The Professor Who Thought He Knew Bigotry When He Saw It

Charles Negy, a psychology professor at the University of Central Florida, thinks he knows bigotry when he sees it. The blistering email he wrote on it to some 500 students has now gone viral. One key paragraph uses the word “bigot” no less than eight times (the whole is quoted in the UCF student newspaper):

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. For the Christians in my class who argued the validity of Christianity last week, I suppose I should thank you for demonstrating to the rest of the class what religious arrogance and bigotry looks like. It seems to have not even occurred to you (I’m directing this comment to those students who manifested such bigotry), as I tried to point out in class tonight, how such bigotry is perceived and experienced by the Muslims, the Hindus, the Buddhists, the non-believers, and so on, in class, to have to sit and endure the tyranny of the masses (the dominant group, that is, which in this case, are Christians).

This happened on familiar turf: I studied psychology at the University of Central Florida. I never had a class with Charles Negy, though now I wish I had. I wish I’d been in his lecture session when this happened. I would have liked to be witness to this demonstration of bigotry.

Bigots never question their prejudices, he says.  They’re convinced their beliefs are correct, and they never question their bigotry. Have you questioned your bigotry lately? No? Then you fit one of Negy’s descriptions of a bigot. I’ll bet he hasn’t questioned his bigotry, either.

I hope you’ll pardon me for being a bit rough on the prof, but I would wager he even thinks his beliefs are correct, just like a bigot (as he sees bigots). He sure sounds like he thinks he’s right, as he fulminates against “the tyranny of the masses” and excoriates Christians for arguing in favor of their beliefs. It was “religious arrogance” of them, he says, to suppose that what they believe might be true. I say it was religious arrogance on his part to scold Christians for holding that it’s true. It “seems to have not even occurred” to him “how such bigotry is perceived and experienced” by Christians who have to sit and endure the tyranny of the dominant party—which in this case is Negy himself, as the professor.

The UCF newspaper’s report says the Christian(s) who spoke up in this lecture were carrying on a “rant.” If so, I don’t condone that. I wish I’d been there to know what really happened, but I wasn’t. We can all read Negy’s email, though, which contains not a hint of a complaint concerning interruptions or disruptiveness. It was all about “openly proclaim[ing] that Christianity is the most valid religion.” That was the real offense.

Negy spoke to Inside Higher Ed about the incident:

Negy is standing by his e-mail, and said that he reacted the same way as he would have if a group of students stood up in class and said that their race was superior to other races. “Can you imagine that happening in a classroom? I cannot. But somehow it is O.K. to say that your religion is better than other religions,” he said. “We have not matured when it comes to religious bigotry.”

Translation: just as one ethnicity is no better than another, so no one set of ideas about ultimate reality is better than another. Mature persons know this is true. They see that it’s the one idea concerning ultimate reality that’s better than all the others, and that no one fully grows up until he or she puts all the other ideas in subjection under it. (Sure, it’s completely self-contradictory, but he’s the prof so he can pronounce on what’s mature and what isn’t.)

His talk with Inside Higher Ed wasn’t the first time he brought up maturity. In the email he had written, “We’re adults. We’re at a university.” Clearly he wants us to bear in mind we’re grown-ups and we should act that way, even as he plays daddy, scaring off the little Christian bullies to make it safe for other religions’ adherents to play in his yard. Is that how to treat people as adults?

Generally speaking, Muslims think Islam is true. Buddhists, and Hindus think their religions are true, or at least more so than other religions. In my experience,  believers in other religions are generally adult enough to expect Christians to think our religion is true. Why wouldn’t they? But Negy’s further comments in that context are especially interesting:

Neither students nor professors have a right to censor speech that makes us uncomfortable. We’re adults. We’re at a university. There is no topic that is “off-limits” for us to address in class, if even only remotely related to the course topic. I hope you will digest this message, and just as important, will take it to heart as it may apply to you.

