Alumni College

´╗┐Eclectic. Content rich.

Alumni inspired.

Religion In Contemporary America: It's Not Just About God

June 4-6
$300 per person, register online


For 2014, the topic of Alumni College will be "Religion In Contemporary America: It's Not Just About God." In a pluralistic society, where there is no religious profession held by a majority of the people (much less an official state religion), the role of religion is larger than belief and comprehends social forces as well. In this course, we will look at three aspects of our topic in lecture/discussion sessions. The first (Wednesday afternoon) considers what it means to believe and how the academic discipline of religion approaches that concept. The second (Thursday morning) examines, from the perspective of people who are engaged in this endeavor, how religious institutions actively promote societal welfare. The third (Thursday afternoon) acknowledges our pluralistic religiosity and looks at what spirituality means from a diverse set of viewpoints, many of which are too often seriously misunderstood. The lectures and discussions will be followed on Friday morning by parallel conferences in which participants have the opportunity to bring their own experience to the picture. A final plenary session on Friday morning will compare the points made in the conferences.

Program notes:

Leading off Alumni College 2014 on Wednesday afternoon from 1:30 to 5 p.m. will be Robert H. & Blanche Day Ellis Professor of Political Science & Humanities, Peter J. Steinberger. His talk will reflect the thinking of his just-published book, The Problem With God: Why Atheists, True Believers, and Even Agnostics Must All Be Wrong. In this book, he channels Kant and rejects (although not explicitly) the turtles all the way down. Professor Emeritus of Philosophy (1961-2002) William Peck '02 (hon) and Thomas Lamb Eliot Professor of Religion & Humanities Michael E. Foat '86 will discuss the issue of belief from Peter's and their own perspectives. Steinberger's book is available for purchase on Amazon or, even better, via your friendly Portland-located Reed College Bookstore (in person or mail). Buy a copy, read it, and bring it to Alumni College and get Peter to sign it. Learn more about Peter's book here.

Thursday morning  from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. will be four alumni speaking on religious organizations and societal welfare. All four walk the walk:

· Sarah Movius Schurr '80 is a Unitarian Universalist minister in Portland, Oregon and the UU minister on campus.
· David Kominsky '93 is the rabbi of Kehillah Hadashah ("a new community shul") in Portland.
· Elena Rose Vera '05 was a Reed Community Safety Officer and is currently studying at Thomas Starr King School ("a multi-religious, counter-oppressive theological education").
· Jessica Gerhardt '11 is a Youth Ministry Coordinator for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Thursday afternoon from 1:30 to 5 p.m., we turn our attention to the diversity of spirituality. We will begin with lectures by Associate Professor of Religion Kambiz GhaneaBassiri on Islam in America and by Assoicate Professor of Music Mark Burford on the spirituality of gospel music. Kambiz and Mark will then be joined by a panel of alumni representing a variety of approaches to spirituality.

Please note, a conclusive schedule (with locations) will be available upon arrival on campus.

If you have any questions not addressed above, please contact Jim Kahan '64 at

Reunions Paideia

June 4-7

No auditions are required for Reunions Paideia, where you have the chance to offer and explore seminars of interest on eclectic topics such as healing from Reed, career planning, mid-life transition, or sessions specifically for children. This program is in its second year and is organized by Rory Bowman '90. Alumni who would like to facilitate a 60-120 minute class are encouraged to do so by filling out the online proposal form at; as the (limited and finite schedule) fills, sessions shall be listed there.

Courses will take place at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, with a computer lab, seminar room, and other facilities available. For this year, suggested topics include healing from Reed, career planning, mid-life transition, or sessions specifically for children, but other topics are welcome.

For more information or to submit a course request or proposal, visit or send email to Rory Bowman '90 at