Alabama University Chancellor Sends Students an Email Suggesting Religion Keeps Our Democracy Functional December 31, 2014

Alabama University Chancellor Sends Students an Email Suggesting Religion Keeps Our Democracy Functional

***Update***: American Atheists sent a letter to the Chancellor demanding an apology:

On behalf of the student who contacted us, the Alabama members of American Atheists, the thousands of atheists at Troy University, and the hundreds of millions of atheists worldwide who live productive, law-abiding lives without religion, we demand an apology from you for using the public university email system and your publicly funded position to disparage atheists and minority religious groups as well as perpetuating the discrimination and anti-patriotic sentiment against atheists in the United States.

Yesterday afternoon, students and faculty members at Alabama’s Troy University received a strange email from Chancellor Jack Hawkins wishing them a happy new year. I was forwarded a copy of the email:

The message itself doesn’t really bother me… but let’s take a look at that video he linked to:

It features Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen talking about a lesson he learned from a visiting Chinese friend: That religion is critical to the functioning of democracy because it convinces people to voluntarily obey the law. They’re good because they know they’re accountable to God. If you take away religion, chaos would erupt.

The video ends with this image:

Why is a public university’s leader sending religious propaganda to students?

If anything, it’s just depressing. It says the only reason we’re good is not because we’re decent, ethical people, but because we think Yahweh is looking over our shoulders.

If religion is the only reason we’re living in someone’s idea of a utopia, that’s a damning statement about our society. How is that moral at all?

Actually, if you look at countries like Denmark and Sweden, where religion isn’t a powerful force, it turns out there’s not much crime or corruption, the people are generally happy, and the economies are strong. (Sociologist Phil Zuckerman wrote a book all about it.)

Ned Carter, who brought this to my attention, points out what Chancellor Hawkins left out of his email:

There is no mention of the highest incarceration rate in the world. Funny how we are so pious and wantonly unlawful at the same time. There is no mention of the scandals that rocked the Catholic church throughout the US, or its effect on millions of followers. The Harvard professor takes charge of the narrative while churches vanish from the skyline while decrying the inevitable demise of our Democracy along side the decline of his religion. “Because if you take away religion, you can’t hire enough police.” A disgusting display of how much disregard this shows for any non religious person. You do not have religion, you can not have morality, you are a lesser being incapable of being as I am. That is the only message I take away from this message from the Chancellor. I am not welcome on his campus, I am not to be trusted, I am not capable of civilized actions or discourse.

So we’re back to the original question: Why the hell would the Chancellor send a message like this to everyone at the university? Why not just say “Happy new year. Hope you got some rest. See you soon. (Don’t forget to pay your tuition)”?

I’ve asked the school’s Director of University Relations about the content of the email and will post an update if/when I hear back.

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