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North American Undergraduate Conference on Religion and Philosophy

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Posted on Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Westminster College will host the North American Undergraduate Conference on Religion and Philosophy March 20 – 22. The theme of the conference is “What Has Reason to do with Faith?” The event is free and open to the public.

Organized by the Westminster College Department of Religion and Philosophy, the event will open at 5:30 p.m. Friday with the John Chaney Hanley Speech Scholarship Competition. At 7 p.m., Jeffrey Kripal, J. Newton Rayzor chair in philosophy and religious thought at Rice University, Texas, will focus his lecture on three texts: Phillip K. Dick's Valis, Whitley Strieber's Communion, and Barbara Ehrenreich's Living with a Wild God. Kripal will demonstrate how each author describes a life-changing encounter with what any earlier culture would have recognized as a deity or demon. A student symposium will follow Kripal’s discussion. All events on Friday will take place in the Witherspoon Lakeview Room, McKelvey Campus Center.

From 8:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 4 – 7 p.m. Saturday, students from Westminster College, King’s College, The College of Wooster, Medaille College, University of Toronto, Lebanon Valley College, Tufts University, Washington and Lee University, McDaniel College, Slippery Rock University, and University of Pittsburgh Johnstown, will present their religion and philosophy papers. At 1:15 p.m. in Mueller Theater, McKelvey Campus Center, Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair, associate professor and S.B.S.C. chair in Sikh studies at the University of Michigan, will raise the question whether encounter with the religious other is doomed to superficial meaning in which participants reflect the dominant European intellectual/academic monologue – or if there is a different way of thinking about encounter between religions even within that way of thinking. An awards dinner and student symposium will follow. 

From 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. Sunday, attending faculty will be available to discuss their areas of expertise win students and others. Lunch will follow.

The event is sponsored by Westminster College, St. Francis University, Lebanon Valley College, and the North American Association for the Study of Religion. It was also made possible by an endowment from the Vira I. Heinz Foundation coordinated by Dr. Bryan Rennie, the Vira I. Heinz Professor of Religion at Westminster College.

Prizes of $300 will be given to the three best student presentations within the categories of religion, philosophy, and overall.

Contact Rennie at with questions.