Author Archives: Wesley Wildman

Theology Without Walls

Open Theology has just published its special themed section on “Theology Without Walls” (also known as Transreligious Theology). The themed section is entitled “Is Transreligious Theology Possible?” and edited by the inimitable Jerry Martin. My article in this collection is here. The Table of Contents is below and you can find full-text versions of all articles here.

Here’s the introduction to my contribution:

Transreligious theology is possible. We have a manifesto in Wilfred Cantwell Smith’s Toward a World Theology. We have a large number of books and articles (including several of my own). We even have a systematic theology in the form of Robert Neville’s three-volume Philosophical Theology. The question is no longer if transreligious theology can be done; now we need to talk concretely about how to do it. With the latter issue in mind, in what follows I briefly discuss five helpful interpretative angles on transreligious theology, five valuable resources for transreligious theology, and five daunting challenges facing transreligious theology. I conclude with reflections on what it might mean for transreligious theology to transcend religion altogether, to become postreligious theology or even nonreligious theology.

Here are the contents of the themed section.

  • “Introduction to the Topical Issue “Is Transreligious Theology Possible?” by Martin, Jerry L.
  • “Theology Without Walls: The Future of Transreligious Theology” by Wildman, Wesley J.
  • “Transreligious Theology as the Quest for Interreligious Wisdom: Defining by Defending, and Teaching Transreligious Theology” by Thatamanil, John J.
  • “Theology Without Walls: Sic et Non” by Feldmeier, Peter
  • “Myself, Only Moreso: Conditions for the Possibility of Transreligious Theology” by Hustwit, J. R.
  • “Interspiritual Theology as a Radical Potential for New Vistas in Theological Thought” by McEntee, Rory
  • “The Breadth of the Riches: Transreligious Theology, Particularity, and Universality, Sydnor” by Jon Paul
  • “Multiple Religious Orientation” by Diller, Jeanine
  • “Is Transreligious Theology Unavoidable in Interreligious Theology and Dialogue?” by Gustafson, Hans
  • “Trinitarian Theology between Religious Walls in the Writings of Raimon Panikkar” by Denny, Christopher
  • “A ‘No’ at the Core of Life: Doing Transreligious Theology with William James” by Weidenbaum, Jonathan
  • “Without Boundaries? Deriving Pluralist Theologies for Projects Using a Theology Without Walls” by Watson, Anthony J.

Modeling Religion Project Funded

The Institute for the Bio-Cultural Study of Religion is a world leader in applying computer simulation and modeling to the understanding of human religion. The Institute’s Simulating Religion Project has just received three years of generous funding support from the John Templeton Foundation. The funded project is called the Modeling Religion Project (MRP) and it is the sixth project within the umbrella of the Simulating Religion Project. I’ll be leading MRP, which involves IBCSR joining forces with colleagues at the Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center at Old Dominion University (VMASC), the University of Agder in Norway, Boston University, and Babson College in Boston. There is a suite of specialized consultants from around the world and a stellar advisory board to help keep the project on track with the best guidance imaginable.

MRP brings together simulation and modeling (SAM) experts and scientific study of religion (SSR) experts in a creative and ground-breaking collaboration. MRP aims to construct a simulation-development platform to support modeling the social dynamics of religion using cognitively complex agents. The Complex Learner Agent Simulation Platform (CLASP) will allow modelers to specify the cognitive, emotional, and social characteristics of agents, the causal architecture governing how those characteristics interact, the processes by which agents learn from one another, and the types of groups that agents can form—with no coding. This in turn will facilitate testing of theories of religion through virtual experimentation. A Civilizational Transformation Model (CTM) will be developed using CLASP to simulate the role of religion in large-scale civilizational change. The development of CTM will require conceptual breakthroughs in the integration of the major theories of religion and the interrelation of their postulated causal mechanisms in order to create the virtual minds of the model’s interacting agents. MRP includes a training component to introduce doctoral students and post-doctoral associates to the complexities of modeling religion using SAM techniques, and an outreach component to explain the benefits of SAM in SSR–including a documentary film on applying simulation and modeling to religion from the multi-talented Jenn Lindsay!

ExploringMyReligion.org is Officially Launched

emr_fbThe Institute for the Biocultural Study of Religion has built an instant-feedback survey site for supporting research in the scientific study of religion. The site is ExploringMyReligion.org and it is currently being launched with a promotional campaign on Facebook.

ExploringMyReligion offers a punchy blog on issues related to the scientific study of religion. It’s central mission is to present surveys and give feedback to registered users. User accounts are anonymous and all surveys are connected together by an ID number that produces uniquely complex and rich datasets, which are rare and valuable for understanding religion in all its many forms.

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An Ashes Test at Lords

qe2It is probably the most self-indulgent decision I have ever made: this summer I stopped off in London for a few days on my way to Spain in order to meet up with friend Christopher Southgate and spend a day at the home of cricket: Lords. We were to watch the beginning of the second test between Australia and England—the famous “Ashes” series. Though the test did not go well from an Australian point of view, honors were fairly even on the first day, so I had a great time, and I enjoyed Christopher’s company.

I had work to do on the trip, so I didn’t really go just for the cricket. But it is the day at the cricket that stays with me. That and the Queen of England. The Queen, you say? Why yes.

A big highlight of the day was the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Lords Cricket Ground. She met the players on the field and then sat in the Members’ Pavilion where everyone could see her while she watched the first couple of hours of the game. It was my first opportunity to lay my eyes on the great monarch, who is after all the head of state of my country of origin. The picture (from AP) shows her meeting Australian captain Michael Clarke, with coach Darren Lehmann on one side and vice-captain Brad Haddin on the other. She is a grand old lady and one of my favorite human beings.

