Atheist @ Catholic College (Adam Burt)

My friend Adam Burt has composed a response to "Why on Earth would an atheist attend a Catholic College" and wants me to post it here. Voila!


Why on Earth would an atheist attend a Catholic college? – Adam Burt

I have now seen this argument come up more than a handful of times, and have had to repeat this argument over and over again, so instead of isolating my arguments to a few threads and having to go back and reiterate them over and over again, I feel it necessary to centralize my ideas and argument on one forum. So here you go.

First, the opposition usually says something like this: “Why would a *insert expletive*ing atheist want to go to a Catholic school [King’s College]. If you hate religion/Christianity/God so much, you should go to a different non-religious school [like Wilkes, which is down the street].” Okay, so we have their position. But all it really takes is just a moment of serious thought to see that this argument is not only incredibly invalid, but downright stupid.

Here’s why:

If you are attending college, consider the reasons you enrolled. If not, put yourself in the shoes of a senior in high school going through the process of selecting schools. I’ll tell you what I was considering:

1.Major. Do they have the major I want? How highly acclaimed is their professional program for this major? How many years is the university’s professional program?

2.Location and Size. Would I have to move away or should I commute? Is the university extremely large and going to have class sizes of 500+, or will it have small classes sizes of 20-30.

3.Cost. How much is the university charging for tuition/boarding and other costs associated with attending college.

4.Government/Financial Aid. Which university/college is going to give me the most money to attend this school because I really don’t want to exit college with a degree and a debt of hundreds of thousands of dollars, if possible.

These reasons I would suspect are probably the major four factors in most people selecting a university. Where does religious affiliation stand in there? Does it really matter all that much?
So, from here, we can start answering the question of “Why would an atheist attend a Catholic college?” with “Because it has a highly acclaimed program in my major, it’s located close to home where I want it and isn’t an enormously big school, it’s cost-efficient, and I received a lot of financial aid to go there”. If this answer doesn’t suffice to you as is, then I think you may need to truly reconsider why people go to college. But still yet, I shall give you even more reason to see this argument as ludicrous.

Let’s go to the core of the opposition’s argument and see what they are questioning whether an atheist would want to attend such a college.

1.He’s an atheist, so he clearly must hate the college because it has a religious affiliation

-False. King’s is actually a nice school with a nice campus and acclaimed programs. Atheists do not hate people. They hate ideas. They oppose and [often] openly debate with religious people, not because they “hate” them, but because they want to challenge theists' beliefs and to find a justification to such theistic beliefs.

2.The atheist would have to take religious courses. He/she would absolutely hate that.

-False. Atheists, more often than not, probably know just as much, if not more, than most Christians about religion. This is why they are able to construct well-educated arguments against religious ideas, support their claims, and offer many counter-arguments to religion. Also, atheists often enjoy studying religion. Educating yourself on a topic isn’t always a bad thing. It also gives the atheist another venue to challenge these ideas and to see even more theistic views and opinions in action in the classroom.

3.A Catholic college will challenge the atheist’s beliefs.

-And I say, so what? Christians often think this is a bad thing. But is it? Not at all. Beliefs are not above reproach, and should be questioned/challenged always. Perhaps the atheist wants a challenge of attending a religious school to better understand his or herself and to actively participate in religiously based conversations or debates. Now, what I assure you is the atheist is not attending the college to “preach” or to “advocate a stance”. However, just because you may see an atheist “speaking out” or openly debating religion, it does not mean he or she joined the college just for the sole purpose of fighting religion. The reason you may pay particular attention to an atheist on a Christian campus is because the moment you hear someone speak out against religion on a religious campus, you immediately become the red, round peg amidst a whole bunch of blue, square pegs.

4.The atheist would clearly be a minority at the college and/or no one would want the atheist at the college.

This one is my favorite. I’ve heard this one used in almost every case that the question “Why would you [an atheist] want to attend a Catholic college?” This argument is completely fallacious if you look at it for but a minute. Okay, so I will start this with my regular counter argument. I go to Wilkes University, a secular university about a mile or two away from King’s College. I’m sure at least 75% of the students there have some religious affiliation, and a large portion of them are definitely Christian. I can invoke the same question on them…”If you are religious, why are you attending a secular school and not King’s?” If the person I’m speaking to isn’t a complete idiot, they will probably respond with one or more of the above 4 listed points of why anyone chooses the school they do. Fine, so let’s move on.

So, the poor little atheist would be in a minority and no one would want him or her there. Well, I offer you this:

-Why would any Jew live in America? They are in the minority and there are people who oppose them being here.

-Why would a Yankees fan want to watch a baseball game with a bunch of Phillies fans?

-Why would a female join the police force, which is largely male?

-Why would any minority join/go anywhere/be anywhere where there is a majority of different ideals/positions/people etc.?

The answer is quite simple: Because they choose to be there and there is probably not a valid, logical reason for them *not* to be there. As long as the atheist is safe and enjoys the college he or she chose, then the question falls right under the category of the above listed examples.

So, let us go back to the original question. “Why would an atheist attend a Catholic college?”
The answer should be remarkably simple and easily understandable at this point. “An atheist may attend a Catholic college because it has the desired major with a well-acclaimed program, it’s located in a city he or she desires, the college is the size desired, it’s within the price-range, government/financial aid was received to attend the college, he or she wanted to challenge his or herself and to participate in religious debates/conversations, to further learn about religion without having to major in theology, and last but not least, because they wanted to.” Is it really that hard to see why an atheist would attend a Catholic college?

-Adam Burt


I was a theist during my first year at King's and started questioning my religion throughout my education. It was because of college that I decided to investigate and drastically change my mind. I decided to continue to attend King's in my third year because I'm quite established here. I'm almost finished with my education and would like to finish at the same school I started.

I originally chose King's because I didn't take the SATs (I submitted a graded paper), did not have a vehicle to commute, and received a good deal of financial aid to attend.

I'm continuing to learn a great deal of information from my classes and, if I want, I can easily have discussions about religion with priests, theologians, and other individuals on campus.