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2013-2014 Bannan Institute

In an age in which religion is associated as much with violence as benevolence, where propositions of faith are often framed as oppositional to modern science, and one-fifth of all Americans self-identify as “none of the above” with regard to religion, the 2013-2014 Bannan Institute will publicly engage one the most significant questions of our time: What Good Is God?

Through a series of lectures and facilitated dialogues with scientists, philosophers, literary scholars, engineers, theologians, poets, artists, and educators, the 2013-2014 Bannan Institute explored the significance of secular and religious culture in civil society; engaged the questions and resources of emergent scientific, technological, and religious paradigms; and considered the nature and role of religion within higher education. 

 

God and Culture

The first amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America prohibits any law respecting an establishment of religion or impeding the free exercise of religion.  And yet, American civil society is saturated with anti-religious and religious sensibilities that often frame religious and secular goods as mutually subjugating.  This quarter’s lecture series will attempt to disrupt this polarizing frame.

 

God and Reality

While scientific advancements and technological innovations are often characterized as oppositional to religious faith and practice, the reality is more complex.  This quarter’s lecture series and symposium will explore emerging dialogues among scientific, technological, and religious frames of knowledge and truth.

 

God and the University

Early universities within the United States were largely established to advance the ideals of liberal education within a religious moral framework.  In the last century, however, the academy has become widely ambivalent about the place of "God" in the broader discourse of a university. This quarter's lecture series will ask why, as we consider the role of religion within higher education in the United States.

  • The Fragility of Faith - How Can a Thinking Person Still Believe in God?

    Michael McCarthy, S.J.

    Good people of many persuasions wonder how a thinking person can still believe in God. Still others wonder whether a university, as an academic institution, is a place where "God" should be openly discussed at all. Often enough, such questions make presumptions about faith that are frequently untrue. Attention to the real fragility of faith can open spaces for different kinds of discussions entirely.

  • The Fragility of Faith - How Can a Thinking Person Still Believe in God?

    Michael McCarthy, S.J.

    Good people of many persuasions wonder how a thinking person can still believe in God. Still others wonder whether a university, as an academic institution, is a place where "God" should be openly discussed at all. Often enough, such questions make presumptions about faith that are frequently untrue. Attention to the real fragility of faith can open spaces for different kinds of discussions entirely.

  • Why Is God for Christians Good for Nothing?

    Terry Eagleton

    Atheists tend to claim that God is entirely pointless, and so does the doctrine of Creation. Here, at least, is some common ground between Richard Dawkins and Pope Francis. This talk will try among other things to spell out why God is pointless and why this is the whole point about God. It will also seek to remind us that when we claim that God is good, we have very little clue as to what we are talking about.

  • Earth and the Heavens - Contemplating the Cosmos

    Jennifer Wiseman

    Jennifer Wiseman is an American astronomer. She received her bachelor's degree in physics from MIT and her Ph.D. in Astronomy from Harvard University in 1995. Wiseman discovered periodic comet 114P/Wiseman-Skiff while working as an undergraduate research assistant in 1987. She currently directs the Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion for the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She also serves as a senior astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard space flight center. She enjoys giving talks about the beauty and excitement of science, astronomy, and discovery.

  • Unknowable Reality - Science, Mathematics, and Mystery

    Alex Zecevic

    This lecture will address the way modern science portrays physical "reality", and will highlight some key differences between the current paradigm and the more intuitive (but ultimately incorrect) Newtonian world view. The fact that complex processes are characterized by a mix of order and irreducible uncertainty suggests that the notion of a Cosmic Mystery is not at odds with recent scientific discoveries (quite the contrary, in fact). This recognition opens the door to a constructive dialogue between science and religion, which is capable of transcending the simplistic arguments of religious fundamentalists and proponents of radical secularism.

  • My Bright Abyss - Thoughts on Modern Belief

    Christian Wiman

    Moving among a variety of writings—poetry, prose, theology, biography—as well as experiences from his own life, Christian Wiman will examine what a credible Christian faith might look like at the beginning of the 21st century.

  • Well, I’ll be Damned! Considering Atheism in the United States Today

    Jerome Baggett

    In recent years a cultural space for public expressions of atheism and other forms of irreligion has opened up within American society. Both advocates of the so-called “new atheism” and its detractors have been enormously vocal, but we still know very little about everyday atheists beyond the popular – and very misleading – stereotypes about them. This presentation aims to get beyond those by taking a more considered, sociological look at American atheism, its connection to other nascent modes religious identification (the “nones,” the “spiritual but not religious,” agnostics, etc.), and its prospects for helping to engender a more thoughtful public conversation about the sacred and secular within contemporary society.