Re-thinking religion in our contemporary world
Studies have shown that half of all Canadians feel uncomfortable around people who are religiously devout. Neal DeRoo, Canada Research Chair in Phenomenology and Philosophy of Religion, aims to help change that through his research, which will show a new way to think about religion and spirituality.
For a long time, we have tended to think of religion primarily in terms of beliefs about “supernatural” things that exist outside the normal world. For the most part, as long as those beliefs are confined to things outside the world, we are willing to let people think what they want. But when people want to apply their religious beliefs to something happening in the world—to make scientific or moral claims, for example—it can make others uncomfortable.
This separation between “spiritual” beliefs and “material” everyday life is getting harder to maintain. Drawing on insights from phenomenological philosophy, DeRoo is exploring the ways in which material things express a certain cultural “spirit.” He aims to use this expression as a basis for re-thinking the way we define religion, suggesting that religion is as much about our habits and everyday practices as it is about what we think, and that our spirituality is as much about social and cultural interactions as it is about introspection and reflection.
DeRoo’s work will provide a philosophical basis for a new understanding of how religious commitments can be expressed in everyday life. This could change the role we think religion should play in our pluralistic society.