Saturday, August 08, 2009

Academia and Atheism

My friend Casey forecasts a split in American academia--which boat will you be on?

3 comments:

Ira said...

Could you please be more specific in asking the question? As it stands, I can't answer directly because I don't share what I'm interpreting as a sense that academia must divide against itself along theistic/atheistic lines. Equally, I can't challenge that sense itself because I'm not certain my interpretation has been correct (precisely because it's not my sense that some such event must happen). Do you believe there will be two boats separating ways? What flags does your friend Casey (fore?)see them sailing under?

Monica said...

I don't know if I believe there are "two boats," Ira. I think, though, that Casey is onto something when he suggests that people are starting to look for something more than simply rationalist points of view (most of which exclude any kind of spirituality). I don't know that it has to be either atheistic or thestic--I tend to be pretty opposed to either-or kinds of thinking. I'm much more into the nuances... But, like I said over in the comments section at Casey's post, the whole postsecular movement may give us some indication of what is starting to happen in academia. I don't know if I've said anything useful here or not. Perhaps Casey should answer the questions :)

Casey said...

Well, my interest in the topic preceded my experience of transitioning from being a student in public/secular schools to being a professor at a private/historically-religious school. My background is in 19th century American literature, and I am always discovering interesting ways that religion overlapped with and even produced the big ideas in the early 19th century...

And it seems unfortunate to me -- if my assessment is right -- that contemporary academics read very little contemporary theology, and are often dismissive of the idea of doing such reading. But what I'm starting to believe is that theology is just a different terminology, and because of the powerful influence of deconstruction (let that be shorthand for postmodernism and all its accoutrements) over the past twenty years, I think we are generally lacking a shared vocabulary.

Monica's probably right -- the "two boats" idea is very likely overstated: what I would like to see is a kind of re-integration, or at least a kind of cross-pollination. It's my sense that many academics would be befuddled to discover that many of the most cutting-edge ideas (something like "post-secular theory," for example) were essentially already-present in the early 19th century, and many of those ideas were responding to questions that were VERY similar to the ones we're trying to respond to.

Help?