Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Saying Adam and Eve Aren't Real Might Get You Fired

Until last Thursday, Steve Bitterman was an instructor in Western Civilization at the Red Oak campus of Southwestern Community College in Iowa. It was on Thursday, according to Bitterman, that Linda Wild, the College's vice president of instruction, called him on the phone to fire him.

His offense?

He told his students the story of Adam and Eve was not to be taken literally.

From Inside Higher Education:

This fall, [Bitterman was] teaching Western civilization at Southwestern’s Red Oak campus, and his lectures [were] broadcast to students at the Osceola campus, with a live hook-up so he [could] see students. Much of early Western civilization focuses on the myths and beliefs of ancient peoples. Gilgamesh was no problem for students, Bitterman said. But when he got to the Bible on Tuesday, a student walked out of the Osceola section when, Bitterman said, when he wouldn’t agree with her that the story of the Garden of Eden was historically true. Several other students appeared disturbed by the incident, he said. From their questions and statements, he believes that they are evangelical Christians.
Furthermore, according to the DesMoines Register, in a conversation with a student after Tuesday's class, Bitterman called the myth of Adam and Eve a "fairy tale". He was then told some of "the students had threatened to see an attorney."

Bitterman says that, when Wild called him to fire him Thursday, she told him, "several of the students and the parents had threatened an unspecified lawsuit", and that "the parents said that I was there to teach history and not religion and that she agreed."

Meanwhile the Community College is being vague about why it fired Bitterman:
Sarah Smith, director of the school’s Red Oak campus, declined to comment Friday on Bitterman’s employment status. The school’s president, Barbara Crittenden, said Bitterman taught one course at Southwest. She would not comment, however, on his claim that he was fired over the Bible reference, saying it was a personnel issue.
“I can assure you that college understands our employees’ free speech rights,” she said. “There was no action taken that violated the First Amendment.”
And Linda Wild is responding neither to emails nor phone calls.

Bitterman himself is unrepentant:
“A few of the students thought I was knocking their religion by not promoting it,” he said. “They were upset that I didn’t say that the Bible was literally true.” Bitterman said that he treats the Bible as a historically significant, important work, but that he does not accord it status beyond that. “That really seemed to come as a shock to some of them,” he said.
And:
“I’m just a little bit shocked myself that a college in good standing would back up students who insist that people who have been through college and have a master’s degree, a couple actually, have to teach that there were such things as talking snakes or lose their job,” Bitterman said.
So who to believe? At this point, it's just a "he said, she said" situation, but the College seems somewhat cagey in how it's responding, which gives a bit more creditability to Bitterman's side of the story.

At any rate, there can be no doubt evangelical and fundamentalist Christians these days often act aggressively to quash views that contradict their cherished belief in the literal truth of the Bible. If Bitterman's story is true, it wouldn't be too far out compared to other things we've been hearing about the extreme Religious Right. Consider this quote from Gary North, the Dominionist son-in-law of R.J. Rushdoony:

"We must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God."


References:

Prof Says He Was Fired Over Bible Reference

Adjuncts and Gods

3 comments:

amuirin said...

He sounds incredibly scary, the guy at the end.

Have you ever read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn? It's interesting because Ishmael, the wise gorilla describes the Adam & Eve story not as a fairy-tale or literal truth, but as something else altogether.

A way for the nomadic people to describe the agriculturists who were taking over the fertile crescent.

In a way it is kinda odd that western civilizations have embraced this origin story that shows man as selfish, disobedient and greedy, so arrogant he brings his own people misery. All because he had to take the one thing he is told he can not have.

Cain and Abel, Cain is the farmer and Abel is the shepherd, and Cain kills his brother. At that time, when the valley was being 'settled', driving the nomads farther and farther from to the edges of a place where there used to be enough for everyone, this was a bit of political commentary; a warning to avoid those with 'the mark of Cain' (the pale face?) because those people were greedy and murderous, taking the land and killing their brothers for not being like them.

Important to note that in this story, God favors the shepherd and rejects the farmer. The farmer is the base of western civilization... our society, the takers.

Wonder what those kids would think if they thought they were defending the integrity of these summations.

Webs said...

This is yet another sign of why we need to be able to openly discuss religion without fear of consequence. I imagine that had the fired instructor told a story from the Quran and labeled it a fairy tale no one would have complained. And he likely would still have his job. Which shows why this is just BullS***!

After getting more involved with atheism over the last few years I can now understand why militant atheists exists. Stories like these are just so incredibly frustrating.

Mahendra said...

Webs said it all for me! :-)