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March 30, 2010

Author and Scholar Bryan Rennie Will Discuss the History of Religion

His talk is part of Lyman Coleman Guest Speaker series

Religious scholar and author Bryan Rennie will present the lecture “Mircea Eliade and the ‘Cognitive Science’ of Religion: Contradictory or Complementary Approaches to the History of Religions?” 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 1, in room 104 of Kirby Hall of Civil Rights.

Free and open to the public, the event is sponsored by the religious studies department under the auspices of the Lyman Coleman Fund.

Rennie describes his lecture: “Despite a small number of defenders who find much to appreciate in his work, the Romanian/American scholar, Mircea Eliade (1907-1986), is commonly presented as one of the chief exemplars of an earlier era of the history of religion whose uncritical methodology and overly-bookish, ‘humanistic,’ approach has not only been decisively superseded but has been revealed for its pernicious, quasi-imperialist ethnocentrism and inaccurate misrepresentation of religious behavior. On the other hand, the cognitive science of religion (despite a small number of skeptics) has recently been presented as the great empirical hope for finally, scientifically, and accurately explaining the origin and function of religious behavior. This might seem to make for a rather odd couple, but this paper seeks to demonstrate that they are in agreement on several decisive issues and thus to point out that the cognitive science of religion offers considerable support to that small number of Eliadean appreciators.”

Rennie is Vira I. Heinz Professor of Religion, and chair of the Department of Religion, History, Philosophy, and Classics at Westminster College. His books include Reconstructing Eliade: Making Sense of Religion (1996), Changing Religious Worlds: The Meaning and End of Mircea Eliade (2001), Mircea Eliade: A Critical Reader (2006), and The International Eliad (2007), which won an “Outstanding Academic Title” Choice award from the American Libraries Association.

He also has co-edited Religion, Terror, and Violence: Religious Studies Perspectives (with Philip Tite, 2008); published more than 20 journal articles and book chapters; and organized conference sessions for the American Academy of Religion, the International Association for the study of Religion, and the North American Association for the Study of Religion. He holds a Ph.D. in religious studies from the University of Edinburgh with a specialization in philosophy of religion.

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