The New Field of Secular Studies.

A major called Secular Studies is now being offered at just a few universities. It is another step in legitimizing secular life in the U. S.

Universities in the Western World have long offered religious studies.  Many universities, of course, were started by branches of Christianity and the study of religion would have been the main reason for their early existance.

As time moved on, the responsibility to prepare students for their future careers and lives  meant many universities started by branches of the faith needed to maintain adequate levels of independence from faith dogma.  Several research universities, like Notre Dame, are under fire from parts of Catholicism because some of what is taught and its internal policies do not conform to church beliefs.

I know well a local professor of religious studies who has told me the impact of religion is so great most people fail to recognize it.  He sees the impact in art, culture and commerce everywhere he looks.

But, scholar/authors have traced the role of secularism through our society and say its impact, rather than religion, is the one underestimated.  One such author is Susan Jacoby.

Jacoby followed carefully traced activity and ideology in the century after U. S. independence was declared.  She estimates it was the most secular period in our history.  Secular political and social groups thrived.  The political religous fervor of a Jerry Falwell is a recent phenomenon.

Study of secular thinking is a most refreshing development.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/phil-zuckerman/student-graduates-with-de_b_3750556.html?utm_hp_ref=religion

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About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years. There is more about me at Wikipedia.com.
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13 Responses to The New Field of Secular Studies.

  1. Brad says:

    “It is another step in legitimizing secular life in the U. S.”

    You can count on at least a portion of the religious community to zealously continue to do everything they can to de-legitimize secular life. In their black and white view of the world, they see secularism as being on the side of evil, period.

    • dan says:

      Who is “they” that see secularism as being evil? Your comment is somewhere in the gray area if you don’t offer specifics.

      • Brad says:

        Ok, here are a few examples:

        Most of the Baptist denominations

        The Nazarenes

        The Jehovah’s Witnesses

        The Mormons

        The Catholics, although the new Pope is maybe turning the corner on that

        The Republican wing of the Lutheran denominations – the Missouri and Wisconsin Synods and others – most of the non ELCAers

        Probably most if not all of the Pentacostal denominations

        In other words, the right wing conservative churches.

  2. Wolfy32 says:

    My thought is the more one tries to control the thoughts of others, the more others will eventually rebel. This is no doubt a sign of people being fed up with religious dogma.

    I think there’s a trend change that will continue, and that’s the change from people wanting to be spoonfed dogmatic instructions to save their “soul” so they don’t have to think or worry about it. As long as I go through these hoops, and do this dance, I’ll be o.k. And then I don’t have to know or think about anything else.

    The change is from that to spirituality. An innate desire to know and understand if there really is a God being, what does that being look like, feel like, what is it’s goals, purpose, desires. A desire to know something real, tangible within the realm of the spiritual.

    I hope and believe this trend will continue. Many people are finally coming out of their stupor of just accepting whatever they’re told and are tired of being mindless drones. (I hope).

    Whether they decide to go the direction of Atheism, or Anti – theism or result in becoming more spiritual and critical thinking of things in life and find there is something more in the spiritual? I believe time will tell, for now, colleges embracing something more critical thinking related is a good step in the right direction. After all, God did not want pre-programmed robots that would just do whatever he said to do.

    So, having a place that asks people to think critically about religion, I believe isn’t a bad thing. Assuming there is a God, he will reveal himself in ways to the people that desire to know him.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Wolfy32 1:10 “Assuming there is a God, he will reveal himself in ways to the people that desire to know him.”

      To be an actual god, wouldn’t it be necessary for him to reveal himself also to people who did not care to know him?

      • Wolfy32 says:

        I don’t agree with that statement Jon, here’s a simple why….

        Either A… There is something “spiritual” within the words of the bible… That reveals him at a spiritual level.

