Religious Bigotry in a University Classroom?

A PhD student who holds an MA, MDiv, and a ThM and teaches World Religions at a non-religious university somewhere in the States recently made the following comments about Latter-day Saints on an internet message board:

As part of the Final Exam in World Religions I have all the students answer two short essay questions at the very end. 1. What did you enjoy most about the class? 2. What lesson did you learn that made, or will make, the greatest impact on your life?

One of my student wrote in answer to the second question:

Going to visit the Mormons taught me that there are many counterfeits out there to beware of and they all sound very good to try and draw you in or change your own philosophy. Trust in your faith and don’t be trusting of that in the world that has been derived from man alone.

Please note that all my students are required to visit two religions outside their comfort zone, and it is purely up to them where they go. They write a five-page paper on the experiences, and then get up in class and briefly discuss their findings. It is one aspect of the class that the students repeatedly tell me how much they appreciate and enjoy.

The student’s comments above are priceless. Why? Because she made the visit to the local Mormon meeting house on her own, long before we ever discussed Mormonism as a religion in class. In her words the Mormon church is (1) a counterfeit, and (2) a worldly religion derived from man alone. I couldn’t agree more.

The neat thing about teaching World Religions is not the pay, the long hours of preparation and study, but the lives that are changed for the better when I read comments like those above. They “get it” in a postmodern world of relativism, narcissism, and nihilism, all of which Mormonism espouses at different levels of thought. And because they “get it,” they won’t end up in a cult like Mormonism. Thank God for that!!

The emphasis is in the original. My original thought was that this instructor must have made his biases known in the classroom, since the student was obviously confident her answer would not be considered inappropriate. It was later made clear that such was the case, and that the instructor feels that since he makes his religious affiliation and convictions known at the beginning of the class every year, there’s nothing inappropriate about it. The instructor states he even staged a mock trial to investigate whether or not Mormonism was Christian. He pitted the only Latter-day Saint in the classroom against the others. You can imagine how this went over, given the manner in which Mormonism would have been presented in class as opposed to the manner in which “Christianity” would be described:

Btw, the jury came back with a unanimous decision that Mormonism was not an accurate representation of Christianity, and that after I placed the only Mormon in the class on the side attempting to prove that it was. Unfortunately, after the trial was over, the Mormon quit coming to class (not that she had a stellar attendance record anyway), and she’ll end up failing, sorry to say.

This story has boggled my mind for a couple weeks now. I’ve attended religion classes at two different secular universities and I’ve never seen anything even remotely comparable to this. For those who teach World Religion, have you come across this kind of behavior before, and if so, is it generally tolerated? Would you allow an instructor to explicitly and vehemently denigrate any religion in a World Religion class?


74 responses to “Religious Bigotry in a University Classroom?

  • James

    If this story is true (and I have reason to doubt it is…is it from CARM?) then it is an outrage.

  • Joel

    CARM is a pain. I wouldn’t trust too much what they post, Daniel.

  • Bot

    •Mormons Are New Testament Christians, not Creedal Christians
    The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) is often accused by Evangelical pastors of not believing in the 4th Century Christ and, therefore, not being a Christian religion. This post helps to clarify such misconceptions by examining early Christianity’s theology relating to baptism, the Godhead, the deity of Jesus Christ, and His Grace and Atonement.


    Early Christian churches, practiced baptism of youth (not infants) by immersion by the father of the family. The local congregation had a lay ministry. An early Christian Church has been re-constructed at the Israel Museum, and the above can be verified. The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) continues baptism and a lay ministry as taught by Jesus’ Apostles. Early Christians were persecuted for keeping their practices sacred, and prohibiting non-Christians from witnessing them.

    The Trinity:

    A literal reading of the New Testament points to God and Jesus Christ , His Son , being separate , divine beings , united in purpose. . To whom was Jesus praying in Gethsemane, and Who was speaking to Him and his apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration? The Nicene Creed’s definition of the Trinity was influenced by scribes translating the Greek manuscripts into Latin. The scribes embellished on a passage explaining the Trinity , which is the Catholic and Protestant belief that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The oldest versions of the epistle of 1 John, read: “There are three that bear witness: the Spirit, the water and the blood and these three are one.” Scribes later added “the Father, the Word and the Spirit,” and it remained in the epistle when it was translated into English for the King James Version, according to Dr. Bart Ehrman, Chairman of the Religion Department at UNC- Chapel Hill. He no longer believes in the Nicene Trinity. . Scholars agree that Early Christians believed in an embodied God; it was neo-Platonist influences that later turned Him into a disembodied Spirit. For example, it was an emperor (Constantine) . who introduced a term, homousious, which defined the Son as “consubstantial” (one being) with the Father. Neither term or anything like it is in the New Testament. Harper’s Bible Dictionary entry on the Trinity says “the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the New Testament.” Furthermore, 11 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were non-Trinitarian Christians The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) views the Trinity as three separate divine beings , in accord with the earliest Greek New Testament manuscripts and the Founders.


