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Violence and the Psychology of Religion: Celebrating the Work of Professor Volney Gay



At the end of the 2017-2018 Academic Year, Professor Volney P. Gay will retire after nearly 40 years of service at Vanderbilt University. There is no doubt that Dr. Gay's work and teaching has left an indelible mark on our community, both academic and beyond.


The Department of Religious Studies, Professor Gay's long-time home, would like to welcome you all to join us in celebration of his long and fruitful career. On 20 April 2018, Religious Studies will host a two-part event, Violence and the Psychology of Religion: Celebrating the Work of Professor Volney Gay.


On April 20 from 12:10pm to 1:30pm in Buttrick 123, Daniel Patte (Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies) will present a lunchtime address entitled "The Hidden Faces of Recipients of Medals of the Righteous (From Yad Vashem)." The event is free and open to the public. A catered lunch will be provided and served at 12:00pm. Should you wish to reserve a lunch, please RSVP to Annie Everett by April 17 .


On April 20 from 4:10pm to 6:00pm in Buttrick 101, Lee H. Butler, Jr., (Distinguished Service Professor of Theology and Psychology at the Chicago Theological Seminary) will present an evening lecture entitled "The Enduring Legacy of Strange Fruit." The event is free and open to the public, no RSVP required. 


The Department of Religious Studies looks forward to celebrating Dr. Gay's retirement and we hope to see you at our events!

Religious Studies. The academic study of religion on the campus of Vanderbilt University starts with the Department of Religious Studies. Our first and primary mission is to educate undergraduates in the nature, history, and function of different religious traditions, individually and comparatively. Care is taken to situate these religions in their cultural and social contexts, while examining the critical roles they play in shaping individual and group perspectives on the conduct of human affairs. The department offers a major in Religious Studies, a minor in Religious Studies, and an Honors track. At present, areas of concentration include (alphabetically) African-American Religious Traditions, Buddhism and Asian Religious Traditions, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Wherever possible, the appropriate languages are strongly encouraged, complicating the student’s understanding in ways impossible by any other method. The general approach to the study is initially descriptive, but multidisciplinary, while providing the student with a variety of analytical tools, theoretical perspectives, and practical methods for interpretation. The comparative component ensures that students recognize the commonalities of various religious traditions, thereby developing a sense of the abstract idea of generic ‘religion’ while maintaining a strong sense of the historical differences among traditions. Successful students should expect to emerge from the program with a set of analytical skills and disciplined perspectives on this all-important feature of human experience that will prepare them to thrive in an increasingly pluralistic, global community.

Islamic Studies and Arabic . The Department of Religious Studies works closely with the interdisciplinary faculty and curriculum constituting the minors in Islamic Studies and Arabic. Core courses for Islamic Studies are provided through Religious Studies, and all Arabic language and literature offerings originate in the Department of Religious Studies.

Jewish Studies. The department contributes both faculty and courses to the university’s widely recognized Jewish Studies program.

Asian Studies. With the development of Asian Studies as a separate program on the Vanderbilt campus, shared faculty are formally sanctioned to participate in the programming of Asian Studies with an increasing number of courses cross-listed.

Graduate Department of Religion. Religious Studies provides faculty and course support to the Graduate Department of Religion, primarily in the two area groups of ‘Historical Studies’ and ‘Critical Studies in Asian, Islamic, and Jewish Traditions.’ The expertise in history, theories, and methods provided by Religious Studies faculty ensure the integrity of the PhD program in the Graduate Department of Religion.

For more information on these various courses of study, please follow the links in the menu.