Okay, that’s a little confusing, but I’ll explain it for you. Why were the Christians wrong to speak about their beliefs when no topic is off limits? Because they thought their beliefs were true. Never think your own beliefs are true: you might offend Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus—who by the way got the email, too. They got the professor’s clear message that they, too, ought not think their beliefs are true. Thank you, Professor Negy, for making sure no one offends me and my religion by telling me it’s not true. But did you notice you just did that yourself?

Here’s the sum of it all. Negy takes advantage of his dominant role as professor to rail against those who take advantage of their dominant role. He instructs students that it’s a much better idea to recognize there are no better ideas. He insists that all topics are open for discussion, even as he tells the Christians how rotten they are for bringing up a topic for discussion. He is über-sensitive to other religious believers’ offense as he treats them like children requiring his protection, and as he calls their beliefs false.

All of this confusion and self-contradiction is plain as day in his email, but he’s oblivious to it. It’s bound to be hard for him to see it. He represents not only himself as the dominant person in the classroom, but a tyrannical ethic of so-called “tolerance” that dominates the whole university system—particularly social psychology—and which is blind to its own intolerance. It’s not just about Negy, but a whole culture.

Bigots never question their own bigotry.

 

P.S.  William McGuinness wrote at Huffington Post,

Dr. Charles Negy, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Central Florida, had to email an extra, elementary lesson to his students — one so basic and of such societal value that it was posted on Reddit.

Negy’s paternalism was apparently contagious. But I too am but a grasshopper, for until now I had never known what signifies a lesson as being basic and of great societal value: being posted on Reddit. I have much to learn.

(Hat Tip to Joseph Knippenberg.)

Comments

  1. Doug

    Here’s the sum of it all. Negy takes advantage of his dominant role as professor to rail against those who take advantage of their dominant role. He instructs students that it’s a much better idea to recognize there are no better ideas. He insists that all topics are open for discussion, even as he tells the Christians how rotten they are for bringing up a topic for discussion. He is über-sensitive to other religious believers’ offense as he treats them like children requiring his protection, and as he calls their beliefs false.

    Gold.

  2. TFBW

    Perhaps this double-standard is an upshot of the kind of world-view we see being promoted by Phil Torres in your Discussion Grounds debate at the moment. Specifically, there is a distinction between religion/faith on the one hand and science/knowledge on the other. In this world-view, one has faith in religious beliefs, and faith is an essentially defective basis for belief, so all religion is intrinsically invalid. It is therefore (immediately, and without further evidence) both unreasonable and offensive to suggest that one’s own religious views are somehow more valid than anyone else’s. This statement can be made without falling afoul of its own standards, because it is (ostensibly) not itself a religious view, so it does not invalidate itself.

    Religion is to be “tolerated” only in the same way that a mental patient’s delusions of grandeur are to be humoured: nod, smile, and tell him the lies he wants to hear. When one mental patient starts telling another that he’s not really Napoleon, however, it’s time for the learned doctor to step in and dish out a stern lesson in manners before a fight breaks out.

    You’re right, though: the real insult is not against the other religions, but against the world-view in which all religion is equally invalid, and in which “reason” is the sole property of the secular. How dare these people presume that reason can be applied to their delusional, irrational, arbitrary, nonsensical beliefs, acquired through nothing but accidents of history and birth, et cetera, et cetera.

  3. David Marshall

    The man is a bully, plain and simple. He’s also a hypocrite and a fool, and should not be teaching young people.

    My own last post just happened to ask the question, “Power Corrupts Whom?” giving as one possibility, “A Religious Studies Professor at Iowa State University.”

    I may just edit that to “A Psychology Professor at Central Florida University.”

    This is an unselfcritical stance quite common among pluralists, who as their critics have pointed out, and as does TFBW, are really Enlightenment dogmatists and exclusivists of the first order. Gavin D’Costa unfavorably compares the dogmatism of John Hick to that of the Dalai Lama, and argues that “Catholic Trinitarianism” is much fairer to other faiths, because it allows them to be what they are, as it sometimes criticizes and sometimes affirms. But Hick is pretty self-aware, compared to this clown.

