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Letter: Academia necessitates inquiry into religion

To the Editor:

There have been several interesting pieces in recent weeks regarding religion. Sadly, Mike Johnson's column ("The two-thousand-year (approximately) debate," Sept. 29) attempted to sidestep this important issue altogether. He and others have every right to remain "secure" in their personal beliefs, just as he wishes. However, the burden is on them to remain secure, not on others who wish to honestly scrutinize religion. They have the right to ignore or disregard the scrutiny, not to stop others from rational inquiry.

Creationists (yes, there are creationists at Brown) have every right to try to feel secure in their beliefs, but they have no right to stop others from pursuing biology for fear that evidence of evolution might reduce that security. Though the beliefs Mike Johnson mentions, like the "guiding power that energizes the human spirit," are somewhat less absurd than creationism, they remain statements about the world and should be investigated to determine whether they are actually true.

Free inquiry is at the heart of academia. Regardless of the outcome or how annoying some people may find this practice, we must continue to question our own beliefs and the beliefs of others to ensure that they are based on evidence and reason — not simply a wish that they be true.

This scrutiny need not make campus less amicable: Brown Freethought and College Hill for Christ have had an excellent relationship despite profound differences. We should not shy away from these topics for fear of offense. That is not in the spirit of a university.

David Sheffield '11
Co-founder of Brown Freethought
Sept. 30

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