The Ideology and Illiberalism of the Left

Peter Boghossian is an American philosopher and professor. He regularly challenges religious belief in general and argues in favor of atheism as a worldview. Boghossian has taught at Portland State University for the last decade, but last week he submitted his resignation to Provost Susan Jeffords in an open letter that can be read here.

There are several interesting parts to Boghossian’s letter, but just consider the following excerpt:

“I’ve invited a wide range of guest lecturers to address my classes, from Flat-Earthers to Christian apologists to global climate skeptics to Occupy Wall Street advocates. I’m proud of my work.

I invited those speakers not because I agreed with their worldviews, but primarily because I didn’t. From those messy and difficult conversations, I’ve seen the best of what our students can achieve: questioning beliefs while respecting believers; staying even-tempered in challenging circumstances; and even changing their minds. 

I never once believed —  nor do I now —  that the purpose of instruction was to lead my students to a particular conclusion. Rather, I sought to create the conditions for rigorous thought; to help them gain the tools to hunt and furrow for their own conclusions. This is why I became a teacher and why I love teaching.

But brick by brick, the university has made this kind of intellectual exploration impossible. It has transformed a bastion of free inquiry into a Social Justice factory whose only inputs were race, gender, and victimhood and whose only outputs were grievance and division.

Students at Portland State are not being taught to think. Rather, they are being trained to mimic the moral certainty of ideologues. Faculty and administrators have abdicated the university’s truth-seeking mission and instead drive intolerance of divergent beliefs and opinions. This has created a culture of offense where students are now afraid to speak openly and honestly.”

https://bariweiss.substack.com/p/my-university-sacrificed-ideas-for

According to Boghossian, the students at Portland State are no longer being taught to think for themselves. Instead, they are being “trained to mimic the moral certainty of ideologues.” These ideologues insist that critical theory and wokeness are the only acceptable way to view the world.

Let the reader understand, those on the left who clamor so loudly about listening to science are not “free thinkers” – they are completely captive to an ideology. Those on the left who insist so vehemently that we listen to peoples’ lived experiences are not “open to reason” – they are entirely captive to an ideology.

Christians will not be shocked to learn that the ideology of the woke-left leaves no room for a traditional Christian worldview. We’ve known this for some time now. However, Christians may be shocked to learn that the ideology of the woke-left now leaves no room for a skeptical, liberal, free-thinking atheist who refuses to buy into the dominant narratives about race and power and inequality that animate this narrow-minded, illiberal ideology.

The battle for ideas is raging in the West, but the battle lines have fallen in strange places. Not only do traditional Christians have to stand against people like Boghossian who insist that atheism is the truest, best worldview – but traditional Christians also have to stand with people like Boghossian who are willing to listen, talk, and think without succumbing to the ideology of wokeness and critical theory.

12 Comments

  1. “Christians will not be shocked to learn that the ideology of the woke-left leaves no room for a traditional Christian worldview.”

    that chrisitans can’t agree on the most basic things in their religion, there is no “traditional christian worldview”. There is only hundreds of various versions, all unable to show that they are right or that some god actually exists.

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    1. This is a ridiculous, ignorant statement. There most certainly is a thing as a “traditional Christian worldview.” I’m not denying the existence of denominations. I’m talking “worldview.” See someone like Ronald Nash or James Sire for an elementary explanation of the “traditional Christian worldview.” You can buy all the postmodern bologna you want and still have the intellectual honesty to recognize the parameters of a traditional Christian worldview.

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      1. If it is such a “ridiculous ignorant statement”, why are there hundreds of Christian versions, Landon?

        Each sect has different ideas on what morals this god wants, what it considers “sin”, what it takes to be saved, what heaven and hell are, what baptism is and what it does, etc.

        Every Christian claims that their version is the “real” aka “traditional” version, so you have nothing when you try to claim that I should read any particular claimant’s views.

        You also have the problem that none of you can do what Jesus promised all of his baptized believers to be able to do in Mark 16, John 14 and James 5. none of you can show your version to be the god-approved on or that there is a god in the first place, Landon.

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      2. You clearly have no concept of “worldview” and how it differs from a sect / denomination. I’m not talking about sects / denominations / or specific churches in this post. I’m also not asking you to read up on anything – just giving you a place to go if you want to understand what I mean by “worldview” and more specifically a “traditional Christian worldview.” If you don’t want to recognize the distinction between worldview and sects / denominations, I suppose our chat is over.

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      3. I know what a worldview is and it is how one approaches the idea of morality or, from webster: “a comprehensive conception or apprehension of the world especially from a specific standpoint”. Christians do not agree on what morals they want their god to have.

        Having been a Christian, a Presbyterian, and being very familiar with other sects, I know they do not agree on what they want to claim their god approves of and disapproves of.

