For many Minnesotans, religion is a private matter that shouldn’t be talked about—not even among friends. For others, it hardly makes sense to think of religion as public or private because it seems so obviously embedded in both spheres. As someone who has to talk about religion a lot, two rough groups emerge for me: on the one hand, there are the public non-theists; and on the other, there are those who talk about religion, whether or not they are actually religious themselves.Read the rest of The quiet (ir)religion of the polite and apathetic.
Joseph Blankholm is a PhD student in the Department of Religion at Columbia University. His fieldwork-based research examines secularism and unbelief in America, with a focus on New York City.
Posts by Joseph Blankholm:
Last week I wrote about the conversations I get into when I tell people what I do. Answering that I study religion usually leads to a conversation about it—a topic about as uncomfortable as politics during an election year. One of the first things people ask me in these conversations is what I believe. This question comes in a lot of forms, and every answer I give is an educated guess meant to quickly defuse any tensions. Sometimes I’m not particularly religious; other times I was raised Christian; and sometimes I’m simply an atheist.Read the rest of The making of a student of religion.
As a PhD student in Religion, my answer to the question, “What do you do?” is always a loaded one. The responses are mostly predictable, only occasionally aggressive, and sometimes spur wonderful conversations. Navigating these responses while minimizing awkwardness has become a bit of a hobby for me, so in addition to learning how to laugh on cue at the question, “Are you gonna be a priest or something?” I’ve come up with some strategies to steer the conversation to a place that’s more interesting for me personally, and if I’m in the mood, great for my research.Read the rest of “I study religion,” or: How to start an awkward conversation.