Hypocrisy of UC Berkeley liberalism is unacceptable

Elizabeth Klingen/Staff

“Don’t take this class if you believe the Bible is inspired or infallible.”

When I started taking classes a year ago as an entering doctoral student here at UC Berkeley, I knew I was entering a very liberal environment. I had heard that the campus was the flagship of liberal academia, and I was also familiar with other bastions of liberalism during my time in the Ivy League and at Oxbridge as an undergraduate and a master’s student, respectively. But despite UC Berkeley’s ultra-liberal reputation, I took it as a given that there was still significant latitude for free thought and expression in the classroom.

Thus, I was not expecting the unapologetically heavy-handed double standard I encountered from the professor, a well-respected biblical scholar. His initial cutting remark within five minutes of the start of class was soon followed by more: “This stuff isn’t taught in synagogues or churches because they don’t want to piss people off. … Anyone can take this class, as long as you play by the rules of the game. … If you disagree with the approach we use, that’s an F.”

I was shocked — not only by his contempt for religion but also by the fact that he wasn’t even trying to be subtle about his narrow-minded academic approach. Apparently, free thought and academic curiosity were off limits from the get-go. “I don’t want people who are going to disagree with me all semester,” the professor declared in no uncertain terms.

To be fair, part of me understood where my professor was likely coming from. After all, as Thomas Kuhn writes in his classic book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” prevailing paradigms within any disciplinary study (including the study of the Bible) demand adherence to certain assumptions or ground rules that allow the field to advance within that paradigm. Thus I understood that my professor probably wanted to operate within a historical-critical framework of studying the Old Testament without having to deal with students questioning the fundamental basis of that approach to literary criticism.

Kuhn, however, also points out that paradigms are often flawed.

So, undeterred, I politely peppered my professor with questions to try to better understand his intellectual paradigm. Just to be clear, there is a correct answer you want us to accept, I asked. “Correct.” What about rigorous biblical scholarship claiming, for instance, that Moses did, in fact, write the vast majority of the Pentateuch? “That doesn’t exist.” It does, I argued. “I don’t want people who are going to disagree with me all semester,” he repeated. I thought a university was an environment in which multiple viewpoints and debates were encouraged, I countered. “Not in this classroom” came the maddeningly smug response.

After the class, I was left shaking my head, a mixture of indignation, sadness, confusion and frustration exploding inside me. As I packed up my things, other students came over to me and thanked me for my questions, explaining that they, too, were upset about the professor’s overly harsh attitude toward religion and religious students. We all felt the arrogance of the professor and the injustice of the situation, but did not know what to do about it.

As I have continued to process the encounter over the past year, I have realized that the attitude and ultimatum of my professor troubled me for two major reasons.

First, I was deeply troubled by the hypocrisy of a famously “liberal” school employing such a closed-minded professor. In fact, the professor’s actions ran directly counter to the stated diversity values of the University of California. According to the UCnet website, “Diversity is a defining feature of the University of California and we embrace it as a source of strength. Our differences — of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, socioeconomic status, abilities, experience and more — enhance our ability to achieve the university’s core missions of public service, teaching and research. We welcome faculty, staff and students from all backgrounds and want everyone at UC to feel respected and valued.” Not only did the professor make no effort to value students with academic and religious perspectives differing from his own, but he actively persecuted us, essentially forcing us to drop his class or suffer.

Second, the fact that religious persecution was flaunted so unabashedly by a well-established professor in front of an entire classroom of students — at the premier public university in the world, no less — speaks to a teaching culture that, at best, tacitly acquiesces to his attitude and, at worst, actively encourages it. This was certainly not the first class this professor has taught, nor is he the only professor to openly criticize religion in a UC Berkeley classroom, nor is UC Berkeley the only campus where this type of persecution is a problem. A number of my friends, at UC Berkeley and other universities, have experienced similarly hypocritical discrimination based on their unpopular religious or scholarly perspectives, thanks to a certain “liberal” fundamentalism as narrow-minded as any conservative, religious fundamentalist. Such a deep-seated posture of indifference toward the religious and academic freedom of students — in general, but particularly for those of strong religious faith, who are often the minority — is shameful and outrageous. Everyone deserves a seat at the table.

As Kuhn points out, recourse to criteria outside existing paradigms is essential when two schools of thought are in competition with each other. After all, what better place to explore the intricacies and nuances of competing academic paradigms than the modern university? The permission to explore, think and argue is invaluable in both advancing scholarship and protecting religious freedom. As such, the “liberal” double standard — by which all views and scholarship are permissible and encouraged, except those deemed too traditional, passe or otherwise unpalatable for the sophisticated 21st century thinker — is simply unacceptable at the modern pluralistic university.

David Kurz is a second year doctoral student at UC Berkeley.

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  • Claim Proclaim

    Transfer to U.VA, the other “premier” public ivy in the nation. The religion department there is great and fair. Moreover, professors of a given aspect of religion tend to be an adherent of that faith — implying belief, at some level, vs. skepticism. Virginia has an attitude of respect for different points of view. Recall that Jefferson, the school’s founder was a deist but wrote to the Danbury Baptists, in essence, to help protect their religious liberty! Link to school: http://religiousstudies.as.virginia.edu/
    The Jeffersonian approach continues.
    I know a former president of the student body at Berkeley…a devout evangelical Christian, and he was there during the Free Speech movement days.

  • Teri

    I ran into similar issues in graduate-level religious studies. There seemed to be a prevailing attitude from the professors that academic study precluded any possibility that there might be any mysteries beyond human perception. I was not espousing a God, or defending any religious belief or postulation, but merely suggesting that we acknowledge that humans are not now in possession of all authoritative knowledge about all that exists or ever will exist or has ever existed. There might indeed be a spiritual realm, or perhaps some universal consciousness of which we all partake. I don’t know .. but I don’t deny either. I recognize that humans make up all kinds of myths and cultural constructs to define and regulate society and put some form to what we don’t know. Science has helped us deconstruct a lot of that .. but in doing so, it has recognized it’s own limitations as we are able to understand and explain ever more closely, changing the answers that came before. Biblical exegesis (historical-critical studies) help to extract meaning of biblical verse, and place it in the time and the context it was written. We find, for example, that Books attributed to a given person do not denote authorship as they do in our time, but speak of works that came from a given scholarship or community. The Books of Moses, then, were not written by one individual person, but came from a community led by, started by, Moses. Similarly the Gospel of John from the Johannine community, etc. As we use colloquialism, symbolism, and frames of perception, so did the people who wrote those books. As we combine stories and myths and spin it into history, so did those people. (Did Washington cut down a cherry tree? Did Columbus really discover America, and did he really not already know the earth was round? Was he really heroic, or just an opportunist?) When you do historical-critical study, the inconsistencies start to come undone (you really think something that was written a couple thousand years ago, in another language, from a very different culture, is going to translate literally into modern-day English? What about Shakespeare and the gay party he speaks of? Or how “love will make you great” (it will get you pregnant, perhaps, in modern language?). People who know nothing of biblical interpretation, or have never studied religion, who have already decided it is a farce … can hardly come to the literature with a sufficiently open mind to allow it to unfold itself through the scholarly methods. Not knowing is one of the first requirements to actually learn something. Some professors need to learn that also.

