Poll
Should the secular movement push for colleges to offer degrees in Secularism?
Certainly - Theology is studied at the collegiate level, why not secularism? 6
Probably - I’m not sure if it would help or hinder the cause, but it seems like a good idea 2
Probably not - This won’t really help anything, even though it won’t hurt anything either 2
Absolutely not - What is the point? This isn’t necessary and might cause backlash 2
Total Votes: 12
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Should the secular movement push for colleges to offer degrees in Secularism?
Posted: 24 August 2009 11:03 AM   [ Ignore ]
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The study of Secularism would be where political science, public policy, and religious studies meet. I’ll update this thread with my ideas shortly, feel free to discuss

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Posted: 25 August 2009 09:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Schools do offer degrees in religion, but why should an alternative be as narrow as “secularism”?  “Critical thinking” could be broader and more interdisciplinary than” secularism.  And since there are already schools with critical-thinking courses, that teaching would be the already existent base for such a degree.

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Posted: 25 August 2009 09:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I agree that secularism seems like it would be an awfully narrow study, but I think that there is a gap in the study of the interplay between religion, public policy, and political science. Perhaps there should be a name for it other than Secularism, a name which meant exactly “the study of the interplay between religion, public policy, and political science,” rather than simply “government without religion.” I think that even though Secularism seems too one sided to be a degree, this isn’t necessarily true. Someone going to school to study Theology would most likely believe to some degree that the documents and religious institutions they study hold some holy power, this is however a completely one sided opinion, perhaps even more so than someone presupposing that government and religion should be separate.

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Posted: 25 August 2009 09:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Good points.  There could also be history, cultural, and literary components that could explore scholarship in those fields that has been marginalized by mainstream academia, the way ethnic-studies departments have supplemented Western canonical works.  And social-service projects for students working around traditional, religion-based community groups that exclude at worse, or ignore at best, potential secular clients.

Do you imagine any secular-studies interaction with traditional religious and philosophy faculty?

You’ve made me remember that when I was a first-year student, I was considering a self-designed major or minor (which were encouraged at my school) in church-state separation issues, which would’ve been even narrower than “secularism.”  I went for more general poli sci instead.

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Posted: 25 August 2009 01:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Cb11 - 25 August 2009 09:41 AM

Someone going to school to study Theology would most likely believe to some degree that the documents and religious institutions they study hold some holy power, this is however a completely one sided opinion, perhaps even more so than someone presupposing that government and religion should be separate.

So far as I know, secular colleges and universities do not offer degrees in theology. (Maybe I’m just under-informed on this point.) So when you speak of “someone going to school to study theology,” you must be speaking of theological seminaries. Why should a theological seminary offer a degree in secularism? That makes no sense to me.

As for secular institutions of higher education, “secular studies” encompasses the entire curriculum, including the study of religion, which is studied in a non-doctrinal fashion. So in secular institutions, a degree in secularism makes no sense.

In sum, I don’t see how this proposal makes sense for any institution.

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Posted: 26 August 2009 04:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Kritikos - 25 August 2009 01:13 PM
Cb11 - 25 August 2009 09:41 AM

Someone going to school to study Theology would most likely believe to some degree that the documents and religious institutions they study hold some holy power, this is however a completely one sided opinion, perhaps even more so than someone presupposing that government and religion should be separate.

So far as I know, secular colleges and universities do not offer degrees in theology. (Maybe I’m just under-informed on this point.) So when you speak of “someone going to school to study theology,” you must be speaking of theological seminaries. Why should a theological seminary offer a degree in secularism? That makes no sense to me.

As for secular institutions of higher education, “secular studies” encompasses the entire curriculum, including the study of religion, which is studied in a non-doctrinal fashion. So in secular institutions, a degree in secularism makes no sense.

In sum, I don’t see how this proposal makes sense for any institution.


Of course colleges offer degrees in theology. The definition of theology as I understand it is, “the study of the nature of God and religious truth.” Nearly all institutions offer some sort of religious studies degree. And yes, of course most (if not all) secular colleges study religion in a non-doctrinal fashion, but I think you misunderstood what I meant by “secular studies.”

I did not mean studies free from indoctrination or religion, I mean the study of how governments and religious institutions interact as separate entities. Like I said in my previous post, maybe the term for such a degree would need to be different to avoid confusion, a term which would mean “the study of the interactions between governmental and religious institutions.”

