Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Visiting professor speaks on faith, government

Naomi Goldenberg, a professor of religious studies at the University of Ottawa, said she is attempting to understand what religion is and how it relates to governments around the world.

The College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Religious Studies hosted Goldenberg as part of the department’s lecture series, Relevance of the Liberal Arts in the 21st Century, in Gorgas Library on Tuesday.

Goldenberg spoke for 45 minutes to a crowd of 70 about the current climate of religious discourse in the world today, specifically dealing with the differences, imagined or concrete, between state governments and organized religions.

“I’m trying to understand a huge topic,” Goldenberg said to begin her speech. “What is religion, and how does it relate to governments around the world?”

Much of her lecture, titled “Why Do Governments Fear ‘Religion,’ and How Do They Use It?: An Exploration of the Role of ‘Religion’ in Contemporary Statecraft,” drew from her own observations of religious and governmental interaction through an exhibit called “God(s): A User’s Guide” at the Museum of Civilization in the Canadian capital of Ottawa. Goldenberg suggests that religions are nothing more than “vestigial” states or, in other words, states acting in a reduced capacity of power.

Religions differ from governments, Goldenberg stated, in only their lack of control over “violence.”

After her lecture, Dr. Goldenberg spent some time answering questions to clear up any confusion. She explained that her goal was to simply provide a new approach to interpreting religion and its effect on governments and societies.

To Benjamin Flax, a sophomore majoring in religious studies, Goldenberg’s lecture was a very interesting idea about properly depicting religions in a way that addresses differences that may not otherwise be taken into account.

“I felt that it was a very good depiction of the problems in the ‘insider vs. outsider’ theory of religion,” Flax said.

Goldberg’s lecture was the third of five in the department’s series. The next lecture will be March 11 at 3:30 in Gorgas 205, and the featured speaker will be David Watt, Associate Professor of History at Temple University, who will be speaking about the church and state relations of the 21st century.

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