  • I’d heard that California is one of 21 states that’ll take away your driver’s license if your student loans have gone into default. Not so liberal…

  • Egyptsteve

    Professor fail. On the one hand, being up front on day 1 about course content that might be controversial is important. This will go along way towards avoiding student mutinies over course content and course procedures down the line. But you absolutely don’t want to alienate students or insult students either — and that before you even learn their names or know anything about them at all. That’s unprofessional and flat-out rude.

    Here’s what to say: “Anyone is welcome to take this class. But be aware that we’re approaching the Bible from an academic perspective, not a religious one. I’m not a believer myself and I will say things, and assign things, that may make believers uncomfortable or even angry. If you can’t take part in the class under those conditions, now’s the time to drop. This cuts both ways, by the way: anyone, believers or non-believers, are welcome to state their points of view as long as it’s relevant to the class discussion, and everyone has to be respectful of that.”

    See how easy that was?

  • Ralph Winfield

    Welcome to Northern California where White heterosexual males are the official enemy of everybody else!

  • Jenna Kemp

    First, I think people interested in this discussion should read Professor Hendel’s response to this student:

    Secondly, I am a PhD student in the field of biblical studies and am studying under this professor. I want to point out that, like every other field in academia, there are rules of the game when it comes to conducting academic scholarship of the Hebrew Bible. If this student wants to challenge the basic tenets of scholarship of the Hebrew Bible, then he needs to learn the game first. Just like you cannot walk onto a soccer field and assert, without ever having played, that you really should be able to use your hands in this game, you cannot walk into a classroom on a topic you have not studied academically and expect to be taken seriously when you make naive and oversimplified challenges to the rules on which the field of study is built. If he wants to get a PhD in Hebrew Bible from a respectable institution, it is sometime during that training that he will be prepared to challenge the rules by which we play. Until then, his assertions remain a bit ridiculous.

  • Sherif

    The comments are deeply disappointing … Forget the presumption and bigotry toward people of faith for a moment. Let’s address the more objectively demonstrable flaw of egregious intellectual dishonesty: “the professor was right”. You don’t know if the professor was right until you’ve actually examined the countervailing evidence and the arguments on both sides … Until you’re ready to address the author’s actual viewpoints and justifications thereof (which he didn’t present here), then you’re in no position to presume who’s right. Doing so is precisely the opposite of any claim to be intellectual, inquisitive, honest, academic, etc. Dismissing a discussion prior to hearing it means that you are so intellectually dishonest that you are not willing to have your views ever challenged on anything. You want to believe what you want to believe and not only will you not hear what others might have in terms of challenges to your belief, but you will go even further as to actively silence them or support those who are unapologetically doing so. None of this is “academic”, “scientific”, “intellectual”, “honest” or any of this. Just say it how it is: you feel entitled to squash any point of view that threatens your worldview, just the same as any religious fundamentalist who doesn’t wish to engage in intelligent scholarship or scholarly discussion that might challenge his/her view. You’re no different from the worst of the worst among the very category of the people you condemn. You’re flat-out, a flagrant hypocrite if you support this sort of action at an institution that purports to promote critical thinking …

  • I don’t think the author understands what persecution means. Religious persecution is not receiving a failing grade from a professor who disagrees with your religious convictions. Religious persecution is going through mental or physical suffering because of your beliefs. Unless the professor attempted to harm you for stating that Moses wrote the majority of the Pentateuch, then you’re not being persecuted.

  • midnight rambler

    Perhaps the professor said it in a somewhat arrogant manner (or perhaps not; see Kea Johnston’s comment), but any religion professor would give essentially the same statement before a course like this. For that matter, it would be stated before many different types of courses. There simply isn’t the course time to go through the decades (sometimes centuries) of scholarship to refute everything that some student with particularly recalcitrant beliefs brings up. That type of believer is not likely to be swayed by overwhelming evidence in any case. There is no more basis for rehashing the entire history of Biblical scholarship in a course on the Old Testament than there is debating creationism in an evolution class.

  • Nicholas J. Matzke

    I TAed an undergrad science/religion survey course at Berkeley with Ron Hendel and Kevin Padian, and Hendel said something like this at the beginning — although I suspect that only if you were already a culture-war fundamentalist armed and ready to do battle with the allegedly oppressive secular establishment/conspiracy would you make such a negative assumption about what is being said. Geology professors aren’t going to waste a semester or even a class period, of valuable teaching time dealing with some student who thinks the Earth is 6000 years old in spite of all the evidence because (their reading of) the Bible tells them so, and because they can drag up a fundamentalist or two with a PhD who also ignores the evidence. Ditto for an evolution class. And, ditto for a Bible class. The idea that the Pentateuch was assembled from various sources with redaction rather than written by Moses (who dies before the end anyway) is supported by thousands of textual data points, starting from the two (not one!) creation stories in Genesis, which content is associated with which terminology for God, etc. And, yes, there are other sources, e.g. the Gilgamesh epic.

    Professors are within their rights to define a course of study in a manner that is productive, and confining the course to mainstream ideas that are well-supported is entirely reasonable. And to grade accordingly. It’s either that, or every physics course would have to give As to students who write nonsense about crystal vibrations on their tests, and give them time to rant during the lectures, chemistry classes would have to give As to homeopathy advocates, and given *them* time to rant in those lectures, etc. Outbursts like the one David Kurz did (environmental science Ph.D. student in a Bible class? unusual) only justify the professor’s preemptory remarks — undoubtedly he’s gotten such things before.

    If you are a fundamentalist struggling with one of these (many) topics where what you’ve been taught in Sunday school or Bible college conflicts deeply with what all of the academics who’ve been studying the primary data in detail in a community of thousands of colleagues looking at the same data for hundreds of years think, then there are some more productive ways to engage with mainstream academia. (1) learn the fundamentals of the field as the professionals see it, and show that you understand the material by getting an A in the course or at least the first test. The only requirement to get an A is to understand the material, the methods, the conclusions that the field has reached. Whether or not you believe it is a separate thing. (2) Once you’ve established that you are not just some close-minded ranting fundamentalist who doesn’t care about data and reasoning, and are instead willing to put in the effort to study the matter deeply, and have some aptitude for understanding what is being said, then go to the professor(s) during office hours and explain to them your upbringing and beliefs and why you struggle with the conclusions. Bring up the counterarguments you’ve heard from the apologetics authors, and ask for the professors’s opinion, or for recommendations for people to talk to and books to read if the professor is not up on what the apologetic people are saying (many of them won’t be). Then study those resources. Expect that it will take months or years for you to chew through these issues and feel like you’ve reach sufficient understanding. The one thing that won’t happen is that every topic will be handed to you in some nice comforting slurry. *That’s* what relativist liberal pablum would be. What they do at Berkeley is dig deeply into the evidence.

