The US Military Academy at West Point has been having a rough year.
First there was the Islamophobic Lt. General William Boykin getting hotly protested (and eventually replaced) after he was invited to speak at the National Prayer breakfast.
Then, this month, the Academy was sued for covering up sexual assault.
Bearing all this in mind, I present to you this third year Philosophy of Religion class description from the Red Book (course catalog):
“What are the arguments for and against the existence of God? How can a good God allow the presence of evil? Are miracles possible? Is there life after death? Is it rational to believe in God, or does faith demand the suspension of reason? Is there a necessary relationship between ethics and religion? Is there a single true religion? If these questions have ever intrigued you, you already know that you need this course…
This struck me as a little ambiguous and, given the Academy’s less-than-secular track record, I was inclined to expect a class on apologetics. Would the Army, an organization that is predominantly Christian — 68 percent of the military personnel and 98 percent of chaplains are Christian — and required “Spiritual Fitness” testing offer a class like this without promoting faith? I was all fired up to rant about separation of church and state and the unconstitutionality of promoting a single religion.
However, after speaking with a third-year cadet (who wishes to remain anonymous), I found myself wanting to enroll in the class. You could have bowled me over with a feather.
Philosophy of Religion is conducted as a series of examinations of arguments — and counterarguments — for the existence of a God. The professor does not speak about his or her own religious beliefs in any capacity, and equal time is given to both sides.
From the cadet:
One day we would discuss something like Anselm’s ontological argument. The very next day we would look at the rebuttal. We would not discuss a single idea without discussing the opposing immediately following.
An opportunity to work through common religious arguments? It sounds like everyone can benefit from making better, more informed, and less fallacious claims. Three cheers for critical thinking!