  4. d

    I’ll reserve judgement about this anecdote, since we don’t really know the full details (and likely never will).

    Tom’s thesis could be right – the email could itself be an example of prejiduce. But it could also be wrong – it could have been an appropriate response to people who were (possibly) acting inappropriately in class.

    Attending college in the south, I’ve seen plenty of examples of the former, from some right wing and/or Christian students. What I think we see in those instances are kids whose expectations have been groomed. They expect the universities to be hostile to their faith. They expect professors to brainwash them with leftist and anti-christian ideologies. And most of all, they expect to have to throw-down in dramatic battles with professors, faculty and students to defend their faith. And in many instances, those expectations are accurate. But sometimes, I think some of those students end up a little too primed for battle, and sometimes jump at shadows, which is unfortunate.

    I’ve been witness to many such occassions. One striking instance was when a Christian student began ranting and raving in online discussions about one of my professors supposedly “raping science” (and accusing any who disagreed with him as having “tiny liberal minds”) by talking about peppered moth experiments to illustrate the idea of natural selection. Of course, according to every young earth creationist website he frequented, those experiments were discredited and obvious examples of biased atheist scientists promoting their “false religion of darwinism”, and failure to recognize this fact was institutional bias and oppression. Clearly that kid has some of the unfortunate grooming I am speaking of.

    At any rate, if the students in class were behaving like this kid, the professors email may have been in the right, as nothing in it is particularly outrageous (depending on the circumstances). But it may also be as Tom suspects, and be an example of bigotry itself. Who knows?

  5. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    d,

    Look at the email. Look at what the prof complained about. Look at what he didn’t complain about. He didn’t complain about ranting. He didn’t complain about disrupting or interrupting. He complained about them saying that Christianity was more true than other religions.

    So tell us, please, how your interpretation of this email fits the facts that you have right in front of you. Tell us why it isn’t an instance of fact-free stereotyping. Tell us why it isn’t an example of someone whose “expectations have been groomed” to expect Christians to rant and rave in class.

    And please tell us how you could doubt that this prof’s email is a smoking gun example of paternalism and of scolding Christians for believing that what they believe is true—while the prof remains oblivious to his own domineering imposition of beliefs that he believes are true.

  6. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Further on that: Negy’s specific complaint was their “proclaim[ing] that Christianity is the most valid religion.”

    I’ve heard some rants in my day. I’ve heard some that were religious, and some that were anti-religious, besides some that were political, economic, aesthetic (“that’s not music!”), anti-teenager, and a whole lot more. In all my days, I have never heard anyone use the term “most valid” in a rant. On the face of it, it sounds a whole lot more like (at least an attempt toward) a reasoned argument.

    I’m just sayin’.

  7. domenico

    “most valid” does not mean ‘the only’: so it not seems to me a ‘fundamentalist’ claim.

  8. ordinaryseeker

    How do you define bigotry Tom? And how do you think Prof Negy should have handled the class discussion so that evetyone’s point of view was heard respectfully?

  9. TFBW

    We can imagine quite a few different scenarios which could have taken place, but we have no actual evidence that one or the other did. Negy’s message isn’t an account of events: it refers only obliquely to persons and activities. All we can do is analyse it for what it says, relative to itself rather than relative to what happened.

    That being so, it is either troublesome in exactly the way Tom suggests, or just poorly worded. The overall eloquence of the letter and the fact that it is written by a professor weigh against the “poorly worded” explanation, but I know from experience that it’s easy to write in a manner that is open to misinterpretation.

    On the one hand, he says this, which seems fair enough.

    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.”

    Quite so. An assertion of validity needs to be accompanied by a supporting argument. On the other hand, the aforementioned quotation is immediately followed by this.

    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.

