This story’s creating quite the buzz in atheist circles:
Starting this fall, Pitzer College, a small liberal arts institution in Southern California, will inaugurate a department of secular studies. Professors from other departments, including history, philosophy, religion, science and sociology, will teach courses like “God, Darwin and Design in America,” “Anxiety in the Age of Reason” and “Bible as Literature.”
Studying nonbelief is as valid as studying belief, [professor Phil] Zuckerman said, and the new major will make that very clear.
“It’s not about arguing ‘Is there a God or not?’ ” Mr. Zuckerman 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.
Sounds like a great idea. If schools offer religion majors, this is an obvious complement.
That said, there are a number of questions that come to mind:
- What does a major in Secular Studies qualify you to do when you graduate? As one person on Twitter noted: “And Art History majors think it’s hard to get a job!”
- What are the textbooks going to be? Will any books written by Christians be used?
- Would Christians (or other theists) be teaching any of the classes? I don’t see why they couldn’t. Atheists teach courses about religion all the time.
- Would religious students enter into this program (much like several atheists are currently enrolled in Master of Divinity programs)?
- Regarding the classes that will be taught… I’m still not sure which classes differentiate a Secular Studies major from a Science or Religious Studies major. “Bible as Literature” should be commonplace for anyone studying religion.
To all of you: would you major in this if it were offered at your school?