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Posted: 26 August 2009 04:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Cb11 - 26 August 2009 04:14 PM

Of course colleges offer degrees in theology. The definition of theology as I understand it is, “the study of the nature of God and religious truth.” Nearly all institutions offer some sort of religious studies degree. And yes, of course most (if not all) secular colleges study religion in a non-doctrinal fashion, but I think you misunderstood what I meant by “secular studies.”

Your argument seems to be: secular institutions of higher education (I take it that that is what you mean when you say “colleges”; it is certainly what I was talking about) offer degrees in religious studies; religious studies are identical with theology; therefore secular colleges and universities offer degrees in theology. But the second premise is false. Religious studies and theology are not at all the same thing, not even by the definition of theology that you offer. I doubt that any department of religious studies would identify its subject as “the nature of God and religious truth.” People’s beliefs about God and about religious truth are objects of study in religious studies: but to study certain beliefs as historical, social, and psychological phenomena (as is done in religious studies) does not presume them to be true.

Cb11 - 26 August 2009 04:14 PM

I did not mean studies free from indoctrination or religion, I mean the study of how governments and religious institutions interact as separate entities. Like I said in my previous post, maybe the term for such a degree would need to be different to avoid confusion, a term which would mean “the study of the interactions between governmental and religious institutions.”

What you describe seems to me just a subject of study within religious studies (and I doubt that anyone uses the term “secularism” to designate what you describe). So far as I know, anyone getting a degree in religious studies could concentrate on such a subject or write a thesis on it. I don’t see why there should be a special degree in it.

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Posted: 09 September 2009 03:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Here’s a Press Release received today

September 9, 2009
For Immediate Release
Contact: Lyz Liddell (614) 441-9588 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Secular Student Alliance Reports Record Numbers of Atheist, Agnostic Students Organizing on Campus
Columbus, OH - College students who consider themselves non-religious or doubting will return to campus this fall with a better chance than ever of finding or starting groups of like-minded young people, according to the Secular Student Alliance (SSA), the national umbrella organization for the secular student movement. The SSA’s Labor Day 2009 count of campus affiliate groups is 159, up from 100 in 2008 and 80 in 2007.
“It’s been a challenge to keep up with the demand for services, especially group-starting packets and follow-up,” said Lyz Liddell, senior campus organizer. “That’s a nice problem to have.”
The rise of the secular student movement parallels that of the broader secular demographic in the U.S., the only population to have grown in every state according to the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey. Studies consistently report increases among the religiously unaffiliated, with “under 30s” more prominent among atheists and agnostics than among religious respondents. This year’s annual SSA conference drew its largest-ever audience and featured keynote speaker and Pharyngula blogger P. Z. Myers, along with representatives from national atheist and humanist organizations.
Secular student groups provide activities and a social network for college students seeking an alternative to campus religious ministries. In the 2008-2009 school year, three SSA affiliates brought Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, to their campuses and six others hosted Ellery Schempp, litigant in the 1963 Supreme Court case that found public school Bible readings unconstitutional. Service projects are also popular: Students for Freethought at the Ohio State University sent a crew to maintain a portion of the Appalachian Trail in Kentucky and the University of Illinois Atheists, Agnostics, & Freethinkers teamed up with the Campus Crusade for Christ to rebuild homes in New Orleans.


Resources provided by the SSA to its affiliates include program guides and grants, a speakers bureau, business cards, and mentoring for group leaders. Students who want to start new groups can request a packet containing literature, sidewalk chalk, thumbtacks, and a page set up on Facebook. In the weeks leading up to Labor Day, the SSA received seven to ten requests per week from students hoping to launch secular groups on their campuses.
For some students, going away to college offers the first opportunity to openly express doubt about religion or find others with the same perspective. “We got an e-mail recently from a student starting a group in Arizona,” said Liddell. It read, ‘I look forward to getting this process started. Thanks for existing.’ We hear that a lot.”
The Secular Student Alliance is an educational nonprofit whose mission is to organize, unite, educate and serve students and student communities that promote the ideals of scientific rationality, secularism, democracy, and human-based ethics.  Learn more at http://www.secularstudents.org.
###



This press release was sent to you by the Secular Student Alliance, 1515 W. Lane Ave., Columbus, OH 43221. You are not on a list. It was sent to you because we believe you are a member of the media that would be interested in this story. If you do not want to receive press releases from the Secular Student Alliance, please email August Brunsman at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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Posted: 07 April 2012 12:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Kritikos - 25 August 2009 01:13 PM
Cb11 - 25 August 2009 09:41 AM

Someone going to school to study Theology would most likely believe to some degree that the documents and religious institutions they study hold some holy power, this is however a completely one sided opinion, perhaps even more so than someone presupposing that government and religion should be separate.