    • Patrick

      Wait. “What they do at Berkeley is dig deeply into the evidence?” When the writer proposed a discussion about ‘rigorous biblical scholarship claiming, for instance, that Moses did, in fact, write the vast majority of the Pentateuch,’ such a topic was rejected flatly. Nicholas, you jump to some dramatic conclusions here about how well versed the writer is or is not in biblical scholarship. You make some significant assumptions about the nature of the writer’s questioning (an ‘outburst?’ Really? So if someone with a conservative take on biblical scholarship asks questions it is automatically an outburst? Doubtful.). What if the writer was not (as you presume) a ‘fundamentalist struggling … ‘ and what if he did in fact have some idea about academia and ‘productive ways to engage?’ What if the writer actually happened to have studied this very topic carefully and happened to be well-versed in both sides of the discussion, but simply disagreed with the professor’s conclusions? I will avoid here the model of dialogue you have selected: an ad hominem attack on the writer — though your assumptions leave you very vulnerable to me doing the same thing to you that you have done to the writer here.

    • Patrick

      I started to write a longer response to this, but allow me to say that you (Nicholas) jump to some pretty entertaining conclusions here. I happen to know the writer, and am very confident that Dave knows *far* more about biblical scholarship than most of the people posting comments. This shouldn’t surprise you, but the fact that one is pursuing a doctorate in environmental science in no way disqualifies him or her from studying or being well-versed (even very well-versed) in other academic disciplines.

      I’m also quite positive that Dave has wrestled, deeply, with the professor’s arguments, and that he can engage on such topics clearly, calmly, and graciously. Stops at Princeton, Cambridge and now Berkeley certainly would have left him familiar with how to navigate the waters of academia. So I would wager, knowing him, that his was no ‘outburst,’ as you characterize it. Rather this is what happens when a mere student dares to display the unmitigated gall of asking a question that might imply disagreement with an almighty professor’s conclusion.

      Remind me: Who is close-minded here?

    • Joe Joe

      Stereotype much, Nicholas?

    • Claim Proclaim

      Go to the Veritas Forum out of Harvard for help.

  • The professor was right. It is dishonest to claim that there is “rigorous biblical scholarship claiming, for instance, that Moses did, in fact, write the vast majority of the Pentateuch.” Trying to use Kuhn to justify maintaining dogmas that are at odds with the Bible itself, in a course that studies the Bible in a genuinely rigorous and scholarly way, is disingenuous to say the least. To complain that a professor didn’t want to play this game of pretending that Josh McDowell is scholarship is to complain that a professor wanted to focus on scholarship rather than apologetics. I might have addressed things differently in certain respects, but the problem here is clearly with a student trying to avoid learning, and not with the professor.

  • RocinanteAway

    I don’t know, I guess I’m just a simpleton farmer, but…. if you take all of the bible as the infallible truth, then unless you are studying math or accounting regulations, why are you even in school; what more are you willing to say can be known, is important to know, if there is no other possibility of ‘truth’, Mr. Kurz? I mean, wouldn’t this just make the aim of all your studies to simply prove what egotistical and scared running rabbits all men and their pursuits are? Why aren’t you Amish?

  • David Kurz is an environmental scientist who has been inadequately educated in the Bible or the questions it raises.

    David asks, “What about rigorous biblical scholarship claiming, for instance, that Moses did, in fact, write the vast majority of the Pentateuch?”

    But the Pentateuch does not claim that Moses wrote the majority of it. It claims that Moses “wrote” only SELECT PORTIONS:

    1) An account of the war against Amalek. “And the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book… for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven” (Exod. 17:13-14).

    2) A list of places where the Israelites pitched their tents. “And Moses recorded their starting places according to their journeys by the command of the Lord” (Num. 33:2). (Even so, Numbers 21-33 differ in their descriptions of the route the Israelites followed from Mount Hor into Canaan.)

    3) The Book of the Law of God. “And Moses wrote this law… Moses… made an end of writing the words of this law in a book” (Deut. 31:9, 24). Unfortunately, we do not know what this original “law” may have consisted of. Perhaps its essence may be found in Deuteronomy 12-26, or parts thereof.

    4) The Song of Moses. “So Moses wrote this song and taught it to the sons of Israel” (Deut. 31:22; 32:1-43)

    5) The Book of the Covenant. “And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord. And he took the book of the covenant. And the Lord said unto Moses, Write thou these words; for after the tenor of these I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel” (Exodus 24:4, 7; 34:27). “The Book of the Covenant” is not the entire book of Exodus, but only chapters 19-24. Scholars believe it to be the most ancient legal collection in the Old Testament.

    The rest of the Pentateuch reads like a story “about” Moses, not a story written “by” Moses.

    The belief that Moses wrote the whole Pentateuch arose later, after the Pentateuch itself was completed. Afterwards, this view of Moses being the author of the whole Pentateuch was attributed to Jesus also. Thus it became binding both in Judaism (in which it was stressed that the true author was God and Moses merely a scribe) and in Christianity. But doubts soon arose among both rabbis and church fathers, as early as the second century, as to whether Moses could have written the whole Pentateuch. These early Bible scholars ran across passages such as these:

    Deuteronomy 34, which relates the death and burial of Moses, contains the statements, “but no man knows of his burial place unto this day,” v.6, “and there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses,” verse 10. The phrases “unto this day” and “not since in Israel,” imply that they were composed long after Moses’ day. In fact, notice the frequent occurrence of the expression “unto this day,” in places where it could have had no meaning, unless the “day” referred to was considerably later than the time of Moses or Joshua, Deuteronomy 3:14, 34:6; Joshua 4:9,5:9,7:26,8:29,9:27, 10:27,13:13,15:63, 16:10,14:14.

    Other passages that raised obvious questions as to Moses’ authorship of the whole Pentateuch included:

    “Moreover, the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh ‘s servants, and in the sight of his people” (Exodus 11:3).

    “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men that were upon the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3).

    “These are that Aaron and Moses, to whom Jehovah said, Bring out the children of Israel from the land of Egypt according to their armies. These are they that spoke to Pharaoh, king of Egypt, to bring out the children of Israel from Egypt: these are that Moses and Aaron” (Exodus 6:26-27)

    “And if ye have erred and not observed all these commandments, which Jehovah hath spoken unto Moses, even all that Jehovah hath commanded you by the hand of Moses, from the day that Jehovah commanded Moses, and henceforward among your generations,” etc. (Num. 15:22-23)

    In Deuteronomy, transactions, in which Moses himself was concerned, are detailed at full length, as by one referring to events long past. See Deuteronomy, chapters 1-3, especially such a passage as Deut. 3:4-11 (which ends with the verses, “For only Og, king of Bashan, remained of the remnant of the giants; behold, his bedstead was a bedstead of iron; is it not in Rabbath of the children of Ammon?” — implying it is “still to be seen,” at a time long after Moses’ day).

