Religious rituals in a conference of study of religion

In the annual conference of European Association for the Study of Religion a yearly ritual is performed. The high priest of the ritual is Donald Wiebe, who gave again his presentation of the same topic, now titled “Alien knowledge in the modern research university: Pluralities of knowledge about religion”. In this ritual every year he and his colleague Luther Martin share their fear of outside influences in academia. The ritual is followed by an overly enthusiastic crowd, of which many come to listen only this one presentation, even if there are two other presentations in the same session. In the ritual a local, North American trauma is shared over and over again, and cheered by enchanted followers. For a Finnish researcher this ritual seems odd, to put it lightly. It resembles so much of the religious rituals we encounter in our research in the field. The fact that we should do our research as objectively as possible and use only scientific methods is an introductory-course-material. So why does this idea has to be presented every year, why it is so persistent? To understand this phenomena and origins of this ritual, one should get to know the american scene, from which the trauma rises. Maybe I will be able to explain this better in the years to come; now I just assume that the universities in North America face more real threath of outside influence, that the trauma will arise and will be persistent. The ritual is therefore a way to cope with the local trauma and situation, a psychological escape of one’s own fears. The enchanted crowd might be as fascinated as I am exactly about the oddity of this ritual and its place in a top-level scientific conference. Some might just be fascinated by the charismatic style of professor Wiebe, his style to speak is thought-provoking and therefore stirs up the idle mind that has slept through the conference. Others still might be just religious followers of this annual ritual, as far as I can tell. They don’t need other presentations, all what they need is opium, this interesting ritual to be performed to them.

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