Pharyngula

Here’s an optimistic idea:

Personally, I have a great deal of hope that this is going to start to change in the near future. Indeed, this is one area where the blogosphere could actually prove quite powerful. Ten years ago, I’m not sure there was anywhere that your average Christian American was exposed to openly atheistic viewpoints. These days, I’m constantly amazed how many prominent bloggers profess their atheism on a daily basis. On the list, with the help of The Raving Atheist: Daily Kos, Washington Monthly, The Volokh Conspiracy (Jim Lindgren), Pharyngula, Daily Pundit, onegoodmove, Matthew Yglesias, Vodkapundit, and of course many others, including me. Notably, many of these have substantial conservative readership.

Of course, the average American still may not tune in to these atheist blogs, but a lot of people do. A lot more than used to face proud, open, secularism a few years ago. And since most of the hostility toward atheists, in my view, is based in the fact that so few people feel they know any, this could well start to have a dramatic effect. The informal nature of blogs, revealing much of a blogger’s character and personality, has the potential to be quite powerful in this regard.

Unfortunately, I read that just after reading about the absurd War on Christians, and just before Nic mentioned an article on Pensacola Christian College (that’s the Chronicle of Higher Ed…I’m not sure if the link will work for machines without an institutional subscription) to me. We godless have a long way to go when we live in a culture in which many people can accept these absurdities:

Lisa Morris was walking to class with her boyfriend last October when something happened. At first Ms. Morris, a sophomore music major, is reluctant to divulge the details. Eventually, however, the truth comes out: He patted her behind.

Someone who witnessed the incident reported Ms. Morris and her boyfriend. At Pensacola any physical contact between members of the opposite sex is forbidden. (Members of the same sex may touch, although the college condemns homosexuality.) The forbidden contact includes shaking hands and definitely includes patting behinds. Both students were expelled.

Of Pensacola’s many rules, those dealing with male-female relationships are the most talked about. There are restrictions on when and where men and women may speak to each other. Some elevators and stairwells may be used only by women; others may be used only by men. Socializing on particular benches is forbidden. If a man and a woman are walking to class, they may chat; if they stop en route, though, they may be in trouble. Generally men and women caught interacting in any “unchaperoned area” ? which is most of the campus ? could be subject to severe penalties.

Those rules extend beyond the campus. A man and a woman cannot go to an off-campus restaurant together without a chaperon (usually a faculty member). Even running into members of the opposite sex off campus can lead to punishment. One student told of how a group of men and a group of women from the college happened to meet at a McDonald’s last spring. Both groups were returning from the beach (they had gone to separate beaches; men and women are not allowed to be at the beach together). The administration found out, and all 15 students were expelled.

Even couples who are not talking or touching can be reprimanded. Sabrina Poirier, a student at Pensacola who withdrew in 1997, was disciplined for what is known on the campus as “optical intercourse” ? staring too intently into the eyes of a member of the opposite sex. This is also referred to as “making eye babies.” While the rule does not appear in written form, most students interviewed for this article were familiar with the concept.

Everything is that tight-laced.

There are plenty of other ways to run afoul of the rules. Last spring Timothy Dow was caught playing the video game Halo 2. Such games are banned by the college. Movies are also forbidden, including those rated G. Music is restricted to classical or approved Christian (“contemporary Christian” artists are deemed too worldly). Students are allowed to watch television news at 6 o’clock, but that’s it. The TVs are controlled by college employees, who flip a switch to black out the commercials, lest students see anything inappropriate.

In the library, books and magazines are censored. One student says she saw a pair of black-marker boxer shorts on a photograph of Michelangelo’s David. Any books that students wish to read that are not in the library must first be approved by administrators. Those containing references to “magic,” for instance, are normally rejected. The rule book specifically prohibits “fleshly magazines and books.”

In addition, access to the net is tightly restricted to only a few sites. Somehow, I don’t think us atheist bloggers are on their list.

Worse still, the college is not accredited. Think about that: these kids are going off to this school that is run like a concentration camp, suffering for four years, and then ‘graduating’ with a degree that is almost completely worthless, and with credits that won’t transfer to any other university. It’s hard to blame the kids—few 18 year olds are aware of the concept of accrediting bodies—but that fact makes the administrators simply evil. Here’s this sad sack kid who thought the restrictive rules were good for him, but also believes he’s going to go to dental school:

Mr. Ghobrial, the student from Egypt who doesn’t mind the rules, wants to attend dental school. His first choice, West Virginia University, has already said it would not consider his application, because Pensacola is not accredited. “I’m hoping they change their minds,” he says.

“I’m hoping they change their minds.” Jebus. The poor guy has had four years of expert training in delusional thinking. What kind of job is that going to get him? About all he is qualified for is President of the US.

It’s nice to know that a lot of prominent bloggers are god-free and proud of it, but I doubt that the people who need the information most are never going to see it. There are 5000 students at PCC. Every one has been sold a bill of goods…and it was easy. Their parents, their communities, their whole culture tells them that these con-artists are good, as long as they’re preaching about Jesus. How are we going to fight that?