    Another such expression indicating a later date than that of Moses: “And the Canaanite was then in the land” (Gen. 12:6). “And the Canaanite and Perizzite dwelt then in the land” (Gen. 13:7). These words imply that, at the time when they were written, the Canaanite was no longer dwelling in the land, as its owner and lord. (The Israelites pushed out the Canaanites who were “then in the land, but only after Moses had died.)

    “That the land spew not you out also, when ye defIle it, as it spewed out the nations which were before you” (Lev. 18:28). This implies that the Canaanites were already “spewed out” or exterminated when these words were written. (That would have been after Moses’ death).

    “These be the words, which Moses spoke unto all Israel on the other side Jordan, in the wilderness” (Deut. 1:1). “On the other side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this law” (Deut. 1:5). On this, Bleek writes, “These words could only have been written by one who found himself on this side Jordan, and, therefore, after the death of Moses and the possession of the land of Canaan.” (Moses died when the Israelites were still living on the wilderness side of the Jordan. So, for someone to call the side with Moses and the wilderness, the “other side,” they would have had to have been speaking from the side that Israel settled on after Moses’death.)

    “And, while the children of Israel were in the wilderness.” Numbers 15:32 (Written when the people were no longer in the wilderness, and therefore, not by Moses.)

    Again, names of places are often used familiarly, which could scarcely have been known to Moses, much less to the Israelites generally, at the time of the Exodus, some of which, indeed, are modern names, which, according to the story itself, did not even exist in the time of Moses. (For specific examples see Bishop Colenso, The Pentateuch and Book of Joshua Critically Examined, London: 1862, or, see more modern works that critically examine the Pentateuch.)

    Exodus 30:13 and 38:24-26, mentions a “shekel after the shekel of the Sanctuary,” or, as some render the words, a “sacred shekel,” before there was, according to the story, any Sanctuary in existence, or any sacred system established in Israel. This appears to be an oversight, as is also the command to sacrifice “turtle-doves or young pigeons” in Leviticus 14:22, with express reference to their life in the wilderness, arising from a writer in a later age employing inadvertently an expression which was in common use in his own days, and forgetting the circumstances of the times which he was describing. These passages show also plainly the unhistorical character of the narrative, since in the first and last of them the phrases in question are put into the mouth of Jehovah Himself. The story, therefore, could not have been written by Moses, nor by one of his age, unless it be supposed that such a writer could be guilty of a deliberate intention to deceive. But it is quite conceivable that a pious writer of later days (when the Temple was standing) might have inserted such passages in a narrative already existing, which had been composed as a work of devout imagination, in the attempt to reproduce, from the floating legends of the time, the early history of the Hebrew tribes, for the instruction of an ignorant people.

    “And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher?” (Joshua 10:13). First, if Joshua really wrote the book of Joshua, he would not have needed to refer to another book (the book of Jasher) for the details of such an extraordinary miracle in which he himself was primarily and personally concerned. Another story attributed to the “book of Jasher” is found in 2 Samuel 1:18: “Also he (David) bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow… Behold, it is written in the book of Jasher.” Here, then, we have a fact in the life of David recorded in this same “book of Jasher.” The natural inference is that this “book of Jasher,” which probably contained a number of notable passages in the history of Israel, was written not earlier than the time of David, and hence the story about the “sun standing still” probably wasn’t even original to the book of Joshua which merely refers to the “book of Jasher” for it. (Warning, a phony “Book of Jasher” exists, but it is obvious to scholars that it is a later forgery, the original “Book of Jasher” has long since ceased to exist except for those two quotations from it found in the books of Joshua and 2 Samuel.)

    Also see

    The Cultural Divide Between the Ancient Near East and the Wealth of Modern Knowledge/Information — Where Do We Get Our Answers From Today? What Expands Our Minds the Most Today?

    Israelites and Canaanites. How Different Were They?

    The Rise of Monotheism and Israel’s Theological Worldview [Key Articles That Sum Up What Scholars Are Discussing]

    Exaggerations of Biblical Proportions!

    • This is the sort of academic debate this random reader expected from Cam, above. A person who’s never formally studied the OT, but just sat down and read the “books of Moses,” would notice these references to parts of the text apparently being written by Moses and parts obviously added by other people. (Imagine an online article in plain text without the formatting that identifies the comments, copied by hand and recopied…) So what’s with all the emotion about it? Even if the writer was a tiny bit defensive about the indefensible belief that Moses was somehow able to describe his own death, some of the commenters seem panicky about the idea of anyone believing anything in the Bible could possibly be true. Why are they so defensive? What’s their phobia?

      • I only scratched the surface, pointing out the obvious internal reasons Moses could not have written the whole Pentateuch. Scholars have taken the investigation much further by studying and comparing styles and uses of specific terms, as well as comparing the archeological evidence with the tales told in the Pentateuch. Their evidence combines to make the Pentateuch even more of a patchwork quilt, filled with questionable historical material. And I haven’t even touched on the use of exaggeration by such Israelite authors. Here is a brief summation of some of the evidence acknowledged by scholars today: https://questfortruthanatoliy.wordpress.com/author/salabon2005/

        Apparently you and David Kurz are the ones who are phobic when it comes to scholarly study of the Bible.

        • Phobic, no. (Having internal conflicts of logic and hypocrisies, sometimes; in real life I’m a human.) But dubious about how much can be learned by discarding the primary text.
          The primary text of the Pentateuch contains obvious hints that parts of it, especially the death of Moses, were *not* written by Moses. I think the analogy with Disqus is worth consideration. A scholar coming across the text on this page, in plain text, without the graphics that identify the commenters, would be likely to guess that our comments weren’t written by the primary author. Even though none of us is trying to sound like him, how accurately could the scholar guess which of us was which?

      • cam

        I’ve read the Bible from cover to cover. Just ask and I will give you dozens of nonsensical, irrational, or just plain crazy versus from the Bible (and I will INCLUDE their full contexts). There is a reason rationalists are so insistent that religion is idiotic. It’s not solely because religion rejects the need for evidence, but also because it is has internal conflicting logic and hypocrisies.

        • And science, history, philosophy, etc., lack internal conflicts of logic and hypocrisies? *People* are full of internal conflicts of logic and hypocrisies!

          • cam

            Two points: First, I offered to cite examples of internal inconsistencies in the Bible (feel free to take me up on this). You are unable to provide examples of inconsistencies in scientific principles in chemistry, biology, physics, or any other field, so I won’t even ask you to. Second, Philosophy (which in Latin means “love of knowledge”) is a discussion, sometimes empirical, sometimes not, of matters ranging from ethics to purpose of life to theories of justice. There are plenty of disagreements among philosophers. But philosophy also uses logical tools. Use of deductive logic/symbolic logic/syllogisms are the most effective ways to prove a point. What we are discussing here, however, is SCIENCE vs. RELIGION. On one hand, science requires a high degree of proof and testing, and has taken us from being cavemen to creating new medicines and technologies. On the the other hand, religion requires a conscious “blind” faith in a book, practices circular logic, and has been responsible for innumerable death, oppression, and suffering throughout the world.

