Atheism & Acadamia


Why do we see widespread atheism in the academic world among the professors of humanities?


H.D. Goswami Profile Picture

My personal experience, being around the academy for most of my life, is that one seldom finds a more unphilosophical, unreflexive group of dogmatists than atheistic and agnostic humanities scholars. For example, the fervent adherence to unguided evolution in the humanities as the ultimate explanation of everything, almost always without any serious knowledge of the issues, takes one’s breath away.

Tangentially, the University of California published a sociology book years ago that compared mutual attitudes between the Christian right and the academic left. Result: the academic left was more fanatical and dogmatic in its rejection of the right, than vice versa.

Power corrupts, and somehow those who hold power in universities for the last thousand years, roughly as long as they have existed, have tended to be dogmatic — first Christian, then methodological atheist scholars. That in itself is an interesting topic.

I just read a fascinating article on the moribund condition of “strict” Western philosophy. Centuries ago, western philosophers were rock stars. Now they are mostly unemployable. A few years ago I was speaking at the U. of Colorado and I noticed on the door of the philosophy department a transcription of the chairman’s speech at graduation to the parents of philosophy majors. He was desperately trying to convince them that they had not wasted their money financing their children’s “useless” philosophy major, because the kids could get real jobs in other fields, like law, foreign service, even computer tech. It sounded like a devotee trying to deal with the parents of a kid who moved into the ashrama.

How many scientists or humanities professors take courses in epistemology before they make their absurd statements on what is “probably” true? Blind evolution is the ubiquitous deus ex machina that explains why ultimately everything happens the way it does.

So I congratulate those who have met thoughtful atheists. I have met few. Dawkins is a clown, albeit a famous one, who breaks the first rule of scholarship: he speaks as an “authority” outside his area of academic expertise. He has no academic training in theology, philosophy of religion, history of religion, nor even philosophy of science, yet he spouts off as an authority in all these fields.

As a person whose radar is often focused on philosophy and epistemology, I find the academy often lacks rigor, or even basic awareness, in key philosophical and epistemological areas. Among humanities atheists, one is likely to hear early 20th century, self-contradictory slogans on the exclusive validity of the empirical method, mixed with unreflected citation of the “problem of evil.”