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The subject was philosophy. Nietzsche, a philosopher well known for his dislike of Christianity and famous for his statement that 'god is dead', was the topic. Professor Hagen was lecturing and outside a thunderstorm was raging. It was a good one.

Flashes of lighting were followed closely by ominous claps of thunder. Every time the professor would describe one of Nietzsche's anti-christian views the thunder seemingly echoed his remarks. At the high-point of the lecture a bolt of lightning struck the ground near the classroom followed by a deafening clap of thunder.

The professor, unconcerned, walked to the window opened it and starting jabbing at the sky with his umbrella. He yelled, you senile son of a bitch, your aim is getting worse.

Suffice it to say that some students were offended by his irreverent remark and brought it to the attention of the Department Head. The Department Head in turn took it to the Dean of Humanities who called the professor in for a meeting. The Dean reminded the professor that the students pay a lot of tuition and that he shouldn't unnecessarily insult their beliefs.

Oh, says the professor, and what beliefs are those? Well, you know the Dean says, most students attending this University are Christians. We can't have you blaspheming during class. Surely says the professor, the merciful God of Christianity wouldn't throw lightning bolts. It's Zeus who throws lightning bolts.

Later the Dean spoke with the Department Head, and said, "the next time you have a problem with that professor you handle it, and let him make an ass out of you instead."



Is this just a good story or did it really happen somewhere, because this seems like a great match to the story of the woman struck by lightning when she finished praying.

Whether this is real or fake, I wish my professors were brazen enough to joke so politically incorrectly.

It's a true story.

Sigh, we need more professors like this one. Professors are meant to be controversial because they are not the one being tested : >

Any chance we can get a source for it?


It's incredible the amount of attention given to Christainity and Islam; no one even bothers to write about Hinduism, Buddhism which is the religion for about 2 billion odd people.

And after being an Indian, I do know that Hinduism and Islam have collided but is very much ignored by the Western world, which think that Christainity/Islam is the main problem.

Sorry to put it in a wrong context/video, but I am seeing literally no attention to these religions as well .

(Perhaps some may consider Buddhism to be a way of life rather than a religion, in which case, my apologies)

yo kes, hows it going .. long time :)

do you think that had zeus got him with the lightning ... would the professor be considered justly punished for his life of bad?

Here's what's stayed with me since reading this story: so the kids who complained must've been devout Christians, right? Just a guess. They don't mind listening to a lecture on Nietzsche (fine), but then they get all bent out of shape when the prof makes a joke out of being missed by a lightning bolt. They seem to be selectively offended, and offended over trivial matters.

College is where you get to be exposed to various opinions - and jokes. The joke was harmless, the comeback perfect, and the story a good laugh for those on the outside.

"Here's what's stayed with me since reading this story: so the kids who complained must've been devout Christians, right? Just a guess. They don't mind listening to a lecture on Nietzsche (fine), but then they get all bent out of shape when the prof makes a joke out of being missed by a lightning bolt. They seem to be selectively offended, and offended over trivial matters."

You're making the mistake of considering them rational beings. They're not.

I grew up in a small town, and I distinctly recall ordering some books by Nietzsche in the local Marshall's book store. They refused to order the title 'The Antichrist'. Another book store (Walden's, I think) had some of his books but kept them in the storage room. When I asked why they did this, the old woman said that if she didn't she got harassed by Christians all the time.

I'm glad that the professor stood up for himself. It's pretty rare that teachers do that nowadays - it's well-established that colleges have become institutions of radical-mentality and PC brainwashing. Glad the system didn't silence this old guy.

Professor Fred Hagen taught philosophy at the University of Utah for 30 some years beginning in the 60's. Fred died several years ago. Lightning played no part in his death. The story is one he enjoyed recounting to his philosophy students.


hah .. no wonder ... :D

Hi dormant25, Buddhism started as a philosophy or a way of life. However it does not prevent people from continuing with whatever customs, rites and practises that they were practising, even their local faiths and could readily combine with them. This accounts for the rise of the Mahayana Buddism in China, which is like a religion.

Theravada Buddism as is practised in Thailand is more a philosophy of life than religion and it is closer to what the Buddha has originally preached.

On the matter of air time, Buddhism is a down-to-earth idea and it, for better or for worse, does not suffer from the insecurity issues that inflict many faiths, which require faithful to declare their faith and assert their rights at every opportunity.

Because to Buddism, faith is a personal matter and should not be commercialised, exploited or used to score points : >

Hi stipe, I've always been here though.

