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Psychology professor awarded Phi Kappa Phi Faculty Lectureship

Photo of Clay Routledge

Clay Routledge

Clay Routledge, professor of psychology, has been selected to give this year's Phi Kappa Phi Faculty Lectureship. The presentation, titled “Are Americans Really Becoming Less Religious?” is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 27, at 7 p.m. in the Memorial Union Plains room.

“There are many outstanding scholars on this campus doing important work, so it is a big honor to be selected to give the Phi Kappa Phi lecture,” Routledge said.

 Routledge’s talk is based on research discussed in his latest book that casts doubt on the common view that Americans are becoming less religious and more secular. In his presentation, Routledge will focus on the human need for meaning and he’ll discuss why many of the modern substitutes for traditional religions may not be meeting people's need for meaning.

“Certainly, traditional religious beliefs and identifications are dramatically in decline. However, my work focuses on the underlying cognitive and motivational processes that orient people toward religion and religious-like interests and I argue that this and related work paints a different picture about the religious lives of Americans,” he said. “Just because people are abandoning the faiths and traditions of their parents and grandparents doesn't mean they have lost their spiritual and religious inclinations. 

Routledge was nominated by faculty colleagues Verlin Hinsz, Michael Robinson, Kathryn Gordon and Benjamin Balas. They described him as “one of the leading scholars in the field of existential psychology – the study of how the awareness of self and death and questions about meaning in life influence people’s mental health, personal ambitions, social relations and cultural beliefs.”

Routledge, who joined the NDSU faculty in 2007, has published more than 100 scholarly papers, written two books and co-edited two books on existential psychology. He has been featured in such media outlets as The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, CBS News, ABC News, CNN, BBC News, Men’s Health and The New Yorker. He has appeared on national television programs such as “NBC Today” and podcasts such as National Public Radio’s “Hidden Brain.” Routledge also is an occasional opinion writer for the New York Times and writes a monthly column for Quillette. 

His work has received funding from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, John Templeton Foundation, Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and the Charles Koch Foundation.

Routledge earned his bachelor’s degree at Missouri Southern State University and his master’s degree and doctorate at the University of Missouri – Columbia.

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