July 16, 2019

Dr. Darren Slade Disavows Liberty University, His Alma Mater

Professor David Eller first informed me of Darren Slade, who took some classes with him before attending and earning a PhD in theology from Liberty University, the one founded by Jerry Falwell. Dr. Slade has written a chapter for my anthology "The Case against Miracles" to be released in September (hopefully). He has also disavowed his alma mater! Read his testimony to understand why.

His testimony mirrors mine and many others who study in Evangelical colleges. It expresses the need for thinking outside the box of one's culturally adopted religious faith. He wrote:
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Liberty taught my fellow students and I to think critically and polemically toward everything but our own conservative evangelical identity. I learned how to investigate (and challenge) the truth claims of other people’s religious and philosophical belief systems, even those of other Christian traditions that were not evangelical (or evangelical “enough”). But we were never encouraged to question or scrutinize our own beliefs. Indeed, students were only ever exposed to the writings of fellow evangelicals whose entire purpose for research appeared to be for the sake of defending their culture-religion. If information from the scientific community or the perspectives of others were ever introduced, it was only for the purpose of “debunking” their claims.

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My passion for true academic research led me to two important things: the “confirmation bias” and falsificationism. The former is a well-established psychological phenomenon where people (purposely and subconsciously) seek out the kinds of data that only confirm their already held beliefs. When people are exposed to facts that conflict with their belief system, they tend to minimize or ignore the disconfirming information entirely (i.e. “cognitive dissonance”). More than anything else, I continually observed this confirmation bias in the majority of students and professors at Liberty. They had an agenda, and they were going to propagandize it at all costs, even if it meant sacrificing truth and justice in the process. Essentially, they saw and heard only what they wanted to see and hear. Interestingly, when I brought this bias up to the classes, the best rationalization given was that others do it too; therefore, they were okay with doing it, as well. Many seemed to derive a great sense of worth from existing in their own echo chamber.

This then led me to falsificationism, a practice of deliberately seeking out disconfirming data in order to counteract the confirmation bias. On every subject matter taught, I wanted to know what the scientific, religious, and philosophical community had to say about the conventional wisdom and traditions promoted at Liberty. Oftentimes, the dissonant information was so overwhelming (and so evidentially compelling) that I eventually abandoned my conservative evangelical beliefs.

For the complete text see Leaving Liberty University Behind--My Journey toward Renouncing America’s Largest Christian College

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