One of the things that fundamentalist parents seem to fear more than anything is the influence of the "liberal" university. They rant and rail about it, using God's Not Dead as a manual for what their children (now turned adults) can expect in college. Some encourage only Christian colleges, refusing to pay if their child chooses some other type of school. Some, like most of my church friends when I was 18 and 19, just joined Christian clubs and created their own Christian bubbles within their universities. It's easy enough to do. None of them seem to know what an actual liberal college is like though.
Let me tell you about my college. Emerson College. When I picked it, I chose it for it's major. One of the few in the country with a BA in the field I wanted to go into, publishing. Out of the six colleges in the US that offered this major, Emerson was the only one I had actually heard of. I knew nothing about the school. I didn't even visit before applying. I didn't care. They had the classes I wanted and although moving to Boston sounded terrifying, I was ready for some adventure. Now, I already had an associate's degree and once accepted, almost all my credits transferred over. My first introduction to my school was while I was standing outside the building, a Duck Boat tour group drove by and the tour guide said on the speaker, "This is Emerson College, where you are either gay or liberal, although probably both." I remember thinking, hmmm....I didn't see that on the College board site. No matter, I was much more progressive in my beliefs so being surrounded by gay people didn't bother me that much. It did concern me that people might be anti-Christian though. Back then I still thought that if you weren't a Christian, this must mean you are anti-Christian.
Now, my school was absolutely very liberal, but at no point did anyone bash religion. There were a few sneers directed towards Republicans, but mostly mild complaining that moved on quickly. Professors rarely shared personal opinions and were quick to re-direct conversations that got too opinionated or rude. I took an ethics course and I cannot begin to tell you anything about the professor because he was so damned good at controlling the classroom and keeping the discussions on topic. That was also the class where I discovered that one could have strong moral opinions without resorting to the Bible. He didn't teach me that. I figured that out on my own. I took a Race and Discrimination course with another fabulous professor who focused on one type of discrimination each week. One week we would discuss Native Americans vs. Redskins and the next we were analyzing immigrants. I sat next to a girl who was super nice and during one particular class the professor asked us to write down something that we feared people finding out about us because of the stereotypes and prejudices surrounding them. Then we were to share these with our partner. I wrote down that I was a Christian, because I felt uncomfortable sharing that at such a liberal college. She wrote that she was a Lesbian, which she was afraid to share because of people like me. Holy shit was that a wake up call. You are afraid to tell me because of what I believe and I'm afraid to tell you because I know my beliefs come with some not nice things attached to it. That was something I learned from another student, not a professor and not in a way that was trying to erode my faith. One student in a writing course I was in, challenged my notions of corporal punishment. He argued that hitting children in any context was wrong. Morally reprehensible and abusive. That there are other successful ways of parenting and studies showed that it did more harm than good. This was the first time I really had to confront the idea that my parents, particularly my mom, were abusive in my childhood. I didn't want to think about them in that light because I loved them and am close to them, but that student sent me down a path where, after reading numerous studies, I have to agree. My parents were abusive. They weren't doing it because they disliked me or didn't love me, but they also did it out of anger and it crossed the line way too often. All of these revelations came from regular people in my classes.
It is true that going to a non-Christian school and stepping outside my fundy bubble, I was then surrounded by people who challenged some of my opinions and beliefs. But none of them did it on purpose. My classmate didn't know that my parents spanked me. My other classmate didn't know I was Christian. They didn't really care either. But by being exposed to people who were different then me and also attending a church that was a lot more progressive then anything I had ever gone to, I grew a little bit more. I didn't become an atheist until nearly a decade later and I don't think I can contribute my loss of faith to my education. There is also a possibility that those things would have happened in a Christian setting too. The church I went to in Boston most certainly challenged my Christianity. For example: It was there that I realized how absolutely bat-shit crazy speaking in tongues actually is. That's when I stopped completely. Obviously, what the fundy parents are trying to do is stop thought and inquiry, but if your kid is curious enough and adventurous enough, I don't think there is any way to stop it.
Disclaimer: I was an adult education student at Emerson College and did not experience the "normal" college experience. There is a high possibility that if I was a regular undergrad who lived in campus, my experience would have been very different.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.