The problem with being eclectic is that you never catch up with everything. Although I was once a professor of Hebrew Bible—not technically the field in which I’d studied—I read (both past and present tenses) widely. Anyone who’s brave enough to follow this blog for any length of time must know that. I tend to think the element that ties them all together is religion, or a curiosity about religion. I have read material on science, art, psychology, history, geology, astronomy, literary theory, mythology, the paranormal, religious traditions, monster theory, to name just a few. Because of my interests across standard disciplinary lines, I often wonder about “no go” subjects. No go subjects are interests that will likely ruin your prospects of getting either a job or basic human respect. Although the government is taking serious interest in the topic, one of those subjects is UFOs.
For historians of religion such as myself, the study of UFO religions is sometimes acceptable. Indeed, there is a correlation between some evangelical sects and the UFO phenomenon. I experienced that firsthand as a child when my mother drove us to a church meeting where a guest preacher was discussing UFOs and God. I have only the vaguest recollections of that event in my then young mind, but it did leave me with the question of why respectable people aren’t allowed to look at certain subjects. Why does taboo even exist in an academic setting? I recently ran across David Halperin’s website. I’d known of him because his recent book, Intimate Alien, had gotten a lot of press. What I didn’t know was that he was formerly a professor of religious studies.
It seems to me that many of the interesting, outré topics fall into the baskets of religion scholars. We touch the taboo objects that nobody else will. Why? Because there should be no “no go” categories. Sex? Religion scholars study it. Politics? We’ve got it covered. Paranormal? We go there too. Perhaps it’s because religion scholars have so little to lose. We’re not high on the prestige list. I tend to think, however, it is because people who go into religious studies are innately curious. (Not all, of course, but many.) We’re drawn to that which doesn’t fit into the everyday, the ordinary. Transcendence, seeking that outside of which we daily operate, haunts us. Why do people scoff at what they don’t understand? Doesn’t it make more sense to look at it and try to increase our comprehension? To me it seems to be basic human nature, even if the interest is literally out of this world.