RIHA Core Themes
(1) Religion, Progress, and Modernity
The idea of progress emerged in human history with linkages to religiously-derived concepts and convictions. How essential or enduring are these connections? These linkages include: the influence of religious eschatology, the belief in the sacredness of human existence; the shaping of important secular ideas such as liberty, equality, and human rights; and the role of evolutionary thinking, Darwinian and otherwise, in framing ideas about progress.

(2) Christianity, Science, and Historical Consciousness
There has long been scholarly interest in the relationship of Christianity and the rise of modern science. This Core Theme seeks to broaden the discussion to include a cluster of roughly simultaneous innovations, ideas, and actions in the 15th -17th centuries: the emergence of historical consciousness, of quantitative approaches to science, of exploration made possible by innovative cartographic and navigational tools, even of the idea of constitutional government. What role—if any—did religion play in bringing about these innovations?

(3) Religion, Secularization, and Innovation
In the light of the growing interest in rethinking the meaning of
secular and secularization, how should we understand the interplay between religion and secularization? What meaning might we attach to the concepts of “disenchantment” and “re-enchantment,” as ways of understanding the possibilities of the postsecularist world?
(4) Religious Tradition as a Source of Innovation
Tradition and innovation are generally seen as opposites. But many of the greatest moments of innovation in human history have expressed themselves as movements of recovery. In what ways can the rediscovery and reinvigoration of older, traditional ideas or practices, particularly as embodied or encoded in aspects of religious life and worship, be a source of innovation, not only in religion but in social and political and intellectual life? 

(5) Religion and Social Innovation
What was the role of religion in the great reform movements of the last two centuries? How can we explain the close relationship between religion and the growth of humanitarianism, religion and the emergence of the antislavery impulse, and religion in the liberation of women? To what extent do such developments represent compelling examples of incontrovertible moral progress in history?

(6) Religion, Death, & Innovation
There is a profound relationship between the origins of settled habitations in human life and prior establishment of places of burial. Hence a good case can be made that funerary ritual is at the very basis of all civilized life. How do various beliefs about death, about the relationship between the dead and the living, and about the ways that a society sacralizes death, affect a society’s view of the future and the place of innovation—social, material, political, etc.?
(7) Religion and the Global South
Looking away from Europe at the rest of the world, we see a remarkable upsurge of religious activity, including countless examples of vigorous religious innovation throughout the rest of the world, as in the Pentecostal movement in global South, or the shift of world Anglicanism toward Africa and Asia. What forms of social and political innovation in those areas will likely flow from these religious changes?

(8) The Global South’s Influence on the West
What are the effects of these changes in the Global South upon the West? Will they challenge fundamental premises of Western secular life? What is the likely future of North-South partnerships like the Anglican Mission in the Americas? How will the effects of such partnerships play out in the politics and cultural attitudes of the developed West?

(9) Religion, Progress, and Historiography
Lord Acton noted that “the wisdom of divine rule appears not in the perfection but in the improvement of the world….History is the true demonstration of Religion.” If such Whiggish sentiments now seem implausible, it is nevertheless the case that serious questions about history and purpose remain tantalizingly unresolved. To what extent does all coherent historiographical practice make teleological assumptions, consciously or not? Is there any place for religious sensibilities in modern historiography and historical practice? If so, where and how should it manifest?

(10) Religion and Capitalism Revisited
After decades of critique, is there any truth left in the Weber thesis? Does it help to account, for example, for the volcanic growth of Protestant Christianity in South Korea? In what ways can we more accurately understand the relationship between Protestantism and capitalism, Catholicism and capitalism—and the connections, if any, between capitalism and Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and even Confucianism?

(11) The Representation of Religion by Its Enemies
Nearly all religious beliefs (particularly Christianity) have come under sustained violent attacks from intellectual, social, and political movements in the name of modernity, secularization, and enlightenment. How effectively have these religions responded to date to such intellectual challenges and violent assaults? In what ways might they respond in a more fruitful and constructive manner?

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