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On religion in the academy

Summary

Craig Calhoun describes what is lost when religion is banished from the modern university.

Summary

Craig Calhoun describes what is lost when religion is banished from the modern university.

Transcript

I think the modern university has often participated in the forgetting of the significance of religion, and the compartmentalisation of religion. So maybe you’d have a religious studies department, but surely it had nothing to do with economics. Well, it’s not so clear that it has nothing to do with economics, if you think about the religiously inspired critiques of capitalism or if you think about the role of religious networks and religious prayer meetings in knitting together some groups of highly active businessmen.

And the principle is more widespread than that. We need to be able to discuss the things that are shaping our world. In universities, we need to be able to do research about them, we need to be able to debate them, we need to be able to teach about them, we need to be able to invite students to express their different views. Religion is part of that. If we let it dominate – if we say religious conformity controls the university – we lose all of that capacity. But if we banish it, we also lose a lot of that capacity, because we can no longer discuss the history of important things, we can no longer discuss the beliefs and ideas of a significant part of our population, and we can no longer engage some of the basic contrasts between civilisations in the world. And so we have a flattened, shallower understanding of the world.