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      4. 👌🏻…. You’re still talking about sects and denominations. I’m not and wasn’t in my post. Sire lists 8 worldview categories in “Universe Nextdoor.” Historically, Christians have agreed about those 8 even when they differed on points of doctrine. Is there widespread disagreement among professing Christians today? Of course. But that’s why I used the adjective “traditional.” To acknowledge the roughly 2,000 years of agreement about Sire’s WV categories. Have a great day!

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      5. I am indeed talking about sects and they are the root of how Chrisitans have different worldviews, Landon. They have different doctrines.,

        You differ on points of doctrine. Now, do you know what doctrine means? Doctrine: a principle or position or the body of principles in a branch of knowledge or system of belief – merriam webster. This means you differ on things you claim are truths. Now let’s look at the definition of worldview: “a comprehensive conception or apprehension of the world especially from a specific standpoint” Much the same thing as doctrine, a set of principles one believes in.

        Yep, there is widespread disagreement among Christians today, each claiming that their version is the right one and not a single one of you able to do what your supposed messiah promised.

        And many Christians claim that their version is traditional, or from the original. Which is of course one more baseless claims. Catholics claim this, evangelicals claim this, orthodox claim this, Mormons, JWs, etc all claim that their version is what this god “really” wants.

        And no, there is not 2000+ years of agreement. We’ve had schism after schism. On what morals this god wants. On how to be saved. On what Jesus was. If one reads the bible, one can see doctrinal difference right off the bat, with what Jesus supposedly said and with what Paul claimed.

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      6. You and I have a fundamental disagreement on this point. I see worldview as prior and foundational to the manifestation of sects / denominations. You don’t. We disagree. I think it is historically dishonest to deny that the history of Christianity reflects no general agreement about Sire’s WV categories. You think I’m wrong. I get it. We disagree.

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      7. I don’t feel the need to “show” you what others have argued for (and I think argued convincingly). James Sire is a good place to start if you want someone to “show” you the historic worldview agreement. If you just want to argue with me, on a message board, I’ll pass. If you don’t want to read Sire, that’s fine. For what it’s worth – I did read your story of becoming an atheist. I am sorry for the church and personal traumas you experienced, but I do not think atheism is a necessary and logical conclusion for any of the things you described.

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      8. And funny how there was no “trauma” and I am an atheist since there is no evidence for your, or any, god. Christians do love to try to claim that it is only some “trauma” that causes people to disagree with them. That’s an unfortunate fantasy many of you indulge in.

        I see that Sire tries this “How do we know what is right and wrong?” indeed how do we know what actions are “right” and “wrong”? Christians each claim their version is the correct one, with their picking and choosing from the bible.

        I also see that Sire tries to conflate nihilism with naturalism, something that many theists try to do in order to pretend that atheists simply *must* be nihilists.

        Theism is not an agreement nor a worldview as defined earlier. It is simply thinking a god or gods exist. The vast differences between theists in their philosophies aka worldviews, show that trying to call theism a worldview is rather silly. The same holds for trying to lump together all “new age philosophy”.

        It’s also very silly to see him try to have “theism” as one section and then try to have “Islam” as a section for itself. Islam is a form of theism, and here we have Sire (or his publisher) admitting that theism isn’t a worldview in and of itself since he wants to split versions of theism out.

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      9. Church burning, church division and fighting, unanswered prayers – sorry to insert the word “trauma” into your story. You can label those things whatever you want to label them.

        Sire is not claiming that all Christians agree about ethics. He is arguing that historically there has been widespread agreement (even if not universal) to decide HOW we determine ethics (revelation, natural law, conscience, etc). You can parse him out for your own self-justification all you want. Again, we likely just disagree on this issue of worldview being more basic to denominations / sects.

        Sire does not conflate nihilism with naturalism – he does see a link, and he’s not the only one. Again, you may disagree. That’s fine.

        As for Sire’s “new age” chapter, if you read the book he acknowledges the broadness of this category. He’s not trying to cover every specific or every variation. He’s speaking in general terms. You may find this dishonest. I think seeing the forest helps on see the trees. He does the same with eastern pantheistic monism, largely combining different eastern worldviews under one larger heading.

        You can criticize the theism / Islam distinction all you want. Sire is simply acknowledging that there are similarities and differences between the two. At some point, it seems like you are arguing for the sake of arguing … On the one hand, when Sire splits out theism and Islam you laugh at him for making a distinction. But then you laugh at the notion of theism, insisting that there are too many variations to lump them all together.

        Again, you don’t have to like or agree with Sire’s (Nash’s, others’) use of worldview as a base for various manifestations of denominations / sects. You can critique that, and we can disagree – but intellectual integrity means taking them at their own words and understanding their argument without parsing words in some postmodern attempt to play language games.

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