BETHANY, W.Va. – The death of God in today’s culture has led to a divisive society, the author of the upcoming book “The Universe Is on Our Side: Restoring Faith in American Public Life” said during the annual Larry Grimes Lecture at Bethany College.
Bruce Ledewitz, a professor at Duquesne University Law School who writes the blog Hallowed Secularism, shared his own experience of losing his belief in God and leaving Judaism in the early 2000s. He joined the millions of “nones” in the United States, who cite no religious affiliation.
“But the death of God does not operate at the personal level,” Ledewitz said. “It operates at the level of the culture. The death of God is about the effectiveness and presence of God in the culture.”
The West and, more specifically, the United States particularly felt that loss, he said.
“The loss of our founding story is the reason that Americans are divided, angry and lost,” Ledewitz said. “It is the reason for deaths of despair is the reason for the irrationality of vaccine resistance and climate change denial. Americans have lost faith in a universe that makes sense. And that means that nothing can make sense. We don’t even realize that this loss of faith is the reason for our troubles. That is why we are not doing anything about it.”
In studying this cultural shift, Ledewitz turned to a question asked by Canadian Jesuit theologian and philosopher Bernard Lonergan: “Is the Universe on Our Side?”
“Asking Lonergan’s question means really asking, that is not just assuming the answer,” Ledewitz said.
Ultimately, Ledewitz argues that faith can be restored if Americans believe that the universe bends toward justice and welfare.
He also shares with Lonergan’s assertion it’s important in times of decline to have a “cosmopolis” – a group of people engaged in dialogue and questioning.
“It strikes me that a community like Bethany college can be a part of cosmopolis,” Ledewitz said. “Here, you can ask the question, ‘Is the universe on our side?’ directly and continuously as a community within in the classroom, and as a witness for the larger society outside the classroom. In other words, I believe the renewal of American life can begin right here in this place right now. And I hope that it will.”
“The Universe Is on Our Side” is available Oct. 22 from Oxford University Press.
The Bethany College Alumni Council hosts the Larry Grimes Lecture Series as part of Bethany’s annual homecoming celebration. The lecture honors longtime Bethany English professor and renowned Hemingway Scholar Larry Grimes, who spent 39 years teaching students to learn from and love literature.
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Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in the area of liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.