    Technically, this is reasonable, although I detect in it the familiar catch-cry of the philosophical materialist and the whole religion/faith versus science/knowledge framework on which I commented before. On the one hand, his statement is true. On the other hand, it sounds like a set-up for, “all religion falls into the category of personal belief, and is not grounded in evidence.” Is that his claim? He doesn’t say.

    Next, he says that religion and culture go hand in hand. Again, this is true, but it sounds like a set-up for, “all religion is no more true or false than cultures are true or false,” or a Dawkins-like insinuation that religions are characterised by one being born into them (as per culture), rather than involving any process of reasoning (as per science). He doesn’t say those things, and maybe he doesn’t mean to imply them, but he does not clarify to the contrary, either. Are the students reacting to a perceived insinuation?

    So far, this is evidence of nothing worse than cultural insensitivity on his part — which would be ironic enough, under the circumstances — but then we reach the part that Tom quoted, which contains the real clangers, particularly the following.

    For the Christians in my class who argued the validity of Christianity last week, I suppose I should thank you for demonstrating to the rest of the class what religious arrogance and bigotry looks like.

    They argued for the validity of Christianity, and this is bigotry? They “argued the validity” in the usual academic sense of presenting supporting evidence and logic, as opposed to simply pounding their chests? Isn’t that exactly what he said they ought to be doing? Or were they just asserting the truth of Christianity without support? If that, then why say “argued the validity”, rather than “asserted the truth”?

    At this point it should be clear that we have a dilemma: we can either suppose that Negy has chosen his words very badly here, or that he has contradicted what he said earlier. A possible third alternative is to assume, as I did earlier, that he considers “arguing the validity” of any religion to be a logical impossibility, and thus equivalent to chest-pounding.

    Whatever the case, I think that Negy should at least clarify his remarks.

  10. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    os, Dictionary.com defines bigoted,

    Utterly intolerant of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.

    That’s problematic because the meaning of intolerant has changed, such that it now means “unwilling to regard another’s opinions as equally true as one’s own.” The funny thing, though, is that it applies quite nicely to Professor Negy, who regards his opinion on religions as the only valid one. The whole point of my post was that Negy is a blind hypocrite, accusing others of bigotry and of not acting like adults while he displays bigotry himself as he defines bigotry, and as he patronizes his fellow adults.

    So what matters for purposes of this discussion is how Negy defines bigotry, not how I define it. I wouldn’t think of accusing him of being a bigot by any definition but his own.

    I don’t know how he handled the class discussion. I think the best way to have done it would have been either,

    1. “This is a lecture hall with 500 students, I am the professor and you are not, and I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to allow me to lecture.” Sometimes a student has to recognize it’s not his or her turn, even when the prof is wrong. At least the prof in that case isn’t posturing or pretending to be something other than who and what he is.

    or

    2. Let everyone’s ideas be heard respectfully.

  11. David Marshall

    You’re being way too kind, TFBW. The man is a club-carrying bully. He’s an adult, picking on kids who know they are going to be graded by this bigot, had better watch their step, and probably have too little experience and intellectual ammunition to defend themselves, even if they were allowed to do so. (Which the man has made clear, they will not be allowed.)

    He’s a petty dictator with a Messiah complex. Better give the kids he’s attacking the benefit of the doubt: this guy’s getting paid to push his weight around, and doesn’t deserve it.

  12. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    David, for those who don’t know you from other contexts, I want to say it’s almost breathtaking to see you taking such a strong stand on this. Other readers here probably do not know your track record of seeing and affirming all the truth you possibly can in other belief systems; that you are not one to look first for what to judge or to condemn, but for what to build bridges toward; that (if I recall correctly) you are writing a doctoral dissertation on that topic.

    I wish other readers here (especially d and ordinaryseeker) could have the opportunity to know you on that level. Would you mind selecting and sharing a link or two from your blog that illustrates your approach? I think it would put your comments here in a very helpful context.

  13. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    My last comment directed to ordinary seeker is not quite up to par, on second view. I want to retract the first part of it, not because I think it doesn’t apply in the way I meant it, but because I can’t really show what I meant by it without going into way too long of an explanation.