So far as I know, secular colleges and universities do not offer degrees in theology. (Maybe I’m just under-informed on this point.) So when you speak of “someone going to school to study theology,” you must be speaking of theological seminaries. Why should a theological seminary offer a degree in secularism? That makes no sense to me.

As for secular institutions of higher education, “secular studies” encompasses the entire curriculum, including the study of religion, which is studied in a non-doctrinal fashion. So in secular institutions, a degree in secularism makes no sense.

In sum, I don’t see how this proposal makes sense for any institution.

I just had an hour long telephone conversation with my brother who is a minister, and from that conversation I could say that even in a seminary there might be some open minded individuals who think it is important to have some knowledge of how the other side thinks. I don’t know if a whole degree in those institutions would be realistic, but perhaps some courses might fit into their path in some way. If society becomes more and more secular and secularist become more outspoken and political, then there might be very practical reasons for those entering seminary to study it. It may help them to figure out where their religious institutions and vocations will fit in an ever changing world, so it might be a stretch, but I wouldn’t say it would be completely unthinkable.

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Posted: 07 April 2012 01:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Rather than a course specifically on secularism, I think they could follow the system a local high school follows (or used to.  I haven’t checked in a few years).  They offer a two semester course, the first on an overview of philosophy and the second on comparative religions including atheism.

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Posted: 08 April 2012 11:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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IMO, it’s not really worthwhile; university students that are majoring in the hard sciences and philosophy are effectively “learning secularism” as it is - as long as their professors are good at their jobs.

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Posted: 09 April 2012 10:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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mid atlantic - 08 April 2012 11:01 PM

IMO, it’s not really worthwhile; university students that are majoring in the hard sciences and philosophy are effectively “learning secularism” as it is - as long as their professors are good at their jobs.

I think there is truth in that, most of my profs were pretty good at their jobs, though I was already an atheist. I still think it’s possible that having, at least a course if not an entire degree, that is specifically named secularism would be useful. If some of these classes are as you say effectively teaching secularism, rather than ask “Why call a course or degree Secularism” ask “Why not?” I’m not claiming there might not be good arguments against it, but I think perhaps naming it could do well in promoting more understanding and respect for it. I also think the bent would be a little bit different that a degree aimed at teaching hard sciences and philosophy, and I think it would have some slightly more specialized goals. In the above category, learning about secularism is merely a by product, whereas if the course was named for secularism it would be put more front and center. It might study secular social movements, political movements, philosophical stances and yes of course the influence of hard sciences and philosophy. I think though, having that name would probably propel the research in slightly different directions, and if many people were studying this that it would go in directions that we can’t fully predict (though we can make some good guestimates I imagine) where such a field might go, how it might branch off in the future. Speaking of branching off, perhaps it’s simply one of the next logical branches that are to inevitably come from such degrees as hard sciences, philosophy, and I’d add religious studies.

I also think that it makes secularism in general more visible, and less misunderstood, to be vocal, politely vocal perhaps (though I’m reminded of a Hitchens article about when rudeness is in fact called for). In the past I have had some times where I was tempted to self censor my self, or keep my atheism under wraps, or at least sugarcoat it with a label that is going to be easier for religious people to swallow. Other times I’ve made no secret about it. Personally, I don’t usually go out of my way to bring it up, but also try to be truthful and honest about what I really think and believe if asked. I think that is part of the problem, self censorship, or being too quiet about it, out of the fear of upsetting someone, or simply to avoid conflict. Sure there are some situations where that might be the best route, but I wouldn’t say it is anywhere near universal.

I look to the whole queer movement, and how their movement to come out of the closet, and be proud of what they are, how that has done a lot to make the world, or at least parts of the world, more accepting and less judgmental. I just today read something on someone’s blog about how a gay teen challenged his mother who was very anti gay and managed to change her mind about spreading hate towards gays. If he’d just shut up about it, and kept it a secret knowing how his homophobic parents would have reacted, he’d never have had a chance to change her mind. (I wasn’t able to post the link, somehow I got blocked, but it was called (A Teen’s Brave Response to “I’m Christian, Unless You’re Gay”) and it was on a blog called “single dad laughing” the april 2, 2012 post if you are interested in reading it. I sometimes wonder if the reason there are no courses, or very few to my knowledge or degrees that explicitly label themselves as secularism studies or something similar, is perhaps a result of a habit of avoiding calling what it is, when it comes to secularism, maybe even a subconscious self censorship that even secularists themselves don’t really recognize. It’s just a thought, but I think it’s a thought that such a degree or course might be able to research. It might turn out to be completely wrong, but isn’t it premature to say that without researching it first?