    Divinization, narrowing the space between God and humans, was also part of Early Christian belief. St. Athanasius of Alexandria (Eastern Orthodox) wrote, regarding theosis, “The Son of God became man, that we might become God.” Irenaeus wrote in the late 2nd Century: “we have not been made gods from the beginning, but at first merely men, then at length gods” Justin Martyr in mid 2nd Century said: “all men are deemed worthy of becoming ‘gods,’ and of having power to become sons of the Highest” Clement of Alexandria explained “Saints . . pure in heart . . are destined to sit on thrones with the other gods that have been first put in their places by the Savior.” The Gospel of Thomas (which pre-dates the 4 Gospels, but was considered non-canonical by the Nicene Council) quotes the Savior: “He who will drink from my mouth will become as I am: I myself shall become he, and the things that are hidden will be revealed to him,” (Gospel of Thomas 50, 28-30, Nag Hammadi Library in English, J.M.Robinson, 1st ed 1977; 3rd ed. 1988) For further information on this subject, refer to NewTestamentTempleRitual blogspot. The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) agrees with Early Christian church leaders regarding theosis.

    In the words of Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) Apostle, Bruce R. McConkie: “There is and can only be one who is supreme, who is the head and to whom all others are subject”. Becoming like God is not saying we will ever be equal to Him, frankly we won’t and can’t. He, and only He, will forever be worshipped by us.

    The Deity of Jesus Christ

    Mormons hold firmly to the deity of Christ. For members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS), Jesus is not only the Son of God but also God the Son. Evangelical pollster George Barna found in 2001 that while only 33 percent of American Catholics, Lutherans, and Methodists (28 percent of Episcopalians) agreed that Jesus was “without sin”, 70 percent of Mormons believe Jesus was sinless.

    Grace Versus Works

    One Evangelical Christian author wrote of his sudden discovery that his previous beliefs about salvation were very different from those held by the early Christians:
    “If there’s any single doctrine that we would expect to find the faithful associates of the apostles teaching, it’s the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. After all, that is the cornerstone doctrine of the Reformation. In fact, we frequently say that persons who don’t hold to this doctrine aren’t really Christians…
    Our problem is that Augustine, Luther, and other Western theologians have convinced us that there’s an irreconcilable conflict between salvation based on grace and salvation conditioned on works or obedience. They have used a fallacious form of argumentation known as the “false dilemma,” by asserting that there are only two possibilities regarding salvation: it’s either (1) a gift from God or (2) it’s something we earn by our works.
    The early Christians [and Latter-day Saints!] would have replied that a gift is no less a gift simply because it’s conditioned on obedience….
    The early Christians believed that salvation is a gift from God but that God gives His gift to whomever He chooses. And He chooses to give it to those who love and obey him.”
    —David W. Bercot, Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up: A New Look at Today’s Evangelical Church in the Light of Early Christianity, 3rd edition, (Tyler, Texas: Scroll Publishing Company, 1999[1989]), 57, 61–62.

    The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) agrees with the earliest Christians that grace is conditioned upon obedience to Jesus Christ’s commandments.

    The Cross and Christ’s Atonement:

    The Cross became popular as a Christian symbol in the Fifth Century A.D. . Members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) believe a preferable Christian symbol is Christ’s resurrection , not his crucifixion on the Cross. Many Mormon chapels feature paintings of the resurrected Christ or His Second Coming. Furthermore, members of the church believe the atoning sacrifice began in the Garden of Gethsemane and culminated on the cross as Christ took upon him the sins of all mankind.

    Definition of “Christian”: .

    But Mormons don’t term Catholics and Protestants “non-Christian”. They believe Christ’s atonement applies to all mankind. The dictionary definition of a Christian is “of, pertaining to, believing in, or belonging to a religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ”: All of the above denominations are followers of Christ, and consider him divine, and the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament. They all worship the one and only true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and address Him in prayer as prescribed in The Lord’s Prayer. The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) teaches that good Christians of any denomination are able to live with Jesus Christ in the Eternities. Contrary to some other denominations people who don’t believe in “their Jesus” are not consigned to Hell. It’s important to understand the difference between Reformation and Restoration when we consider who might be authentic Christians. . Early Christians had certain rituals which defined a Christian, which members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) continue today. . If members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) embrace early Christian theology, they are likely more “Christian” than their detractors.

    • The Need for a Restoration of the Christian Church:

    The founder of the Baptist Church in America, Roger Williams, just prior to leaving the church he established, said this: “There is no regularly constituted church of Christ on earth, nor any person qualified to administer any church ordinances; nor can there be until new apostles are sent by the Great Head of the Church for whose coming I am seeking.” (Picturesque America, p. 502.) Martin Luther had similar thoughts: “Nor can a Christian believer be forced beyond sacred Scriptures,…unless some new and proved revelation should be added; for we are forbidden by divine law to believe except what is proved either through the divine Scriptures or through Manifest revelation.” He also wrote: “I have sought nothing beyond reforming the Church in conformity with the Holy Scriptures. The spiritual powers have been not only corrupted by sin, but absolutely destroyed; so that there is now nothing in them but a depraved reason and a will that is the enemy and opponent of God. I simply say that Christianity has ceased to exist among those who should have preserved it.” The Lutheran, Baptist and Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) churches recognize an apostasy from early Christianity. The Lutheran and Baptist churches have attempted reform, but Mormonism (and Roger Williams, and perhaps Martin Luther) require inspired restoration, so as to re-establish an unbroken line of authority and apostolic succession.
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .* * *

