WECSOR Conference 2011

My head is still full of ideas, comments, theories, and connections from the American Academy of Religion’s  Western Region (WECSOR) meeting at Whittier College. It will be months for me to process all interesting conversations from this conference. However, here is an overview of those panels that I attended.

The Plenary Address by Professor Pierrette Hongagneu-Sotelo, University of Southern California, focus on her finding of religious and immigrant rights movement. It went beyond just showing how religious organizations are involved with social rights movement to how these movements can use religious rituals such as La Posada Sin Fronteras.

The joint session in Philosophy of Religion and Psychology, Culture, and Religion focused on Bringing God to Mind. Eric Kyle, The Claremont School of Theology, spoke on “The ‘Paradoxical-Transcendent’ Mind: Is a Cognitive-Neuroscientific Understanding of Mystical Thought Possible?” But this gets better with his use of Pseudo-Dionysius works such as On the Divine Names and Mystical Theology along with Daniel J. Siegel’s The Mindful Brains: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being and Jean Piaget’s theory of Cognitive Development. Basically building on the Neo-Piagetian ideas of cognitive development moving from particular knowledge to broader systems and then to holding different systems at the same time such as both an immanent and transcendent idea of mystical thought. I see this very much in line with the work of T. Thorn Coyle.

I attend two panels on ethics. The first one was on The Ethics of Religious Pluralism and Tolerance where Roy Whitaker, Claremont Graduate University, talked on “Martin Luther King Jr.’s Theory of Pluralism: Implications for Religious Tolerance.” One of Roy’s projects is to bring awareness to King’s work of reaching across to Jewish and Hindu religious communities (perhaps more but these were his examples for the talk). Roy’s ideas spark my own thoughts on the Pagan community and whether we want to be just tolerated or we want to be engaged. King did not just tolerate other religious communities but engaged them. I can see this happening for the Pagan community with the Hindu-American Society attendance of the 2011 PantheaCon. For the second panel on the next day (Common Foundations of Religion and Ethics) Michael Fegert, Claremont Graduate University, reinforced the idea of the human predicament with his “Normatively in Religious Pluralism: Historicism without Relativism.”  Will Mittendorf, Claremont Graduate University, in his “The Effects of Intra-religious Partnerships on Public Reason” worked on the problem of having religious idea within public reason showing how secular approaches from religious groups could still be genuine within public reason and still move forward with religious principles.   

There were many more speakers I listened to in these panels and I attended more panels such as Religion and the Arts (Negotiating Conceptual and Geographical Boundaries) and Ecology and Religion (Edges of Eco-theory).  However, as I said, I will be thinking on all this and see where it may take me.


About William Blumberg

I engage in religious philosophy within a Pagan context. I serve on the Board of Directors of Cherry Hill Seminary and the Conference on Current Pagan Studies.
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