College to offer major in secularism

Pitzer College and Professor Phil Zuckerman are gearing up to offer a major in secularism:

Studying nonbelief is as valid as studying belief, Mr. 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.

I, of course, think this is a brilliant idea. There are specific areas of religious study that I think are actually helpful to people, and one of those areas is in the history and modernity of these large movements. Degrees related to religious history and the current role of religion (or specific religions) are worthwhile because they hold a relevance to so much that goes into culture, society, divisions, and war. (On the other hand, theology degrees are mostly worthless, even though they touch on religion’s current relevance, because they are just glorified literary criticism degrees – ones with an excessively narrow focus.) Something similar can be said of secularism (though it hasn’t tended to lead to war since it does not offer such explicit labeling as religion). It’s about time that this area of human history and ongoing culture is going to be studied esoterically.

The only real issue I find with this degree is in what field it will get someone a job. All those religious degrees tend to be backed by institutions, or at least a wide base of susceptible people, and so they offer practical job security. But where would someone with a degree in secularism be employed? Certainly there are a few places, but I doubt the market is very big.

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