    • Christ-Like Lives:

    The 2005 National Study of Youth and Religion published by UNC-Chapel Hill found that Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) youth (ages 13 to 17) were more likely to exhibit these Christian characteristics than Evangelicals (the next most observant group):

    1. Attend Religious Services weekly
    2. Importance of Religious Faith in shaping daily life – extremely important
    3. Believes in life after death
    4. Does NOT believe in psychics or fortune-tellers
    5. Has taught religious education classes
    6. Has fasted or denied something as spiritual discipline
    7. Sabbath Observance
    8. Shared religious faith with someone not of their faith
    9. Family talks about God, scriptures, prayer daily
    10. Supportiveness of church for parent in trying to raise teen (very supportive)
    11. Church congregation has done an excellent job in helping teens better understand their own sexuality and sexual morality

    . LDS . Evangelical
    1. 71% . . 55%
    2. 52 . . . 28
    3. 76 . . . 62
    4. 100 . . 95
    5. 42 . . . 28
    6. 68 . . . 22
    7. 67 . . . 40
    8. 72 . . . 56
    9. 50 . . . 19
    10 65 . . . 26
    11 84 . . . 35

    So what do you think the motivation is for some Evangelical preachers to denigrate the Mormon Church by calling it a “cult”? You would think Evangelical preachers would be emulating Mormon practices (a creed to believe, a place to belong, a calling to live out, and a hope to hold onto) which were noted by Methodist Rev. Kenda Creasy Dean of the Princeton Theological Seminary, as causing Mormon teenagers to “top the charts” in Christian characteristics. It seems obvious pastors shouldn’t be denigrating a church based on First Century Christianity, with high efficacy. The only plausible reason to denigrate Mormons by calling the church a “cult” is for Evangelical pastors to protect their flock (and their livelihood).

    • A Christian

      Please provide a reference verifying that Mormon “divinization” is anything remotely like the theosis taught by the early Eastern Fathers.

      I mean, becoming ontologically gods and goddesses, reproducing sexually for all eternity, creating spirit children to inhabit worlds over which these newly evolved gods have organized – does any of this have anything in common with the eastern Church’s doctrine of theosis?

      Perhaps you should consult Bishop Ware if you’d like an answer.

      • James

        At the risk of cluttering a discussion with off topic conversation…

        I’m a Mormon, and I’ll state unambiguously that the LDS concept of “theosis” is not the exact same idea as was taught by the ancient Christians. There are differences. Most importantly, a creator/creation dichotomy was assumed by those ancient Christians which limited man’s ability to truly become like God.

        But the LDS notion of “theosis” is incredibly close. We have done away with the creator/creature dichotomy, making room for man to truly become what God is. To become divine is the ultimate goal in sight, and this is what the ancients taught. The difference is that Mormonism teaches a more robust theosis, one that surpasses the ancient Christian ideas.

        In regard to the Mormon doctrine of theosis, non-LDS scholar Ernst W. Benz has observed:
        “One can think what one wants of this doctrine of progressive deification, but one thing is certain: with this anthropology Joseph Smith is closer to the view of man held by the ancient Church than the precursors of the Augustinian doctrine of original sin.”

        I’d like to comment on one other thing. Your description of the Mormon concept of theosis is a caricature at best. There is no basis for suggesting that Mormons believe that as “gods” they will sexually reproduce for eternity, or that they will rule over planets (I recognize you didn’t explicitly claim the bit about ruling over planets, but that is underlying assumption commonly held and usually explicitly spoken).
        We don’t really know what a perichoretic life (theosis) with God will be like. We just know that he has promised that we will inherit all that he has.

  • David Larsen

    You don’t have any idea where this class was, do you? I’m just wondering because not too many months ago two students came to my LDS branch in Wisconsin. They said they were visiting to fulfill a requirement for their World Religions class. The members of the Church were as nice as could be to them and many of us gave them our email addresses in case they had more questions.
    I don’t imagine the students that came to visit us were the same that are mentioned in the post you read, but you never know. To my knowledge, they never contacted anyone in the branch with further questions. Also, they only stayed for Sacrament Meeting (where, of course, sermon topics my vary) and did not see any of what was said in the further classes.
    It would be very difficult for anyone who (similarly) had only this very small exposure to the LDS Church to form a valid opinion of what our meetings are like, nevermind what the religion as a whole is all about.
    Attending one very random meeting does not qualify one to judge the nature of a religion. I have attended meetings of Catholics, Evangelicals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, and others — but would never pretend to understand what they’re all about — especially not based on such a narrow investigation.
    Anyways, this kind of discrimination, especially by teachers in a classroom is just unacceptable. And why is it so often okay to do this with Mormons? The guy would be banned from teaching if he carried on with this attitude towards Muslims or others.

    • Daniel O. McClellan


      I don’t know where it’s from. I know the full name of the instructor in question, but I haven’t looked him up and I don’t want to air his info.

    • Morgan Deane

      I’m a couple months too late in responding to this, but Paul D. teaches at Tarrant County Community College in Forth Worth Texas. So not only is he teaching bigotry in the classroom, but he is doing it on the state’s dime as well.

  • Dr. Jim

    Secular world religions classes should be about teaching the variety of religious belief and practice and perceptions of what it means to be human, how history, politics, etc, impacts religion and vice versa. It should NOT be about warning people off any or all religions.

