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4,500 religion scholars gather at AAR Annual Meeting in Atlanta

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By Ravi R. Ponangi

Atlanta, GA: More than 4,500 scholars from across the US and other countries converged on Atlanta recently and reviewed the latest research in the field of religion at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR). Accompanying them were more than 100 publishers, whose displays created one of the world’s largest bookstores specializing in religion.

The meeting sessions took place at the Marriott Marquis and Hyatt Regency. Only registered delegates were admitted to the sessions and the exhibit hall. There were 4,818 attendees at the meeting. As many as 1,020 papers were presented. There were 1,463 presenters and panelists and 595 sessions took place.

Kwok Pui Lan, the William F. Cole Professor of Christian Theology and Spirituality at the Episcopal Divinity School is the new president of the AAR.

The publishers’ exhibits were opened to the public. From small academic presses to large publishing houses, thousands of books and software titles were offered for sale.

The  program included sessions on Hindu teachings and its influence in the West, a panel discussion of interpreting Sri Ramakrishna, a discussion on “Are Americans really becoming Hindus?” a theme selected on the widely circulated story published in a magazine besides sessions on the Cultural/Islamic Center near Ground Zero; Sally Quinn on blogging about God; zoologist Frans de Waal on the connection between morality and primate behavior; the Marty Forum honoring Martin E. Marty Award winner Elaine Pagels; the black freedom struggle, featuring, among others, Julian Bond and former Mayor of Atlanta Shirley Franklin; the 2010 Templeton Prize winner Francisco J. Ayala on science and religion; and other sessions on a wide variety of topics.

More than half a dozen times in panel discussions, an impressive number of speakers mentioned about Philip Goldberg’s new book, American Veda released on November 2.  American Veda chronicles the fascinating history of India’s impact on Western culture and probes the subtle and powerful ways it has changed what people know about their minds, their bodies and their spirits. The book documents nothing less than a religious and spiritual revolution.

Founded in 1909, the American Academy of Religion is one of the leading professional associations for the study and teaching of religion, theology, and other cognate fields. This learned society attracts the expertise of theological educators, religious scholars, and other professionals — journalists, clergy, public policy leaders, social scientists, and even think-tanks — writing about and interested in the role of religion in public practice and private life.  Members from North America and throughout the world represent some 11,000 individuals and institutions affiliated with the AAR.  Students comprise about one-third of this membership base and actively participate in AAR sponsored annual meetings, regional conferences, teaching and publishing workshops, and additional programming.

From undergraduate to graduate school, student members benefit from the numerous and diverse resources the AAR offers.  Because students are invaluable to this organization, the AAR employs various venues to address the student life and professional development of this special population.