The Society for Philosophy of Religion, USA is meeting in Savannah, Georgia in February 2012. One of the sessions at that meeting will be a panel on Wesley Wildman's book, Religious Philosophy as Multidisciplinary Comparative Inquiry: Envisioning a Future for the Philosophy of Religion. Panel members are Richard Amesbury (Claremont School of Theology; pictured at left), Timothy Knepper (Drake University; center), and Kevin Schilbrack (Western Carolina University; right), with Wildman responding.
Prof. LeRon Shults from the University of Agder in Kristiansand, Norway, is addressing this theme in a lecture on Wednesday November 9, 2011, beginning at 4:00pm in room B19 in 745 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, 02215 (that's the big lecture room in the basement of the School of Theology).
The sciences of cognition and culture are profoundly transforming our understanding of the origins and functions of religion. At this point, theologians (that is, religious intellectuals in any religious tradition or pursuing secular academic forms of inquiry into religious topics) are scarcely aware of these research results in the scientific study of religion and haven't really begun to reflect on their implications for theological projects. But the question should be faced squarely: How should theologians respond to this new evidence about how human beings create gods and supernatural coalitions? What is theology after the birth of god?
Prof. LeRon Shults has invited me to travel to the University of Agder in Kristiansand, Norway, for several events in September. There will be a discussion seminar on my paper "Religion and Secularism" and an open class discussion on theology of religion focusing on chapter 7 of Religion Philosophy as Multidisciplinary Comparative Inquiry. In between, there is scheduled a public lecture entitled "What would Luther do? Religious extremism and violence in the Reformation and today." Sadly, this is a timely topic for a country Lutheran in its roots now grappling with the horrific extremist Christian violence that unfolded there only a few short weeks ago.
My colleague and friend Thomas Thangaraj write the memorial below on the occasion of the passing of his mentor and friend, Gordon D. Kaufman. Because Gordon was a friend of mine as well, I asked Thomas if he would be willing to share his thoughts more broadly and he agreed, so I am posting it on this site.
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Homage to My Guru, Dr. Gordon D. Kaufman (1925-2011)
By Dr. Thomas Thangaraj
Professor Emeritus of World Christianity
Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA
On hearing the news of the demise of Dr. Gordon D. Kaufman – my guru and my mentor – I could not but reminisce about how Gordon had influenced and shaped my career as a theologian, as a teacher, and as a person. I wrote about his contribution to theological thinking as such in 1996. (See: “Gordon D. Kaufman,” in A New Hand-Book of Christian Theologians, Donald W. Musser & Joseph L. Price, Eds., Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1996, pp. 253 -260. Two of his major works were published after 1996, viz., In the Beginning…Creativity (2004), and Jesus and Creativity (2006). In these two later works one can detect a more naturalistic and less anthropomorphic imaging of God than before). This homage to Kaufman, however, is on a personal level.
IBCSR's Spectrums Project is an ambitious attempt to apply what is known about ideological spectrums in politics and morality to the field of religious beliefs and practices. The Project's goal is twofold: firstly, to deepen understanding of why human beings adopt a spectrum of religious and theological viewpoints; and secondly, to discover strategies for mitigating the problems associated with religious extremism and polarized religious discourse.
IBCSR's main partners in this project are Dr. Catherine Caldwell Harris in Boston University's Psychology Department. The project's post-doctoral fellow is Dr. Aimee Radom, who recently completed a dissertation on a related topic through Boston University's Graduate School. Two doctoral students are working on the project as well: Connor Wood and Nicholas DiDonato. Both are earning their PhDs in the Religion and Science Program within Boston University's Graduate School. This project is funded by Boston University's School of Theology, the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, and the Institute for the Biocultural Study of Religion.
The first International Congress on Ecstatic Naturalism was held at Drew University on April 1-2, 2011. Organized by Robert Corrington (pictured at right), this inaugural edition of what will hopefully be an annual event offered an opportunity to celebrate Corrington and his influential ecstatic naturalist writings.
The highlight of the conference was an evening lecture by Corrington, in which he read the latest version of his unfolding categorial scheme. In dramatic fashion that called to mind Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico Philosophicus, the presentation took the form of reading numbered, nested propositions, moving through the various elements of his system. There was no introduction and no conclusion, just the scheme itself. A beautifully crafted dramatic event, it was a fitting celebration of Corrington's systematic philosophical imagination.
The Institute for the Biocultural Study of Religion (www.ibcsr.org) is a site that brings cutting-edge research in the scientific study of religion to the general public, journalists, and researchers in the field. The web team at IBCSR has been working hard to increase capacity and speed at the site, while continuing to producing first-rate content.
This book offers an interpretation of a diverse variety of religious and spiritual experiences, from the mundane to the shocking, from the terrifying to the sublime, and from the common to the exceptionally unusual. It carefully describes these experiences and offers a novel classification based on their neurological features and their internal qualities.
The book avoids the reductionistic oversimplifications so common in both religious and scientific literatures, and instead synthesizes perspectives from many disciplines into a compelling account of the meaning and value of religious and spiritual experiences in human life. The resulting interpretation does not assume a supernatural worldview, nor does it reject such experiences as totally delusory. Rather, the book frames religious and spiritual experiences as contributing to a spiritually positive affirmation of this-worldly existence.