Dodging the God Squad

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I'm an atheist, but I've never revealed that to anyone in all my years as a faculty member because my spouse is a senior college administrator. I've spent most of my professional life avoiding the subject of religion.


I can't tell anyone because it is risky for top administrators, or their partners, to publicly identify as atheist (some prefer "nontheist"). I'm not using my real name here.

Faculty members regularly announce themselves to be godless without consequence, but for an administrator—especially a high-ranking one—such an announcement could amount to professional suicide.

Typically, administrative appointments in academe—particularly senior positions like dean, vice president, and president, and particularly at state institutions—are highly political. While top administrators wield a considerable amount of power on their campuses, they are also vulnerable (like their counterparts in the world of politics) to people and forces that can undermine their positions and potentially jeopardize their careers.

My spouse has had a succession of administrative posts over the last few decades, and my experience is that in academe there is a kind of God Squad that monitors and polices administrators' beliefs and attitudes toward religion. The real danger for campus officials who reveal themselves as agnostic or atheist is retaliation from powerful donors, board members, alumni, or other administrators in the institutional hierarchy.

Written By: Madalyn Dawkins
continue to source article at chronicle.com

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  1. “Faculty members regularly announce themselves to be godless without consequence, but for an administrator—especially a high-ranking one—such an announcement could amount to professional suicide.”

    The fact that this fear is all to real seems to be acknowledged by researchers who feel compelled to ask for anonymous responses when surveying leading scientist on their religious beliefs.

  2. The convoluted thought processes of the religious are such that if one admits to being an atheist, this is interpreted as an ‘attack’ on their chosen religion and they retaliate with customary nastiness, which is strange when most of them go on ad nauseum about a loving and merciful god.

    • In reply to #3 by Christiana Magdalene Moodley:

      The convoluted thought processes of the religious are such that if one admits to being an atheist, this is interpreted as an ‘attack’ on their chosen religion and they retaliate with customary nastiness, which is strange when most of them go on ad nauseum about a loving and merciful god.

      Well, they’re not wrong there. In fact this is one of the few things they intuit correctly about the ongoing godsbothering/godsbusting slugfest: it is a de facto attack on their chosen religion since being atheist even without being vocal about it -it’s implied in the position- is a sort of comprehensive at least passive calling bullshit- slashing all 4 tires- on all religions.

      And we like it like that.

      • In reply to #5 by godsbuster:

        In reply to #3 by Christiana Magdalene Moodley:

        The convoluted thought processes of the religious are such that if one admits to being an atheist, this is interpreted as an ‘attack’ on their chosen religion and they retaliate with customary nastiness, which is strange when most of them go on ad n…

        .

        Well, they’re not wrong there. In fact this is one of the few things they intuit correctly about the ongoing godsbothering/godsbusting slugfest: it is a de facto attack on their chosen religion since being atheist even without being vocal about it -it’s implied in the position- is a sort of comprehensive at least passive calling bullshit- slashing all 4 tires- on all religions.

        My take is…
        If the only thing it takes for these people to feel their faith is being threatened is the mere existence of non-believers in their university, then their faith can’t be that strong to begin with. Maybe their so-called faith is just bigotry posing as faith.

    • In reply to #6 by QuestioningKat:

      I’m not using my real name here.

      …I was going to say…with a name like Madalyn Dawkins…I would think “atheist” would be on everyone’s mind.

      She said it was a nom de plume because she was afraid of repercussions.

      Madalyn = Madalyn Murray O’Hair Dawkins = RD

  3. Anonymity is a great thing on sites like this….But confronted with judgemental religious purse holders in work life…. ‘play the game’ to get the cookies if you must…… I’d be slipping up all the time if were me – even my body language would give me away…showing my blatant disregard of all things goddy…and frankly I’d rather remain true to myself and not take funding from religious bigots who would deem me not worthy of doing my job based on only my personal views……However if you work for someone who doesn’t care where the funding money comes from and accommodates the bigotry of the donors – that’s not so ethical either – shame on your university…But as an academic aren’t you perpetuating the babble myth and enabling the bigotry, by not asserting your rights to fairness and equality ?

  4. If an atheist wants to stay in the closet, it is very easy. It is not even necessary to go to church as camouflage. There is very little other than a direct confession to give him away.

    In my gay lib days I said gay lib would progress much faster if every gay person had his hand turn green, so we could no longer hide, much the way black people cannot hide in the closet. I put a huge amount of my effort toward persuading people to come out, even if just to a small circle. Every time that happened, it gave courage to others to come out of the closet. It also exposed straight people to a greater variety of gays, which helped dispel stereotypes, which made coming out less scary. It formed a kind of Disney mousetrap fusion reaction that took off very quickly. (In the 50s Disney filmed in slow motion mousetraps each holding two ping pong balls to demonstrate a nuclear fusion chain reaction.)

    The same thing needs to happen with atheists.

  5. How can the virulence of religiosity have teeth so sunk into the meat of academia? As a young man who aspires to have a successful career at the university, I find it heartbreaking that this is a reality; that the oppression of our kind is pervasive enough seep into college campuses. Just how the hell did science make it out alive? My sympathy and outrage goes out in support of these silent vigils, the quiet keepers of doubt.

  6. “… was outraged when the chancellor told a small group at a cocktail reception that he likened religion to superstition…”.

    Likened it to superstition? Of course, religion is superstition. Someone that believes in the supernatural is by definition superstitious.

    Notice in the context of the quote, superstition carries a negative since about it. Theists don’t like their beliefs referred to as superstitious, yet they can not avoid that fact.

    I’m on a campaign to suggest the word superstition (or derivative) be used much more frequently in communications with theists; they don’t like to face the fact that their beliefs are superstitious and it actually forces them to think. Please join my campaign.

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