I just completed my PhD, and am looking for work. I saw this job description from a school in Georgia, for someone to teach world religions:
"Religious Studies at Georgia X explores questions in a non-sectarian setting, in which the "truth value" of any religious outlook is not at issue. We do not ask whether a religion is right or wrong, but how and why a religion is meaningful to the people who practice it. Our goal is not to enhance our own personal faiths, although this may be a welcome benefit to some, but to explore faith and belief from the perspective of the liberal arts."
(1) How can one "explore faith and belief" without talking about the objects of faith and belief?
(2) If "truth value" is not an issue, does that mean the professor should never raise it? Should have no opinion on it? Or should hold a particular opinion on it of which the administration approves -- say, that all religions are equally true, or equally false?
(3) How can an ultimate view of reality be "meaningful" if it is not at all true? Isn't meaning related to truth? If I say, "It is sunny today," that is a meaningful statement, even if it is snowing -- a meaningful but false statement. But surely the statement is not very meaningful if we dismiss the notion of truth from the get-go. And surely what one derives from a meaningful but false statement, is trouble in the real world -- one goes to the beach in a bathing suit, and gets frostbite in a blizzard.
(4) Does a Christian, or anyone but a relativist and secular humanist, have a chance in Hades of getting this job?
(5) Do Christians pay taxes to sponsor higher education in the state of Georgia?
Update: I asked these questions on a site where serious Christians post, and got a lot of reactions like that of Crude, below. This made me think one of two things may be going on: (1) Either I was irritable this morning, and over-reacted (very possible), or (2) I didn't explain what troubles me about this advertisement very well. Just in case it's the latter, let's rework this into an advertisement for a physics prof:
"The Physics Department at Georgia X explores scientific questions in a non-sectarian setting, in which the 'truth value' of any interpretation of quantum physics is not at issue. We do not ask whether a given stance on indeterminacy is right or wrong, but how and why that stance is meaningful to the scientists who practice it. Our goal is not to enhance our own personal theories, although this may be a welcome benefit to some, but to explore faith and belief from the perspective of Calvinistic theology."
Sorry, but in religion, as in science, "truth value" is always at issue. If one is being taught, even just by example, not to ask whether a given stance is true or false, one is by default being taught some particular stance -- agnosticism, perhaps, or more likely, that "all religions are equally false," because we know before asking that the Enlightenment is true. This is similiar to the de facto (and probably intended) result of "methodological naturalism:" by setting miracles outside of the realm of possibility for the sake of doing science, the intent seems to be that students will learn to set miracles outside of the realm of possibility for ALL purposes. And that's often how it works in practice. Borders laid in clay, harden into cement.
I find it patronizing to assume either that a teacher cannot teach fairly if she frankly admits her biases (most of my best teachers did just that), or that students will wilt and class turn into Sunday School if they do so. None of my best religion or philosophy profs was a Christian: one was an atheist and secular humanist, another an atheist and practicing communist revolutionary who brought black arm bands to school to protest the death of a student in Nicaragua. The worst was probably a New Ager or Buddhist of some sort, but he was too timid (and therefore boring) to express his own opinions in class.
Please don't mistake me. I'm not saying a teacher should be obnoxious, or cram his worldview down his students' throats. I taught in four colleges and universities in the heavily secular country of Japan. None of my supervisors was a Christian. I expressed my Christian faith when appropriate (say, at Christmas), but also tried to act like a professional, which my supervisors seemed to recognize, for example on the letter of recommendation my primary supervisor gave. I can't even imagine teaching world religions, say (to give it credit, Islam), while trying to divorce "meaning" from the insistant Muslim claim to be true, or pretending that my mind is empty of opinions on the subject. Students deserve more credit and honesty than that, IMHO.