            I should also say, it’s becoming clear to me that you might actually have some sort of Asbergers, so I’m not going to engage with you beyond this point.

          • Well, let’s see…here’s a so-called scientist, with no specific credentials, claiming to be able to diagnose a physical disorder on the basis of half a dozen comments on a web site (eyeroll). Do you, Cam, by any chance have Asperger’s Syndrome? Or is your understanding of psychiatry (as distinct from psychiatry itself) full of internal conflicts of logic and hypocrisies?

            For inconsistencies in scientific principles, consider “scientific” predictions of extreme global warming/cooling effects (or population growth) that were supposed to have happened by the year 2010. For inconsistencies in logic, try:
            1. It’s impossible to remove all pathogenic microorganisms from the Earth.
            2. Healthy people develop immunity to common pathogenic microorganisms through normal exposure to them.
            3. Immune-deficient people lose whatever immunity to common pathogenic microorganisms they had, and may die from exposure to pathogens that have no effect on the majority of people.
            4. For a limited number of pathogenic microorganisms, specific immunity can be built by vaccinations.
            5. However, for most pathogens, effective vaccines don’t exist and the side effects of vaccinations may become diseases in their own right.
            6. The most effective way to prolong the lives of immune-compromised people is for those individuals to isolate themselves from pathogens that are everywhere in the air, water, soil, and in all living things.
            7. Some immune-compromised people are hyperactive, noisy, and wealthy.
            8. Hyperactive, noisy, wealthy, immune-compromised people don’t want to isolate themselves.
            9. Therefore, it’s extremely important to inject every child with every vaccine on Earth, regardless of the risks (or benefits) to the child.
            (No, I’m not anti-vaccine; I’m in favor of informed individual decisions.)
            One big logical advantage the living body of scientists have over an ancient sacred text is that living scientists, as a group, *can* correct their mistakes from previous years. However, there’s a reason why few people even glance at scientific documents from past years…because the scientific process is a process of finding and correcting errors.
            Lighten up, Cam. You sound (seriously) about nineteen years old. People are fallible. People understand religion, science, logic, and everything else in a fallible way.

          • cam

            None of those you listed are scientific principles, which is what I requested. What you listed is accepted as being open to questioning and new information by the scientific community.

            Every time I debate with a religious nut such as yourself, I always say it’s the last time. It’s too easy. It’s easy to the point that it’s actually difficult, because religious nutcases have circular logic, inductive reasoning, and every known fallacy known to mankind in their back pocket and complete refuse any logic or rationality. For that reason, I’m leaving this alone. Best of luck in your autistic life!

          • It’s disheartening when people who claim to speak for universities don’t know the difference between debate and verbal abuse. Is there a reason why medical diagnostic terms leap to Cam’s mind, or is that the latest thing in playground taunts?
            Anyway, for adult readers, if any adults are still reading this page: I do happen to be a Christian (and neurotypical), but my argument here is not religious at all; it’s that *humans* tend to attach themselves to beliefs based on blind faith and emotions. Scientific theories can be made into dogmas just as sacred texts can. It would be nice if everyone who discussed unprovable (or disproven) theories about the origin of life, the coming ice age and/or melting of the polar ice caps, the “races” of humankind, an inherited *cause* for homosexuality, mental telepathy, or many others, stuck to scientific facts in a spirit of scientific detachment. But they don’t. People confuse questions of logic, or even questions of fact, as easily as they do questions of faith.

          • Joe Joe

            “Scientific theories can be made into dogmas just as sacred texts can.”
            Very true.

            Also, one can become addicted to one’s own arrogance and self righteousness, which is what CamNewton is doing. That is why arguing with him is a waste of time. He’s addicted to his own bad habits.

          • Claim Proclaim

            I commend John Lennox, a mathematician at Oxford to you.

          • Claim Proclaim

            Why the nasty comment to this woman at the end. Be civil. Certainly we can point to positive aspects of religion, too. I doubt anyone would call the late Mother Theresa a wing nut or Damian the Leper the same. Or the Dali Lama.

            In some religious paradigms, what we consider to be the so-called empirical universe is an illusion. Does it take a leap of faith for a blind man, too, who can’t see the world, to believe it’s there? Science and religion are not mutually exclusive. I commend some of the works of John Polkinghorne, a Cambridge physicist and Anglican priest: See

            I once had a Classics professor who mocked his wife’s aunt because the latter gave them A Pilgrim’s Progress as a gift. The professor thought that anything that smacked of a Judeo-Christian world view was irrational. Then, he went on to lecture about the oracle at Delphi. I politely raised my hand and asked, “Wasn’t going to consult the oracle at Delphi a leap towards irrationality?”

            He left the class later and went down the hall and slammed his door.

  • AsGiants Astros

    “Thus I understood that my professor probably wanted to operate within a historical-critical framework of studying the Old Testament without having to deal with students questioning the fundamental basis of that approach to literary criticism.

    Kuhn, however, also points out that paradigms are often flawed.”

    Wait, so you went into a history class, and attempted to argue that the established conventions used in studying history are wrong.

    While I applaud the audacity, when you don’t introduce an alternative approach based on principles grounded in critical thinking, you come across as a fool.

    Regardless, walking into a lecture and arguing with a professor about the nature of the discipline is an inappropriate forum to espouse your views. Take it up with the university or the history department. Ultimately, the issue here is respect. The professor doesn’t walk into your bible study and talk down the way you interpret the bible, so why are you doing that to him? And then you make a banal, emotional attack that generates clicks and attention solely due to its inflammatory title.

    Verdict: Verbal diaherra

  • Gene Warren

    There’s a difference in “permissible in a particular class” and “permissible at the University.” When my wife and I were at Cal I regularly attended a Bible-As-Lit class she was taking (Robert Goldman, Fall 02). Goldman made it clear at the beginning that while criticizing the very underpinnings of the bible-as-lit approach was certainly something that everyone was free to do at the University, it was beyond the scope of his course. Still several students tried to do this on a regular basis, and even with the professor trying to guide the discussion back to the course material it was largely waste of limited lecture time. Everyone knows there are many lenses through which one can view the Bible, but if you’re taking a course on the “Bible as Literature” then you’re probably interested in learning about “a historical-critical framework of studying the Old Testament without having to deal with students questioning the fundamental basis of that approach to literary criticism”. There are plenty of venues for criticism and debate at Cal without having to turn every lecture into a defense of the field being studied.

    • So Kali

      The best way to view any version of the Bible is to gaze into the flames as it burns.

    • Thomas Goodnow

      It’s very possible (and profitable) to study the Bible solely as a literary document, and remain an evangelical at the same time (Sailhamer’s entire approach in “The Pentateuch as Narrative”, for instance, and David Flusser made a career out of studying Jesus as a secular Jew). You ultimately are leaving behind the question, “but did this REALLY happen as recorded?” and instead appreciating that the writers were trying to make a particular point in a particular way and work to discover what that is.

