scholar of religion | theorist of the human condition
how do humans cope with being human?
My name is Stefani Ruper, and I am a theorist of the human condition and scholar of the modern religion landscape. Basically, I study what it means to be human and how people deal with it.
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? Why do we have spiritual needs, how do they affect us as individuals, and how do they affect our communities and nations?
I’ve spent decades in libraries and laboratories, travelling the world, and generally observing how life unfolds with this deeply existential perspective. 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, with a dissertation on the religious qualities of science
In my current scholarship, I am most interested in understanding the forms of spirituality that have arisen and are meeting people’s spiritual needs in the wake of the collapse of traditional religious forms. I look at theories of spirituality, how people form spiritual relationships with phenomena as supposedly antithetical to religion as science, and the ways in which spiritual language has become embedded in ‘secular’ discourse. I particularly enjoy studying this by analysing the materials produced by Instagram influencers. The spiritual is spilling over into the secular. It’s my job to figure out how, and why.
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 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 human nature, 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,