by Craig Martin
We regret to share that Tim Murphy (Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of Alabama; Ph.D., University of California, Santa Cruz), passed away yesterday after a protracted battle with cystic fibrosis (The announcement from the University of Alabama Department of Religious Studies can be found here). Tim was the author of three books, Nietzsche, Metaphor, Religion (SUNY 2001), Representing Religion (Equinox Publishing 2007), and The Politics of Spirit (SUNY 2010), as well as numerous articles—including several that have appeared in the Bulletin over the years. He’s also appeared on the Bulletin blog a few times; in particular, see this two-part interview published in 2011, following the publication of Politics of Spirit.
I originally met Tim at a reception for the North American Association for the Study of Religion (NAASR) several years ago; I remember talking with him about Nietzsche and Hegel over appetizers and beers. We kept closely in touch on Facebook in between conferences, and I learned that Tim could be the fiercest critic—and I mean that in the best sense possible. We argued about anything and everything relevant to religion and critical theory, and Tim never let up or pulled his punches. He made me a better scholar as a result, always pushing me to make a better argument for my position (or abandon it for a stronger one).
The first book of his I read was Representing Religion, which made a strong impression on me. I loved it, and thought to myself: this guy understands and applies Derrida’s work better than anyone else in the study of religion. Tim did a brilliant job of deconstructing phenomenology’s essence/manifestation distinction, and then further developed this critique in The Politics of Spirit; the latter is, in my opinion, the most thorough and damning critique of phenomenology of religion to date.
Tim was one of the sharpest thinkers in religious studies, and I will miss him greatly.