Easter treat for heathens 2

October 23, 2008

It's tempting to retort that Nigel Paterson's call for Christian universities in the UK hasn't got a prayer. In the current ethos of higher education as surrendered capitalist lackey and technical-rational robot, who would fund such an anachronistic project? As stated, many (particularly atheist) scientists would obviously object.

However, there is an implicit aspect of Paterson's call that I support. The current ethos stifles all radical critical thinking about the fundamentals and potentials of society. Pockets of Marxist, Freudian, Islamic and feminist critique variously offer countercultural perspectives.

But no one in higher education seems to link, with due seriousness, the perennial moral waywardness of humanity with the current ills of climate change, economic volatility, resource depletion, international and interreligious tensions, questions of population and so on.

We certainly need a new kind of university or similar institution capable of addressing this gathering perfect storm of negative forces. Unfortunately, no traditional religion can supply the necessary critique, rooted as all are in pre-scientific world views.

Religion is not the only countercultural or anti-utilitarian game in town, and for many of us religion is as much a part of the problem as capitalism: fantasy and greed are arguably twin pillars of our rotten society.

Colin Feltham, Professor of critical counselling studies, Sheffield Hallam University.

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