Throughout academia there are many thoughtful educators. There are also those who have agendas to indoctrinate their students through uncritically accepting and adopting their personal philosophies.
So, what is indoctrination? Indoctrination is defined as: “to instruct in a doctrine, principle, ideology, etc., especially to imbue with a specific partisan or biased belief or point of view.”
This definition serves well for understanding anti-religious indoctrination – the presentation of ideologies that are set to challenge traditional theistic thought and values, even when couched in seemingly neutral and subtle ways. Typically one assumes the use of indoctrination within the context of religion, politics and the military. However, popular culture is suffused with anti-religious indoctrinating material whether it is through newspapers, TV shows, documentaries, out- spoken celebrities or popular books. There is an inherent assumption that people who believe in God or question naturalistic evolution are irrational. This attitude has permeated popular culture.
The retired law professor, Phillip Johnson, in his book Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds, recognized that treating questions about certain issues respectfully is good pedagogy whereas stifling questions through intimidation and appeals to authority is a form of indoctrination. This is what is occurring throughout North America from the starting point of education systems (e.g., kindergarten) to the graduate level (PhD).
Examples of Anti-Religious Indoctrination
Anti-religious indoctrination is beginning at earliest levels of North American educational systems; at the elementary school and even kindergarten levels. The GLBT (gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered) activists have made some serious advances in the public school systems in an attempt to challenge and transform traditional theistic morality on such issues. Old Testament scholar, Michael Brown indicates that: “Pro-gay books are being read in elementary school classrooms, teachers are being mandated to use gender neutral language, gay activists have been welcomed in the White House, and young evangelicals see no problem with same-sex marriage.” The inroads have been made into mainstream culture and are being deeply absorbed into the educational system where by kindergarten students are being taught terms such as gender queer and queer theology. There has also been a dramatic increase in the use of pro-gay books in elementary school classrooms including titles such as: Two Daddies and Me; Oh The Things Mommies Do!: What Can Be Better Than Having Two?
Another form of anti-religious indoctrination involves the conflation of the philosophical interpretation of scientific theories with scientific methodology. In more technical terms, the conflation between metaphysical naturalism with methodological naturalism. Evolutionary biologists of the highest rank such as Stephen J. Gould, Richard Dawkins, Jacques Monod and George Gaylord Simpson have been guilty of this when they have declared that humanity’s purpose is illusory from their personal interpretations of evolutionary biology.
A commonly associated mantra includes the regurgitation that the ultimate purpose of life is to pass on our genes. Such a naturalistically rooted sentiment is repeated at all levels of education. Typically it seems to be repeated in high school and university classrooms, particularly in biology classes by secular educators.
Its contemporary formulation can be found in Richard Dawkins’ book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins’ contention in his book is that an organism merely acts as a vehicle to copy genes to subsequent generations via a Darwinian selection process. It is a gene centric view; everything must ultimately bow down to the transferring of genetic information. Obviously, this in and of itself says nothing about the meaning or purpose of life. Dawkins himself seems to contradict this view in chapter 11: “We are built as gene machines and cultured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our own creators. We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.” This flies in the face of genetic determinism that many proponents of Neo-Darwinism adhere to.
A third form of anti-religious indoctrination includes the denial of truth. This is common at the university level. The remnants of the “death of God movement” are still rearing their ugly heads in faculties of theology. When you couple this with postmodern epistemology, a number of professors of theology have made declarative statements akin to “there is no truth.” Anyone who understands anything about logic will realize that such a claim is literally self-refuting since it contradicts what it sets to establish, i.e., it unwittingly claims there is a truth; through the affirmation that there is none. Perhaps it isn’t coincidental that such professors may not last too long in faculties of traditional Christian theology. Who knows what such theologians truly believe.
The concept of truth is fundamental to theological reflection. The removal of it places the act of analyzing truth claims associated with the Christian faith (or any faith for that matter) on the same level as deciding which McDonald’s meal you prefer.
