The Atheist Crusade Against a Conservative Christian History Professor

Recently I received an email, the subject line of which provocatively suggested that atheists were on the “warpath” against a university professor. Intrigued, I clicked on the email and opened up the linked article. I have to admit that I was less interested in the story than I was in identifying this conservative professor and finding out what his alleged offense was. How could atheists have a complaint about a university professor? Aren’t all professors atheists, or at least hostile to historic Christianity, anyway?

Of course I’m exaggerating a little bit, but just a little bit. Other than a few high profile exceptions, such as Prof. Mike Adams who won a lawsuit alleging discrimination because he is a political conservative and an outspoken Christian, conservative Christians are not well represented among the typical university faculty, a fact that multiple surveys have abundantly demonstrated.

As a brief aside, because of our current political and cultural milieu, there is a tendency to conflate political conservatism and religious conservatism, not without some cause, but political conservatism is not the primary focus of this article. For the sake of clarity, when I write “conservative Christianity,” I mean Christianity as it has traditionally been believed and practiced, denominational distinctives aside for the purposes of this article. Like terms might be traditionalist Christianity or perhaps creedal Christianity, as in affirming the core Christian beliefs outlined in the historic creeds.

What I found when I read the article was not disappointing. Not only does this professor sound like the real thing, he also teaches at a major public university in my home state, and he teaches history, a traditional hotbed of hostility to Western Civilization, a primary element of which is Christianity. Who knew? I was excited just to identify a dissenter.

But beyond my quest to find someone other than a cookie-cutter leftist in academia, I couldn’t help but be struck by the absurdity of the complaints. The linked article is by Gary DeMar, a prominent Christian activist and author, and discusses two incidents of people being persecuted by the guardians of approved thought for wrongthink, including the good professor. Here is a link to a local news story about the complaint.

The Professor in question is Dr. Tom McMullen of Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia. The Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science are the two groups that lodged the complaint, which alleges First Amendment violations against the professor.

The complaint reads in part, “…it is our information that McMullen uses class time to proselytize students and advance his personal religion, Christianity.”

Really? Are the complainants that clueless? Do they have no sense of irony? Even if their complaints are entirely true, which Dr. McMullen denies, the modern higher education system in this country, outside of self-identifying institutions of faith such as Liberty University, is one big exercise in attacking traditional Christianity and Western Civilization, and enforcing liberal groupthink. Read Gramsci and Marcuse, for example, and work your way forward. If this wasn’t the case, then they wouldn’t be so hysterical about shouting down ever so small eruptions of dissent anytime a little crimethink manages to peak through.

In order to have real fairness and balance, we would have to replace half the faculty in America. How dare this bunch of thin-skinned bullies whine about a faculty member “advance(ing)” his “personal” beliefs in class? Like that never happens in other history classes, not to mention disciplines such as anthropology and the various gender and race studies programs that are nothing more than glorified vehicles for Cultural Marxist indoctrination. But I don’t see the complainants writing indignant letters about those impositions of belief. (As an interesting aside related to wrongthink, Richard Dawkins, after whom one of the organizations is named, has shown little patience with the politically correct “atheism +” crowd, and vice versa, because he at least has sense enough to tacitly acknowledge that evolution has profoundly politically incorrect implications.)

Even if we take seriously their professed concerns about the First Amendment, which I don’t, where are their letters complaining about all the atheist and agnostic professors across the country that make it their mission to disabuse Christian students under their tutelage of their quaint notions? (Don’t make me produce reams of quotes.) I don’t think the First Amendment is at issue here, for reasons I won’t go into, but if it is, it is at least as much applicable to Dr. McMullen’s free speech rights as it is to the right of atheist, agnostic or other faith students to not hear his views. It is also at least as applicable to the multitude of professors who routinely advocate against religion.

If their concern is really the Constitution, then how many letters have they written complaining about public health professors who advocate violation of the Second Amendment? Where are their letters protesting the sociology professors who advocate government programs not authorized by the enumerated powers listed in Article 1, section 8? I realize that groups can be specialized and limited in focus, as these certainly are, put please spare me the faux concern for the Constitution. These whiners have no more concern for the Constitution as originally intended than they do for the more generic “pushing” of beliefs that faculty routinely engage in on campuses all across this nation every day. This is about quashing dissent, not upholding the First Amendment.

Additionally, the Freedom from Religion Foundation did itself no favors when it confirmed cartoonish stereotypes of itself with its complaint. As highlighted by Gary DeMar, the complaint reads in part:

“He could even legitimately discuss religious doctrines masquerading as science, such as young earth creationism and intelligent design,” the letter stated. “However, it appears that McMullen does not present these as religious ideas lacking scientific merit. Instead, McMullen presents these religious beliefs as scientific fact.”

I shouldn’t give the Foundation any advice, but the above reads like such an obvious caricature that I’m compelled to. Ummm Foundation, it’s OK for me to use loaded language like “wronkthink” and “whiners” when I’m writing obvious editorial polemics such as this. It’s OK for Gary DeMar to accuse people of being on the “warpath” when he is trying to get folks to open emails and click on links. It is not OK to use obnoxiously polemic characterizations in a complaint that you actually want someone to respond to. Seriously, who wrote this complaint? Angry Atheist Larry, a commenter from the Pharyngula blog banging away on his keyboard in his mom’s basement?

Above, I have deliberately avoided the merits of the creation vs. evolution debate because I can make the case I made without doing so. Dr. McMullen’s critics need to appreciate the issues I raise, regardless of the merits of his or their arguments regarding origins, if they desire to come across as something other than smug and pompous shills attempting to beat down any and all deviations from approved groupthink.

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