    It is hard enough a subject to teach without students complaining of attacks on their faith. Misunderstanding is always lurking in the most innocent of comments. To construe the topic as a vehicle for conversion or de-conversion or championing one religion or another is inexcusable and the prof. in question just makes doing an honest job all the harder for her or his colleagues.

    Putting a religion on “trial” over its use of its own self-understanding is nothing short of professional misconduct. From a secular RS perspective, whether the LDS are christian or not is decided by what the LDS call themselves! They are part of the wider Christian world and so if the scholar doesn’t like it, tough.

    Of course, the scholar (and students) must understand and recognize the doctrinal, ethical, ritual, and other differences between the LDS and catholics, protestants etc. etc. and that the LDS is a relative newcomer onto the religious landscape. But this doesn’t mean the university should be trying to get to the bottom of what “True” Christianity is and to hell with those who disagree!

    I’ve had evangelical protestant students who were horribly offended that Catholics were regarded as Christians, and my response is same. Scholarship is not about giving essentialist labels, but understanding the attributive labels people have for themselves and others.

    In my own religious studies classes I would NEVER send the students off to places of worship without an escort and without the imam, rabbi, priest, head honcho, being in agreement. Anthropologists typically have to have their field trips approved by ethics committees, and so should RS students. I don’t think it is fair to congregants to send someone to watch and analyze them as they pray and whatever while they are unaware of the visitor’s true intent for being there.

    • Daniel O. McClellan

      Thanks for the comments Jim. That was my impression of the professionalism expected of instructors at non-religious institutions, and it blew my mind that this individual felt justified.

      The instructor has repeatedly defending himself since posting this, insisting that worldviews inevitably influence teaching, and so he has nothing for which to apologize.

  • Dr. Jim

    What a jackass! Do we tolerate professors of political science telling students for whom to vote?

    And another thing, on whose authority can he even ask students ON AN EXAM :

    ” What lesson did you learn that made, or will make, the greatest impact on your life?”
    How is that testable? Do students really have the time to sort that out? Is the prof’s business to know this? What my students do with their lessons is their affair, not mine

    And what of the other exam “question”: ” What did you enjoy most about the class? ” What if a student didn’t enjoy the class at all? Would an honest answer here jeopardize his or her mark on other parts of the exam?

    The latter question might be appropriate for a survey about the course NOT conducted in conjunction with the assessed course work, but the former question is actually far beyond even the pale of that. To have these on an exam is, again, professional misconduct in my books. Hopefully this guy does NOT have tenure and that enough students complain to the university in question.

    Having sat on a few hiring committees, I could say that if this exam was included in an application dossier for a job at my university, I would regard it as pretty much a immediate deal breaker. No job offer. Not even an interview.

    • Daniel O. McClellan

      I think he’s just adjuncting. I know he does not have his doctorate yet. I’m shocked that he feels comfortable saying these kinds of things, especially considering his full name is readily available.

  • Dr. Jim

    Hopefully someone there complains. Even if the prof has no intention of punishing students who give answers he doesn’t like to these questions, students in the middle of an exam do NOT need the added stress.

    On a lighter note, I did have one student in world religions say he was taking the course so he knew which religion to join. I told him if he passes but ends up in an undesirable hereafter he has to give the university its 3 credits back…

    • Daniel O. McClellan

      I’m sure if something goes wrong for him no one will hear about it, but I know I would have caused trouble if I were in that class.

      I hope you played Rowen Atkinson’s Welcome to Hell bit for the student looking for a religion:

  • Zeus

    Real cowardly thing to do, mak, when the creator of the CARM thread can’t defend himself. Typical Mormon ploy!

    • Daniel O. McClellan

      The creator of that thread is welcome to come here and defend himself. Using a fake name and a fake email address to make anonymous bigoted statements is what is cowardly.

  • Zeus

    I’ll let him know. Meanwhile, you can go back to worshipping your gods and peddling your polytheistic views.

  • Zeus

    Only trying to make you guys feel at home. I could have used Baal – maybe that would be more comfortable for you. Hey, don’t feel bad, when you get to be a god you can have my name.

    • Daniel O. McClellan

      Joel is not LDS, and Zeus doesn’t really resonate in any way with Latter-day Saint theology. Try again.

      • Zeus

        Okay, Baal, how’s that? Understand he was at the “Divine Council” of the Mormon gods. What geographical area does he rule over, anyway? Utah?

  • James

    You can be sure that when someone says something like “typical Mormon ploy” they are not worth your time.

    As if the “typical” Mormon thing to do is to be sneaky and dishonest. Yep, that’s exactly what Mormons are known best for.

  • Zeus

    Well, sneakiness and hanging out in parking lots targeting people.

  • Daniel O. McClellan


    No, Baal is not a part of the Mormon concept of the Divine Council.

    You came here with a concern for fairness and since then you’ve done nothing but anonymously and ignorantly sling insults at Mormonism. You don’t appear at all concerned with engaging my points honestly or openly. I won’t allow you to waste any more of my time or the time of my readers unless you can show you’re capable of carrying on an adult conversation.

  • James

    I’m curious what any of this has to do with religious bigotry in the classroom.

