Religion Department

Alumni Stories: Mary Jane Casavant '85

My freshman fall I...took Rel. 1: Patterns of Religious Experience. It was 1981, the class met in 105 Dartmouth and was team-taught by Professors Ronald Green and Robert Oden (both of whom had been voted best professor at the College). I was blown away by their brilliance. I would often forget to take notes for long periods of time, just mesmerized by their performances....I recall being astonished and humbled by my good fortune: my job was to sit in this room, listen to these guys speak, and try to catch and retain as much of it as possible. What could be better? Their passion for their subject and for teaching was palpable...and they were clearly having a wonderful time. That course was the ideal introduction to what the very best parts of my undergraduate education would look like: challenging my ingrained assumptions; requiring a careful reading of texts and the presentation of cogent written arguments; driving me to read outside of the required texts and ply my friends with questions about what I was learning. I ended up majoring in Religion and later earned an MA in Religion and Culture.

Alumni Stories: Paul Colligan '86

...when I matriculated at Dartmouth I had the belief that whatever I chose to pursue in a career I would need specific training. I also believed that if 10 of my 33 credits were to be in my major that I had better choose a discipline that I enjoyed and found interesting. Growing up in Hanover I had the benefit of knowing many other faculty children and the reputations of many of the faculty. I had heard many great things about the Religion Department and the likes of Professors Green, Berthold and others. After taking Rel. 1 I fell in love with the idea of learning about all religions to complement my Catholic upbringing. It wasn’t until my junior year that I had a clue about a career path. My older brother was living in New York and worked at a well-known Wall Street firm. I had the opportunity to live with him while doing an internship at Lehman Brothers during my senior fall term. He was an institutional salesman and my internship was on the retail sales side. Since graduation...I have been working with ultra-high net worth families advising them on their investment portfolios. I love working with people and the dynamics of an ever changing market.

Alumni Stories: Robert L. Adams '74

I made a lot of poor choices during my college days, but one that proved right for me was my choice of a major, Religion. I was committed to a path in medicine and, given no specific major for pre‐meds, I had the latitude to opt for something that piqued my academic interest. Spring semester of freshman year was highlighted by an “Introduction to Asian Religions” overview course that led me to my major course of study without regret (excepting my not taking advantage of the foreign study for the major which, if memory serves, was in Edinburgh in those days). I eventually did pursue a medical career and believe that my undergrad studies in a field far removed from my professional field provided some depth to me that I feel would have been less if I followed the traditional choices (e.g., Biology or Chemistry) as a pre‐med major. I remain glad that I chose Religion as a major and am grateful to the College for making that available as a choice at the time.

Grassley, Ayotte and the Burden of History

By vowing to block any Supreme Court nominee the president sends to Congress, New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte and fellow Republicans are reinforcing the partisan gridlock that has paralyzed the nation for more than a decade, argues Randall Balmer in his Sunday, March 20, opinion piece in the Valley News, "Grassley, Ayotte and the Burden of History."  Instead, he urges Senator Ayotte to "fulfill her duties regardless of the political rancor she might incur from fellow Republicans. Even such a modest effort in these fraught political times counts as an act of courage." "Like Chuck Grassley [chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee], Kelly Ayotte's rendezvous with history has arrived. She can be remembered as simply another political hack, like Mitch McConnell or Harry Reid, or she can be remembered as a leader, one who faced down the rabid partisans in Congress and said 'Enough! I intend to lead, not stumble blindly along the pathway of political obstruction in the name of party loyalty.'"

Is Donald Trump a Tyrant?

