Keen readers (and viewers) of this blog have appreciated the alliterative nature of religious specialists, practitioners, observers, commentators and sociologists. If we look back to the conference in Exeter you will see that things haven’t changed much.
A run through the participants of this market will reveal a western approach to global issues. In 2000, relatively few of the self-selective group really knew what was going on beyond their field of research projects, funding and book plugging and signing. Nevertheless, there are some characters who have, over the years, made an impact on commentators outside the genre. Some of them have even been heard on the BBC on various discussions on secularisation, rational choice and other concocted terms. One of the lucky winners following the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales, was Linda Woodhead, who launched ‘relational religions’. The no-nonsense approach of Professor Steve Bruce from Aberdeen is much in demand, though he has his critics in some communities. The topics for the conference in Exeter were interesting and you can check up on all the speakers. You may also wish to come to a conclusion on the need to schlep it all the way to Exeter for a conference when these days you can do it all on the internet.
At a recent gathering of religious specialists in Edinburgh, we had no significant press release, no formal announcements, a lot of networking and a delightful variation on pass-the-parcel. This involved a huge circle of participants with an iPhone or an iPad logged in and then passed in a clockwise direction. Unfortunately, we had forgotten that when the music stopped, the reincarnation of Krishna’s girlfriend was forehanded and she was thus able to double blog, simultaneously, a string of rubbish to various newspapers which have remained in cyber-space and will likely remain there according to Hindu mystics until Shiva comes to bring the universe to its end. These predictions are a great source of joy to us religious specialists. Remember, theology is as relevant to the gods as ornithology is to birds (to borrow a metaphor from the late Richard Feynman). The links on both Steve Bruce and Linda Woodhead have been chosen without any particular sorting other than a lazy search on Google with a name and their university.