By Michael Liccione
Religious believers sometimes say that atheism is a “faith,” and in that sense a religion. That’s debatable because they’re using the word ‘faith’ ambiguously, and trading on that ambiguity. But according to NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, there is a scientific sense in which a relatively new, secular “religion” of “social justice” is entrenching itself among students on America’s campuses.
He’s got a cogent point.
ITO has run several pieces about Haidt’s ideas before. He’s not a conservative or even religious; he self-identifies as a liberal Democrat. Yet he’s alarmed by “the lack of ideological diversity” among faculty and students, which he sees as causing a “breakdown of discourse.” As he sees it, such stifling orthodoxy can never be good for higher education, which thrives when opposing views are permitted and given a fair hearing.
But, suggests Haidt, it appears that many colleges and universities are hosting what is not merely a stifling orthodoxy, but also one that exhibits a few key characteristics of religious orthodoxy.
That’s the thesis of a lecture he gave a few weeks ago: “The American University’s New Assault on Free Speech,” organized by the Manhattan Institute in New York City. It’s summed up in an article with the provocative title: “This New Religion Is Causing an Existential Crisis at American Colleges and Universities, NYU Prof Says.” The article includes a podcast link to the lecture.
Thus: “There is an extremely intense, fundamental social justice religion that’s taking over, not all students, but a very strong [space] of it, at all our colleges and universities. They are prosecuting blasphemy and this is where we are.”
What does he mean by “a very strong space”?