Bye bye, Bible: Christianity should not be mandatory

Copyright: Lucy Wegerif

Copyright: Lucy Wegerif

How would you feel if upon arriving at your university accommodation for the first time you found that a Bible had been placed upon your bed? For many years at Aberystwyth University this has been a common experience, however many of their students are now demanding that the university stops doing this.

More than half of the students are against this practice because presumption that all students would want a copy of the Bible is “unacceptable” and can be “uncomfortable” for some. Universities are highly multicultural establishments and therefore does this process grant a certain kind of preference towards one particular faith or is this just blowing the issue out of proportion?

Well firstly it is important to understand the difference between producing an accessible environment for the Christian student body and at what point this could perhaps overstep the mark and become offensive to the other students. Providing the Christian students with a copy of the Bible is a great idea, since it could perhaps provide them with a welcoming sense of security during the otherwise frightening experience of moving to university.

However, making it a matter of course that all students will receive a copy is most definitely not the best method of doing this. By allowing the distribution of Bibles across the entirety of the accommodation, the university is making an active assumption about the belief systems of their student body. It could perhaps suggest to many students that they are a minority amongst a predominantly Christian group of people and therefore produce the adverse effect of making them feel isolated at an already difficult period of their lives. Although it may make the transition of moving to university easier for those who are part of the Christian faith, it may in fact make the whole process much more difficult for those with different belief systems.

However, a compromise could easily be made. Why not make it so that students can opt-in to have a Bible in their accommodation? This way the university grants accessibility to those who wish to have a copy, whilst avoiding causing any potential offense to students who do not. In fact, the only way for the university to be both accommodating and respectful would be to offer their students with access to any religious text that they require.

It is not enough to just say that students can have a copy of the Bible if they want one, they would need to produce a truly equal system that grants fair opportunities for all belief systems to acquire the religious materials that they require. This is not about the university being politically correct, it is about the equal treatment of their entire student body.

It would be a shame if Aberystwyth University now stopped providing copies of the Bible altogether, since it is very much a welcoming gesture toward their Christian students, but they definitely have to rethink their methods. They cannot just be providing towards one faith because that clearly suggest a kind of preferentialism and they also cannot just assume that all their students would be okay with finding a Bible in their room.

It is great that they provide support for the Christian faith, but now it’s time for them to step up their game and extend this attitude to the beliefs of all of their other students!

12 comments

  1. So, an applicant to this college might check a box requesting a Bible? Would it also be possible for an applicant to check a box requesting The God Delusion? Why or why not?

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  2. 8 Mar ’15 at 1:33 pm

    John Coldwell

    As usual the wtiter has completely missed the point. Bibles are not placed for the benefit of students who are Christians, they will already have a Bible. They are placed so that anybody can read them and decide for themselves about the message they contain. In what way is that offensive? I was once in a hotel in India and found a copy of the Hindu scriptures in my room.Was I offended? Of course not. Those who would seek to have them removed care nothing for the feelings of other religions, no, they seek to further their atheist agenda.

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    • Clearly, the fair thing to do would be for Aberystwyth University to provide scriptures of every religion and belief system, as well as all philosophical and scientific objections to them. That would allow students to ‘read them and decide for themselves about the message they contain’ but from a much more informed perspective.

      Providing solely a Bible is only offensive in the sense that it’s suggesting that Christianity is the only ‘message’ worth considering.

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      • 14 Mar ’15 at 10:12 am

        John Coldwell

        Matt, the university do not provide the Bibles, the Gideons do, on their own initiative. Nothing to stop any other organisation offering whatever they want, but your suggestion that every conceivable shade of opinion should be provided is simply ridiculous. Are you suggesting that students will not come across any other opinion unless it is in a stack of books placed in their room? Why is it offensive to hold the opinion that Christianity is the truth?

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        • “Matt, the university do not provide the Bibles, the Gideons do, on their own initiative.”

          I was unaware of the details of who provides what, so simply took it at face value that it was the university that the who provides them, as this article implies in the first paragraph.

          “Are you suggesting that students will not come across any other opinion unless it is in a stack of books placed in their room?”

          Are you suggesting that students will not come across Christianity unless they are provided with a Bible? Given that the general beliefs of Christianity are relatively common knowledge, I would suggest it would be more beneficial to expose people to ideas they are less likely to have previously considered.

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          • 15 Mar ’15 at 10:02 am

            John Coldwell

            Dear Matt I think the Gideons are more interested an individual’s eternal fate, not your brand of moral relativism. Further it is not a ‘given’ that the tenets of Christianity are common knowledge these days, far from it. Millions have found hope, purpose, salvation and peace from reading the Bible, crimes and suicides have been averted and lives utterly transformed. Visit the Gideons website for some examples.

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            • The Bibles come from Gideons, but the university allows them to distribute them into your accommodation, so they are implicated. Why not just make them freely available elsewhere on campus? Curious students can pick one up. The Bible is freely and widely available online anyway, so this kind of recruitment tactic should be unnecessary. Distributing only Bibles implies Christianity is normal and this is isolating to non-Christian students, especially practitioners of other religions.

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            • “I think the Gideons are more interested an individual’s eternal fate, not your brand of moral relativism.”

              Of course they are, John Coldwell. This also applies to other religions, so I guess we’ll start making those compulsory as well for the sake of fairness? You’re fine with everyone having a Qu’ran, right?

              Seriously though, don’t bother. No one is buying your nonsense, or actually believing that these people care about people’s eternal fate. Same as we don’t buy into revelations, miracles and supernatural events.

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    • “they seek to further their atheist agenda.”

      No, John Coldwell, it is not. Making it compulsory to have a copy of The God Delusion in all university accommodation would make it an atheistic agenda. And as we probably agree on that it would, then that also means that you accept that making the Bible compulsory is a Christian agenda.

      As Matt Sharp says, the fair thing to do would be for all universities to provide scriptures for every religion and belief system, as well as all the philosophical and scientific objections to them.

      However, that’s never been in religions interest. And for the reason that the majority of people, armed with this knowledge, wouldn’t be religious. In fact, most people in the UK aren’t religious in any real sense. And that’s despite the disgrace that is religious people choosing to immorally indoctrinate their children and then have it funded by the taxpayer as well in faith schools.

      So no, John Coldwell, it’s not an atheistic (merely the rejection of religious nonsense) agenda. It’s a Christian one.

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      • 1 May ’15 at 1:47 pm

        John Coldwell

        You are just as confused as the other contributors. Why do the Gideons offer Bibles for free? They are not compulsory and the Gideons are not asking you to join a certain church or believe a certain thing They simply want eveybody to have the opportunity to read the Bible. Is that bad?
        You obfuscate and protest because you know as I do that what it contains is very disturbing to you conscience and that you would rather not face

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  3. 8 Apr ’15 at 1:20 pm

    manwithvanedgware

    Support the idea to broaden this gesture of welcoming by including all of their other students!
    website

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