Advancing creative and critical scholarship on religion in the world


Milton and the Syntax of Faith

In Book 11 of the Confessions, Augustine attempts to contemplate the mystery of time and, in particular, the temporal embeddedness that makes human beings particularly unqualified to comprehend eternity. In this lecture, I will be tracing the same double imperative in the poetry of John Milton: apprehension in and of time while in the hope […]

A Poetry Reading by Linda Gregerson

Linda Gregerson will read a selection of her poems prior to her lecture on Milton. This reading will be held in 300 Wheeler Hall at 2pm. Linda Gregerson is the author of six collections of poetry, most recently of Prodigal: New and Selected Poems (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2015). Among her earlier books, Magnetic North (2007) […]

Innocence and Violence: The Theology of a Gun Culture

Gun rights are typically identified with the Second Amendment – a legal, indeed constitutional, prerogative. This lecture argues that they are better understood as part of a culture and a belief system, centering on ideas of innocence and legitimate violence. I argue that this belief system is apparent in the contemporary gun culture’s confidence in […]

No One Gives Like the Guru

[This event will be held in 10 Stephens Hall, the Institute for South Asia Studies Conference Room] The theme of the saving power of the true guru is a common one in all of the religious traditions of India. In this talk, Cort explores early modern Digambar literature in Hindi that describes both the true […]

Death Be Not Proud: The Art of Holy Attention

The seventeenth-century French philosopher Nicolas Malebranche thought that philosophy could learn a valuable lesson from prayer, which teaches us how to attend to, await, and be open for what might happen next. In his book Death Be Not Proud (Chicago, 2016), Associate Professor of English and BCSR affiliated faculty member David Marno explores the precedents […]

Sacred Mountains: Abrahamic Religions and Musical Practices in the Mediterranean Area | Film Screening and Discussion

A documentary devoted to three pilgrimages to sacred mountains in the three Abrahamic religions. The work explores the role of music practices as a way of prayer and participation, and the importance of sound in shaping and giving meaning to places. The narrative is shaped around three episodes, each devoted to a different event, following […]

Transcending Institutions: A Medieval Way to Individual Freedom

In this talk, I will speak about a wide field of my current research which concerns the medieval phenomenon of (in German) “Institutionstranszendenz.” I intend to present some specific cases, combined with fundamental reflections about medieval freedom of individuals beyond and against the ecclesiastical rules — a freedom which is (paradoxically) legitimized by a direct […]

Leaving Religion and Losing Culture: Secular Conversion among Hispanic Freethinkers, Black Atheists, and Ex-Muslims

The line between religion and culture is difficult to draw. When people leave religion and become secular, they often sacrifice parts of their culture that have been tied to their religion. Relying on years of ethnographic research among avowedly secular people, Blankholm argues that becoming secular is a transformative process akin to conversion, and that […]

The "Protestant" Impulse in Modern Islamic Thought

The subject of this talk is Islamic modernism (1840-1940), the religio-political movement that first attempted to reconcile Islam in the modern period with western values, such as secularism, modern science, democracy, and women’s rights. This movement coincided with the dissolution of Ottoman, Mughal, and Safavid empires, and the consolidation of British and French rule in […]

Theology and Its Publics | Day One

This is a multi-day workshop; program details are forthcoming. In order to reorient theological study, the Berkeley Public Theology Program supports a broad and comparative investigation of the ways this study happens, past and present, in the U.S. and abroad. This investigation includes two annual workshops on comparative approaches to theology, with participants drawn from […]

Theology and Its Publics | Day Two

This is a multi-day workshop; program details are forthcoming. In order to reorient theological study, the Berkeley Public Theology Program supports a broad and comparative investigation of the ways this study happens, past and present, in the U.S. and abroad. This investigation includes two annual workshops on comparative approaches to theology, with participants drawn from […]

Are Atheists Tolerable? American Nonbelievers and Irreligious Freedom

Modern constructions of religious liberty often left atheists and nonbelievers out. Long after the ratification of the First Amendment, it remained an open question whether religious freedom included irreligious freedom. Counted an intolerable danger to the commonwealth, atheists were frequently denied equal rights and liberties; several states barred them from holding offices of public trust, […]

The Princess and the Prayer Scroll

This event will be held in 308A Doe Library, UC Berkeley. Byzantine private prayer scrolls are rare. Most date from the 13th or 14th centuries, and while several of them were written in gold ink only two of the preserved examples — neither of which has ever been published — contain any images. This paper […]

Pantheist Monstrosities: On Race, Gender, Divinity, and Dirt

Lecture details forthcoming. Mary-Jane Rubenstein is Professor of Religion at Wesleyan University; core faculty in the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program; and affiliated faculty in the Science and Society Program. She holds a B.A. in Religion and English from Williams College, an M.Phil. in Philosophical Theology from Cambridge University, and a Ph.D. in Philosophy […]

Religion and Humanitarianism in the New Age of Nationalism | Day One

Former assistant secretary of State for Human Rights John Shattuck will be the keynote speaker for this conference which brings together scholars, activists, and clergy from the United States and abroad, including: Bennett Freeman, Former Deputy Asst. Secretary for Human Rights, Former Senior VP for Sustainability Research & Policy, Calvert Investments George Rupp, Columbia University […]

