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Troy University in Alabama, that is. (Here in Georgia we have Sparta, Rome, Athens, and Atlanta.) 

Last month, American Atheists sent a letter of complaint to the chancellor at Troy demanding an apology. The chancellor had sent out a message to the Troy community on December 30th with this video embedded in it, and it riled atheist viewers.

The speaker is Clayton Christensen, renowned business and education theorist, professor at Harvard Business School. (See a profile of Christensen in the New Yorker and Christensen’s reply) He is especially known for his concept “disruptive innovation,” which explains one reason why businesses succeed and fail in the modern world.

Christensen is also a member of the LDS church, and he’s concerned about religious liberty. This is the topic of his video statement, and his point is that religion is essential to a safe and functioning democracy. His final comment: “if you take away religion, you can’t hire enough police.”

When an atheist student at Troy heard the video, the student contacted American Atheists, who sent a public letter in response. Here is the resounding paragraph:

On behalf of the student who contacted us, the Alabama members of American Atheists, the thousands of atheists at Troy University, and the hundreds of millions of atheists worldwide who live productive, law-abiding lives without religion, we demand an apology from you for using the public university email system and your publicly funded position to disparage atheists and minority religious groups as well as perpetuating the discrimination and anti-patriotic sentiment against atheists in the United States.

It adds a paragraph on how much smarter and civil atheists are than everyone else:

Further, on average and generally speaking, atheists have fewer divorces, abortions, and STDs, and lower poverty rates, homicide rates, overall crime rates, and teen pregnancy rates. As a demographic, atheists have higher IQs, incomes, education rates, and literacy rates, and more Nobel Prizes and university professorships.

Reading these statements doesn’t make me wish to argue back. It calls to mind a question.

What would Nietzsche think?

Think of his bold declamations introducing the hardy, icy atheists, “the born, sworn jealous friends of solitude, of our own profoundest midnight and midday solitude—such kind of men are we, we free spirits!” Recall his long and withering analyses of meaning and truth and faith in The Will to Power. And don’t forget the one Biblical figure he believed deserved respect: Pontius Pilate.

We can imagine him asking: How did my adventurous, bold, clear-sighted loners, ones who bade goodbye to God, turn into such simpering complainers and feeble measurers?

Mark Bauerlein is senior editor of First Things.

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