    So here is how I would re-write it:

    ******

    os, what matters for purposes of this discussion is how Negy defines bigotry, not how I define it. I wouldn’t think of accusing him of being a bigot by any definition but his own.

    I don’t know how he handled the class discussion. I think the best way to have done it would have been either,

    1. “This is a lecture hall with 500 students, I am the professor and you are not, and I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to allow me to lecture.” Sometimes a student has to recognize it’s not his or her turn, even when the prof is wrong. At least the prof in that case isn’t posturing or pretending to be something other than who and what he is.

    or

    2. Let everyone’s ideas be heard respectfully.

  14. David Marshall

    Tom: Sure, here are a couple.

    Rebutting Mark Driscoll:

    http://christthetao.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-mark-driscoll-is-partly-wrong-about.html

    And responding to a Patheos article:

    http://christthetao.blogspot.com/2012/07/does-christianity-have-all-answers.html

    But a couple other factors help determine my response to this prof:

    (1) My older son is off to a state university himself, next month.

    (2) As a former college teacher, I dislike this kind of bullying of young people intensely. I never pulled that kind of stunt, on my students.

  15. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Based on a blog post that he wrote and which I have just found, it appears that from Professor Negy’s perspective the facts of the students’ conduct in class are irrelevant, and that it’s the bare content of his email that counts. He wrote in a blog post two days ago,

    For now, I want to comment on the issue that was addressed pertaining to the purpose of a university because so many professors nationwide have emailed me indicating that they plan on reading my email to their students on the first day of classes in order to orient them to the role of a university and their roles as students.

    He goes on to reiterate the importance of learning to think critically at university. I have no issue with that, in fact I support it wholeheartedly.

    What’s interesting in this blog post of his, though, is that he seems to be in support of professors across the country reading this email to their students without benefit of context, that is, without explaining what happened that day, what the Christians actually said or did, or any such thing. It seems to indicate that in Professor Negy’s mind, the email stands on its own.

  16. ordinary seeker

    Tom, I think your definition does matter, since you are disagreeing that his is accurate. I’m really interested in your definition, and in how you would solve this problem, the problem of discussing different points of view on religion. How do you propose getting beyond each representative of a religion (Christianity, Islam, etc.) believing s/he is right? How, without the current use of tolerance, could that happen?

  17. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    What do you mean, “getting beyond each representative of a religion … believing s/he is right?” Where is this “beyond”?

  18. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Note, by the way, that what I’m disagreeing with is that his definition is even coherent. He’s self-contradictory with it. So whether I have a definition of bigotry or not, he’s still wrong, because a self-contradictory belief is automatically false, and a self-contradictory standard of behavior is usually also hypocritical.

    My definition of “bigoted” would go something like this: “unreasoningly, unreflectingly, discourteously committed to the belief in the superiority of one’s group or one’s opinion.”

  19. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Oh, and when you’re speaking of the “beyond,” you might also add the representatives of irreligion to the mix. No reason to exclude them, is there?

  20. ordinaryseeker

    By “beyond” I mean, able to engage in the type of critical thinking and dialogue you support.

  21. ordinaryseeker

    Do you think the student who encouraged the others in the class not to listen to Prof Negy was acting in a bigoted way?

  22. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    I’ve read multiple accounts of what happened there, os, and I can’t tell what that student really did or said. The accounts are ambiguous and somewhat contradictory. But none of them that I’ve seen reported that any student encouraged the class not to listen to the professor.

    I don’t know why being able “to engage in the type of critical thinking and dialogue [I] support” is beyond people believing they are right. What’s the problem?

  23. Andrew W

    getting beyond each representative of a religion … believing s/he is right

    Simply stated, this seems an incoherent question. Why would a person champion a view that they do not believe is right?

    I believe it is wise an healthy to frequently test our views, to see whether we are mistaken and to refine them, but that’s not the same thing as “getting beyond”.

