very inviting to me. It works out for the family and Jim is already kind of excited about the prospect of moving away from The Troll and this awful house. I just don’t see Waco as all that different from where I am now. UWG may be public, but the religious and conservative overtones are quite obvious. 🙂


      January 16, 2012 at 10:03 am

  2. Oh, Pecan. I’ve missed you!
    My thought: Theists answer to why one should be kind is rooted in fear of retribution/hell/of a vengeful god. Atheists answer to why one should be kind is simply because it is the right thing to do – not because of fear of something supernatural (or promise of a reward/redemption/afterlife). It is about right now. this moment. Be good to each other.
    That is all.


    January 12, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    • The problem with this professor’s article is that he misses the mark on why we believe it is “the right thing to do.” There’s plenty of scientific evidence for altruism being evolutionarily advantageous. I am totally okay with “my body knows it’s good for me to be good” and don’t need too much beyond that.

      And I’ve missed you, too! 🙂


      January 12, 2012 at 3:46 pm

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