To the ancient Greeks, "from whom we derive the political concepts that undergird our democracy," a tyrant (tyrannos) is "a figure who, usually through great personal wealth, circumvents established political processes to attain power. Often an outsider or one of the wealthy elite, the tyrant flouts conventions of discourse and forums for debate. The tyrant ignores traditions of deliberation and steamrolls opposition. Ultimately, a tyrant rises to power in ways that undermine democratic structures, leaving the ruler unaccountable to those ruled or to the checks and balances of the system." In his OpEd piece for Time, "This is What Ancient Greeks Would Have Called Donald Trump," Professor Devin Singh goes back to this definition and explores whether or not Donald Trump is a tyrant, fitting this definition, and if he poses a "fundamental threat to American democracy."

Evangelicals' Support of Trump Shouldn't Come as a Surprise

In an op-ed column in today's Los Angeles Times, Professor Randall Balmer observes that over the past several decades, evangelicals have become increasingly secular, more interested in the pursuit of wealth and political influence than fidelity to the teachings of Jesus, and that "it should come as little surprise that the candidate of choice for evangelicals so far in this 2016 election season is a twice-divorced, thrice-married billionaire famous for firing people on TV, who belittles the disabled and advocates policies - on immigration, for example, or the environment - utterly at odds with the 'biblical values' evangelicals purport to uphold."

"Dear Marco Rubio..."

"Dear Marco Rubio: Welcome to New Hampshire," writes Randall Balmer in his January 10, 2016, Valley News opinion piece. "It's come to my attention that you've been assailing the liberal arts on the campaign trail....Today, the liberal arts encompass, as Merriam-Webster defines it, 'areas of study (such as history, language, and literature) that are intended to give you general knowledge rather than to develop specific skills needed for a profession,'" he continues. "I'm sure you'll find a few voters here who will cheer your excoriations of the liberal arts; anti-intellectualism, after all, has a long and storied history in the United States. But you'll find others - many, many more, I hope - who believe that critical thinking is not such a bad thing, that it might even be crucial to the future of a democratic society."

Market Faith in Anxious Times

Coverage of market behavior, as shown in the articles on the recent stock market tumble in China, are "deeply tied to religion - and particularly the language of faith," observes Religion Professor Devin Singh in his OpEd article in the Huffington Post. "Both the religious background to equilibrium theory and the posture of faith that is expected of market actors raise questions about the ideal response to market panics. Just as various natural disasters...put theories of divine providence into question, so repeated financial crises are bringing equilibrium theory under greater scrutiny. It's not at all apparent that markets will self-regulate and should thus be left to themselves -- whatever that may mean.Does authentic market faith mean remaining calm in the face of collapse, trusting predictive models that tell of eventual return and restabilization? Shall we rationalize collateral economic damage as blips on a graph of the ordained 'greater good'?

"Speak Out Against Islamophobia"

Professor Susannah Heschel and two other prominent academics spoke out his week at Boston University, urging students to counter anti-Islam bigotry in the wake of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's controversial call to bar Muslims from entering the country, reports The Boston Globe. Professor Heschel told the crowd that gathered on the university campus that "it's not Islam that makes somebody decide, 'I want to kill someone.' It doesn't work that way."

Muhammad Ibrahim Khan, GR'15, Named Marshall Scholar

Muhammad Ibrahim Khan, GR'15, has been named a 2016 Marshall Scholar. The scholarship will allow Khan to pursue a Master's of Philosophy in Islamic studies and history at Oxford University. Khan's research at Oxford will focus on classical Islamic law from the 10th, 11th, and 12th centuries. Associate Professor of Religion Kevin Reinhart, who advised him on a graduate research paper, says of Khan, "He will be great for the Marshall program because he is a very fine scholar and representative of Dartmouth and U.S. students. He is also a Muslim scholar with a strong commitment to his heritage and to academic research methods and approaches. I'm thrilled for Ibrahim and utterly confident that he will go on to be a major contributor in Islamicate history studies."

Up to 40 Americans each year are selected for the award, which was created by the government of the U.K. in 1953 to "strengthen the enduring relationships between the British and American peoples, their governments and their institutions." The scholarship is named in recognition of U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall's work to restore Europe in the aftermath of World War II.

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