With an increasing number of Americans leaving religion behind, the University of Miami received a donation in late April from a wealthy atheist to endow what it says is the nation’s first academic chair "for the study of atheism, humanism and secular ethics."
The chair has been established after years of discussion with a $2.2 million donation from Louis J. Appignani, a retired businessman and former president and chairman of the modeling school Barbizon International, who has given grants to many humanist and secular causes – though this is his largest so far. The university, which has not yet publicly announced the new chair, will appoint a committee of faculty members to conduct a search for a scholar to fill the position.
"I’m trying to eliminate discrimination against atheists," said Mr. Appignani, who is 83 and lives in Florida. "So this is a step in that direction, to make atheism legitimate."So the press release goes from the University of Miami on the endowment of a chair for the study of atheism, humanism, and secular ethics. Hmmmm. Yup, I can see it now. We live in a culture so thoroughly endued with religion that atheism is poorly understood and so very mistreated. Even more so in the sacred and hallowed halls of academia which tend to slight and even persecute atheists who dare to venture out from the shadows of their privacy. Yup, that's it.
The sad truth is that most departments of religion in universities are inhabited by professors who barely believe anything and who mostly believe nothing. Earnest Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, and other non-Christians are welcomed for diversity and more than tolerated even though the views of many fully conflict with modern values with respect to homosexuality and the status of women. But Christians are the ones who dare only speak to confess their doubts and whose duty it is to constantly remind us that the Scriptures tell us little of the real Jesus but that the Jesus of history was most certainly nothing like the Jesus of orthodox and catholic Christianity.
There was once a reputable cause in the departments of religion in secular universities. That day has long since gone. Even those fine institutions once begun under religious purpose and for Christian cause have cast off the shackles of restraint and flaunt their reason over revelation, diversity over truth, and subjectivity over objective and eternal values (think Harvard and Yale and Princeton). There was once a reputable cause in the departments of religion in secular universities but that day was so long ago I was not around to appreciate it.
Mr. Appignani is behind the times. Atheism needs no help to be legitimate. In fact, it has become so legitimate that Christian faith itself is the bastard step-child of our past who must be disowned lest it claim any of the treasures of our culture and age. Christianity has always allowed those who choose not to believe the right of their choice. Unlike radical Islam, we do not threaten, coerce, or kill the infidels who choose not to believe. Christians will leave their fate to God. It is enough for us to speak the Word of the Lord and trust that God will accomplish His purpose. No, Mr. Appignani, you may feel a hint of guilt over your atheism but the world has pretty much jumped on the bandwagon of skepticism of the religions and the religious to the point where admitting that you believe the Scriptures and stand with them will soon probably be labeled hate speech. Freedom of religion has become the freedom to worship -- in private, not on public property, so that nobody sees you or hears what happens behind closed doors. Atheism is not being threatened in the public square but faith is constantly under attack.
Mr. Appignani, you are not going where no man has gone before but treading where so many have trod before that it is no longer avant garde to disbelieve, it has become so pitifully pedestrian.