Related to the last point, I am always amused whenever I see contestants on American idol saying stuff like thanking God or how their faith has helped them yada yada to score brownie points.

// Because to Buddism, faith is a personal matter and should not be commercialised, exploited or used to score points : > //


HILARIOUS!! sounds like a professor I would have enjoyed.

Isn't the "senile son of a bitch" really the Cristian God and not Zeus? Aparently, that's to whom he screams. I mean, come on, Zeus? Who would connect that with Zeus, except a man trying to get out of an apology--not that one was owed.

Isn't the "senile son of a bitch" really the Cristian God and not Zeus? Aparently, that's to whom he screams. I mean, come on, Zeus? Who would connect that with Zeus, except a man trying to get out of an apology--not that one was owed. But it still seems a sign of weakness to take the edge off the meaning, isn't it?

Will someone explain the difference between a way-of-life and religion? To me, religion claims meaning behind unanswerable questions. Like, why do we suffer? Buddhism

No attribution? And a few quick googles for some of the key words turns up no matches. Why does this bother me, Norm?

The story is professor Hagen's the writing is mine.

"Because to Buddism, faith is a personal matter and should not be commercialised, exploited or used to score points"

. . . what about Pure Land Buddhism?

When discussing different strains of religious thought (or lack of), it is important to distinguish between those which place emphasis on action and redemption, and those with place emphasis on faith and redemption. There are examples of the far-preferable former in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and yes, even the latter in Buddhism. What is with the Western Liberal's often ignorant fetishization of the East?


Marco" 'Isn't the "senile son of a bitch" really the Cristian God and not Zeus? Aparently, that's to whom he screams. I mean, come on, Zeus? Who would connect that with Zeus, except a man trying to get out of an apology--not that one was owed.'

I guess you've got a reason to think the Christian God is senile and old, whereas the Greek God has all of his faculties and is young, as opposed to the Christian God?? I am not sure what you're getting at here... What evidence are you referring to?

Hi jakob, pure land buddhism? What's that? Enlighten me, thanks as I've not heard of it before.

As for faith and redemption, I don't think that was any part of Buddha's message.

His message was more self-salvation and faith did not come into the picture as Buddhism was meant to be just a way of life.

Its believers don't go to heaven, beyond reincarnation and its end goal in nirvana/infinite bliss.

It does not give believers any grounds for self-righteousness to judge others.

It does not give believers any grounds to discriminate or judge others unfairly just because they don't share the same beliefs or lifestyles.

Kindly don't lump Western religions with Eastern philosophies.

They are apples and pears.

kes -

I will continue to lump like-strains of religions together, regardless of their situation in the reductive East/West dichotomy.

"Pure Land" Buddhism is a form of Buddhism that began in Medieval Japan, when it was widely assumed that the final era of human existence had been reached (as prophesied by Buddha) and that the attainment of Nirvana was impossible. The best hope for the redemption of humanity was understood to be the merciful Amidha Buddha, a deity-figure who became the recipient of prayer and devotion. This form of Buddhism still exists today. It is a faith, a religion, even it was based on Buddha's teaching of "self-salvation", as you put it, which did not include faith in the Judeo-Christian sense.

My point was and is this:

These discussions of religion often unfairly reduce all these traditions: Western religion is inherently fanatical, Eastern thought or religion peaceful and governed by reason. There exists greater variety and nuance which must be recognized if one wishes to pursue these discussions with intellectual honesty.

I noticed Kes referred to Occidental Religions as religions and Oriental Religions as philosophies. It's a theme of exceptionalism common among the Buddhaophiles, which as been protrayed since the first anglos intruded the East. I say Buddhism quacks like a duck, walks like duck; it's a @#$% duck.

Firstly, it deals with the metaphysical, which is a shared trait among all religions. But it's the metaphysics--abstract reasoning, anyone?--that are oranges and apples, and not context and construction that set it apart. The fact that, per the dictionary, 'A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader' includes Buddhism in the mix.

Simply put, the role of religon has been an answer to understanding what it's all about. For some religions it's overcoming sin to reach heaven. For others, it's overcoming personal desires, which is the cuase of our own suffering, all to reach Nirvana (don't come as you are).

Plus, there's the common trait of life after death, think samsara. Only for the Buddhist life is recycled; the essence of a person--maybe not the soul, but close--goes on in different forms while the husk remains.

There's also principles, such as what to eat. And moral precepts, here's a list of them: refrain from taking life, stealing, acting unchastely, speaking falsely, and drinking intoxicants. Good things to observe. (But, no drink? What is this Utah?). However, there's more stricter codes as well. Such as, scheduling proper eating times, abstinance of secular entertainments, sprayth not thyself with garlands, perfumes, and other bodily adornments, refrain from sleeping in high and wide beds, and no taking of money.