These days it’s become much more accepted, would shows like ‘Will and Grace’ have been possible thirty years ago for instance, and enjoyed by both gay and straight people. I know there is still loads of homophopia, but I also think there is a lot more straight people who are willing to stand up and say that gays are normal, natural and should have all the rights as anyone, and not be feared. Maybe it seems trivial to talk about mere sitcoms, but that existence hasn’t come about in a vacuum, there has also been a lot of political advocates of gay rights, and people doing ‘queer theory’ research in university. Another example might be the feminism movement. They have their courses that are specifically named Feminist theories, and feminist critiques and research. I think that has helped their struggle to bring understanding and equality to the world. And yes, there are still lots of misogynists around, but I do think they have had a positive impact from being vocal, visible, and outspoken not only in the general population and politics, but in academia as well. I think a good argument could be made that secularism might also benefit from taking that approach, and doing it explicitly.

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Posted: 09 April 2012 11:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Found some such degrees do in fact exist

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/may/13/secular-studies-pitzer-zuckerman

http://www.pitzer.edu/academics/field_groups/secular_studies/index.asp
http://www.trincoll.edu/Academics/centers/isssc/Pages/default.aspx

http://www.saybrook.edu/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/spirited-atheist/post/college-too-late-too-little-for-secular-studies-in-america/2011/08/31/gIQAxgPBsJ_blog.html

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Posted: 27 April 2012 04:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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For some time now I have advocated the compilation of a Secular Book of Ethics , a secular bible if you will.
The theist Bible and other scriptures consist of many books compiled into a standardized guide for the believers. It is high time that “learned minds” in Ethics, Philosophy, Psychology began a coordinated effort of gathering “words of secular wisdom” into a single volume, which can be used as a teaching tool by lecturers, teachers, and as curriculum.

Every sunday we see the faithful enter church, bible in hand and during the service the preacher will ask the congregation to open the Book to a specific chapter and verse to discuss a current issue as it relates to the bible and the believer. The power lies in the consistency of scripture (even if false). Everyone reads the same thing, hears the words of the preacher and can relate to the moral message. One must admire the brilliance of this approach.

In contrast, atheists go to a lecture (anywhere) with nothing, or perhaps a excellent book written by a specific author. But it would be wholly impractical to lug a suitcase full of books to a lecture so that one can actually read in print what is being discussed on the lectern. Atheists have many heroes (prophets of atheism), each who have made great contribution to rational secular thought, but there is no consistency, no single book of the “best of secular wisdom”, no standardized approach.

If atheists want to become “united” under a single banner of secularism, there must be a single reference book around which the people can rally and hold up as a viable alternative to scripture.  Such a project might take years to compile and refine into a comprehensive work, but today, with access to internet, this should be much easier than the hundreds of years spent by dedicated monks with quill and parchment compiling myths, stories, and impossible narratives of creation, miracles, and martyrdom of smart but ignorant people who lived thousands of years ago.

If atheist want to be serious about “teaching” secularism, lets standardize this teaching and employ standardized teaching tools. This is how you garner consensus! Learn from history and “take a love song and make it better”.

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Posted: 29 April 2012 08:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Write4U - 27 April 2012 04:33 PM

For some time now I have advocated the compilation of a Secular Book of Ethics , a secular bible if you will.

Have you heard of The Good Book: A Humanist Bible by A. C. Grayling?

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Posted: 30 April 2012 12:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Austin Harper - 29 April 2012 08:18 PM
Write4U - 27 April 2012 04:33 PM

For some time now I have advocated the compilation of a Secular Book of Ethics , a secular bible if you will.

Have you heard of The Good Book: A Humanist Bible by A. C. Grayling?

Thank you for that link.
I just skimmed the synopsis, but it looks what I was visualizing as a standardized philosophy and ethical guide, which can be used everyday in meditation and as curriculum in schools. Now if only we could have it placed in every hotel and motel room without theists burning it.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Good-Book-Humanist-Bible/dp/0802717373/#reader_0802717373

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