It’s not every day your teacher or college professor tells you exactly how they feel, or even shares their religious or cultural beliefs with you.
University of Central Florida professor Dr. Negy does, and received national attention for an e-mail he sent to his class recently that ended up on Reddit.
The e-mail addressed a discussion in one of his classes on religious bigotry, which according to Negy,was interrupted by students with bigoted views.
You can read the letter here.
We decided to ask Dr. Negy a few questions after the letter went viral, and below are his responses.
Perhaps, the overall takeaway: “The purpose of a university is to comfort those who are afflicted and to afflict those who are comfortable. Students at American universities (and possibly in other countries around the world) are too comfortable with the status quo. I want to afflict them.”
1. Where would you say a line exists between bigotry and simply having a sense of pride in ones beliefs?
IT’S ONE THING TO SAY, “I CAN’T SPEAK FOR OTHER PEOPLE OR ABOUT OTHER RELIGIONS. I’M JUST SPEAKING FOR ME. FOR ME, MY RELIGION “X” IS THE MOST
VALID AND MAKES THE MOST SENSE TO ME.
“MY GOD IS AN AWESOME GOD.” (AS IF….THE OTHER GODS ARE NOT AWESOME??) AND “IT IS ONLY THROUGH BELIEVING IN JESUS WILL ONE GAIN ENTRY INTO
ETERNITY.” (REALLY? SO EITHER WE BELIEVE IN YOUR (CHRISTIAN) RELIGION OR ELSE WE ARE DOOMED?
DO YOU, JACQUELINE, SEE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BELIEVING THAT YOUR RELIGION IS THE MOST VALID **FOR YOU** (FIRST STATEMENT I’VE GIVEN YOU) VERSUS PROCLAIMING IN AN ABSOLUTE WAY THAT YOUR RELIGION IS THEMOST VALID RELIGION? (2ND STATEMENT I’VE GIVEN)?
IF SOMEONE WERE TO SAY “MY RACE IS THE MOST VALID RACE,” AND SOMEONE LIKE ME POINTED OUT TO THE PERSON THAT THEY ARE BEING A “RACIAL BIGOT,” THERE WOULD BE NO CONTROVERSY ABOUT THAT IN TODAY’S AGE. IN FACT, MOST FOLKS WOULD “POUNCE ON” THE PERSON FOR PROCLAIMING THEIRRACE TO BE A SUPERIOR RACE.
BUT THE U.S. HAS NOT MATURED ABOUT THIS SITUATION IN THE CONTEXT OF RELIGION. FOLKS CAN STILL PROCLAIM THEIR RELIGION IS THE ONLY TRUE WAY TO HEAVEN. FOLKS CAN OPENLY QUESTION IF OBAMA IS A MUSLIM, OR COMPLAIN THAT ROMNEY BELONGS TO A CULT (MORMONISM) AND NO ONE POUNCES ON THEM FOR BEING A RELIGIOUS BIGOT (WHAT ARE THEY SAYING? THAT ONLY A CANDIDATE WHO BELIEVES IN *THEIR* RELIGION IS QUALIFIED TO BE A PRESIDENT? THAT IS RELIGIOUS ARROGANCE AND BIGOTRY, YET FOLKS IN THIS COUNTRY ARE SAVVY ENOUGH OR COURAGEOUS ENOUGH TO POINT OUT SUCH RELIGIOUS BIGOTRY TO THE BIGOTS.
2. Have you, personally, seen some type of positive or negative impacts inside the classroom that stemmed from the email sent to students?
YES…STUDENTS ARE CONGRATULATING ME AND SAYING HOW FORTUNATE THEY ARE TO GET TO BE IN MY CLASS(!)
3. Have you (or do you plan on) changing the ways that this type of subject material is taught to students after an occurrence such as this?