    Ultimately, this is the same question as the “faith” question (see other posts). The value of faith is in direct proportion to the trustworthiness of that which you have faith in. Expecting people to treat metaphysical belief as something not robust enough to act on is a modern conceit (or idiocy, if you’re feeling less charitable).

    That said, it is also important that people are not offended that others do not agree with them, nor do we have a right to not be exposed to opposing viewpoints. There is a difference between representing with courtesy and with hostility, but courtesy is not the same as silence.

  24. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Right. But what did that mean? I don’t know. It might have been as sinister as fomenting a student strike, or it might have been as innocent as asking other students not to shout him down as he carried on a dialogue with the teacher. Some of those scenarios would be rude, some of them perfectly appropriate. But as far as we know, he didn’t say, “Y’all are stupid so shut up!” or anything like that, so I don’t have reason to call it specifically bigoted, based on what I know about it.

    Anyway, Andrew W covered the issue quite nicely. Tolerance is not the position that all beliefs are equally worthy, but that all persons are of equal worth. It is not the commitment to agree but the commitment to respect the person enough to listen even when we disagree. It is not giving up one’s own position as if it didn’t matter, it’s letting other people matter enough that you share with them what you think is true, and listening when they do the same. It’s not avoiding disagreement, it’s agreeing or disagreeing honestly and without aggression.

  25. ordinaryseeker

    I agree. And it seems to me, from what we know, that at least some of the students did not do that. Whether Prof Negy did, it’s hard to know from the information we have.

    Have no students responded to his email?

  26. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    I’m not so sure the students are guilty of what you say. Maybe, maybe not, it’s hard to tell. Anyway, What the students did is of little apparent importance to Professor Negy, in the long run. He’s supporting the dissemination of his message completely independent of that information.

  27. d

    David, for those who don’t know you from other contexts, I want to say it’s almost breathtaking to see you taking such a strong stand on this.

    It surely doesn’t take my breath away, because I’ve run across Marshall’s posts in other contexts (the context of “Amazonian troll”, for example).

  28. David Marshall

    An “Amazonian troll?”

    Trolls are from Germanic folklore, not Mesoamerican. Besides, there are no bridges over the Amazon, leaving no habitat for trolls. Aside from which, far from a “troll” in the sense intended, I’m one of the top reviewers of books on Amazon.com, with over 8000 “helps” votes for my book reviews.

    One of my lasting disappointment with Internet skeptics, is the almost uniform unoriginality and infelicity of their insults. With all that practice, one would expect better.

  29. Sault

    Reading his letter, it sounds like Negy is saying that some students argued their Christian beliefs without showing proper critical or rational thinking, then attempted to shut down the discussion when they didn’t get their way.

    Not tolerating an irrational and at-the-very-least-discourteous intolerance is not bigotry, no matter how much you’d like to spin it that way. You’re criticizing him and condemning him for trying to foster an environment where people are required to critically examine their beliefs, for Pete’s sake!

    Let’s pretend for a moment that these students are just like so many others, primed by their parents and their pastors and their cultural influences to go out and do battle with the forces of evil, to believe that their views are the Truth ™ and no others… I would expect such a student to try and shut down someone who challenged his beliefs. I would not expect that behavior from someone who was engaged in critical thought or courteous behavior!

    By your own definition, Tom, it is entirely reasonable to conclude that this male student was displaying religious bigotry… but of course, no Christian would do that, would they!

    And yeah, culture is intertwined with religion. In some Middle-Eastern cultures, there is no significant separation between the two – religious law is secular law. Speaking against the dominant religion can mean imprisonment and death. Even here in America, in certain circles, expressing nonpopular religious views can mean social stigma and even physical violence.

    Hey Tom – are you telling me that you really have exposed your daughters to other religions and other beliefs and given them the chance to truly choose their own religion and beliefs? …Or have you taken them to a Christian church and involved them in Christian social activities and played Christian music and read Christian books their whole lives?

