First World Problems, Atheism, Gender, and Thinking

Tony Jones created waves this week when he said that he is not an atheist (despite his doubts about God), because the overwhelming majority of people around the world believe in God. (Original post here; response to waves here)

In other words, atheism is a first-world problem.

Which is a fascinating way to think about it, and it highlights a common conversation I have with students.

Higher education in the US places students squarely in the middle of a great paradox.

  • On the one hand, they are lucky enough to have access to an incredible amount of knowledge, research, information, and skills. They have access to more of these things than any other human beings in the history of the world.
  • On the other hand, what is presented and taught as enlightened/educated/sophisticated thinking (and not just the thinking but also the conclusions) are ideas that are actually shared by a very small percentage of people (both historical and living).

A great example of this (alongside Jones’ point) can be found in this interview with Camille Paglia. Her point is neatly summarized by the sub-title of the article: “ignoring the biological differences between men and women risks undermining Western civilization.” (Read the whole thing, it’s a tour de force).

I’m sure my feminist friends at various universities around Boston would want to paint Camille as a quack, but here’s the more essential point: what is often packaged as truth and enlightened thinking are ideas and conclusions that very few people around the rest of the world actually share.

Now, I am not a traditionalist, I am not advocating for group think, or for chucking our ability to draw our own conclusions.

But, and I am speaking here most directly to my student friends, what is often communicated to you, especially in the university setting, are conclusions draw from a very  narrow stream of thought. The knowledge available in this world is a big, wide steam.

There’s a lot more out there.
Keep thinking, keep exploring, keep learning.


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