Perhaps this will seem like an extended complaint. So be it. In the past few weeks, I have heard more statements prefaced by the title’s phrase than I care to tally. Regardless of the topic at hand, it seems a Christian will eventually place a hand upon the heart, adopt a mask of yearning anguish, and say,

“As a Christian, I feel that…”

Most egregious of all is the frequency with which this phrase seems to fly from my English professor’s faithful lips. My British literature class is currently studying Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, a story deeply entrenched in Christian lore; naturally, much of the resulting analysis involves discussion of biblical stories. I have no problem with this; as the story draws largely upon the Bible, it would be impossible to fully dissect themes and symbolism without mentioning Christian dogma.

My problem, however, arises when objectivity leaves the classroom and scholastic discourse morphs into religious promotion. As we were talking about the frequent usage of Latin in the play, one student asked if that was the language used when people “spoke in tongues.” I had to restrain myself from immediately condemning religious hysteria; I know my words would have been misinterpreted and only brought condemnation down upon myself.

Suddenly, the classroom was an open forum for various students’ stories and experiences about “speaking in tongues.” Fortunately, no student spoke up with a personal account or I fear I may have let forth an offensive peal of laughter. However, several students were quite adamant that people did indeed speak in unknown languages while under the influence of the almighty divine and that there were even “special” people who could interpret what the hysterical babbler was saying.

Fine. So there were some religious crazies in the classroom, big deal; everyone is free to express their own opinion. But then the professor decided to make her inevitable, dramatic declaration. With pining eyes and a manicured hand clasped to her breast, she offered:

“As a Christian, I feel that while I have never experienced it, I will respect anything to do with the Holy Spirit. If God chooses to speak to people in that manner, then I will never speak out against it because I am afraid of speaking out against God. I figure that it is better to allow for the possibility, just in case.”

Just in case of what? Aside from this mangled version of Pascal’s wager, I had to exert some serious effort to withhold my laughter. If God is so infinitely powerful and wise, is speaking in tongues really the best way that he could devise to communicate with the human race? How much more inefficient could he have been, to babble incoherently through a hysterical devotee while another semi-hysterical person is required to translate? Really?

But the primary part that concerns me about the professor’s statement is its prefacing condition. “As a Christian…” What does that even mean? Is it a warning that the subsequent statement is probably not grounded in reality? Perhaps a more accurate preface would be, “As an adult who clings to unsubstantiated fantasy and imaginary friends…” However, I assume that this is not the intent. More likely, the phrase is meant to invoke the social etiquette which deems the direct criticism of a person’s religion to be improper. Any further questioning on my part would be considered antagonistic, offensive, and hurtful; by violating the immunity of respect assumed by religious mouthpieces, I would instantly be the cruel and ruthless atheist.

But how is this appropriate in any sort of real debate? How can anyone possibly carry on a meaningful discussion when one side adheres to emotional pleas and calls upon ludicrous cultural decorum to silence any opposition?

Wait, I just discovered my problem…I am attempting to have meaningful debates with religious people. Silly me. But in my defense, as a community college student in the middle of evangelical Texas I am not left with much of a choice.

Tags: Christianity, argument, debate, in, offensive, pathos, speaking, tongues

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Perhaps the preface is some pious self-promotion?


Yup, because a giant hunk of gold shaped like a + around the neck fails to adequately convey the message.
I also see it as a claim (or implied claim) to moral superiority. That's something that's always fun to pick at too.

Where things can get really interesting with phrasing like this, is when two Christians use it but stand on different sides of an issue. Then you'll get the 'not a true Christian' or 'not my kind of Christian' accusations.

Also if this is community college, the teacher should not be using the class to push or promote religion (even in Texas). Careful not to let it blow out of proportion, but maybe a few hints about keeping on course might be needed.
Unfortunately, this is not the only professor that I have encountered who uses their teaching lectern as a religious pulpit. As the student body is nearly all Christian, no one ever complains. Aside from an occasional Jew, I have never met anyone at my school who wasn't a Christian. Then again, I don't advertise my discordance with Christianity; perhaps others feel the same but keep silent as well.

I should speak up, but being pitted thirty to one is more than my shyness can handle.

My biggest grievance is that I feel my classes are being so dumbed down by religion that I will be inadequately prepared for future university classes.
Perhaps you should begin some of your statements with 'As a rational human being...' :)

Yes, I know that's probably not a good idea, particularly in Christian-ville Texas, but the mental image is amusing.

Is it perhaps possible to make an anonymous complaint about your teacher's religious proclamations? Many schools have procedures in place to handle complaints from those who are afraid of retaliation, although I expect that those procedures were not put in place for complaints about religion.
As un-atheist as it may sound, I would simply drop that class for another, with a different Professor.
not perhaps dave, that is the way to go. Now I know it wont be easy standing up and showing your objections, however this is the way forward. I see you used the word choice and thats exactly what it boils down to in the end, your personal choice.

Your experience somewhat mirrors my own, I was brought up by hard core Ulster politics of The protestant faith, At the age of five I joined the Orange order.

When my own doubts started I felt the same as you, fear about alienation is not nice, we are after all social animals. Anyway I am not saying it will be easy. my wee bit of advice is to learn about why atheist think the way we do.

Have a good read at the wiki section. The one advantage you have over me is that you have a network of people you can call friends right here on think atheist.

Ill stop there as ive had a wee puff and I am starting to waffle, one more thing, there is plenty books out there but I would recommend Sam Harris End of Faith.

keep safe

george
let me add , why not use the think atheist amazon link to purchase the any book


george
Great advice, all! :)
I have come very close to complaining to the English department several times. Tomorrow night, I have American Lit with a good objective, rational professor; I think that it is time I finally mentioned something about this other class.

Perhaps you should begin some of your statements with 'As a rational human being...' :)

I'm totally stealing this, Dave! Great line.

Christian, I have thought about dropping and retaking with another professor. The problem is, the vast majority of the teachers are like this. By the time I realize the nature of their teaching, the semester is past the drop/add point. Because of the predominantly Christian student body that has no problem with lessons saturated in religion, it is really hard to get valid opinions of teachers beforehand.

a7, I really do need to just break down and order The End of Faith off of Amazon. I can't find any Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens, et al. in any local bookstores or libraries. (I just have to sigh every time I walk by the wall of Bibles, though. Seriously, how many different versions of the same book does a bookstore really need to sell?) I agree that this website is a phenomenal resource for someone marooned in the sea of faith, and I am really appreciative to have stumbled upon it. I have had more intelligent conversations in the past few weeks than in the previous three years that I have been in Texas.
I'm afraid most of my responses in that class would be prefaced with "As a paying student of a literature course..." followed by something attempting to redirect the discussion back to, you know, the course's subject.

I find those prefaces are peoples' excuses for the stupidity that is inevitably to follow, but since they have this excuse to fall back on they don't feel quite so stupid. Oh, how mistaken they are.
I'm afraid most of my responses in that class would be prefaced with "As a paying student of a literature course..."

I'm totally tempted to do this during the next religious tirade. Depending on how much coffee I have for breakfast, I just might, lol!
Ugh. I'm taking a rhetorical grammar class right now, and it is divided between three types of students: Business majors who are practical and just care about getting the work done, English majors like me who want to discuss literature for hours, and Education majors who are all very vocal extreme right-wing evangelical Christians. I had to peer-review a bunch of papers. One was about how the Bible needs to be taught in public schools, and another was about how atheists are trying to "indoctrinate" kids into the "homosexual lifestyle" by letting them read gay-themed books like "Heather Has Two Mommies." Why are so many future teachers religious wingnuts?

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