Religion and Humanities Conference
The UVU Religious Studies Program presents the Thirteenth Annual Religion and the Humanities Conference:
(You can watch the entire conference in flash video here)
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Lakeview Room, UVU Library (fourth floor)
(evening panel at Westminster College)
The publication of intellectual works such as Charles Taylor's A Secular Age and the popularity of the New Atheism's "tracts" such as Christopher Hitchens' god is Not Great are indicative of the resurgence of secularism as an ideological and ethical orientation. This renewed interest in secularism provides the occasion to re-examine its foundations and place in civil society. A variety of scholars have been invited to address questions related to the conference themes.
The New Atheism
Proponents of the New Atheism such as Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Michel Onfrey, and Richard Dawkins make the argument that religious belief is intellectually irresponsible and politically damaging to society. A common theme in this literature is the location of unnecessary social conflict in religious belief. Does the New Atheism characterize religious belief fairly? What are the social and political consequences of taking an anti-religious stance? Should atheists organize to promote their perspective in ways similar to religionists?
The Concept of Secularism
What are the intellectual and historical foundations of secularism? What is the origin of naturalistic accounts of religious faith? What is the relationship between secularism and naturalism, atheism, and agnosticism? Is the term “secularism” helpful or harmful to public discourse? How does one define a perspective in terms of what it stands against?
Secular Meaning and Spirituality
In the absence of religious faith it has been argued that there is a necessary absence of meaning, spirituality, and purpose. However, some recent writers such as Owen Flanagan have argued for naturalistic approaches to understanding meaning and spirituality. Is a meaningful life possible without a belief in an ultimate reality or an afterlife? What does it mean to be spiritual? Are there spiritual practices in traditional metaphysical religions that could be accepted within a naturalistic perspective?
Utah Valley University
Religious Studies Program
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Utah Democracy Project, Center for the Study of Ethics - Westminster College
The Tanner-McMurrin Lecture Series on the History and Philosophy of Religion
This conference is made possible through the generous support of the Utah Humanities Council
For more information, contact Brian Birch
email@example.com or (801) 863-8759
Schedule of Events
All sessions are free and open to the public
10:00 – 11:15 a.m.
James B. Duke Professor of Philosophy at Duke University and author of The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World (MIT Press, 2007) and Self Expressions: Mind, Morals, and the Meaning of Life (Oxford University Press, 1998).
11:30 – 12:45 a.m.
Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding, Brigham Young University and editor of Transcendence in Religion and Philosophy (Indiana University Press, 2003) and Appropriating Heidegger (Cambridge University Press, 2008).
1:00 – 2:15 p.m.
Anschluz Distinguished Fellow at Princeton University and Senior Fellow at the Nation Institute in New York City. New York Times Best-Selling author of War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (Anchor Books, 2003) and I Don’t Believe in Atheists (Free Press, 2008).
2:30 – 3:45 p.m.
The Politics of Secularism
Chris Hedges, Owen Flanagan, James Faulconer, Michael Minch (UVU), Dennis Potter (UVU)
Participants will explore the following questions: What are the political dimensions of the new secularism? What should the role of religious belief be in a secular society? What is the relationship between political conflicts and religious faith or lack thereof? How does the postmodern critique of transcendent truth change our understanding of secularity? Is it possible to critique religious faith from within a postmodern perspective? Can secularism propose itself as a universal ground for public discourse?
Panel Discussion (Westminster College)
Chris Hedges, Owen Flanagan, James Faulconer,
Michael Minch (UVU), Dennis Potter (UVU), Michael Popich (Westminster)
This session will allow conference participants to engage with students, scholars, and the community on the questions that emerged in the conference and to explore the future of pluralistic democracies and the impact of secularist arguments on civil discourse.