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‘I just don’t understand those people!”

Nott Memorial at dusk, photo by Jan Kratochvila (from here)

Nott Memorial at dusk (photo by Jan Kratochvila)

I have recently returned from giving the Wold Lecture at Union College in Schenectady, New York. The broad theme was scientific perspectives on religious conflict and the specific focus was religious conflict due to ideological differences between liberals and conservatives. This was, in part, a report on the research I am pursuing in the Spectrums Project. My hosts were Wold Professor of Religious Studies Peter Bedford and Provost Therese McCarty. The lecture took place in the astonishing Nott Memorial (built in stages from 1858 through 1875 to 1904, and beautifully restored in the 1990s). The hospitality was wonderful, the students were fascinating, and the institutional environment struck me as the perfect liberal arts college setting.

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Has Philosophy of Religion a Future?

Redpath Museum at McGill University in Montreal Canada

Redpath Museum at McGill University in Montreal

I am heading to McGill University in Montreal for a symposium on the future of philosophy of religion. The April 25, 2013 event is organized by Jim Kanaris, a McGill philosopher of religion particularly interested in how the field is responding to and interacting with religious studies.

There have been quite a few conference events on the future of philosophy of religion in recent years. I suspect that this is a sign of a discipline having trouble finding its way. There are three reasons for the identity confusion that provokes pondering the future.

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Praeger Releases Science and the World’s Religions

cover-sor1smallcover-sor2smallcover-sor3smallPraeger has just released three volumes of new essays on Science and the World’s Religions. Each of these volumes has been in preparation for a couple of years and represents one aspect of the work of the Institute for the Biocultural Study of Religion. The volumes are edited by Patrick McNamara and Wesley J. Wildman, Founders of the Institute (find out more about the Institute here).

Science and the World’s Religions consists of three volumes of new essays, written by experts recruited specifically for this project, and targeted for the generally educated reader. Each essay addresses a vital existential, moral, or metaphysical issue that many thoughtful people ponder—an issue on which satisfying progress requires integrating scientific and religious insights. Educated people in many parts of the contemporary world, whether religious or not, struggle to unite their spiritual instincts and their scientific knowledge. Most people do not have the time or the opportunity to decide how to weave all of these threads of knowledge and belief together into a tapestry that can help describe and guide their lives. These volumes are aimed directly at this audience. They can function as workbooks for such readers, full of ideas that need to be digested slowly.

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Conference on Metaphysical and Religious Naturalism

iarptlogoThe Institute for American Religious and Philosophical Thought (IARPT; formerly HIARPT) is hosting its annual conference in Colorado Springs from June 11-15, 2012. The theme of the conference, according to the Call for Papers, “encompasses exploration, defense, and criticism of the various forms of metaphysical and/or religious naturalism that have been proposed in the past, are being argued for in the present, or are thought to be inviting possibilities for the future.” This theme is close to the heart of the intellectual interests of this remarkable group of intellectuals, which takes its rise from the Chicago School’s early twentieth-century naturalism, American pragmatism along the Harvard-Columbia axis, and process thought.

The group is thriving, having built upon many successful years associated with the lovely town of Highlands North Carolina and the priceless leadership of Creighton Peden. Almost everyone in the United States involved in pragmatism, naturalism, and religion has some connection with this group. it is also a close-knit group, with lots of friendships stretching across many years. This is partly because it is one of the few places where metaphysical conversations still have an honored place in American philosophical and theological discussion.

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Spirituality & Health Bibliography Update

smhbibThe famous Spirituality, Medicine, & Health Bibliography has been updated. This amazing bibliography, far and away the most comprehensive and best organized of its kind in the world, is the product of two generations of Boston University graduate students. The original effort, from the Fall of 2009, was created by Connor Wood, Eric Dorman, and Joel Daniels. The revised and expanded version, from the Fall of 2011, was created by Jenn Lindsay, Derrick Muwina, Stephanie Riley, and Lawrence A. Whitney. The new version features twice the entries, more annotations and abstracts, and the ability to download sections or all of the database in a format suitable for importing into bibliographic management programs. This is a priceless resource for anyone conducting research in the area of spirituality and health, as well as for members of the general public who want to catch up on the latest thinking in this complex and fast-moving area.

On the front page of the bibliography, the downloadable file formats are listed: BIB, RIS, and Zotero RDF. These files will open in most bibliography managers. There is also a downloadable rich-text file for a formatted bibliography using Chicago style; that will open in Microsoft Word and most other word processors.

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The ISSR Library Project

dasThe International Society for Science and Religion (ISSR) is bringing to a close its adventurous Library Project. This amazing venture reviewed all English-language writings in the religion-and-science field to construct a library of about 250 classics. These books were then specially bound and distributed as a complete collection to 150 libraries worldwide. As a member of the editorial board that made the selections, I can attest to how much work was involved in constructing the library. It was a serious re-education in the diversity of work that exists, and it presented a wonderful opportunity to solidify friendships with other board members. But the board’s work was the thin end of the wedge.

Project Director Dr. Pranab Das (right) had to run the entire project, including negotiations with publishers and printers on one end and navigating the wilds of the import-export rules of four dozen separate countries. All this while managing both ISSR and the agency funding the project, The John Templeton Foundation. He also produced the compendium volume explaining the library and reviewing every item within it. This is an amazing feat of administrative genius and everyone interested in religion-and-science scholarship is deeply in Pranab’s debt.

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