        We know books are powerful… The revolution may have started with a pen, and not guns.. That said, the simplest way I can suggest that maybe that statement is false is simply… Is there people we generally don’t want to get to know more? Some that if they don’t seek us out we don’t seek them out? (Heh some maybe we avoid, if they do seek us out..). I Have a friend, that I’ve known for most of my entire life. Over the last couple of years, he hasn’t really sought to do much with me. The few times he did, I did my best to be available to him. However, it just seemed to be more of a chore to try to do anything with him due to availability etc. So, we stopped seeking each other out.

        My point is that there’s people we stop trying to know because they’ve stopped trying to get to know us. Why should the god of the universe bother influence people that have no desire to know him? Even if he did reveal himself to all… Wouldn’t there still be those that scoff at him, poke, make fun of, prod, etc… And then he’d have to get all mad and strike them with lightning or something, and that’s messy, and then everyone would be scared of him… So, I see him more as a being with calculated intent. Meaning, if people actually want to know him, he will slowly reveal himself testing if they truly want to know him, the entire way of their life.

        “The path is narrow.” Meaning its a path people must actually want to encounter to encounter it.

        • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

          Wolfy32 “..he will slowly reveal himself testing if they truly want to know him, the entire way of their life.”

          The problem with that view is there is no possible way to confirm the existance of the deity. I’ve heard that at formal debates, defenders of the faith do quite well with their creationism arguments, their argument the unknown origin of things is unexplained by nonbelievers, etc. Where they run into a brick wall is when they are challenged to explain what we will all see at the second coming and how to forewarn what we will all see. I have brought this up here with defenders of the faith, and they, too, dodge the question.

          Your position is kind of like basing the existance of the Divine on the Bible. The Bible is the authority becasuse the Bible says it is the authority. Here, the position is, “I know the deity has returned because I believe the deity has returned.”

          In summary, it’s perfectly OK to say things of the mind alone exist as long as we admit that is the only place they reside. To say something exists outside of the mind, there needs to be something both a believer and nonbeliever, standing together, can agree is present.

    • dan says:

      “This is no doubt a sign of people being fed up with religious dogma.” So what are the fed up people going to do about this? Are people of faith “mindless drones?” Or have they gained a better understanding that atheists fail to grasp through research and life’s lessons?

  3. Wanna B Sure says:

    I see nothing wrong with the secular. Indeed I/we advocate the two realms of the sacred and secular, and the distinctive natures of both. for either one to intrude into the other voids that separation, and upsets the balance. A few “enthusiast” religious sects have wrongly done so on a corporate level, and I would be concerned that antitheists too may take liberty. The result may become a battle ground. It may be advantageous to look at this in three groups. 1. No/non sacred–2. Secular–3. Sacred. The “Secular” could be the neutral ground, for the benefit of all of society.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Wanna 2:24 “It may be advantageous to look at this in three groups….”

      Those groups certainly exist. We have womens’ studies that go through literature, culture, the arts, etc. to highlight the role of women in all of it. We have black studied that do the same with black people’s contribution. There are courses, not majors so far as I know that study the gay influence. It seems healthy for these various ways of interpreting our history and contemporary culture confronting one another in universities.

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        I realize that, and that is fine. My point was to prevent the forced corporate intrusion of hyper religious, and the hyper non religious into the secular, especially regarding the “state”.

        • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

          Wanna 3:19 “..was to prevent the forced coporate intrusion of hyper religious and hyper non religious into the secular..”

          I agree with that. Maintaining competition amoung ideas has always seemed important. There is this guy, Larry Summers, who has bounced between DC and Harvard, where he was President, for some years. He is now being considered as Fed. Reserve Chairman.

          He is an economist that I have always had a disrespect for. It is not just because he made questionable remarks about women, its because when he was President of Harvard, he thought he could pick out the future areas that would dominate other areas and feed them. That, instead of maintaining competition and watching what emerged. He strikes me as not the best policy person, but he hangs around the right circles and keeps being named to big jobs. Obama did demote him from chief economics advisor during the first term.

          My point is the same principle should be applied to those areas deeper in the humanities.

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