A few weeks ago, the Newman Catholic Campus Ministry held an event on campus called Reasons to Believe. Self-proclaimed apologists of the Catholic faith led this conference. While I defend the general practice of allowing people of all faiths to come to The University of Akron to express and defend their views, I think we should be more particular about who we invite to our campus.
My main concern is that the apologists who came to our campus were profoundly uninformed and were clearly not positioned to speak as a respectable authority on the basic issues in ethics and religion.
First, they qualified the debate over morality in a simplified and incorrect manner. As they characterized it, there are only two ways of doing ethics. The first is the religious way, which involves God and His declaration of objective moral law, a law that is universal and equally applicable to all human beings. The other is the secular way of approaching morality, which is entirely subjective and differs between individuals and cultures. Thus, according to the apologists, only with God can there be absolute moral truth.
The apologists failed to mention how there are several other objective ethical theories that do not depend on God. In a question and answer period, the apologists revealed that they were completely ignorant of the leading moral theories that are pervasive in the discipline of philosophy. They were wholly unaware of consequentialism and deontology, two leading theories of objective morality. Deontology focuses on the duties we have to others and ourselves, while consequentialism focuses on what our actions bring about. In a shameless act of ignorance, the apologists demonstrated to all of those in attendance that they didn’t even know how to pronounce ‘deontology’ as they read it off a question card that an audience member submitted.
Anyone who has ever done even a cursory amount of research in the field of ethics would at least have knowledge of the existence of those secular ways of doing ethics. The apologists who came to our campus to speak authoritatively to a collegiate audience had clearly not engaged in any amount of honest research on the topic of morality. One can find many more interesting discussions of morality in our introductory ethics classes here on campus than what was produced at the Reasons to Believe conference.
One of the apologist speakers also proudly made the following declaration: Tolerance is the virtue of those who lack conviction. Since the Catholic apologist has the eternal truth and he knows it, he doesn’t need to respect anyone else’s views. The speaker used this to support his position that we ought to have the Ten Commandments in the courtroom, since the apologist knows that moral law comes from his God and he doesn’t need to respect the God (or lack of God) that others may believe in.
The Catholic apologist’s intolerance extends further. He communicated his position that homosexual acts are a sin, and those who have such tendencies need to stifle their desires in order to remain holy; God frowns upon all homosexual behavior. The problem with this is that, since homosexuality is not a choice, calling it a sin is morally equivalent to saying that it is a sin to have a certain skin color. I cannot fathom why anyone would want to worship such a wicked God.
Intolerance should have no place at The University of Akron. Since we are a public institution, people should have the freedom to be invited to speak on our campus. However, as students at an institution of higher learning, we have a responsibility to elevate our discourse. Inviting unqualified people to express their intolerant views gives their ideas a respect that they do not deserve. Reason, acceptance and compassion ought to outshine irrationality, intolerance and hate.