Department ofReligious Studies


Faculty Updates

This quarter, Paul Crowley, S.J. published "Mystagogy and Mission: The Challenges of Nonbelief and the Task of Theology" in Theological Studies.

James Bennett published a book chapter titled "Pseudo Religion and Real Religion: The Modern Anticult Movement and Religious Freedom in America" in the book The Lively Experiment: Religious Toleration in America from Roger Williams to the Present (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015). He also hosted a gathering of the Bay Area American Religion Group at Santa Clara on May 29.

Oliver Putz established a collaboration with the Institute of Advance Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, Germany, on the theological dimensions of climate change in general, and in particular, theological positions on climate engineering as a response to climate change. In March of this year, Putz visited the IASS to give a lecture and plan future shared projects. He will return to Potsdam for a month during the summer for further work. Together with the work group of Dr. Mark Lawrence, Putz is planning a symposium on the issue to be held in the summer of 2016. On June 9, Putz presented a paper at a symposium on Astrotheology in Berkeley, CA, where he presented a theological argument for the likelihood of extraterrestrial intelligent life.

David Gray is currently finishing the second volume of his translation of Tsong Khapa's Illumination of the Hidden, an important work in Tibetan Buddhist scriptural hermeneutics. He will also be working this summer on editing the translation of Abhidnãnottaratantra, an Indian Buddhist scripture that he has been collaboratively translating over the past three years with a group of three other colleagues, with the support of 84,000 foundations.

Phillip Boo Riley participated in a panel on "The Art of Interreligious Dialogue" at USF on Sunday, May 17, 2015, presenting a comparison of two artists who have represented the Christian cross through symbols and narratives of non-Christian traditions: Marc Chagall's "White Crucifixion" (1938) and Blake Debassige's "Tree of Life" (1984). The panel was convened by USF's Manresa Gallery in conjunction with an exhibit titled, "Undercover: Liturgical Garb as Investment in Mystery," which featured objects used in rituals, including vestments, drawn from Bay Area Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Hindu and Muslim faith communities.

Under the guidance of David DeCosse, the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics received a second substantial grant to continue work in the area of conscience and Catholicism. This second grant will support a conference (and, he hopes, a book to come out of the conference) in February 2016 on the theme of conscience and Catholic health care. The conference will be co-sponsored by the Ethics Center and by the Catholic Health Association of the United States. DeCosse will be co-organizing the conference and editing the resulting volume. Margaret McLean and Lisa Fullam of JST will be contributing essays. The first grant supported a conference held in September 2014 on the theme of conscience and Catholicism. The proceedings from that conference, co-edited by DeCosse and Kristin Heyer, will be published this fall by Orbis with the title Conscience and Catholicism: Rights, Responsibilities, and Institutional Responses.

Elizabeth Drescher was a guest on the DRex show on KGO radio discussing the trend of "Nones" or those who do not identify with an established religion. She wrote an article in America magazine on the Scriptural practices of "Nones."

Other News

Joseph Alexander-Short, a 2014 Religious Studies major (and an International Studies, Communications and Political Science minor) was selected as alternate for a Fulbright Scholarship for a project in El Salvador on unaccompanied minors. Joe will receive a scholarship for his project if others are unable to accept their award. Congratulations Joe!

The most recent issue of Explore, the journal of Santa Clara University's Ignatian Center, features several members of the Religious Studies Department: Faculty member Sally Vance-Trembath and major Ian Layton both had articles along with Gina Pasquali having an art piece featured.

A group of 47 Religious Studies faculty, staff and friends attended the 16th annual trip to AT&T Park to see the world champion San Francisco Giants. Everyone had a great time seeing the Giants shut out the Miami Marlins, 6 to 0. Along with our usual crowd of RS Department attendees, we had College of Arts & Sciences friends from Art/Art History, Environmental Studies/Sciences, and Math/Computer Science.

Religious Studies Faculty and staff share what books they have been currently reading:

James Bennett
Damned Nation: Hell in American from the Revolution and Reconstruction, by Kathryn Gin Lum. A fascination and readable account of changing ideas about hell and their influence on events such as abolitionism and the Civil War.

David Gray
Sarah Jacoby's book Love and Liberation: Autobiographical Writings of the Tibetan Buddhist Visionary Sera Khandro (2014) and Jesper Sörensen's A Cognitive Theory of Magic (AltaMira Press 2006). For fun, I'm reading Kazuo Ishiguro's novel The Buried Giant (Knopf 2015).

Jan Giddings
Neither Beast nor God: The Dignity of the Human Person by Gilbert Meilaender. Superb writing! The author considers human dignity and personal dignity in light of his critical consideration of the 2008 President's Council of Bioethics.

David Pleins
Philip Goldberg, American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation--How Indian Spirituality Changed the West. (New York: Harmony Books, 2010). The title says it all! From the mystical to the zany, this book opens reader's eyes to the varied ways Hinduism has shaped American religious consciousness.


The end of this year brings a number of transitions for the Religious Studies faculty:

  Akiba Lerner received tenure and has been promoted to Associate Professor. He will be on a well-earned sabbatical for 2015-2016.

  Kristin Heyer has accepted a position as Professor of Ethics at Boston College, where she earned her Ph.D.

  Jim Bennett has accepted a three-year term as Associate Provost of Undergraduate Studies. He will continue to teach courses periodically in the department.

  After four years of outstanding service, Gary Macy is stepping down as chair to become the full time director of the Graduate Program in Pastoral Ministries.

  In the most anticipated news for faculty members, it was just announced that David Gray has been appointed Chair of the Religious Studies Department. Department members are excited about having David as their leader for the next few years.

Best wishes to each of these in their new roles!

Contact Us

David Gray, Department Chair

Vicky Gonzalez, Office Manager


Kenna Hall, 3rd Floor