Wayne State University — Detroit, MI
Ronald Aronson grew up in Detroit and was educated at Wayne State University, U.C.L.A., the University of Michigan, and Brandeis University, where he earned a Ph.D. in the History of Ideas. He studied with William Barrett, Page Smith, and Herbert Marcuse. Swept up in the political activism of the 1960s, he became a community organizer in the African American neighborhood of New Brunswick, New Jersey, and an editor of the prominent New Left journal, Studies on the Left. In spring, 1968, as he was completing a doctoral dissertation on “Art and Freedom in the Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre,” he participated in the “Freedom School” organized in the aftermath of the student strike at Columbia University.
Aronson has taught at Wayne State University since 1968, first at Monteith College, and since 1978 in the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, a program for working adults that was abolished by the WSU Board of Governors in 2007. He is now Distinguished Professor of the History of Ideas in the Department of History. Winner of several scholarly and teaching awards at Wayne State, Aronson is the past president of its Academy of Scholars.
Aronson’s latest book is Living Without God: New Directions for Atheists, Agnostics, Secularists, and the Undecided (Counterpoint, September, 2008). Other recent books include Camus & Sartre: The Story of a Friendship and the Quarrel that Ended It (Chicago, January, 2004) and After Marxism (Guilford, 1995). He has published articles in The Nation, Book Forum, The Yale Review, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Washington Post, The International Herald-Tribune, The Toronto Star, The (London) Times Higher Education Supplement, and The (London) Times Literary Supplement. In the past year (2008-9), The Nation, The Huffington Post, The Denver Post, AlterNet, USA Today, and Religion Dispatches among others have featured his articles addressing secularism.
Aronson has produced televised political debates on democratic values and affirmative action (participants have included Cornel West, Barbara Ehrenreich, Abigail Thernstrom, David Frum, and Dinesh D’Souza) He is co-producer of the feature-length documentary film Professional Revolutionary about legendary Detroit social and political activist Saul Wellman and, most recently, 1st Amendment on Trial: The Case of the Detroit Six, focused on the Federal government's trial of Michigan Communist Party leaders in the '50s.
One of Aronson’s lifelong concerns has been to study and write about the nature of hope, especially as related to political commitment. Since the beginning of the invasion of Iraq, he has been active in the Huntington Woods (MI) Peace, Citizenship, and Education Project.
Listen below as Ronald talks about religion and atheism: