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S. Brent Plate
S. Brent Plate

The New York Times published a letter to the editor written by Visiting Associate Professor of Religious Studies S. Brent Plate on May 2 under the title “Why Religious Literacy is Important in Our Culture.” Plate, author of A History of Religion in 5 ½ Objects, was responding to an opinion piece by Times columnist Nicholas Kristof in which Kristof wrote, “Secular Americans are largely ignorant about religion, but, in surveys, religious Americans turn out to be scarcely more knowledgeable. … All this goes to the larger question of the relevance of the humanities. … if we want to understand the world around us and think deeply about it, it helps to have exposure to Shakespeare and Kant, Mozart and Confucius — and, yes, Jesus, Moses and the Prophet Muhammad.”

In Plate’s letter, he affirmed the value of the humanities but added that “we need to engage the lived practices of those who may or may not have all the answers.” He posited that, “religion is a technology, an art and craft created in and through human bodies in time and space. The devout handle objects, sing, sway, sniff and see.”

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