In an age in which religion is associated as much with violence as benevolence, where propositions of faith are often framed as oppositional to modern science, and one-fifth of all Americans self-identify as “none of the above” with regard to religion, the 2013-2014 Bannan Institute will publicly engage one the most significant questions of our time: What Good Is God?

Through a series of lectures and facilitated dialogues with scientists, philosophers, literary scholars, engineers, theologians, poets, artists, and educators, the 2013-2014 Bannan Institute will explore the significance of secular and religious culture in civil society (fall quarter); engage the questions and resources of emergent scientific, technological, and religious paradigms (winter quarter); and consider the nature and role of religion within higher education (spring quarter).

Lectures will be held at:
Santa Clara University, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, 95053
See listings for room locations.

Fall Quarter 2013: God and Culture
Secular and the Religious Good in Civil Society

The first amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America prohibits any law respecting an establishment of religion or impeding the free exercise of religion. And yet, American civil society is saturated with anti-religious and religious sensibilities that often frame religious and secular goods as mutually subjugating. This quarter’s lecture series will attempt to disrupt this polarizing frame.

Why Is God for Christians Good for Nothing?
Terry Eagleton
October 7, 2013, 5:00pm – 6:30pm
St. Clare Room, Library and Learning Commons
Atheists tend to claim that God is entirely pointless, and so does the doctrine of Creation. Here, at least, is some common ground between Richard Dawkins and Pope Francis. This talk will try among other things to spell out why God is pointless and why this is the whole point about God. It will also seek to remind us that when we claim that God is good, we have very little clue as to what we are talking about. RSVP and learn more about this lecture »
My Bright Abyss: Thoughts On Modern Belief
Christian Wiman
October 17, 2013, 4:00pm – 5:15pm
St. Clare Room, Library and Learning Commons
Moving among a variety of writings—poetry, prose, theology, biography—as well as experiences from his own life, Christian Wiman will examine what a credible Christian faith might look like at the beginning of the 21st century. RSVP and learn more about this lecture »
Keeping the Faith: Catholic Writers on Heroes of Conscience
Catherine Wolff & Panelists
October 30, 2013, 4:00pm – 5:15pm
St. Clare Room, Library and Learning Commons
The Roman Catholic philosopher, Charles Taylor, writes that the church must recognize the right of every Christian to exercise his or her judgment in applying the gospel message to moral or political circumstances, and to be included in the great conversation from which the authoritative sense of the faithful emerges. This event will explore the challenges of maintaining a faithful conscience in the face of opposition from prevailing civil or religious authorities. Four contributing authors from Not Less Than Everything: Catholic Writers on Heroes of Conscience from Joan of Arc to Oscar Romero, ed. Catherine Wolff will reflect on the impact of a significant hero of conscience within their lives, the world, and the church. The panel will be introduced and facilitated by Catherine Wolff. RSVP and learn more about this lecture »
Well, I’ll be Damned! Considering Atheism in the United States Today
Jerome Baggett
November 6, 2013, 4:00pm – 5:15pm
St. Clare Room, Library and Learning Commons
In recent years a cultural space for public expressions of atheism and other forms of irreligion has opened up within American society. Both advocates of the so-called “new atheism” and its detractors have been enormously vocal, but we still know very little about everyday atheists beyond the popular – and very misleading – stereotypes about them. This presentation aims to get beyond those by taking a more considered, sociological look at American atheism, its connection to other nascent modes religious identification (the “nones,” the “spiritual but not religious,” agnostics, etc.), and its prospects for helping to engender a more thoughtful public conversation about the sacred and secular within contemporary society. RSVP and learn more about this lecture »
Violent Religion or the Sacred State? Violence, Idolatry, and Religion in Civil Society
William Cavanaugh
November 12, 2013, 4:00pm – 5:15pm
St. Clare Room, Library and Learning Commons
A common notion in Western countries is that religion is prone to violence, so we must privatize religion and give our loyalty to the neutral and secular nation-state. What happens when loyalty to the nation becomes a kind of religion? In this lecture, Professor Cavanaugh will sort through these different claims and argue that there is no essential difference between “secular” violence and “religious” violence. RSVP and learn more about this lecture »
Why Do We Suffer? An Ignatian Day of Prayer and Reflection
Robert W. Scholla S.J.
November 16, 2013, 9:00am – 2:00pm
Multifaith Sanctuary, Saint Joseph’s Hall
Given the Bannan Institute’s theme, What Good Is God? this day of reflection will attend to the related perennial human question: “Why do we suffer?” Utilizing methods and insights from Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises, participants will have opportunities for personal prayer and communal reflection, as we attend to the reality of human suffering and to the liberating and compassionate response of God. RSVP and learn more about this lecture »