scholar of religion, spirituality, and science in the modern world

how do humans cope with being human?

My name is Stefani Ruper, and I study how humans cope with being human in the modern world.

I ended up like this because I began suffering from panic attacks about dying and the meaning of life when I was four years old. Trying to sleep at night meant beating my head into the mattress, tearing my hair out in little clumps, and springing out of bed and pacing around my room like a caged animal.

This experience catapulted me into a full-blown, life-long obsession with some of our biggest and toughest questions: who are we? Why are we here? How are we affected by the need to have answers to these questions? How do these needs affect our communities and nations?

Now with eleven years of training in both the sciences and the humanities, I am completing at PhD in the religion and science cohort of the University of Oxford in England.

 And I know this: We live in an extremely unique moment. Traditional religion is on the decline. New spiritualities are born and die every day. Truth is unsteady and uncertain. We aren’t sure what to believe in any more, or why. Our entire culture is heaving under the weight of existential distress.

I am currently especially interested in how we relate to science amidst this landscape. Do we love it for its  seemingly unique allegiance to truth? Do we imbue it with its own existential prowess? Do we cling to its promises of clarity and progress? Do we turn it into something religious?  And – does that make us look down on religion? Are we radically over-simplifying what religion and science offer to us?  Do we have the ability to build beautiful relationships across these bridges so many of us think are burnt?

Having the courage to ask questions is the most important thing we can do for ourselves and the planet.

One of the pressing needs of our world today is for  nuance. Nearly everywhere you look you will find oversimplified views of science, religion, spirituality, god(s), humanity. I am a firm believer that intellectual rigour is key to our ability to come up with ideas that can actually make a difference. We desperately need more scholars in public discourse, and perhaps especially on these key questions about human nature, feeling, and belief. It is my mission in life to fill this gap.

Insofar as I am a scholar, I am only this because I believe having the courage to ask questions is the most important thing we can do for ourselves and the planet. I am not just here as a thinker but as a human who has known real darkness, who has peered over the edge of her sanity, who has struggled to make sense of things, who has failed, who has felt broken, who has learned how to put pieces back together, and who believes the thing that will ultimately save us is our indominable will—our refusal to give up or go gently into any good night.

It would be an honor if you would join me in the quest to better know ourselves and our world, so that we may become the best possible versions of ourselves. You can read some things I have written here, and can listen to or watch Naked Humanity. You can join in the discussion, ask questions, and make comments on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, or subscribe to occasional email updates.

With fire and love,