September 18, 2013

‘Secular safe zones’ offer campus shelter to atheist students

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Dr. Robert H. Schmidt

photo courtesy Utah State University

Dr. Robert H. Schmidt

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(RNS) The sticker on professor Robert Schmidt's door at Utah State University signals that his office is a ``Secular Safe Zone,'' open to students who are atheists, agnostics or just questioning their faith and in need of advice.

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  • David

    I thought secular colleges and universities were in and of themselves “secular safe zones” as they are distinct from religious colleges and universities and as they are not allow to teach anything but a secular view. I don’t know of any secular school teaching Biblical creationism or any other creationism without a law suit.

    As a Christian I don’t regard atheists as immoral, though many atheists who have expressed themselves to me feel that they have much more sexual freedom and are not bound by any sexual morals.

    America is not nor has ever been a Christian nation but I hope and pray it is always a just nation. I am a Lutheran pastor and have never bullied anyone to believe in God nor is that even possible. True faith cannot be bullied. . No one who has ever been to my serves or Bible studies and have ever been bullied to believe or take part. In fact we ask them to refrain from the sacraments until they have gone through a class and only with a good conscious confess the Faith..

    We have aided tornado victims who are not religious and that aid is not dependent on them hearing any God talk. We offered religious material, counseling and prayer which they can turn down.

    As a Navy Chaplain I have defended Sailors and Marines who are atheist and assured them I will support their 1st amendment rights. I have even forcefully counseled zealous Christians who try to force their faith in places that it is not appropriate.

    Yet I do know what if feels like to walk into a bar with my collar on and being told you don’t belong here. I was invited in by a friend to join them there. 100,000 Christians are being murder each year for believing in Christ world wide (“Reporter” September 2013, reporter.lcms.org) I really wonder who needs a safe zone.

  • cliff

    Thank you for your comment, David. While I, too, question the need for secular safe zones at *most* secular colleges/universities, and even many with a religious affiliation, I disagree that they are not *allowed* to teach creationism. Creationism is unlikely to be taught in a biology department, because it really is not biology. It has made no contribution to biology and is, in fact, a religiously inspired “scientistic” criticism of biological science. If you take an honest look at the creationist literature you will find most of it to amount to scientific-sounding pot shots at various straw men, and much of what passes as creationist scholarship is simply wrong. Nonetheless, creationism might be a legitimate topic of discussion in classes in religion, philosophy or sociology, etc.
    Also, while I am no less disheartened than you about the cruel persecution of Christians in many parts of the world, I cannot help but suspect that the folks uncomfortable with your presence in a bar were Christians who felt uneasy drinking in the presence of a pastor. It would certainly never occur to this atheist that a man with a collar did not belong.

  • Peter S. Chamberlain

    Maybe the “seculars” need safe spaces in Utah, but the secular bias in many university faculties makes this seem strange. On the state university campus across from my home, among others with which I am familiar, it is the conservative Christians, not to mention the political conservatives, who need shelter and protection from bullying by faculty and those currying favor with them. Bullying, of course, should not be tolerated, whatever the impetus or excuse.

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  • Elaine Bondra

    I find it interesting that 2 of the 3 comments so far have chosen to defend their own point of view, which is different from the one presented, instead of embracing or examining the view originally expressed. Instead of attempting to put themselves in the writer’s shoes to attempt to know what her experience feels like, they are essentially ignoring her point of view and saying, “yeah, but I or others have experienced discrimmination too.” If you chose to comment here, why not express an actual opinión about what was written? Or were you saying her point of view isn’t valid somehow because her group is not the only one discrimminated against? It sounds to me like you haven’t actually heard what she has said or, worse, you are not really interested.

  • Jacob

    Stephen C. Meyer offers a purely scientific rebuttal to the charge that religionists have nothing scientific to contribute to the discussion of origins. Signature in the Cell and Darwin’s Doubt are the titles of his books.

  • Jacob

    These safe zones may be needed out west where the norm is Mormonism or other sects. Anyone claiming the title of Christian ought to use their differences with non-Christians as an opportunity to show love to their neighbor rather than scorn remembering that the title “Christian” comes to them by free grace and therefore they are no better or deserving than their non-Christian neighbor. On the surface the idea of secular safe zone is silly, I must admit.

  • AZatheist

    Why silly? I went to a state university and the campus was ringed by various religious safe zones: Newman Center, Hillel, Baptist Student Union, Islamic Cultural Center, Luthern Student Center, LDS Seminary, etc., etc..

  • Paul Sanders

    Wow. The comments here show exactly why these safe zones are necessary. When people act as if its silly that atheist and secular students might feel isolated on campus (something like 75% of the country is Christian), it’s clear that stereotypes and discrimination are still widespread against us.

    People living in liberal urban areas might feel like their religious views are in the minority, but that might also be the persecution complex that’s so effectively hammered into so many Christians from a young age. “They will persecute you for my sake….even when you run the country and outnumber them 10 to one.”

    And the mentions of “sexual morals” is just a weird tangent. Freud would have something to say about that.

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  • Philip kamau

    Good arguments.

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  • James Harbour

    He means all people except Christians should feel safe on campus.

  • James Harbour

    “Instead of attempting to put themselves in the writer’s shoes to attempt to know what her experience feels like, they are essentially ignoring her point of view and saying, “yeah, but I or others have experienced discrimmination too.” If you chose to comment here, why not express an actual opinión about what was written? Or were you saying her point of view isn’t valid somehow because her group is not the only one discrimminated against? ”

    I’m an atheist who has been discriminated against and bullied by Christians as an atheist. And I was a Christian who still remembers what it was like to be bullied and discriminated against by secularists. As an atheist, I believe Christians receive far more discrimination in college than any other group.

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