Century Marks

Century Marks

Atheists united

The Secular Student Alliance, a growing network of agnostics and atheists on college campuses, now has chapters on some religious campuses, including California Lutheran University. The members of the Cal Lutheran chapter have deliberately avoided being confrontational with the religious ethos of the campus. They've studied other religions and visited worship services. On the whole, the secular group has been well received. The chapter president is also the student body president. The presence of this group on campus has spawned another group—a club for Christian students with a conservative bent (Chronicle of Higher Education, February 27).

Forgotten peacemakers

It is largely forgotten that more than 20,000 British men of military age refused the draft during World War I. Harassed by the government and their fellow citizens, some were forced to go to the front, others were imprisoned. Among the imprisoned: a future winner of the Nobel Prize, more than a dozen future members of Parliament and a future cabinet minister. Bertrand Russell, Britain's most highly regarded philosopher at the time, was one of the most outspoken supporters of the resisters and served a short prison sentence for his writings defending them (American Scholar, Spring).

Good motives

In a conversation with the Dali Lama, an Indian politician suggested that politicians don't need religion. The Dalai Lama responded: "Politicians need religion even more than a hermit in retreat. If the hermit acts inspired by bad motivation, he'll harm only himself. But if a politician, who can directly influence an entire society, acts with bad motivation, a large number of people will experience the negative consequences." The Dalai Lama regards "every action carried out with good motivation as religious" (My Spiritual Journey, HarperOne).

Tibetan succession

The Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, plans to turn over political power to the elected prime minister of the Tibetan government in exile. This move is designed to ensure that there isn't a political vacuum after the Dalai Lama dies and that there is an effective response to Chinese crackdowns against the Tibetans. A spokesperson for the Chinese government said the move is designed to fool the international community. The Chinese fear that the Dalai Lama will return to Tibet, which one Chinese official said would be a greater threat than a "vast army" (Los Angeles Times, March 10).

Oppressive Christians?

The University of California at Davis has decided that Christians may not be oppressors after all. A university policy document, "The Principles of Com­munity," defined religious and spiritual discrimination as "the loss of power and privilege to those who do not practice the dominant culture's religion." It claimed that in the U.S. there is institutionalized oppression of those who aren't Christian. When the pro-Christian law firm Alliance Defense Fund objected to this claim, a university executive said the definition would be removed from the document (beliefnet.com).