YES…ONLY…I MEAN ONLY….I NOW SHARE WITH STUDENTS (DID TODAY IN MY TWO COURSES) WHAT TRANSPIRED LAST SPRING WITH THAT ONE STUDENT AND POINTED OUT IN A RATIONAL, CALM WAY WHY THAT BEHAVIOR IS UNACCEPTABLE AND ….UNINTELLECTUAL. IT HAS ONLY HAPPENED ONCE IN 15 YEARS, SO….I THINK IT WAS A RARE EVENT (i ACTUALLY BELIEVE THAT ONE STUDENT SUFFERED DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR AND THOUGHT HE WAS WINNING POINTS WITH HIS “GOD” BY “STANDING UP” FOR THE LORD…
4. What have been the overall judgments placed on the letter you wrote after it sparked national attention?
I THINK….THE PROPONDERANCE OF THE REACTIONS ARE POSITIVE. BUT…YOU CAN READ THROUGH THE 1,000S OF COMMENTS AND DECIDE YOURSELF.
5. Do you find that most students are apt to handling the mature subject matter like that which you were lecturing about, or do many simply tune out, or in this case “speak out,” against material that doesn’t fit their own beliefs?
MOST STUDENTS ARE FINE WITH THIS SUBJECT MATTER, AND MY HANDLING OF IT. I SEE MY STUDENT EVALUATIONS AT THE END OF THE SEMESTER. 90% GIVE ME REALLY GOOD RATINGS.
6. Do you share your religious beliefs with your classes?
YES. I’M AGNOSTIC. I TELL THEM I WAS BRAINWASHED BY MY UNEDUCATED, TEXAN PARENTS IN THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST FAITH. I TELL THEM THAT AT AGE 25, I CONCLUDED THAT ALL RELIGIONS, INCLUDING MY OWN, WERE MYTHOLOGY WITH NO (NOTHING) EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THEM. JUST SO YOU’LL KNOW, THERE IS NO EVIDENCE OF A “HEAVEN.” NONE. AND..THERE IS NO EVIDENCE OF “HELL.” NONE. AND…THERE IS NO EVIDENCE OF A “SOUL.” I DON’T KNOW WHAT A SOUL IS AND NO ONE HAS EVER PROVIDED ME ANY EVIDENCE FOR WHAT IT IS OR IF IT EXISTS. DITTO WITH “ANGELS” OR EVEN A “PERSONAL GOD.” SO..IF NO ONE CAN PROVIDE EVIDENCE FOR THESE “CONCEPTS,” THEN….I THINK THAT IS THE EVIDENCE OF “MYTHOLOGY,” NO?
NOTICE I DID NOT SAY THERE IS NO HEAVEN, NO HELL, NO SOUL. I DON’T KNOW THAT. THERE MAY BE. I SAID THERE IS NO CREDIBLE EVIDENCE FOR ANY OF THAT. AND…OF COURSE, IF THERE IS NO EVIDENCE FOR ANY OF THOSE THINGS, THEY PROBABLY DON’T EXIST.
(PLEASE DO NOT SAY A BOOK ONE CAN BUY FOR $5.99 AT WALMART IS “EVIDENCE.” (THE BIBLE, OR KORAN…).
6. Do you feel that the reaction you received in your class would be the same or different at another University?
I THINK IF I WERE AT A RELIGION UNIVERSITY, ALL HELL WOULD BREAK LOOSE. AND…IF I WERE AT A PUBLIC SCHOOL OUT IN THE WEST OR EAST
COAST (OUTSIDE THE “SOUTHERN BIBLE BELT,”) I MAY NOT GET THAT BIG OF A REACTION FROM STUDENTS.
8. Some people feel you provoked the situation a little. What’s your response? Do you agree, disagree?
I ABSOLUTELY PROVOKED THE SITUATION. IT IS MY STYLE OF TEACHING. A FRENCH PHILOSOPHER ONCE SAID (…I BELIEVE HE WAS FRENCH…), “THE PURPOSE OF A UNIVERSITY IS TO COMFORT THOSE WHO ARE AFFLICTED AND TO AFFLICT THOSE WHO ARE COMFORTABLE. STUDENTS AT AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES (AND POSSIBLY IN OTHER COUNTRIES AROUND THE WORLD) ARE TOO COMFORTABLE WITH THE STATUS QUO. I WANT TO AFFLICT THEM (IE., RATTLE THEIR CAGE INTELLECTUALLY).
Jacqueline Naz Perez, Jacob Sadowsky