that increasingly large numbers of men and women attend university, and Western universities have become essentially secular (and leftist) seminaries. Just as the agenda of traditional Christian and Jewish seminaries is to produce religious Christians and religious Jews, the agenda of Western universities is to produce (left-wing) secularists. The more university education a person receives, the more likely he is to hold secular and left-wing views.It seems a little strange, as Conor Friedersdorf points out, that university professors should have this amazing power to shape the thinking of their students. Prager himself thinks that the universities are not teaching anyone very much:
The secular Left argues that this correlation is due to the fact that a college graduate knows more and thinks more clearly and therefore gravitates leftward and toward secularism. But if you believe that the average college graduate is a clear and knowledgeable thinker as a result of his or her time at university, I have more than one bridge to sell you.But the foppish professors who can't teach logic are, it seems, fiendishly effective at spreading their anti-religion agenda.
If we discount overt indoctrination, what is the reason why people who go to college are more secular? (They are.) I would start by asking why people are religious, and the two explanations I always come up with are 1) to help us cope with the pain of life, and 2) to explain the astonishingly complex world we live in. One of my favorite academic books is Lucien Febvre's The Problem of Unbelief in the Sixteenth Century. Febvre explains that it was not possible for a thinking person to be an atheist in 16th-century France, because the intellectual equipment needed to explain existence in material terms was not available. Not until after the scientific revolution was underway do we meet any intellectual atheists in Europe. (One of the key concepts of the modern world is the coincidence, a statistical notion that did not exist until the 17th century.) In this sense there is a clear relationship between education, especially scientific education, and unbelief; the more we learn about how the universe works, the less we need God to explain its operation.
But I think the question of suffering is even more important. Prager and I agree on how this works:
Modern, middle-class life offers us an existence free from much of the pain that troubled our ancestors, from tooth-ache to high death rates among children. College-educated people are more likely to be from stable, middle-class homes, and are more likely to achieve stable, middle-class lives themselves. They believe less because they suffer less. One might imagine that the more blessed people feel, the more they are disposed to thank God for their lives, but the exact opposite is true. For those of us whose lives are pretty good, extreme suffering is not just the way things have to be, but a grim fact in need of explanation, and a kind and loving God doesn't seem like a very good answer.
A third reason God is not doing well is that most of the men and women who are products of this secular left-wing education (meaning a large majority of Western men and women) are theologically, intellectually, and emotionally ill-prepared to deal with all the unjust suffering in the world. I will never forget a Swedish pastor’s reaction to the 1994 sinking of the Estonia, a ferry that capsized in the Baltic between Estonia and Sweden leaving 852 passengers and crew dead. He said he could not believe in a God who allowed such injustice to take place. . . .
Of course, none of us has a fully coherent solution to the problem of theodicy. But the problem is not exactly new. Every great religion has dealt with it, and most of the brilliant minds in history retained their faith in God despite all the unjust suffering they saw. The difference today is that life has been so good for most Westerners that suffering is no longer regarded as part of life, but as an aberration that can be done away with.