  • tikhon

    Mormonism is a cult. Joseph Smith was a convicted felon and a con man. This is historical fact. He was constantly in trouble. In the 1840s when he was killed, it was due to his antichristian belief in polygamy. The only reason teh mormon church discarded polygamy was because Utah could not be a state unless they rejected that belief. Why does Christianity have to be restored? It has never waivered in 2000 years. It is the cults who have added to it, with their heresies, extra books, the Mormons’ claim that Chirst was the brother of Lucifer. That is not biblical. Not to the fist century AD was anything in mormonism biblical. Jesus Christ, only begotten Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, died and was resurrected on the third day after his crucifiction. WHERE IS HIS BODY? ANSWER: In heaven where he sits at the right hand of God.

    • James

      It is so tempting to reply to this…he makes it so easy and sets himself up for disaster! But I think it best to not give them exactly what they want, a dirty brawl in the streets. Nobody wins that sort of thing.

      • Joel

        You don’t have to James, but I will, seeing that I am not a Mormon.

        Not waivered in 2000 years? So, you think the Christian of today – pick a sect – is how Christian looked when Christ left the earth?

        Cult? Really? You mean like 12 guys willing to die for one man? And wasn’t that language used of early Christians? I mean, besides calling them atheists.

        Seems to me that instead of bashing another religion, you might first want to know more about your own history.

      • tikhon

        Sounds like a person who has nothing to say.

  • tikhon

    12 Men and thousands upon thousands over the centuries who were willing to die for one “man” who was the only begotten son of God. You think that strange? Christianity spread like wildfire and even if you refuse to believe in the diety and Lordship of our Lord and Savior, even you must admit that if we followed his teachings the world would be a better place. Yes, there have been schisms and separations and breakaways, but all the Christian (not Mormon) sects still believe in the same basic doctrine. Christ was the only begotten son of God, was born of the virgin Mary, crucified, died on the cross and was resurrected and taken up into heaven to sit at the right hand of God. The bible tells us he will return one day to finally overcome satan’s reign and will rule over man in heaven and earth for ever. You believe what you want. His birth, life and death fulfilled prophesy.

    • Joel

      Actually, you don’t know what I believe. Also, what you described is believe by Mormons, as well.

      My point, which you missed because you seem to believe that what you have to say is more important, is that we all too often throw around the term ‘cult’ forgetting what was applied to Christianity and how that application led to the justification for horrible action against the sect.

      Oh, and Christianity is not nearly as monolithic as what you describe, and neither has it really ever been.

      • tikhon

        What is your definitition of a cult then? A cult is a group that does not believe in orthodox christian doctrine or perverts orthodox Christian doctrine (LDS) for their own purposes.

      • James

        tikhon said:

        “A cult is a group that does not believe in orthodox christian doctrine or perverts orthodox Christian doctrine (LDS) for their own purposes.”

        And I’m going to respond that you just made up that definition for your own purposes. “Orthodoxy” wasn’t clearly established for a long long time after Jesus, so what do we do with all those early Christians? What about Arius, the devout and faithful Christian whose teachings inspired the Church to even start talking about what is “orthodoxy”? You have Arius to thank for that.

        Could we say that a “cult” is a group that does not believe in orthodox Jewish doctrine or perverts orthodox Jewish doctrine for their own purposes? I could make up that definition and it would have just as much legitimacy as your definition. Of course, my definition would label Jesus Christ as a leader of a “cult”, something you aren’t going to like.

        So why don’t we just put down the word “cult” and start saying instead, “I think you are wrong.”

  • Daniel O. McClellan

    Hey, Tikhon’s Buddy/Zeus, if you want to sneak back into the comments section don’t use the same kinda fake email address you used for your first username.

  • Joel

    Nowwww, thaattt’s funnnnny.

  • Joel


    ‘We’? You speak for all Christians? And what of those which reject the polytheistic Trinity?

    And have you ever studied early Judaism?

    And ‘protecting polytheistic scholars?’ I was unaware I was doing such things, but you think this is bad, you should how I protect ‘Christian scholars.’

    Frankly, my concern is that the word ‘cult’ is thrown around too easily and meant only to end a debate.

    For example, the cult of Catholicism which bred the cult of Protestantism believes in three Gods, the the Father, the Son and the Spirit. Since they generally believe in an hierarchical leadership, a cultic mentality is derived which prevents members, by threats of excommunicaton, with exploring the basic precepts of their religion and faith. Further, for some protestants, the cultic attraction to the KJV or even the bible, any translation, leaves me wondering if they worship ink and paper or the God on the pages.

  • James

    I love how words like “polytheistic”, “cult”, “Christianity”, “god”, and “pagan” are thrown around by our friend Servant with such little care for what those words mean. For example, what exactly is a “cult”? Can that word be used objectively in a way that isn’t damning to the earliest Christian communities?

    What exactly is “polytheism”? It isn’t as simple as Servant wants it to be. Simply dismissing the rigorous scholarly work that has uncovered the ancient Israelite belief in a divine council as “liberal” is a sure sign of someone who is unable to grapple with the facts.

