An interesting essay in the Chronicle Review, “Atheist Students on Campus: From Misconceptions to Inclusion,” (link, $ link, free) by Kathleen Goodman and John Mueller, argues that universities ought to do a better job of acknowledging and embracing atheist students. In a secular university, atheism has as much a place as any other philosophical or religious persuasion, I suppose, and I can imagine situations in which Christians on campus should defend the rights and inclusion of atheist students and faculty.
One of the authors’ suggestions struck me as unusual, however. They recommend that universities:
Ensure that atheists can, like other students, explore their inner development. By inner development, we refer to the process of examining and living one’s values, ethics, meaning, and purpose. Campuses should provide the same opportunities for atheist students that they provide for students who identify themselves as religious or spiritual.
In my observations, universities today don’t offer much in terms of “inner development” at all. Many historians have noted that a defining trend of American universities over the past 150 years has been a move away from character development and integration of life and learning as an educational mission. There is work being down on campus in these areas, but it is the work of student organizations, including InterVarsity chapters, not of the university itself.
Do you agree with my assessment? Or are universities indeed helping students explores their inner development?
Updated: The article is now available for free, via the link above. (Thanks, Rachel!)