Alan writes - Gordon Lynch, recently appointed professor of sociology of religion at Birkbeck College, University of London, has written an article for the Guardian newspaper on the need for quality religious study. He says:
"If you are in a company of people of mixed occupations, and somebody asks what you do, and you say you are a college professor, a glazed look comes into their eye. If you are in a company of professors from various departments, and somebody asks you what is your field, and you say philosophy, a glazed look comes into their eye. If you are at a conference of philosophers, and somebody asks you what you are working on, and you say philosophy of religion ... "
Nelson Pike's observation of his experience of being a philosopher of religion, quoted in Daniel Dennett's recent book Breaking the Spell, will strike a chord with many academics and students involved in the study of religion. Since the high tide of secularisation theories in the 60's, the study of religion has often been seen as a Cinderella subject, a strange subfield in the academic world with little to do with the pressing questions of the day. A-level students thinking about degree options are still discouraged from taking a degree in religious studies by some schools, unless they are sure they want a career in teaching or religious ministry. The idea that the study of religion could be an urgent area of cultural inquiry with the potential for generating insights that are as important for our future wellbeing as the study of economics, computer science or the natural sciences still seems implausible to many people..."
Read the rest of the article here.
Also, John Morehead has an interesting interview with Gordon on his blog (posted July 16, 2007) – you can find it here.