In the end, to the dismay of those who want to piss off thier parents by being Buddhist, it's a duck. A different breed of duck, but a duck nonetheless.

Hi Marco, no offense but you are wrong.

Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism started as philosophies and are meant to be practised as a way of life.

Metaphysical discussions are part of them but the focus have never been away from how we live our life on Earth in this life.

Preoccupation with the afterlife and eternal rewards for the faithful are not dominant themes in these philosophies, which call man's attention to the need to make moral choices for their own sake.

The big difference between Occidental religions and Oriental schools of thought is that the Orientals have never been big on preaching and converting others.

In most cases, people come to Buddhism not because of preachers but because they are interested and took the effort.

This unintrusive and tolerant aspects of these 3 religions are important reasons why the Orental schools of thought are different from Western religions.

One more thing, Oriental philosophies are focused on being a way of life.

One dominant theme is for people to practise them in the privacy of their own homes by meditation and reading scriptures WITHOUT a priest.

This is a major difference as such philosophies stress that people can attain enlightenment on their own and in an instant if everything is just right i.e. dun-wu or instant recognition.

This is different from Western religions which have ZERO faith in the ability of man to believe in himself and his inner potential.

Such Western religions focus on the uncleanliness of man i.e. sinful nature that require the tenets of faith to bind him to God's way and require people and texts to guide him every step of the way of salvation.

Thus the major difference is that Eastern philosophies insist on treating man as an adult while Western religions see man as a sinful and wilful child.

Guess where my vote went?

"It's Zeus who throws lightning bolts."

Laugh out loud, that is soooo perfect heh. These people need to get their deities in line.

However, it might not have been Zeus... it could have been Zibelthiurdos, Uira, Apocatequil, or Gebeleizis.

for kes:

"A man without faith: I do not know what to make of him. A large chariot without a yoke, a small chariot without a collar, how can one make it move ahead?" -- Confucius (Lun-yu)

-m (ps. traditionally, christianity wasn't a religion so much as the transformation that takes place when humanity and god are united in love. hence the incarnation (god's initiative) and humanity's response (death to self, unto new and abundant life in the incarnate, resurrected god))

Hi Mark, nice quote but you ignore context.

Confucius was saying this in reference to a faith in the importance of social hierachy and order based on a fundamental respect for the family unit which should be paralled by a respectful allegience to the Enperor. Both was lacking in the Spring and Autumn periods as well as the Warring States period when China was a fragmented state with no political centre.

Confucius was never a religious person.

As for Christianity not being a religion, I disagree.

Throughout time, Christians stress way too much on the divinity of Christ, rather than his Jewish-centric morality, which caused him to ignore the Gentiles or non-Jews when he was alive.

The case of the Samaritan women showed clearly his reluctance to help, let alone preach to a non-Jew.

Again, context matters.

I can attest this is a true story as I had the honor of taking several classes from Fred Hagen at the U of Utah many years ago. I didn't know until reading this post that Fred is dead. He was one of a kind.


This is a great story. I was lucky enough to take classes from Prof. Hagen and he truly was inspirational.

This is a true story, I was in the classroom. Hagen was talking about the morbidity of the cross, and the fact that if Christ had died in the electric chair, the faithful would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks, steeples would have electric chairs instead of crosses, etc. Just before the lightening struck, he was discussing the physiology of crucifiction which generally causes an erection...true blasphemy to be sure.

Good to know boner shame is not just for us mortals.

Looked like the professor (who was a complete ass BTW.) was close to getting a lessen in Darwin :)

I was surprised to read an obituary re: Fred Hagen. I took classes from him in 1975, a very brilliant lecturer. The above story (and stories in the thread) ring true. He had a way with sarcasm, a caustic wit that demolished the prevalent insanity found in Western religions. At the time I was non-religious and disgusted with most views on just about everything. He had amazing insight into the works of Kant, Hegel, Wittgenstien, the Existentialists, etc. Ultimately, though, I couldn't follow his path. I found a world-weariness and a personal depression about 'ultimate things',in his teaching and personal life that left an emptiness. Those religious folks maybe made no sense intellectually but they had a sense of purpose and security that is at least enviable. Anyway, I found myself in the Eastern Orthodox Christian church many years ago and it still captivates - in a positive way. (That is something that each person would have to verify individually, or not.) Ultimately, I have very fond memories of his inspirational taking-on of the purveyors of nonsense.


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