25 Years Ago in Free Inquiry

“Most individuals would be outraged to learn that the academic study of religion is fundamentally an atheist project. … However, these heated reactions are unnecessary. The word atheist comes from the Latin atheos, and means ‘without god.’ … [T]he question of the existence or non-existence of a god, gods, or goddesses is irrelevant when studying the histories of Judaism and Christianity. …

By contrast, the historian of religion … seeks evidence—evidence that comes in the form of manuscripts, iconography, archaeology, art, and literature. …

I cannot consider myself an educated person without a formal understanding of how religion shapes culture and functions within it.”

—Lena Ksarjian, “Religion as a Human Science,”
Free Inquiry, Volume 14, No. 4 (Fall 1994)

Editor’s Note: Lena Ksarjian was a doctoral student at the University of Chicago and a member of the original Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion, a Free Inquiry academic project founded by Gerald Larue and R. Joseph Hoffman in 1982.


“Most individuals would be outraged to learn that the academic study of religion is fundamentally an atheist project. … However, these heated reactions are unnecessary. The word atheist comes from the Latin atheos, and means ‘without god.’ … [T]he question of the existence or non-existence of a god, gods, or goddesses is irrelevant when studying …

This article is available to subscribers only.
Subscribe now or log in to read this article.