Focus on Societies

American Academy of Religion

Within a context of free inquiry and critical examination, the Academy welcomes all disciplined reflection on religion—both from within and outside of communities of belief and practice—and seeks to enhance its broad public understanding. With some 9,000 members in North America and abroad, the Academy fosters excellence in scholarship and teaching through academic conferences and meetings, publications, and a variety of programs and member services.

The Academy was founded by four scholars in 1909 as the Association of Biblical Instructors in American Colleges and Secondary Schools. In 1922, the group changed its name to the National Association of Biblical Instructors (NABI, “prophet” in Hebrew) and launched a scholarly journal. By 1963, the association, sparked by dramatic changes in the study of religion, was ready for another transformation. Upon the recommendation of a Self-Study Committee, NABI became the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and was incorporated under this name in 1964. Two years later, the name of the journal was changed to the Journal of the American Academy of Religion (JAAR). Today the JAAR, published by Oxford University Press, is one of the preeminent scholarly journals in the fields of religious studies and theology.

The Academy’s annual meeting, held concurrently with the Society of Biblical Literature’s annual meeting, draws some 10,000 attendees from around the world who take part in more than 1,000 academic sessions, additional meetings, receptions, tours, and workshops. The Academy’s 10 regions also meet annually and provide networks for sharing of research among local scholars; professional development efforts through mentoring, workshops, and programs to enhance teaching skills; and opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students to present their work.

In addition to the JAAR, the Academy’s publishing programs include five book series published in partnership with Oxford University Press; monthly newsletters; the online magazine Religious Studies News; and other online publications, including the AAR Career Guide for Racial and Ethnic Minorities in the Profession and the AAR Guidelines for Teaching About Religion in K-12 Public Schools in the United States. The Academy also administers the American Lectures in the History of Religions, which have often culminated in the publication of the lectures through Columbia University Press.

The Academy’s programs and services for members include departmental consulting services; graduate and undergraduate surveys of the field; research, travel, and regional development grants; book awards; service and teaching awards; summer seminars for theological educators funded by the Henry Luce Foundation; and employment listings and interview services. With generous support from the Teagle Foundation, the Academy is currently conducting a national survey to determine the long-term impacts of pursuing an undergraduate major in religious studies.

Hundreds of members volunteer their time each year to further the work of the Academy, and to serve their fellow members, by standing for election as officers and members of the Board of Directors; serving on committees, working groups, task forces, and juries; leading annual meeting program units as chairs and steering committee members; and serving in one of the Academy’s ten regions as regional coordinators and officers. In addition to the Society of Biblical Literature, the Academy partners with more than thirty organizations and institutions, including the International Association for the History of Religions, the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning, and the North American Association for the Study of Religion, to provide opportunities for members to engage in scholarship and professional development with colleagues within the field of religious studies and across subfield specializations.

For more information on the American Academy of Religion, visit