chapter  3
13 Pages

Stranger in a strange land

ByWilliam Sims Bainbridge

It may seem odd that a lifelong atheist like myself would invest so many years in studying religion, and yet my motivation is clear. I have always been surrounded by people who believed many things that were utterly incredible to me, so I needed to understand their psychopathology in order to survive in their world. I am like an anthropologist studying the rituals of a “primitive tribe,” with no possibility whatsoever of believing in the premises on which they are based, but nonetheless dedicated to unraveling their mysteries. To the extent that students should emulate my professional life at all, it would be by living their own lives, true both to their own personal values and to whatever heritage they possess. The social science of religion needs people who feel passionately, and who use that emotion to energize their research under the disciplines of the facts, of logic, and of the duty to think things through from multiple viewpoints.