Christmas is almost here, and the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem of Roman Judea nearly 2000 years ago is the foundational reason for celebrating Christmas. Most American archaeologists I have ever known are agnostics or atheists who have no use for Jesus of Nazareth. They would no doubt cite several different reasons for this. However, I think it is more than a little interesting to note that most of the archaeologists who study the prehistory and archaeology of the southeastern United States grew up in the Great Lakes region and the American South. Historically, the Great Lakes region was the birthplace and cradle for Christian fundamentalism in the United States. (I bet you thought that was all born and raised down south in the Bible Belt. Wrong!!!) Along another and earlier pathway, the American South gave rise to assorted versions of conservative evangelicalism that were later influenced in the early 20th century by the elements of Christian fundamentalism flowing from the Great Lakes region. Today both Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals swear that Charles Darwin and the settled science of evolutionary biology are the primary generators of agnosticism and atheism. Personally, I think they are wrong. Instead, I think Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism are the primary generators of agnosticism and atheism. I would hazard a guess that most southeastern archaeologists were raised in strict Catholic, Christian fundamentalist, or conservative evangelical homes. If you were Catholic, the mean old nuns and their ruler “smacks” on your hands helped drive you toward agnosticism or atheism. If you had Christian fundamentalist or conservative evangelical parents, living in a legalistic straight jacket for 18 years helped drive you towards agnosticism or atheism. it seems to do that to a lot of people.
For those of you who like to ponder religious things deeply, I was thinking that this particular Christmas might be a good time for us to seriously rethink those very old, bad, and hurtful religious experiences from our childhoods by listening to a rather fun two-part lecture on the subject of Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism as delivered by Reverend Keith Ward at the invitation of an Australian group called Heretics Anonymous. The lecture was delivered at St. George’s Cathedral in Perth, Australia. Keith is a really fun, engaging, and easy-to-follow lecturer. The two links are shown below. After clicking to go there, you may need to drag the little red time ball all the way to the left to start at the beginning of Keith’s presentation.
Reverend Keith Ward (born August 22, 1938) is a British philosopher, theologian, priest, and scholar. He is a fellow of the British Academy and a priest of the Church of England. He was a canon of Christ Church, Oxford until 2003. Comparative theology and the relationship between science and religion are two of his main topics of interest. He was Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford from 1991 to 2004. Ward graduated in 1962 with a B.A. from the University of Wales and from 1964 to 1969 was a lecturer in logic at the University of Glasgow. He earned a B. Litt. from Linacre College, Oxford in 1968. From 1969 to 1971 he was Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of St Andrews. In 1972, he was ordained as a priest in the Church of England. From 1971 to 1975 he was Lecturer in Philosophy of Religion at the University of London. From 1975 to 1983, he was Dean of Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He was appointed the F. D. Maurice Professor of Moral and Social Theology at the University of London in 1982, Professor of History and Philosophy of Religion at King’s College London in 1985 and Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford in 1991, a post from which he retired in 2004. In 1992, Ward was a visiting professor at the Claremont Graduate University in California. In 1993–94, he delivered the prestigious Gifford Lectures at the University of Glasgow. He was the Gresham Professor of Divinity between 2004 and 2008 at Gresham College, London. Ward is on the council of the Royal Institute of Philosophy and is a member of the editorial boards of Religious Studies, the Journal of Contemporary Religion, Studies in Inter-Religious Dialogue and World Faiths Encounter. He is a member of the board of governors of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. He has also been a visiting professor at Drake University, Iowa, and at the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Ward has M.A. and D.D. degrees from both Cambridge and Oxford Universities, and an honorary D.D. from the University of Glasgow [Verbatim Text from Wikipedia 2015 (Slightly Edited)].