  • sdreal

    We’ve all had professors that we disagree with. These are often the people from which we can learn the most. What makes you think the quality of your education is predicated on how free you are to push your ideas onto others? An education is about proving that you can fully understand the ideas of others before you. Your purpose in the classroom is to understand the course material, not to teach the professor. The professor is there because the university feels this person’s body of work meets its standards of rigor and success in peer review. It sounds like you’re the one with the closed mind. Perhaps you should challenge yourself and try to learn something.

  • Fredrik Rex

    Liberalism is the exact opposite of accepting religion. Religion in itself, is power and rules. Its a mental prison. Of course(!) a religious person will have problems at a liberal university. That is neither UC Berkeleys fault or any Kuhnsian paradigma-sign. It is simply the fault of the unintelligent student posing as an intellectual because he or she has read books and passed exams. This “something needs to happen” is a big loud woof of religious hurt feelings trying to bust open a wide open door. Uninteresting waste of time.

    • Nunya Beeswax

      Yet apparently interesting enough for you to pontificate on the uselessness of religion. Do you have a Google Alert set up or something?

  • Craig Robinson

    The key in this class then would be not to defend the “inherency” and “infallibility” of the Bible, but rather to attack the inconsistencies in the Documentary Hypothesis. If the Prof doesn’t believe in “inherency,” then he can’t believe his own views are inherent. Attack them.

  • Redan Lang

    Geez, a doctoral student and still struggling with the notion that his religious upbringing was based upon a book of myths.

    • Thomas Goodnow

      Didn’t see any evidence that this was his upbringing (maybe he became a Christian in high school?) but I appreciate that this could be true, if irrelevant. It seems that discarding what you were raised in by classing it as “myth” is at least as dangerous as accepting it unquestioningly. Is Luke/Acts myth in the same sense as, say, Job or Jonah? So what is Revelation? Have you found literature professors who are comfortable with your characterization? Why do you think this is so?
      Thinking tends to be hard, while skepticism tends to be easy. Admittedly, this is social media, and I don’t come here for careful thought, but bullsh*t probably still is bullsh*t, even if it’s pithy and memorable.

    • Olaf Olson

      You’re a fascist in liberal robes

    • Claim Proclaim

      Read what Joseph Campbell says about myth. Even if one were to believe that the OT (not to mention the NT) is a “myth”, the broader sense of the word suggests that universal truths are embedded in the storylines.

      I have often thought that those who think the notion of resurrection in the NT (and the hope of it in the OT) is irrational are somehow ignoring what happens in the empirical world every spring. A seed, having been planted intentionally or randomly by the wind, brings forth new life. Matter doesn’t die; it simply changes form. That’s not magic. That’s science: Law of Conservation of Matter.

  • Sad to read this. Most come to college to learn how to think critically. Not have dogma pounded into their head.

  • Papa Bear

    Tenured professor? If yes, then perhaps a portion of such a professor’s behavior can be attributed to being unaccountable to superiors.

  • Transparent Shade

    If you have not heard of Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, check it out and pass it on:


    To quote I_H8 Disqus, QUESTION AUTHORITY. It is Berkeley for goodness’ sake!

  • I_h8_disqus

    Question authority. An idea that isn’t allowed in certain departments at Cal. We fought so hard for freedom of speech at Berkeley, and that fight has been forgotten. Now there is just a two foot circle in Sproul where you can express yourself freely. It is little wonder that the outside world increasingly thinks Cal should only teach STEM and business and get out of the study of other areas where the faculty and students are unable to think outside of their protected little boxes.

  • Susan P

    I am sure I took this professor’s class. I sat in front and overheard him talking with his GSI’s. One of them was struggling with a student who was asking too many questions and he was told to “kick him out”. My own GSI admitted she knew nothing of the subject material, but had studied philosophy. Her non-existent grasp of theology made her an incompetent paper grader. I am still recovering from that class. I took it during my final semester at Berkeley last Spring so realized early on the GSI was hostile to any faith paradigm, so I just tried to keep quiet and out of trouble and she downgraded me. Still, I did learn that Fundamentalism is definitely not Biblical theology. God used that class to painfully shake off some wrong thinking. Sometimes its good to study under someone who can challenge old beliefs. I’m trying to work through it now. Still, he was arrogant and often his comments were quite narrow and mis-represented any sound teaching.

  • Lg

    First of all, you were not persecuted, Mister Kurz. If anything, the tone of the professor might have been upsetting to some, but then again, trying to base a course about history on facts and not faith is not even remotely close to religious persecution. What is amazing to me, is that you wrote this entire article about something, most people would deem a minor quibble. Trying to find hypocrisy in a system, when your only evidence comes from a one person sample and hearsay, tells me, that you do, in fact, need a sound education on reasoning with empirical facts as opposed to seeing one thing and accepting it as a given. Finally, extreme liberalism (and berkeley IS NOT extreme, believe me, Germany is much more left wing than that), while it may be supremely annoying is not even close in closed mindedness to the religious conservative right. Liberals might have some preconceptions about Christians, but they are accepting of people of any color, sexual orientation, disability, sexual identity and so on. That is far more than the religious right could ever argue to be.

    • tbrown6512

      It’s not unreasonable to assume that Mr. Kurz’s arguments that run contrary to the views of the professor can also be grounded in facts.

  • Eric Gamonal

    Why all the vagueness?

    Was this a Sociology class? Religious Studies? Was the class highly related to Mr. Kurz’s degree in progress? Was he there as a tourist?

    What was the substance of the dispute between the two men?

    Oxford or Cambridge?

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    Your story echoes that of the recent movie “God is not dead.”

    Thank you for your essay, Mr. Kurz.

  • cam

    The professor has a point. To “have faith” in something is to believe it in the absence of evidence. So when people “have faith” in the infallibility of the Bible, they are believing in it purposefully rejecting the need for logic and evidence. Professors at ALL universities should be rejecting this “don’t need no evidence” point of view. The fact of the matter is, the university setting is no place for YOU, David Kurz.

    • Truth Unites… and Divides

      That is not the definition of faith.

      • cam

        Then maybe your response to my post should have included what your definition is?

        Webster’s Dictionary:
        “Faith: Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.”

        • I_h8_disqus

          Don’t base your education on dictionary definitions. You are at Cal. You should think deeper than that.

          • cam

            Why are you commenting on this story when you have no association with UC Berkeley or this story?

          • I_h8_disqus

            I am commenting because replies like yours show how far the “studies” majors have fallen over time at Cal. You have the entire internet and all the resources of the libraries on campus, yet your arguments are dictionary definitions or insults. Step up you game or Cal will fall further than 20 in the U.S. College rankings.

          • cam

            I will not further waste my time with pathetic idiots such as yourself. Good luck with your dumb pathetic life.

          • I_h8_disqus

            I am sure your debate skills will easily win over the physics, philosophy, and other students who often do not have physical evidence to support their ideas. Just remember that anyone coming across this string of comments will see that you haven’t been able to do more than name call as an argument. You think I didn’t go to Cal, but your responses indicate that you are the one who either didn’t go to Cal, or you got in to a department that isn’t compacted and lets in pretty much anyone willing to pay the tuition. Always support increased freedom for a range of views in academics, or you will never have a complete education.

