Monday, February 04, 2008

Fearful universities: Why be afraid of the thinking mind?

Tristan Abbey reveals in the Stanford Review that Pope Benedict XVI and Ayaan Hirsi Ali were nixed as guests at Stanford.
A three-month investigation by the Stanford Review has discovered that university organizations declined to invite two high-profile intellectuals—Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, before his inauguration as Pope Benedict XVI—after consultation with faculty and students who objected to their views
Huh? This is becoming a real problem. Isn't a key strength of a university its confidence in inviting people with diverse views?

If I were running a kindergarten, I wouldn't invite people with diverse views. The kids need an adult to help them to brush their teeth, not a debate about the merits of clean teeth. But ... a university? Why don't the faculty and students solve the problem of angst over diverse views by just growing up?

I have read Hirsi Ali's Infidel and, while we are obviously far apart in our views (she is an ex-Muslim atheist), I am indebted to her for finally helping me understand what on earth Christopher Hitchens could possibly mean by claiming that "religion poisons everything". Religion didn't have that effect in my life or the lives of most people I have ever known, and it is the bedrock of philanthopy in Canada. But Hirsi Ali had an entirely different experience, as her book explains, and for her religion seems to have been a mostly negative experience.

Not so, of course, for Benedict XVI. And Hirsi Ali may come round in time too. The key to religion is spirituality.