  • Daniel O. McClellan

    The following was posted on CARM after this post was brought to the attention of the professor who made the original comments:

    “By the way, the ‘scholar’s’ blog titled the story about your exercise: Religious big-otry in University Classroom? My question is, when they teach missionaries all the garbage they do about Christianity in the missionary training center, how much of that might be classified as ‘big-otry’ I’m sure the Mormons would raise a whelp and howl if we were to call it big-otry- but they don’t extend the same to Christians, or to the rights of an intellectual exercise in a university not full of ‘theocratic’ restraints.”

    To answer the question, missionaries aren’t taught anything about mainstream Christianity at the missionary training centers. They are taught the languages of whatever countries they’re going to and they are taught how to be guided by the Spirit. They also learn why you don’t drink too much orange juice at lunch.

    Additionally, secular universities don’t have theocratic restraints, that’s true, but they do have standards of respect and intellectual honesty, and that’s what the professor has neglected in the interest of his naive dogmatism. It’s full blown bigotry and nothing less.

  • Daniel O. McClellan

    Another comment directed at the professor:

    “Well, on that blog you were basically challenged to respond. Some Christians have responded. The whole site is geared to legitimizing Mormonism with ‘modern liberal scholarship.”

    My two questions for the reader:

    (1) Do I “basically challenge” Paul to respond?

    (2) Does my blog really seem “geared to legitimizing Mormonism with ‘modern liberal scholarship'”?

  • Joel

    A core doctrine? Really? You mean, after Nicaea, right? Because the ‘core doctrine’ of the NT is Love, Grace, Faith. Not a developed doctrine of the Trinity. Actually, your use of wording doesn’t mesh with with other Christians, unless, of course, you discount them as well.

    When was a belief in the Trinity made a core doctrine?

    You believe in all the Creeds? What about the Ecumincal Councils? Ahh….so you use no scriptural things to decide who and what is a Christian belief? Amazing. Tell me, will you sit at the Gate and decide who gets to enter at well?

    I am reminded that Christianity was called a cult as well as atheists at the start. And I am reminded that they are called a cult today by others. And yet, while we don’t like it, we can impose it upon others.

    Oh, that’s right, I am not a Christian either because like other Christians, I’ll stick with Scripture and not pick and choose what I believe. You know, like sacraments, atonement and the Trinity.

    • Daniel O. McClellan

      Servant I don’t mind letting you have your say, but I expect you to engage concerns that are raised about your argument. You’ve yet to do so, and James and Joel have raised significant points about your accusations. Please go back and respond to them or you’ll no longer be posting here, and I’ll erase your previous posts. I don’t mind people being critical, but I will not allow cowards to come on here and flat ignore the criticisms of others. You can respond to the concerns and keep posting, or you can let me know that you refuse to participate in honest and open debate. The latter will result in the removal of your posts and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself. The ball’s in your court.

    • tikhon

      Servant, I don’t think any of these guys are Christians. Shake the dust off your feet and move on to the next town. You are throwing your pearls before swine and are arguing with wolves in sheeps’ clothing.

  • James

    1. It is odd that you characterize this blog as an attempt to legitimize Mormonism, when only a very, very small percent of this blog is dedicated to Mormonism. A very odd claim indeed.

    2. Mormon missionaries aren’t taught a thing about other faiths. Everything the know they picked up before their missions or on their missions, but it is not formally taught in any way to them. I speak from personal experience.

    3. It really is quite odd that you would limit the Christian umbrella to those who accept a particular formulation of the Trinity that wasn’t developed until centuries after Christianity. What is even more odd is the inclusion of those Christians who accept that creed but have no idea what it means (which is the vast majority of creedal Christians).
    You’ve essentially cast from the Christian umbrella the majority of Christians in the first few centuries. That is an absurd thing for you to do.

    4. Mormons are Christians because they place the historical person Jesus Christ at the center of their theology. If you know of a biblical definition for “Christian”, let us know. Until then we have no obligation to accept your self-serving arbitrary definition.
    We have no desire to be thought of as a mainstream Christian faith. We don’t want to be connected to traditional Christianity. We aren’t trying to fool anyone. We are the Restored Church, fixing doctrinal problems that have gone wrong over the past 2000 years and adding some additional insights. We want to be known as Christians because we believe in Jesus Christ, not because we want to tag along with mainstream Christianity.

    5. Mormonism is in fact a monotheistic religion. We think of ourselves as monotheistic, and so we are monotheistic. This is the way to determine who is monotheistic according to non-liberal scholar Larry Hurtado. See here:

    6. It doesn’t help to talk about “gods” until we have an understanding of what we mean by that word. When a Christian such as yourself accuses Mormons of believing in multiple “gods” it is rarely pointed out that those “gods” do not meet the criteria for “god” as assumed by mainstream Christianity. We are talking about something totally different.

    7. This is what you said about the word “cult”:

    “It is a description of a group which emanates from the teachings/doctrines of a solitary leader/leadership which differs in significant ways from the religion it claims to be.”

    Are you sure you want to keep that definition? Think hard about it.

    8. Your caricature of our faith, by picking out the most sensational speculations we have on record, is not impressive. A 10 year old could do that. Talk to us about what we actually believe and you might gain some respect. As it is, your CARM-like behavior isn’t winning any converts.


    • Joel

      That’s kind of my thought on the creedal parts as well. Of course, the Cult of CARM doesn’t believe that the RCC is any better than Mormonism, unlike Servant here. So, either CARM is pushing more people from under the umbrella or Servant has a different umbrella which is generally uninformed.

