Pitzer College, a small liberal arts college in Claremont, California, will make history this fall by being the first college to offer a Secular Studies major. It’s about time, since approximately 15% of Americans reported to be “unaffiliated” religiously in the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey, and the number is steadily increasing.
The growth of secularism fascinates Phil Zuckerman, who outlined the new major and believes that studying nonreligious culture is just as significant as studying religiosity. Zuckerman is a sociologist of religion and author of many books on atheism. He says, “There are hundreds of millions of people who are nonreligious. I want to know who they are, what they believe, why they are nonreligious.”
As an interdisciplinary major, professors will come from religion, philosophy, science, sociology, and history departments, and teach courses such as “Bible as Literature” “God, Darwin and Design in America.” Students will study the emergence of secularism throughout history within different societies and cultures, acording to a New York Times article.
Just as an atheist can be curious about religiosity, religious students should be granted the resources to study secular beliefs. The courses will not consist of anti-religion tirades, as some skeptics feared (as if religion courses attempt to convert students). Studying all belief systems is important, as is updating college courses with what is prevalent in the world.
Do you think this department will catch on to other schools?