Such agendas are made clear when such professors subsequently speak of the resurrection of Jesus, as not being any “less real” if it had been solely experienced in the minds of the disciples as opposed to something that had objectively happened to Jesus. This position is clearly rooted in Kierkegaardian existentialism. Kierkegaard expounded a form of fideism whereby experience was elevated over reason. Kierkegaard went much too far with his emphasis on the experiential dimension while attempting to eradicate the rational element of the faith. Nevertheless, faith and reason are more intimately involved than that and neither should be compromised over the other. Traditionally the two have operated harmoniously.
How to know Recognize Anti-Religious Indoctrination
First, whenever an educator is adamant of pushing an ideology on their students as if it were commonsensical and widely established (despite it obviously not being so, such as the inexistence of God). Students should be alarmed when an educator makes such claims without substantiating it with good arguments and evidence.
Second, whenever an educator denies truth, as was previously discussed, this should suggest an anti-religious agenda may be at work. This includes denial of well-established laws of logic which are necessary for any scientific endeavour let alone communication. The laws of logic cannot be proved but must be presupposed, without this communication would be literally impossible.
Third, the expounding of moral relativism, related to the second reason, it is a form of truth denial, e.g., moral truth. An important distinction between subjective and objective truths must be made. Subjective truth is based on internal preferences whereas objective truths are based on the outside world and cannot be altered based on our desires, regardless of how much we wish. Moral relativists deny objective truths and reduce everything to the subjective level of internal preferences then proceed by rationalizing them. For obvious reasons such a view put into practice will have devastating consequences.
Fourth, the propounding of scientism. It is commonplace particularly in the university setting for professors to pin science against religious belief and even sometimes philosophical reflection. Scientists who do this unwittingly are expounding philosophical or even a-theological positions of their own. As the philosopher Peter van Inwagen explicates: “When it comes to classifying arguments, philosophy trumps science: if an argument has a single “philosophical” premise (a single premise that requires a philosophical defense), it is a philosophical argument.”
Fifth, the relentless exposition of materialistic and naturalistic ideologies while mocking religious and supernatural concepts. Whenever an educator begins to mock anything to do with the supernatural, realize some sort of indoctrination is at work.
Sixth, the presentation and defense of liberal ethical ideas such as abortion, homosexual marriage and euthanasia. If your child is being exposed to this at a young age, approach the educators and the school administration. Typically, any dissent from these ideas are stifled and met with vitriol. So much so that ironically the once suppressed have become the suppressors. There has been attempts to silence dissenters with fear tactics. This does not create greater understanding and is poor pedagogy.
How to Counteract Such Indoctrination
There exists a wealth of resources to counteract each of these methods of anti-religious indoctrination. It is important to read as widely as possible from differing viewpoints on issues pertaining to truth, relativism, the existence of God, religion, evolution, creation, abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, and science in general in order to gain a nuanced and balanced perspective. It is vital to understand what you stand for and what you stand against. This is a proper first step in countering attacks against what you believe.
Students can challenge indoctrination by asking their professors simple but logical questions. Greg Koukl refers to this as the Colombo tactic: “[going] on the offensive in an inoffensive way by using carefully selected questions to productively advance the conversation. Simply put, never make a statement, at least at first, when a question will do the job.” By doing this one can gather more information from them, reveal inconsistencies and leaps in logic through solely asking appropriate questions. However, just one or two questions might suffice to get the instructor and the students thinking. For example, if educators are speaking about evolution, ask them to define what they mean by such a term since it has several different meanings which are more often than not conflated with one another.
Parents and older students should be vigilant of educators who deny truth (alongside other forms of anti-religious indoctrination) if consistent, they will not be able to discern the difference between the grade of A and F. I believe it is absolutely important for students to question educators (in a respectful manner) when they present unwarranted conclusions. The implications are great if such conclusions remain unchallenged. Why should a democratic society remain silent about the anti-religious indoctrination of students in the schools we fund through our tax dollars? Equipping young minds to ask the right questions is essential. Phillip Johnson pointedly stated in his book the Right Questions: “the questions I am asking are the ones they should be asking, and that their education to this point has prepared them to ask the wrong questions [instead of] the right ones.”