      I would urge Servant to research and learn what part Justin, Christ is a ‘second God,’ and Origen, ‘even the devil will be saved,’ had to play in the formation of the doctrine of the Trinity.

      And James, you are correct that those who believe that the Trinity is the core doctrine has just excluded Christ, Paul and everyone else until the final formulation. Or has their been a final formulation yet?

  • Daniel O. McClellan

    Here is how the good professor has responded to hearing about my comments:

    “I don’t have a whole lot of time to dignify some idiot who doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. I don’t have a whole lot of time to dignify some idiot who doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. He obviously has never read any of my student’s papers, he has never spoken with the students who have made the visits, and he certainly has never stepped foot inside the my classroom to see or hear what goes on (nor would he be allowed to as per school policy).

    To me he sounds like another disgruntled Mormon, who when he can’t have it his way, runs off to his little fantasy world where he can engage in the very hypocritical bigotry that he accuses others. And I say, let him, given that it will not change a thing.

    The students will continue visiting, writing, and turning in negative reports about Mormonism, of their own choosing and observation. Because in the real world Mormonism is not what the fanatic Mormon claims that it is, and these first-hand accounts by the students are simply evidence of it.”

  • A Christian

    Have you considered the fact that your blog is attacking a man and his professional skills, by posting where he is teaching and characterizing his in classroom exercise as “bigotry”? Have you considered the legal ramifications of publicly posting such statements? If I were you, I’d review that issue very carefully. There are boundaries, aren’t there?

    • Daniel O. McClellan

      I’d like to know what the legal ramifications are. Please quote statements from my post and the comments that are illegal and please cite the laws that prohibit them. I would appreciate it if you could be as specific as possible so I can make appropriate revisions.

  • Joel

    A cult is any group which doesn’t believe in Orthodox Christian doctrine? Wow. You mean like Paul, Peter, Thomas and those guys? They would be a cult?

  • James

    Servant said, “If you reject the Trinity and the Creeds, pal, you’re no Christian at all.”

    I just spoke to a nice young man at an interfaith dialogue lunch here at my university. He is a non-denominational Christian. He described the Trinity for me and for a nice muslim fellow. He asked the muslim if he is a brother. He asked the muslim if he is a friend. He asked the muslim if he is a student. The answer to all three questions was yes. The nice young Christian boy explained that is like the Trinity. One God who plays three different roles.

    Unfortunately for this nice young non-denominational Christian, he holds a heretical view of the Trinity. He is a modalist and he doesn’t even know it. What he described is not the creedal Trinity.

    Unfortunately for him, according to our friend Servant, despite being a nice young non-denominational believer, he is not a Christian.


  • Daniel O. McClellan

    The instructor mentioned in my original post has opted not to respond directly to my comments here, but has responded indirectly to me at CARM. I’ll reproduce his comments here:


    I took about five minutes to read through Daniel O. McClellan’s (aka makdaddy) misinformed, misguided rant, and I stand by my previous conclusion: it won’t change a thing.

    Two fatal flaws he made during his rant were (1) presuming that the student’s comments were influenced by a lecture or previous statements made by myself about Mormonism, which they were not, and (2) that the only Mormon in the room, during the mock trial, was pitted against everyone else.

    In the first instance, the students are told at the start of the semester, and are given a syllabus to the same effect, of what their field assignment obligations entail. They are not to write a research paper; they are to go out, of their own choosing, to places outside their comfort zone and observe. They then hand in five-page summaries of their experiences, and depending on the class schedule, may also have to get up in front of the class and make a short presentation. And as long as the paper is substantive, grammatically sound, and of proper length, then they receive a score commensurate with their effort, whether I agree or disagree with their findings.

    As far as the mock trial is concerned, no one has ever been isolated to “go it alone,” much less “go it alone” because a student was of any particular religious preference. All 40 students during a mock trial work in teams, whether they play the parts of Judges, Lawyers, Defendants or Plaintiffs, or the Jury. Even the Bailiff is not by him/herself, because I’m helping him/her with simply playing traffic cop in the courtroom.

    The Mormon student was placed on a team with two other student lawyers to argue in favor of Mormonism for a very specific reason. She had the resources and background for what was hoped to be a vigorous defense of Mormonism. In all fairness to her I thought it best that she defend her religion, than to have someone else, who was not as up-to-speed on the subject do it, while she watched from the jury box or judges bench. And in my opinion, she did a pretty good job. Unfortunately, the jury didn’t side with the Prosecution’s arguments, and Mormonism was not deemed to be a Christian religion. Once again, this all transpired before anything was ever said in class about Mormonism proper.

    So, let me conclude by stating again, the makdaddy is nothing more than a religious hack who can’t see the forest for the trees. What he thinks he knows about anything is neutralized by his blind arrogance and perverse worldview. The devil hates the truth, and so does the makdaddy, which is why we see the ignorant distortions, bigoted commentary, and libelous diatribes written on his blog.

    Therefore, let him rant, rave, froth, and have a hissy-fit, because once again, the students will keep going on their field assignments and will keep on writing what they experience. And if that means that they continuously keep coming back with reports that Mormonism is weird, not what the students expected, or just downright devious, because some zealous bishop tried to seize the opportunity to make my students two-fold children of hell through proselytization efforts (which I’ve received more than one of those attempts), then so be it. Moral/spiritual deviants like Daniel O. McClellan will just have to live with it.

