A prominent Christian philosopher was upbraided by the academic community when he presented a paper arguing homosexuality is immoral at a Christian philosophy conference.
Richard Swinburne, an emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Oxford, presented his paper at the latest Midwest meeting for the Society of Christian Philosophers, drawing the scorn of fellow philosophers who heard about the talk on social media.
Jason Stanley, the Jacob Urowsky Professor of Philosophy at Yale University, chimed in on the debate via an expletive-laden Facebook post.
After his comments began to draw attention, Mr. Stanley wrote a faux apology in which he compared Christian views on homosexuality to those which gave rise to the Holocaust.
“I really wish now I hadn’t said that!!” Mr. Stanley wrote. “I PROFOUNDLY regret not using much harsher language and saying what I really think of anyone who uses their religion to promote homophobia, you know that sickness that has led people for thousands of years to kill my fellow human beings for their sexual preferences. Like you know, pink triangles and the Holocaust.”
He said philosophers like Mr. Swinburne “use their status as professional philosophers to oppress others with less power.”
Weighing in on the brouhaha at his American Conservative blog, Rod Dreher said the reaction to Mr. Swinburne’s paper is a “striking sign of the revolutionary times.”
“The fact that a Yale philosophy professor not only holds such vicious opinions towards another professor who apparently only stated a historically standard Christian philosophical view of homosexuality, but who also did not hesitate to publicly denounce that professor in the most vulgar possible terms, is a striking sign of the revolutionary times,” Mr. Dreher wrote.
“They don’t make Yale philosophy professors like they used to, I reckon,” he added.
Mr. Stanley later told The Washington Times that he did not intend to make his initial remark publicly.
“I wrote on a friend’s private Facebook page in the midst of grading papers,” Mr. Stanley said in a statement. “The comment was to make people on that thread laugh. Then someone took comments on a private Facebook thread and made them public. I assume private Facebook threads are supposed to be private.”
Other outraged responses to Mr. Swinburne’s talk were catalogued at the conservative Rightly Considered blog.
A transcript of Mr. Swinburne’s remarks has not been released. But SCP President Michael Rae issued an apology over the paper, saying he regretted “the hurt” caused by it.
“As President of the SCP, I am committed to promoting the intellectual life of our philosophical community,” Mr. Rae said in a Facebook post. “Consequently (among other reasons), I am committed to the values of diversity and inclusion. As an organization, we have fallen short of those ideals before, and surely we will again.”
Mr. Swinburne has authored dozens of books on the philosophy of religion and science. He has been most influential in the debate over the existence of God.
• Bradford Richardson can be reached at email@example.com.
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