        • Derek Dimpfl

          The English word “faith” comes from the Latin word “fides,” which means “trust.” To trust is to make a decision based on evidence. I take it you do not sit on a chair that you do not trust by the observation of it. Similarly, faith in God should be underpinned by accumulated evidence. “Trust faith” is quite a bit different from the brand of “blind faith” that you are describing. I hope this was helpful to you. :)

          • cam

            Another moron who makes up his own definitions of words. The Oxford dictionary definition of Trust is as follows: “Acceptance of the truth of a statement without evidence or investigation.” So there. I have confirmed what people have probably told you your whole life…you are an idiot.

            Nevertheless the stupidity of trying to prove a point by connecting it to its Latin root. If I were to do that with most things you would laugh. Similar to how I am laughing at your stupidity now. Obviously I don’t need to waste my time with people as retarded and pathetic as you are, so don’t expect any further responses from me.

    • Christopher Seay

      The issue the author brings up is that the professor was unwilling to respect the objections of students or evidences of other Biblical scholars who would disagree with him. There are several intelligent men and women, people with Ph.D’s and decades of biblical scholarship under their belt, who would state that there is substantial evidence Moses wrote the Pentateuch, for instance.
      The professor wanted his thoughts unchallenged and universally accepted without question. He was being close minded and unwilling to look at the view from another perspective or even teach other perspectives. This is actually detrimental to students because it limits their ability to truly wrestle with religion and faith, which is a huge part of the lives of a large percentage of our world.

      • Ben Westbrook

        I really don’t think the author cares about the the Moses thing. It really sounds like the quibble is with this, “Don’t take this class if you believe the Bible is inspired or infallible.”

        He even tweeted about it back in September when he took the class:

        My prof: “Don’t take this class if you believe the Bible is inspired..I don’t want people who disagree with me.” wow rly? geez Cal

        Link: https://twitter.com/datlifeflow/status/507412250101964800

        And also tweeted that:

        J.I. Packer: rather than criticize #Genesis for not feeding our secular interest, we should focus on what it shows us – Nature’s creator

        Link: https://twitter.com/datlifeflow/status/521823122706554880

        I think the professor was saying. This course is predicated on the notion that scripture is not divinely and/or supernaturally inspired but rather written by humans for humans if you try to make arguments based on divine inspiration they will be graded poorly. Somehow David Kurz, who has found many Christian groups throughout his life found this to be persecution.

        The reality is that we only are hearing what he is paraphrasing and his side of the story. I’d really like to hear the perspective of one of his classmates, because I bet it makes everything quite different.

        • Kea Johnston

          I was in this class and remember Mr. Kurz. It was not a discussion course, and it was not a theology course. His reporting of the basic sequence of events is right, though I found the professor pretty friendly and thought his tone was joking–he was setting expectations for the class. I felt he was not derogatory towards religion but was expecting the students to be able to work with the course material on its own terms. I suppose how you interpreted this depends on your pre-existing beliefs and sensitivities.
          Mr. Kurz left after the first class. I really resented that he took up a substantial portion of the class in having a one on one argument with the professor which seemed politically motivated. I felt that in doing this, he was extremely disrespectful of my time and that of my classmates. He could have broached his concerns during office hours and had a deeper discussion instead.
          A side note: I was a bit galled at the arrogance of coming into a classroom, when you are not a major in the field in question, and are not a biblical scholar, and demanding that your opinions be given equal time and footing to the base knowledge of the prof who has studied in the field for years. Perhaps I’m a little conservative in this view of the purpose of lectures.

          • Ben Westbrook

            Thanks for the insight!

            I guess I’m most surprised that he didn’t even take the course. How he decided that after one lecture of one class by one professor that all of UC Berkeley is hypocritical.

          • So Kali

            Actually, I think he discovered the hypocrisy in himself and blamed the Professor.

    • I_h8_disqus

      And another liberal votes to shut down freedom of thought in the university. I miss the days where liberals questioned authority. Now they just let their minds fill with the “junk food” their teachers feed them.

      • cam

        I’m actually very conservative, and spent the better part of my life as a church-going Christian. I’m making a very valid point and you have nothing to say about it.

        • I_h8_disqus

          I did have something to say about it. I said you are shutting down freedoms needed in research. You are not making a valid point. You are making a bad point. Every idea starts from a point of faith and then it is tested and evidence is collected to help prove the idea. Just imagine the chaos in the physics or astronomy departments if they could only discuss ideas that meet your definition of evidence. The fact that the university thinks differences in religion are important to our diversity goes to the point that religion isn’t assumed to be false, which is basically what you and the professor assume. A conservative or libertarian should have no problem with people of faith being part of the study of religion.

          • cam

            “Every idea starts from a point of faith and then it is tested and evidence is collected to help prove the idea.”

            I can tell you have never been in a university setting. Or if you have, the system clearly failed you, because you sir are a moron. The way you describe the scientific process, equating a hypothesis with “faith,” is beyond stupid.

          • nonetoolinear

            I am sure you recognize that before a theory or conclusion is accepted or proven, many more alternative hypotheses or guesses may have not only been supposed, but also put to the grindstone and tested. Research means persevering through lots of experiments and lots of failures, and if you don’t have some “faith” in the thing hoped for, i.e. that your effort will be rewarded with some kind of useful conclusion (and sometimes it doesn’t, in which case you change your thesis or graduate ABD), you will burn out. If you are 100% sure of the outcome in advance, why waste valuable years on the experiment? Of course, you will always be 100% sure in advance if you, as a rule, never consider the possibility you might be in error or allow a dissenting voice in your class…

          • I_h8_disqus

            What is stupid is how you can’t see that every idea starts from a basis of faith in something and then is built upon from there. Escape the coop and embrace the learning experience that Cal could actually give you. You put on blinders in your education and think you are learning.

      • Anonymous

        Liberalism is modernity.

        • I_h8_disqus

          You really think it is modernity to limit discussion at the university that was at the front of the fight to increase discussion? That is just depressing.

    • A random reader wonders why this reply, and those below it, are so personal? Not “the university is not the place for this kind of debate” (debatable, but legitimate) but “the university is no place for YOU.” Not “I don’t want to argue this point now” but “YOU are a moron.” Friendly banter between dorm mates, or does this school not teach parliamentary debating form?

      • cam

        I beg your pardon, but this article was written by a PhD student whose fundamental beliefs about what should be taught in the classroom differs with his professors’. Thus, I can freely and comfortably make comments about whether or not the University setting is compatible with this authors’ thinking. Also, there isn’t a single comment that says that the university setting is not the place for this kind of debate.

  • Mark Talmont

    This reminds me of a book I found in the Main Library all the way back in the early 90s. “The Genius of the Few” by Christian O’Brien claimed to revise some translations of ancient Sumerian tablets, leading to some quite profound and inevitably controversial interpretations of the events portrayed in the Book of Exodus in particular.