    All I’ll say is that the truth must really be bothering him if he thinks libeling and maligning a college student’s observations is worthy blog material. But, there’s a cure for his angst. It’s called seeing the Mormon church through the eyes of those who don’t have a dog in the hunt, except to pass a college religion course. And if their innocent comments, negative though they may be, bother you (makdaddy) that much, then maybe instead of libeling them, you ought to perk up your ears and listen. Sometimes profound wisdom comes from the mouth of babes, and in the case of my students and their astute observations coming from their Mormon experiences, nothing could be more true. Are you listening makdaddy? Or is that egotistical orb just above your shoulders so huge and thick as to defy such wisdom?


    Regarding his first two charges, he made it perfectly clear in the original discussion that his biases were made known at the beginning of the semester. In addition, I stand by the conclusion that no sentient college student would ever make such horribly bigoted comments in a final without first knowing full well that the professor will appreciate them. Regarding his second point, I don’t think I conveyed the idea that it was the one student against every other person in the class in the mock trial, but if I did then that’s my fault for being imprecise.

    I think the depravity of a mock trial in a state college over whether or not Mormonism is Christian is enough to establish the bigoted nature of this instructor’s approach to world religions, full disclosure or otherwise.

    PS – If what I wrote in this blog post is “libelous,” what is the following?

    “nothing more than a religious hack who can’t see the forest for the trees. What he thinks he knows about anything is neutralized by his blind arrogance and perverse worldview. The devil hates the truth, and so does the makdaddy, which is why we see the ignorant distortions, bigoted commentary, and libelous diatribes.”

  • Joel

    Yeah, because CARM is the bastion of academic freedom.

  • Daniel O. McClellan


    While I acknowledge the deftness with which you threw a diminutive “lad” in there, I’m going to have to disagree with your assumption. I’ve attend three institutions of higher learning and one vocational school in addition to BYU. I was kicked out of the University of Northern Colorado twelve years ago because I didn’t let my classes interrupt my drug and alcohol consumption. I also attended Collin County Community College in Plano, Texas, which is far from conservative. I went to a vocational school for a year and became a licensed and certified massage therapist (if you aren’t aware, massage therapy isn’t exactly a haven for fundamentalist Christians). Now I attend the University of Oxford, which is one of the most liberal universities in the world.

    I’ve attended countless classes, lectures, seminars, and presentations on religion generally and specifically (and given quite a few myself), and not once has anyone ever shown such flagrantly sectarian bigotry toward another religion. “Picking apart religious systems” in a secular academic exercise is a far cry from a mock trial to decide if Mormonism is “biblical” (or, to reflect Paul’s obvious point, “true”). Don’t lecture me about academic freedom and higher education. You clearly haven’t the foggiest idea what you’re talking about.

  • Daniel O. McClellan

    More bigoted comments from the good instructor:


    These are not in any particular type of order, but these are my top 10 reasons why I know the LDS Church is 100% false.

    * Wrong God (espouses an implicit atheism, if not neo-Hellenistic view of God).
    * Wrong Jesus (an evolving creature related to the devil).
    * Wrong Holy Spirit (a demi-god at best; another evolving creature at worst).
    * Distorted view of sin’s value (especially at the beginning of creation).
    * Bogus claims about Book of Mormon history (no tangible evidence supporting Nephite/Lamanite existence).
    * A lying, immoral “prophet” named Joseph Smith (marrying 14 year-olds and other men’s wives…absolutely disgusting!).
    * Works-based Salvation (Individual); False view of Grace (General).
    * Monistic cosmology which is patently absurd (implies that an actual infinite is logical in our finite universe).
    * Pelagian view of mankind (man is much better off than what the Bible asserts).
    * No sense of absolute truth (espouses a “if it feels good, do it” type of philosophy).

  • A Christian

    Why on earth would anybody presume to lecture somebody who is working on his Masters? My goodness, is there any higher authority than that?

    Look, mak, you might want to consider the fact that you have used your blog to attack a person’s professional behavior. You have even suggested that this is bigotry.

    I think you don’t have the “foggiest notion” of what written statements that denigrate a person’s work performance and skills entails.

    And, by the way, your responses are immature and demonstrate an inability to answer tough questions in a responsible manner – your use of personal attacks is typical of your behavior on CARM, and the main reason you are banned from that site.

  • More Religious Bigotry « Daniel O. McClellan

    […] while ago I posted some comments from one Paul Derengowski wherein he appeared to promote religious bigotry in his college […]

  • Servant Servant

    Boy was that student right! Mormonism is a clever counterfeit of Christianity.

  • Update on “Religious Bigotry in a University Classroom?” « Daniel O. McClellan

    […] little over two years ago I published a post sharing comments made by an adjunct professor at Tarrant County Community College (Paul […]

  • Another Update to “Religious Bigotry in a University Classroom?” | Daniel O. McClellan

    […] the background to this story, see here and an update here. To bring everyone up to speed, just a couple of weeks ago Paul Derengowski […]

  • wakawakawaka

    I think this guy’s been fired hasn’t he? and check out his facebook page

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