    Now, I wouldn’t say that constitutes bigotry, because you’re surely doing the best you can as a father and trying to bring them up the best way that you know how… but that proves the point, for any Hindu or Muslim or Jewish etc parent would do the exact same thing.

    The biggest influence on religious beliefs are the social, cultural, and familial context that a child grows up in.

    But of course, I’m not a conservative Christian, so you can dismiss everything I say because I’m obviously so caught up in a secularist, liberal agenda that I must be lying, right?

  30. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Sault, do you support Negy’s self-contradictory, fatherly protectiveness over his fellow adults? Do you support his complaints about Christians denying the beliefs of other religions, while he does the very same thing though in a different way? Do you support his use of his dominant position in the university culture to put down people who use their dominant positions in culture to put down people? Do you think Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists—who believe their religions are the truth, and no others—are too small to handle the discovery that Christians believe our religion is the truth? Do you have any reason really to think that this student’s action fit my description of bigotry, when my definition includes unreasoning and unreflective along with discourteous?

    I didn’t say you must be lying because of your background. I say you are wrong because the facts here contradict your point. That’s all.

  31. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    ordinary seeker, I don’t know what you’re reading from whom, but I never said I thought his message didn’t stand alone. Rather I was saying that one wonders what the context is, and whether that might affect the proper interpretation of the email. Consider how really awful it is when taken as a stand-alone piece: I was holding out for the possibility of some additional information that would alleviate its awfulness. I was thinking, “maybe if I knew the whole story it wouldn’t be quite this disgusting.” That’s as charitable as I could be toward it; but Negy is in effect telling us not to bother with that. It is what it is. And it’s pretty bad.

  32. JAD

    Let’s give Negy the benefit of the doubt. His only recourse is to hold the Christians up to public ridicule? Did he try to meet with any of them outside the context of a 400+ person lecture and try to understand their POV? If not why not?

  33. David Marshall

    I’ve just read a hundred or so student ratings of Charles Negy. It is clear this was no one-off event. Years before the famous e-mail — which apparantly had to do with a classroom situation in January — Negy was consistently described in student evaluations as “arrogant,” “rude,” and even “mean” towards students he would trash, in front of 500 other kids.

    Lots of students seemed to enjoy the entertainment. He’s also described as very smart, “hilarious,” and full of himself. He hates religion, Christianity in particular, and is obseessed with sex. All of this is recognized both by students who like him, and by students who dislike him.

    A typical comment, from a couple years before this incident:

    “Negy is knowledgeable but arrogant. Does not appreciate views differing from his own. Does not challenge anyone to think in any other way except his own. Enjoys humiliating students less than half his age.”

    So I think it is clear that Dr. Negy is both a bully and a hypocrit. of course aside from his age and experience, he also carries the advantage of the microphone, and the power of grading. Bullying is nothing new in the world of academia, of course, but it does put that sanctimonious twit in the Huffington Post and Reddit in context.

  34. JAD

    It sounds to me like Negy only tolerates people he agrees with, which really isn’t how the dictionary defines tolerance. But, if you are a relativist you can define tolerance anyway you like, right?

  35. TFBW

    When you’re a relativist, you let everyone define “tolerance” any way they like. There’s probably a different term for someone who holds to the particular version of “tolerance” in effect here. I’m not going to offer suggestions, though.

  36. JAD

    I think in Negy’s case it is ‘you can define tolerance anyway you like’.
    I think he sees himself as being very tolerant. Indeed, I have no doubt that he has a laundry list disadvantaged and oppressed groups he “tolerates”: gays, atheists and “people of color.” Of course, does he tolerate these groups because he personally disagrees with them, because he thinks other people don’t tolerate them?

    Of course, he doesn’t have to tolerate Christianity, because he believes that Christians are intolerant. In other words, you don’t have to tolerate the intolerant, or anyone you believe to be intolerant.

  37. JAD

    correction to #39:

    “Of course, does he tolerate these groups because he personally disagrees with them, OR because he thinks other people don’t tolerate them?”

