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Life > Academics

Reconsider Your World: Psychology Professor Musolino

Updated Published
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Rutgers chapter.

It was 28 degrees and windy as I made my first ever trek to Busch Campus, but I found no relief as I stepped into one of the many wings in the Psychology building. Clearly, I’m not implying that it was equally as freezing in temperature, but the atmosphere chilled me to the bone as I made my way to the bottom floor, to a corner office marked “Professor Julien Musolino”. I waited for around ten minutes, staring through the crack of his slightly ajar door, until he finally arrived from the adjacent stairwell. He welcomed me and apologized for his tardiness. My heart beat loud as he ushered me in to take a seat in his very dimly lit office. The purpose for this adventure of mine was to interview the humorous, young, French, Professor Musolino to inquire about some things that he said during his guest lecture in my Soul Beliefs class. This class, taught by Professors Ogilvie and Hamilton, was brand new and the students in my class of around 200 were the guinea pigs to see if it would be a hit.  Until that day in class we had been learning about the history of soul beliefs, different beliefs according to various religions, and the functions of those religions; however Professor Musolino’s lecture would be something that none of us students had expected. He told us that he would present evidence supporting that souls do not exist and that religion essentially had no ground to stand upon whatsoever. Some cringed, some laughed, and some sat there wide-eyed, anxious as to hear what he was about to say. Luckily, Professor Musolino was just as interested in answering my questions, as I was to hear his answers.  Contrary to popular belief, he assured me he is not a devil worshiper or the anti-Christ, but in fact I found he is an intuitive thinker and a very friendly intellectual, even though he almost stole my glove. Give his ideas a chance- read his interview below!

HC: Regarding religion, what do you think and why do you think it? (I asked him to summarize his points in the guest lectures he taught). JM: Well there are different labels but I would say I am an atheist. What I mean is that I do not believe in any Gods or anything supernatural. Another way to put this is that I am simply a rational person. To believe in something I require evidence and if evidence isn’t provided, I’m not going to believe in that thing. When I was about 8, it became clear to me that what I had been told about God made as much sense as what I had been told about Santa Claus. And that was the end of it. Everything since, like my academic training, has just confirmed the suspicion I had when I was a child. HC: So as far as people who are religious: are they less intelligent? JM: (hesitantly) That’s an interesting question. Certainly there are people who are very intelligent, who are scientists, who happen to believe in God. There are also different kinds of beliefs. You can believe in a God that you can pray to, who hates homosexuals, tells you to vote for George Bush, and all that kind of stuff, right? But we also can have more subtle beliefs. On the question of intelligence, there are studies that show that religiosity (the tendency for people to be religious), which is abnormally high in the U.S., is inversely correlated with IQ. I don’t know how good these studies are but if you’re interested, Richard Dawkins talks about them in his lectures on atheism. HC: Alright, so why do think it is important for people to adopt your proposed way of thinking? JM: Well that gets to another controversial question: whether religion is useful or dangerous. There are people lately who have forcefully argued that religion is in fact dangerous. HC: All religions included of course. Could an example be terrorists? JM: You’re right, terrorism comes to mind. This reminds me of a billboard with the twin towers still up; the caption was “Imagine no religion”. But, there is plenty of terrorism that is not motivated by religion. So is religion dangerous or not? Yes, people have done the worst things in the name of religion, but people also do the most wonderful things acting on their faith. But I really do not believe that you need any kind of religious faith to be a good person and act morally though. The idea that you need to be religious to be a moral person, is false and totally outrageous. The bottom line is that any system that relies on ignorance, irrationality, and superstition, you ought to be very suspicious of. HC: And what could that type of thinking affect? JM: Well because we live in a complex and technologically advanced society, and face important problems, this requires that we be able to carefully weight evidence to make up our minds about critical issues. This is something that doesn’t come naturally and we have to be trained to do it from very early on. And faith is basically saying don’t think critically, disregard evidence, etc. so it fosters the wrong kind of thinking in my opinion, and that can have consequences in the real world. HC: This talk of evidence reminds me of the scientific method. Would you say that is faith’s opposite? JM: That brings up another big question: the extent to which science and religion are compatible. Different viewpoints on this question range from the two being perfectly compatible to them being deeply incompatible. My personal view, for what it’s worth, is that they are incompatible. They don’t just clash on specific issues like say, evolution or cosmology, but I think that they are two fundamentally different ways of trying to understand the world. HC: So are you suggesting that everyone goes cold turkey as far as religion and their beliefs? JM: No, that’s not nice or reasonable. But take for example the evolution versus creationism debate. If what people believed was a reflection of the best that science has to offer, these issues would not arise. People should be free to believe what they want, but this could happen naturally, if science had the place it should have in society. Would the world be a better place if we didn’t have that kind of irrationality? Probably.