Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Alternatively bright and bleary-eyed students filing into Champ Auditorium officially marked the beginning of this year's Westminster Symposium on Tuesday. The auditorium, fuller than it had been for the past two symposia, hummed with anticipation while we students wondered about this year's controversial topic, Religious Experience in a Global Society.
Rev. Dr. Cliff Cain, chair of the Symposium Committee and professor of religion opened the first plenary session by summing up religion.
“Religion is as polarizing as politics and as passionate as sex,” he said.
Throughout the day, I discovered that this nugget of wisdom held true-all three plenary speakers fired up students, sparking questions taken to a microphone for all to hear, as well as comments whispered across seats to friends and neighbors.
The first speaker, Dr. J. Baird Callicott, spoke on the relationship between environmental ethics and religion. Though at times the lecture was difficult to follow for a layperson, what was most interesting was his assertion that our current environmental crises are due to the Judeo-Christian religions, because they maintain that we as humans should be dominant over land and animals. His solution was a deceptively simple one: We must find a new religion or rethink the old one.
The next speaker of the day was a different story, however. Though Callicott stayed within the realm of the environment and religion without causing too much of a stir, Dr. R. Douglas Geivett, professor of philosophy of religion and ethics, certainly turned the heads of several students.