Skip to Main Content


News and Events Archives

Back to News Archive
Best-selling author Susan Jacoby to speak at Columbia College
Friday, September 19, 2008

(COLUMBIA, Mo.) -- Susan Jacoby, author of "The Age of American Unreason," will deliver the 2008 Schiffman Lecture in Religious Studies. Jacoby's lecture, "Reason, Unreason and Religion: Say It Ain't So, Where Did America's Rationality Go?" will begin at 11 a.m., Tuesday, Oct. 28 in Launer Auditorium on the Columbia College campus. Doors open at 10 a.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Jacoby focuses on the convergence of social forces, which are usually treated as separate entities, that has created a perfect storm of anti-rationalism. These social forces include the upsurge of religious fundamentalism, with more political power today than ever before; the future of public education to create an informed citizenry; and the triumph of video over print culture. Sparing neither the right nor the left, Jacoby asserts that Americans today have embraced a universe of "junk thought" that makes no effort to separate fact from opinion.

"The Age of American Unreason" is Jacoby's eighth book. She is the author of seven previous books, most recently "Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism," named a Notable Book of 2004 by The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. Other books include "Moscow Conversations," based on her experiences in Moscow from 1969 to 1971; "Wild Justice: The Evolution of Revenge," a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1984; and "Half-Jew: A Daughter's Search for Her Family's Buried Past.

Jacoby has been a contributor for more than 25 years to various periodicals and newspapers, on topics including law, religion, medicine, aging, women's rights, Russian literature and political dissent in the Soviet Union. Her articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Washington Post Book World, Los Angeles Times Book Review, Newsday, Harper's, The Nation, Vogue, The American Prospect, Mother Jones and the AARP Magazine.

She also is program director of the Center for Inquiry-New York City, a rationalist think-tank, and is a regular panelist for On Faith, a blog published by Newsweek and The Washington Post. She has her own political blog, "The Secularist's Corner," on the Web site of The Washington Post.

The Schiffman Lecture Series was established in 2000 through a gift by John A. Schiffman in honor of his late wife, Althea, a 1941 graduate of Christian College who served on the Columbia College Board of Trustees from 1983 to 1987. Following his wife's death, John Schiffman served on the Columbia College Board of Trustees, retiring from the board 20 years later in 2007.

The Lecture in Religious Studies draws noted scholars to the college to lecture on the influence of religion in politics, culture and education. Each year, nationally and internationally renowned scholars speak to students, faculty, staff and members of the community about how religion has shaped and continues to shape major issues of our day.

Previous Schiffman Lecture in Religious Studies speakers include Dr. Stephen J. Patterson, professor of New Testament at Eden Theological Seminary; Martin Marty, pastor, author and Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago Divinity School; and Ellen O'Grady, artist and social activist.