    The book went out of print rather quickly and when I went on line years later I found it to cost $300; when I returned to the library I discovered it was checked out on a long term loan to faculty and would not be available for nearly a year. I just looked and not only is it still hideously expensive for the few out of print copies available–a search of Oskicat comes up empty! However, apparently O’Brien’s family has re-printed it and it can now be found in a new edition for $40.

    History, both ancient and modern, fairly teems with controversies like this, yet the university systems seem mainly interested in establishing orthodoxies and then reinforcing them. Just to cite one of my favorites, some controversial history books which can still be found on the shelves at U.C. Berkeley are the writings of Antony Sutton. He pretty much demolishes the foundations of the 20th century as it is taught at every level (his books were not always in the library, so at least it looks like somebody is doing their job).

  • lspanker

    Nothing new here. Often the most close-minded and intolerant folks around are the ones who constantly pat themselves on the back for being “open-minded” and “tolerant”…

  • Ben Westbrook

    I’m calling BS. All we know what the professor said is what you paraphrased. Furthermore, depending on the course, it’s probably quite OK to not have people take the Bible literally (e.g. a course on evolutionary biology). From you twitter account and bios on various websites, it’s clear that you are Christian. To me it sounds like you were offended by a course that suggested that the Bible isn’t factual, rather than a professor doing or saying anything that is actually hypocritical.

    Was the professor saying, “If you are deeply religious and take the bible to be literal and factual, you should drop this course now, because this is not a platform for you to proselytize your views. Furthermore, this course requires you to take the view point that scripture is written by humans for humans and contains no supernatural influence.” Furthermore, you have taken it upon yourself to conflate this one professors experience with all of UC Berkeley based loosely on reports from a “number of your friends.” I know this is an OpEd piece, but you are really loose with facts.

    I find it pretty shocking that you felt “persecuted” for voluntarily attending a course while pursuing a doctorate degree. It sounds like you are not persecuted and have enjoyed the supportive community (e.g. the folks over at #countmein seems quite accepting of you) quite well. In reality, the piece is sounds like Kim West lamenting that Christianity was not the core part of the curriculum of the class you took.

    • Joe Joe

      You know, Ben, many years ago, I had a similar kind of religion course in college. The Muslim professor was very tolerant of students’ views, even those of a rather vehement born-again Christian who sat in the front of the class. By the same token, he was very careful to separate faith from historical criticism. It was a good class.

      The professor in the OP seems to be neither as gracious or open-minded.

  • s randall

    Did you get an F? If you received a fair grade, then we are just talking about style. If not, take it up with the academic senate.

    • So you would have us believe that the author would have to fail the class before he would have standing to question intimidation tactics and intolerance on the part of the professor?

      • s randall

        I actually got tired of reading his whining screed. It just went on and on. I can imagine what he was like in class. I’ve been in classes where people have tried to hijack the class. When you’re the instructor sometimes you have to exert control.

        I am not saying that this was the case here, but I don’t know that it wasn’t either.

        • vitriolix

          Judging by Kea Johnston’s comment above you are exactly right

  • mogden

    There is no place in America more hostile to freedom of thought and expression than the college campus. There is also no place more insufferably sanctimonious about the correctness of its received truth.

    • Anonymous

      It depends on what campus you are attending.

      • So Kali

        mogden dropped out of all of them because he couldn’t handle people with different ways of thinking about his issues.

    • sdreal

      You don’t appear to have firsthand knowledge of how college campuses work. They are certainly ideal places for creativity and new ideas. In fact, you’re not even supposed to get a PhD without trying something novel, even if you fail. However, there’s simply no place in an evolutionary biology class for a credible discussion of Genesis as a historical source of diversity of species. You’re not going to take a high level engineering class and try to prove to the class that Newtonian physics is a terrible description of rigid bodies in motion. And there’s also no place in a critical biblical course for proselytizing.

      • lspanker

        You don’t appear to have firsthand knowledge of how college campuses
        work. They are certainly ideal places for creativity and new ideas.

        I don’t care to necessarily defend the writer’s position or assessment of what happened in a given classroom, partially because these things turn into a “he said/she said” type of argument, and because my own theological views range somewhere on the spectrum between deism, agnosticism and atheism. However, being a Cal grad, I can tell you that how receptive most people @ Berkeley are to new ideas is often directly proportional to how those “new ideas” fit into their existing world view. I can also assure you that there is a strong PC filter in effect that results more often in focus on the individual who dared dissent as opposed to actual debate of the idea. There is a point to be made here, although I think the author did not choose well in using his personal experience as an example of it.

      • Joe Joe

        sdreal, you make me laugh!

        I’ve been on college campuses for the past 30 years, and you are utterly incorrect about what really goes on in graduate programs. Graduate school is an apprenticeship in other peoples’ ideas. You stray too far from the current paradigm and you don’t get through. It’s that simple. And don’t get me started on what happens when your political views differ, even slightly.

        The illustration above the OP–the brain in a cage–is the exact metaphor for graduate school. There’s an excellent book that explains why:


        • Claim Proclaim

          I had a professor educated at Berkeley who was a disciple of Michel Foucault whose views I did not ascribe to in totality in any way, not even 85% of them.

          I learned to pepper a paper though with some of his more tenable (to me) comments, put him on my Works Cited page, and got an A for the course.

          Was I converted to this man’s world view? In no way.

          But I played “the game” of kiss-up to a professor without compromising my soul.

          Take the degree and then go out and counter what you learned in class. I have quite successfully. We are concentric circles and touch many universes in a life time.

    • Thomas Goodnow

      A lot of social media is pretty bad, too, at least if you stray outside of the “Jesus Christ Daily” sort of sites.

  • Justin Park

    In my first semester as a transfer student as Cal, I took a class on medieval literature and history. Naturally, religion came up as a topic. At one point, a fellow student made a crack about beliefs in “an invisible magic sky fairy.” General laughter followed. The professor, wisely, turned our attention to more productive lines of inquiry. I have often thought back to that moment and wondered if another faith or religion was under discussion would such jokes have been as readily acceptable. I have also wondered what it says about the culture of the university that such remarks go unnoticed.

    I believe Dave makes a very valid point. Education is not just about learning facts but critical ways of thinking about a subject. And while a certain line of critical inquiry into biblical texts does not support the view of the text as revelation, that view is critical to understanding the reception, promulgation and proliferation of the text itself. We would not be studying the Bible at all without people taking the text as sacred scripture.

    The professor in question, in my view, needed to set ground rules for the conversation in his class which allowed for all voices to be heard while maintaining the course’s critical focus. That a class was run with the express condition of the exclusion of a certain set of voices is deeply disappointing, not to mention disturbing, and there needs to be a conversation about this in the Cal community. Thanks Dave for getting it started!

    • Claim Proclaim

      Some such professors cannot address the questions thrown at them that throw a monkey wrench into their closed system, hence many of their subsequent prepared lectures.
      Limiting discussion, in essence, limits not their ineptitude but bringing into the light of day how narrowly educated, they are. Truth seekers allow questioning.

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