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Steve Asma, Ph.D., Professor, Dept. of Philosophy, Columbia College Chicago

  • Winnetka Community House 620 Lincoln Ave Winnetka, IL 60093 United States (map)

Dr. Stephen Asma, Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Columbia College Chicago, will speak on the topic, Why We Need Religion.  How we feel is as vital to our survival as how we think.  This claim, based on the premise that emotions are largely adaptive, serves as the organizing theme of his new book Why We Need Religion.  Dr. Asma argues that, like art, religion has direct access to our emotional lives in ways that science does not.  Yes, science can give us emotional feelings of wonder and the sublime--we can feel the sacred depths of nature--but there are many forms of human suffering and vulnerability that are beyond the reach of help from science.  Different emotional stresses require different kinds of rescue.  Unlike secular authors who praise religion's ethical and civilizing function, Asma argues that its core value lies in its emotionally therapeutic power.

Asma is the author of eleven books, includingThe Evolution of Imagination (University of Chicago Press, 2017), The Evolution of Emotion: Affective Roots of Culture and Cognition with Rami Gabriel (Harvard University Press, forthcoming), On Monsters: an Unnatural History of Our Worst Fears (Oxford University Press), and The Gods Drink Whiskey(HarperOne).  He writes regularly for the New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education,Skeptic magazine, and Aeon.  Asma has been an invited lecturer at Harvard University, Brown University, the Field Museum, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, University of Macau, Aarhus University Denmark, and many more.  He recently returned from Myanmar.

 We are very pleased to have Hazel Friedman, an accomplished student pianist living in Chicago as a third year piano performance major at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music.  In 2014, Hazel was the first place winner of the San Diego Symphony’s “Hot Shot” Concerto Competition and subsequently soloed with the San Diego Symphony. Recent performances include solo recitals in La Jolla, California and Baltimore, Maryland, and solo and collaborative recitals in Copenhagen, Denmark. She has worked and performed for Unitarian church services over the past seven years, and is very excited to be performing for us today.