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William Grassie
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William Grassie is the author of The New Sciences of Religion: Exploring Spirituality from the Outside In and Bottom Up (Palgrave Macmillian, 2010) and a collection of essays Politics by Other Means: Science and Religion in the 21st Century (Metanexus, 2010). Grassie has also edited two volumes: Advanced Methodologies in the Scientific Study of Religion and Spirituality (Metanexus, 2010) and H+/- Transhumanism and Its Critics (Metanexus, 2010) with Gregory Hansell.

Grassie received his doctorate in religion from Temple University and his bachelor degree in political science and international relations from Middlebury College. He has taught in a variety of positions at Temple University, Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to graduate school, Grassie worked for ten years in international relations and conflict resolution in Washington, D.C, Jerusalem, Berlin and Philadelphia. He is the recipient of a number of academic awards and grants from the American Friends Service Committee, the Roothbert Fellowship and the John Templeton Foundation. In 2007-2008, Grassie served as a Senior Fulbright Fellow in the Department of Buddhist Studies at the University of Peradeniya in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

Grassie is the founding executive director of the Metanexus Institute, which works to promote scientifically rigorous and philosophically open-ended explorations of foundational questions. Metanexus has worked with partners at some four hundred universities in 45 countries and publishes an online journal.

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Entries by William Grassie

The Queen of the Sciences

(15) Comments | Posted May 6, 2013 | 5:05 PM


Our medieval ancestors understood theology to be the queen of the sciences. Her twin sister Sophia (the Greek word for "wisdom") was also venerated in the discipline of philosophy. It was hard to tell the two beauties apart, but together they once ruled the...

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Easter: A Moveable Feast

(4) Comments | Posted March 28, 2013 | 10:10 AM

Easter, you may have noticed, is not a fixed day in the calendar. While Christmas, in contrast, occurs reliably every year on Dec. 25, Easter wanders around on a given Sunday in late March or April. This year Easter will be celebrated on March 31, but in 2014 it will...

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The Great Matrix of Being

(7) Comments | Posted February 26, 2013 | 1:14 PM

Our European ancestors once understood the universe to be a Great Chain of Being. All the entities of the world -- animal, vegetable, mineral -- were hierarchically organized. At the bottom were metals, precious metals, and precious stones. Then came plants and trees, followed by wild animals and domesticated animals....

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Zombies Fighting Over Who Is Right: A Nightmare on Main Street

(0) Comments | Posted May 22, 2012 | 12:38 PM

Every religion, every ideology and every construct of self implies a perspective on what constitutes the good life, as well as some kind of critique of the bad. Religions would be thin gruel in a nihilistic wasteland without some blissful vision of transcendence. Political ideologies would be empty chatter without...

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Seeking Truth in a World of Competing Narratives

(5) Comments | Posted April 30, 2012 | 11:48 AM

In today's global civilization, we are confronted with a Walmart of worldviews. We find ourselves in an entangled and sometimes toxic web of ideologies, religions, nationalisms and ethnicities. We generally resolve this cognitive dissonance by doubling-down on our own prejudices in opposition to those with whom we disagree. We tend...

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Conflicting Ideologies and Entangled Narratives

(17) Comments | Posted April 2, 2012 | 11:13 AM

Humans today, perhaps more than at any other time in history, are caught up in a web of entangled narratives. Globalization and communication technologies have brought a world of differences into our living rooms, classrooms and communities. People wage culture wars within and between civilizations based on these narratives, religious...

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Storied Nature of Human Nature

(1) Comments | Posted March 15, 2012 | 12:02 PM

What are we to make of all these sacred texts with their complex origins? How should we read them today? Is there some truth to be found therein, as their followers so fervently proclaim?

One option for scriptural interpretation is to read the Bible and other sacred texts as...

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Religious Liberties and Moral Ambiguities - The Cases of Contraception and War Resistance

(11) Comments | Posted March 3, 2012 | 10:18 AM

The Senate rejected the Blunt amendment, which would have allowed employers to deny healthcare coverage to their employees for contraception or any other "morally objectionable" service. The failed amendment --to a highway bill in this case -- appeared on the heels of the recent controversies with the United States Conference...

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Redacting the Bible: A Case Study in Historical Criticism

(251) Comments | Posted February 25, 2012 | 6:05 AM

Let's look at an example of how science understands sacred scripture by taking a closer look at historical criticism of the New Testament. What I present is very much the academic consensus after more than a hundred years of research in a variety of cognate fields -- linguistic analysis, archeology,...

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The Sciences of Sacred Scriptures

(33) Comments | Posted February 13, 2012 | 6:11 AM

The vast majority of religious believers hold on to scriptures as sacred, as profound revelations, as precious guides to the mysteries of life and death. Believers believe that their stories are true -- for instance, that Moses was a real person who led the Hebrews out of slavery and received...

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Big History: Engaging the New Narrative of Science

(47) Comments | Posted January 25, 2012 | 2:51 PM

Science is progressive, and it tends toward consensus of necessity. Science discovers, illuminates, and crafts facts, and we rely on these complex facts in practical ways. Unlike religion, science is pretty much the same collection of complex facts in all cultures around the world. These facts are uncovered with considerable...

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The Universe Between Atheism and Fundamentalism

(1259) Comments | Posted January 16, 2012 | 5:20 PM

In jest I call myself "a recovering Unitarian." I was raised believing that all religions are the same, so we valued none of them, equally. While it is unfair to ascribe this view to Unitarian Universalists in general, it was true of my congregation in that time and place. In...

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Christmas From the Outside In

(10) Comments | Posted December 16, 2011 | 11:34 AM

The Christmas story is subversive, so we try to render it safe and saccharine. Contrast the idea of God as some great, all-powerful Being in the sky with the icon of the helpless baby in the manger. The former, many imagine, micro-manages all the details of our lives and the...

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The Neuroscience of the Bar Mitzvah

(123) Comments | Posted December 10, 2011 | 4:00 PM

Attending a recent Bar Mitzvah ceremony, I was impressed, once again, by the wisdom of this ancient tribal initiation ceremony. The 13-year-old boy (or girl, in what's called a Bat Mitzvah) is surrounded by family and friends as he recites the Torah portion in Hebrew and offers a short sermon...

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Celebrate a Spiritual, not Religious Thanksgiving

(18) Comments | Posted November 22, 2011 | 3:40 PM

When Thanksgiving dinner conversation drifts into religious dogma, here is the way I'll respond, with a wink and a smile: "That's nice, Aunty. Thank you for sharing. But I am spiritual, not religious. I love the Brussels sprouts and chestnuts. Did you make that dish?" It is a polite way...

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