Tom Beaudoin, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Religion
Fordham University, New York City
Let the universe be intuited and worshiped in all ways. Innumerable forms of religion are possible, and if it is necessary that each become real at some time, then it would at least be desirable that one could have an intimation of many at all times. -- Friedrich Schleiermacher, "Fifth Speech" (Schleiermacher, On Religion, Crouter translation, 1996, p. 123)
I work as associate professor of religion in the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education at Fordham University in New York City.
My research foci are: theologies, philosophies, and religious studies of practice; comparative spiritual exercises; concepts and practices of religious disaffiliation/affiliation; experiences of ultimacy: religious, spiritual, and secular; popular music as secularly / religiously / spiritually / theologically significant.
My curriculum vitae, listing publications, presentations, and other professional work, can be found here.
My current book project, tentatively titled Practicing Nothing, represents an experiment with emptiness and nothingness as ways of describing the theological significance of practice, exhibiting their bridging potential for practical theology's revolution from a Christian-centric to a more secularly, spiritually, and religiously pluralistic field.
All of my research concentrates on the powers of attention ingredient to how people learn to find something from their culture of special significance for making their way through life. I want to know how it is that people come to experience their lives and endeavors as consequential, and how traditions with the power to shape practice--"religious" and otherwise--contribute to making a way through life in a way that matters. In the end, I want to know how a 'yes' to life is possible in a way that facilitates the possibility of a 'yes' from others to their own lives.
My work makes a place where theology, religious studies, philosophy, and cultural studies live together. My work draws on philosophy of religion, on secular accounts of the good life, on Christian and post-Christian studies, and on different 'religious' and 'secular' accounts of emptiness, with an emphasis in this regard on Zen studies.
I study how experiences that are "secularly," "spiritually," or "religiously" important for people come about, are conceived, and make a difference in the lives of individuals and communities. Within this focus, I am drawn to the rich and complex interrelationship between (concepts and experiences of) "secular" practices and "spiritual" or "religious" practices and exercises. What compels me is the personal-social importance and complexity of the way that identities are put together whenever they let onto a sense for what matters most. I find that the study of religion and its "others" (such as secularity or irreligion), when related critically to other fields, can help to creatively examine and appreciate these ideas and experiences of what matters most, and the experience-accounts of ultimacy to which they may be tied.
This study of what matters most, and experience-accounts of ultimacy in contemporary culture, has led me to dwell particularly on studies of non-normative affiliation in relation to religious traditions: the practices of people who are marginally-affiliated, multiply-affiliated, non-affiliated -- indeed, the meanings of "affiliation" itself -- or on paths that break new ground outside received "religious" or "nonreligious" categories, that help us think and experience life beyond affiliation and nonaffiliation.
I'm also drawn to how musical experience becomes significant, or how music influences what is otherwise taken to be the claiming power in people's lives. It is mostly "popular music" that interests me in this regard -- as an influential form of everyday art, experience, and formation in contemporary "secular" cultures around the world. By "musical experience," I mean performing as a musician and/or being a fan of music, I mean seeing live music, listening to it, talking about music, reading about it -- basically everything related to being a part of musical cultures to the extent that music is an effective force in one's life.
In other words, my research typically studies experiences of what matters most that are tied to "secular," "religious" or "spiritual" practices, in the interest of adding to our understanding of religion and culture, and also in the interest of fashioning a deeper yes to life, and making that yes more possible for others.
Aside from research and teaching, an important domain of my practice is musicianship. More than thirty years of playing electric bass in rock bands and being an avid participant in popular-music culture continues to form and inform my academic work.
I have been playing electric bass since 1985, and have played in these bands: Vision (Independence, Missouri, 1986-1987); Household Word (Kansas City, Missouri, 1990- 1992); (e)X nihilo (Boston, Massachusetts, 1997-1999); Incizion (Boston, 2002-2004); Childhood Scar (Boston, 2004); One15 (San Francisco, California, 2005-2006); Stent (San Jose, California, 2006-2007); Speedwalker (San Jose, 2007-2008); The Particulars (New York, 2011-2015); The Raina (New York, 2011-2016). I am currently playing in the New York City-based band Wheels Off. Music announcements are posted to my Facebook page.
I am married to Dr. Martina Verba, a psychotherapist, and with our fabulous middle-school aged daughter we live near New York City.
Contact information: Fordham University, Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education, 441 East Fordham Road, New York, New York, United States, 10458-9993; email@example.com; Facebook; office: 718.817.5965.
Photo credits: top: Nikolas Koenig [space: Purpl]; bottom left: Fordham
It is not the person who believes in a holy writing who has religion, but only the one who needs none and probably could make one for himself. -- Friedrich Schleiermacher, "Second Speech" (Schleiermacher, On Religion, Crouter translation, 1996, p. 50)