When Are Religious Studies and Theology Different?

I know a lot of people who don’t sanction the old religious studies vs. theology distinction anymore — to them, the once distinguishable pursuits are better understood to bleed into one another, are mutually informing, are close cousins, or maybe even the very same thing and so to try to differentiate them is a sad testament to the authenticity of the people and the experiences under study. Scholarship, in this mode, is akin to dialogue, a mutually beneficial conversation, an exploration of our common humanity. Continue reading

Out of My Reach?

cvfailures

I assume you’ve seen the discussion over the past month of so around the CV of failures — a movement among some academics to publicize, and thereby make apparent to others, a list of their failures, so as to dispel the myth of merit, i.e., that success just naturally comes to those who already have the goods. Continue reading

All Systems Normal

Picture 9 Yesterday we had our second annual undergraduate research symposium, which featured the work of four current students — many of whom are double majors — and a grad of our Department. We instituted this event last year and held it at the university club at the same time as our senior seminar took place, inviting those students as the audience. But this year we decided to try holding it in a much larger venue and to advertise it among all of our classes, perhaps making it an extra credit opportunity. It worked really well; we had quite good attendance, the papers were all wonderful, and the event nicely modeled (for any student thinking about majoring in the study of religion) what sort of work you can do in the academic study of religion. Continue reading

“If I tell you I believe Elvis is still alive…”

Picture 3Do you know about the sometimes outspoken Sam Harris, the American neuroscientist much associated with the so-called “new atheist” movement?

Well, he’s got a new book out, published last Fall. Continue reading

Science and Religion

Peepal_tree_worshiped_as_god_in_hindu_culture_(peepal_tree_and_temple_on_tree)

The relationship between the categories “science” and “religion” retains great significance within contemporary society. Exactly what that significance is, though, depends on the person’s conceptions and interests. For example, some want to emphasize the value of one over the danger of the other, while some work to bridge the apparent divide separating them. An article that a student pointed out to me last week connects the two categories by asserting scientific explanations for particular practices and traditions that the author labeled Hindu. (Thanks, Lexi.)

Continue reading

“I Smell the Vapors of Hell on You…”

Picture 7There’s a new joint British-US TV series airing over here, “Outlander,” in which a WWII English nurse finds herself mysteriously taken backward in time, from the mid-1940s to the fiercely independent Scottish highlands two hundred years earlier. (That the independence vote takes place today in Scotland makes this series airing now kind of curious.)

From the point of view of the academic study of religion, the relationship between the science of the lead character and, at least in episode three, the religion of the locals, is predictably antagonistic — in fact, we could go so far as to call the latter mere superstition, at least from the viewpoint of our modern, empirically-based nurse. That these old tropes are still so useful in fiction is, I’d suggest, the curious thing. Continue reading

Hocus Pocus

Picture 7Have you seen this clip making the rounds on the internet? Despite it being an ad for a movie (sigh — everything’s an ad for something, no?) and assuming that the unassuming people depicted in it really were unassuming, then their reactions raise a curious question for those who rather confidently distinguish between domains we call religion and science based on the latter being rational and modern and the former not. Continue reading

STEM Myths

09 STEMeducation Opener

From the “your undergrad degree does not necessarily determine your life’s trajectory” files comes this interesting article on the much headlined (but, according to this author’s research, mythic) shortage of STEM researchers (STEM = science, technology, engineering, and math).

Apart from little agreement in the literature on just what constitutes STEM disciplines and employment areas, the article finds: Continue reading