American Academy of Religion forgets what's important

Opinion

Ian Linden, director of policy at the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, gave this report on the American Academy of Religion's annual meeting Nov. 19-23 in San Francisco. The AAR is the world's largest gathering of religious scholars.

What do you call 10,000 theologians, religious studies professors and religious booksellers? A disputation of theologians? A proliferation of professors? A sub-angelic host?

About 10,000 people traveled to San Francisco for the 2011 American Academy of Religion annual jamboree.

I haven't seen so many elderly white-bearded men in one place before. It's enough to create an identity crisis. And if you have ever published a book on an even marginally religious topic, seeing about an acre of them all in one place is kind of depressing. How many commentaries on the Gospels can the secular world take before it capitulates and surrenders? Dropping them all on Richard Dawkins would bury him a mile under.

Faith plays a key role in global development

Opinion

The following is a speech given by Ian Linden, the director of policy of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, at the second of four seminars on faith and globalization. The initiative is a collaboration with the Fondazione per la Sussidiarietà, LUISS Guido Carli University in Rome, University of Bologna, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan and Ca' Foscari University in Venice to analyze the importance of religion in the interconnected world of the 21st century.

Read the first segment here.

It seems a long time since Jim Wolfensohn, then head of the World Bank, declared in 1999 that international development programs that ignored the importance of religion were doomed to failure. Religion for most of the world provided the core software of life's interpretative keys. If you hadn't figured that out, you might not have noticed that standard-issue development discourse often elicited polite incomprehension from its supposed beneficiaries. A lot of money went down the drain, assuming there was a drain, as a result.