    [my edit function does not appear to be working]

  38. McIlhenny

    I find it interesting that the erudite professor apparently believes that there exists a person of faith who holds the opinion that the faith they ascribe to is NOT the most valid…

  39. Xavier Moutoux

    I’m glad that Negy sent out that email. Sounds like a great demonstration of bigotry – I saw the same example all the time in my religion and philosophy courses in college. I remember taking classes about alternate religions, like Buddhism and Islam, as a learning experience, and the bigoted Christians in the class really ruined the experience. It was impossible to have a good discussion. People need to constantly question their beliefs, or they will lose track of the truth, which is beyond belief anyway. If you are a truth seeker, go to http://www.truthcontest.com and read “The Present (with religion)”

  40. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    I went to the page you linked to. It’s filled with hooey.

    That’s not a bigoted statement, it’s a simple observation of the silly way this online book puffs itself up whole distorting the Bible.

  41. David Marshall

    I have taken a good number of classes in comparative religion, too, and never witnessed anything of the sort. Negy is the bigot, as even students who LIKE him admitted, even BEFORE this incident. There is no hint or trace in any of the student evaluations, even from students who love him, that he ever questions his own worldview.

    Pot. Kettle. Black.

  42. Theo

    Sounds like a professor who loves to hear himself talk. No way!!! lol

    That being said, here’s what people are saying on the other side:

  43. SteveK

    I love the irony found in the quote given at the 3:00 mark of that video. Negy’s personal beliefs about what constitutes bigotry are nothing more than his personal beliefs. How come he doesn’t recognize that this is the case? Where’s the evidence that what he is saying is true? Perhaps he’s not a critical, independent thinker.

  44. Wil

    I was in this class. His point was that they shouldn’t claim something to be “true” without proof. When he asked if they had proof of Christianity being the “right” religion, they all agreed not to say anything. This is what bothered him, that they believed in something without providing proof and facts.
    The point of college is to think critically, and that includes about your religion. It didn’t matter which religion it was, but they were the ones in the class deciding to claim their religion as “best” without even as a reason why.

  45. David Marshall

    Wil: Here are some comments by other students who took Negy’s class:

    “He is rude and opinionated. He teaches based on his personal beliefs and mocks students with different beliefs(He’s a vicious Atheist) then test you on that.”

    (Note: NO reviews of Negy, even by his fellow atheists, make this at all implausible.)

    “I found the course to be really interesting, but Prof. Negy came across as disrespectful. When students make comments or add to the discussion, he brushes them off, as if their opinions don’t count. Furthermore, he acts like he knows everything, when he clearly does not.”

    “EASY class. Concepts watered down to an extreme. Text book is hard to read because of poor grammar. Negy is knowledgeable but arrogant. Does not appreciate views differing from his own. Does not challenge anyone to think in any other way except his own. Enjoys humiliating students less than half his age.”

    “Although most of what the students are saying is true he’s not really that bad. Yes he can be insulting, and definitely has a bit of a god complex, but for the most part he’s amusing and makes the information interesting.”

    “Absolutely hated his class. I’ve never felt so insulted by a teacher. Arrogant and makes fun of his students. I withdrew from his class because it would make my day horrible by just going. He would always say that we need to respect eachother, yet he has no respect for others and their beliefs. Dont recommend if looking for someone professional.”

    “Read the book and go to class to watch the movies you’ll be fine but he loves to make you feel like an idiot when you answer questions,close minded and doesn’t care about anyone else’s views but his! brings sex into everything! sarcastic and makes fun of his students.”

    An arrogant jerk of a teacher like that, with most of his class behind him (overall, he is clearly a popular teacher), has numerous advantages. He owns the mic. He is older and more knowledgable than the students. He has experience in winning these “debates.” He will grade the students. He can manipulate the class.

    Please tell Negy that if he really wants a debate, I’ll debate him. I’ll probably be in Florida in February. He won’t be grading me, and I’m his peer. I’ll be happy to defend the rationality of Christianity against his attacks.

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