Wednesday, February 1, 2012

So you want to teach Religious Studies?

We're in the process of interviewing candidates for a new full-time, tenure track position in Religious Studies, in our heretofore-merely-nominal Department of Philosophy and Religion.

That is, we've always offered religion courses taught by adjunct instructors; but we've never employed a full-time Religious Studies specialist, with a degree in the field of Religious Studies, charged with developing the Religious Studies curriculum. It'll be a new ballgame. So what shall we ask the candidates? A few interview possibilities:

  • What do you see as the important differences between philosophy and religious studies, as academic disciplines in the university? 
  • Do you see religion and philosophy as complementary , antagonistic, in tension, or ...?
  • How would you feel about being theonly RS faculty in a department of philosophy?
  • What do you understand by "collegiality"?
  • Would you agree that RS attempts to clarify the meaning and significance of religious experience and language but (unlike philosophy) does not critique religious discourse or attempt to rationally adjudicate differences among religious claims or between religion and secular society?
  • Do you agree that the province of philosophy is wider than that of religion?
  • What do you see as the peculiar challenges and opportunities (and headaches) of building a religious curriculum within an established department of philosophy?
  • Would you expect or encourage philosophy majors who do not consider themselves religious to take your classes? Would you expect or encourage religious studies majors to take philosophy classes (including Atheism & Philosophy)?
  • Do you have a favorite philosopher? Favorite works of philosophy? What book by a RS scholar do you wish every philosopher would read?
  • Have you read Varieties of Religious Experience (James) or Varieties of Scientific Experience (Sagan) ? 
  • What do you think James meant when he said that religion is our "most important function" - even if all religious creeds and doctrines turned out to be "absurd"? What do you think of non-believers who say they "believe in believing"?
  • What's your view of atheism, agnosticism, humanism, and naturalism? Do you see them as more "anti-religion" or pro-humanism (etc.)?
  • What do you think of Alain de Botton's recent suggestion that atheists should borrow the formal trappings of religious ritual, architecture, etc. (including atheist "temples")?
  • How do you feel about moving to a southern state?
  • Would any kind of professional collaboration between yourself and the Atheism & Philosophy prof be worthwhile?
  • Do you have any questions?

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