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.”

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.