The Late (Wild) Augustine | Day One

Invited international scholars will examine the work of Augustine, Bishop of Hippo Regius in North Africa, during the later Roman Empire. Participants will assess Augustine’s positions on original sin, grace, redemption and free will as they developed over the latter part of his life. Organized by Susanna Elm, Sidney H. Ehrman Professor of European History, […]

Religion and Humanitarianism in the New Age of Nationalism | Day Two

Former assistant secretary of State for Human Rights John Shattuck will be the keynote speaker for this conference which brings together scholars, activists, and clergy from the United States and abroad, including: Bennett Freeman, Former Deputy Asst. Secretary for Human Rights, Former Senior VP for Sustainability Research & Policy, Calvert Investments George Rupp, Columbia University […]

The Late (Wild) Augustine | Day Two

Invited international scholars will examine the work of Augustine, Bishop of Hippo Regius in North Africa, during the later Roman Empire. Participants will assess Augustine’s positions on original sin, grace, redemption and free will as they developed over the latter part of his life. Organized by Susanna Elm, Sidney H. Ehrman Professor of European History, […]

Politics of Religion in Post-Coup Turkey

While there remain many unanswered questions regarding the July 2016 coup attempt, most Turkish citizens seem to agree with the government that putschists were linked to Fethullah Gülen and the Hizmet movement. Although the government was decisive about what some call “de-Gülenification” in state and private sectors, the possibility of a coup organized by a […]

Towards a Subaltern History of the Crusades?

Lecture details are forthcoming. Christopher J. Tyerman is Professor of the History of the Crusades at Oxford University. Co-sponsored by the Department of History and the Program in Medieval Studies

How to Sing with Syriac Christians (and Why): Kinship, Politics, Liturgy, and Sound in the Dutch-Syriac Diaspora

To the extent that Middle Eastern Christians register in Euro-American public discourse at all, they are usually invoked either to justify military intervention in the Middle East for the sake of their “religious freedom,” or they are cited as potential exemptions to policies intended to restrict asylum-seekers from Muslim-majority countries. This binary frame rests on […]

A Sacred Space is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism

When the Bolsheviks set out to build a new world in the wake of the Russian Revolution, they expected religion to die off. Soviet power used a variety of tools — from education to propaganda to terror — to turn its vision of a Communist world without religion into reality. Yet even with its monopoly […]

A White Stone for Belfast: One Take on Religious Politics

This lecture asks what “religious” politics might be given the deconstruction of the concept of “religion” that has taken place over the past several decades, which has uncovered its implicit social, legal, and political agendas from early modernity forward. It takes as its starting point an experience Anglican sisters had in Belfast at the height […]

Religion and Language: Symposium & Roundtable

The symposium focuses on the relationship between religion and language, from three perspectives. One perspective concerns the legitimacy and the limits of applying human language to the divine. How is it possible to speak about the divine? Would it be more advantageous to enlarge our understanding of “language” to embrace any code of meaning, such […]

The Republic of Arabic Letters: Islam and the European Enlightenment

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a pioneering community of Christian scholars laid the groundwork for the modern Western understanding of Islamic civilization. These men produced the first accurate translation of the Qur’an into a European language, mapped the branches of the Islamic arts and sciences, and wrote Muslim history using Arabic sources. The Republic […]

Thinking about Science, Religion, and Secularism

This workshop gathers scholars whose work engages both the study of religion and secularism, and the study of modern science. These two fields of inquiry have contributed significantly to current academic understandings of modernity, yet are rarely put into explicit conversation. At the same time, questions of science and religion are regularly taken up by […]

Saba Mahmood Memorial

A celebration of Professor Saba Mahmood’s life and work will take place on Monday, April 30 from 4:30PM – 7:00PM at the David Brower Center (2150 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA 94704). Please join friends and family in remembering Dr. Mahmood.

Building Bridges in Interfaith Communities I: Sacrifice

This event is part of the Berkeley Public Theology Program series Sacred Texts, Public Talks. These meetings bring together diverse scholars to discuss key religious issues in a public setting. They are co-hosted in partnership with area organizations, and take place off the Berkeley campus. Their aim is to unsettle both sacred and secular commonplaces, […]

Building Bridges in Interfaith Communities II: Mercy

This event is part of the Berkeley Public Theology Program series Sacred Texts, Public Talks. These meetings bring together diverse scholars to discuss key religious issues in a public setting. They are co-hosted in partnership with area organizations, and take place off the Berkeley campus. Their aim is to unsettle both sacred and secular commonplaces, […]

Devotion and Relativity, Text and Context: New Frontiers of Jewish Literacy

This interdisciplinary workshop of scholars from North America, Israel, and Europe probes a central tension in Jewish Studies: a chasm typically separates those scholars who emphasize wider social and cultural contexts in which the Jewish experience has unfolded, from those whose work focuses more on the internal logic of Jewish texts and traditions. This workshop seeks […]

The Invention of God

Who invented God? And what does “inventing” a god mean? This talk will trace the evolution of the deity of the great monotheisms―Yhwh, God, or Allah―by tracing Israelite beliefs and their context from the Bronze Age to the end of the Old Testament period in the third century BCE. We will draw on a long […]