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Pitzer College to Launch a Department of Secular Studies

Pitzer College, a small liberal arts school in Southern California, will launch a Department of Securlar Studies this fall:

“It’s not about arguing ‘Is there a God or not?’ ” Mr. Zuckerman [the founder of the new department] said. “There are hundreds of millions of people who are nonreligious. I want to know who they are, what they believe, why they are nonreligious. You have some countries where huge percentages of people — Czechs, Scandinavians — now call themselves atheists. Canada is experiencing a huge wave of secularization. This is happening very rapidly.

“It has not been studied,” he added. [NYT]

Canada is experiencing a huge wave of secularization? The news just keeps getting better.

Lots of secular institutions offer academically rigorous religious studies programs. As a secularist, I think that’s great. Some of my favorite undergrad courses were cross-listed in religious studies. I’m also excited to see secular studies is developing as a hybrid academic discipline. No doubt some people will see the new program as an affront to religion. That’s unfortunate.

My dad, a secularist, stressed that it was important for non-believers to study religion. “You don’t have to believe this stuff, but you’ve got to understand it.” Religion plays an important role in human events. Secularism is also becoming an increasingly powerful force, at least in some parts of the world. The percentage of Americans who say they have no religion has doubled in the past 20 years. I’d say the same is true for believers and secularism. You don’t have to disbelieve this stuff, but you’ve got to understand it.

Since it’s Mother’s Day, I should add that my mom, Suzi, is a Pitzer alum. I should also note that the tattoo is not hers.

[Credit: An “A” for “Atheist” tattoo, photo by mrccos, Creative Commons.]


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