It is remarkable that Samuel Bagg, in his column Monday (“‘Secular bubble’ popped,” 9/22), should refer to his previous column (“On faith, U.S. should follow Yale,” 9/17) as a “call for pluralism” when that column contained not a single use of the word “pluralism.” Instead, the column lauded Yale’s “breaking free of traditional allegiances,” praised the transformation of religious institutions into secular ones, expressed disgust at “religious fervor” and called upon politicians to find a “new language” — that is, a non-religious language — by which to speak of the moral questions facing our nation. This sounds not so much like tolerant pluralism as something approaching militant secularism.
Bagg notes that Yale talks a lot about religion. He’s right. But we must consider the particular vantage point from which religious discussions at Yale are approached. I would conjecture, based on my experience and on Bagg’s descriptions of a couple of those discussions, that the vantage point is a predominantly irreligious one.
It does not ask, “Is this religion true, and if so, what implications does it have for the way we should view the world?” but rather, “Given that people believe this religion, how can we most prudently deal with it?” In other words, our public discourse approaches religion not as a possible guide to the most important truths but as a social phenomenon to be handled with care.
Students of all faiths are welcome to attend Yale. But if they desire to make an argument in the public sphere, their religion must be set aside. When is the last time a policy was enacted on the basis of the authority of a verse in the Koran, the Torah or the Bible?
Our common discourse appeals almost solely to the liberal creed of the Enlightenment. Our common worship extols the autonomous self. Those who dissent from this creed, it is true, will not be expelled. They will only be laughed at and told to keep their unenlightened ideas in the private realm where they belong.
Silliman College ’11