MRB Interviews Editor, Samuel Loncar, about Becoming Human
MRB: Your new show is called, Becoming Human: A Podcast for a Species in Crisis. That sounds alarming! What do you mean, and who is this show for?
Samuel: It’s for people who find big questions about philosophy, religion, or science interesting, because that’s what the show is about, especially this first series, Origins. As to the crisis, it’s simple, but devastating in its consequences: we no longer know what it means to be human. So, we really are a species in crisis. The core concern of the show is to speak directly to that problem.
MRB: The description of the first season talks about an “atheist revolution” and mentions both Socrates and Jesus, which sounds provocative. Jesus and Socrates are not usually put together, and atheism seems like a strange way to connect them. Is that really what you’re doing in the show?
Samuel: In a sense, yes. Listeners will hear an argument, related to my own scholarship, about how we have misunderstood these categories, especially religion and atheism. Our conventional story about religion and atheism is both historically inaccurate and far less interesting than the real story. To put it simply, much of what we regard as Western culture is based on a series of religious revolutions in which new forms of atheism were essential players.
MRB: And how does Jesus fit into all this? Jesus is conventionally part of the history of religion, not the history of philosophy, right?
Samuel: That’s correct, because the academic study of philosophy is wedded to what I call the myth of secular philosophy, which leads to a novel and narrow idea of what philosophy is. Based on his own historical era and ideas, it’s important to recognize Jesus was a philosopher – that’s what the next episode, releasing tomorrow, is actually about – and that, as a result, he started what is pretty safe to say is one of the greatest philosophical revolutions in recorded history.
MRB: So, this sounds like an unusual podcast, to say the least. How do you see it among the other shows out there?
Samuel: Well, you’re probably right about that. Becoming Human shares my original scholarship and philosophy, which is unusual, and I’m not sure how many podcasts have done that. But it’s designed to be accessible and interesting to a wide range of people, unlike, say, the academic book I’m writing on the same subject. I treat the preparation, though, with the same rigor I treat researching any project, but the focus is on bringing exciting ideas to a broad audience.
MRB: Thanks, Samuel. If people are interested, where can they listen?
Samuel Loncar is a philosopher and scholar of religion who earned his PhD at Yale and is the Editor of the Marginalia Review of Books. The author of a number of scholarly and popular essays, he is the host of Becoming Human: A Podcast for a Species in Crisis, and recently finished a book, Philosophy as Religion: From Plato to Posthumanism.