Witherspoon Lecture

The faculty of the Department of Religious Studies established the Witherspoon Lectures in 1984 to honor their colleague Loy H. Witherspoon, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Religious Studies, for his twenty years of distinguished service at UNC Charlotte. It is the oldest and most prestigious endowed lecture series at UNC Charlotte. Dr. Witherspoon had continued to teach each semester as Professor Emeritus in the Department of Religious Studies. Hundreds of his friends and colleagues contributed to the fund that made this the first named, endowed lecture series at UNC Charlotte. Lectures have been published each year through a gift from Dr. William Pfischner.

Watch a slideshow about Dr. Witherspoon and the lecture series here.

Read past Loy H. Witherspoon lectures online through the J. Murray Atkins University History Witherspoon Lecture Series Collection. (link opens in new browser). The Atkins Oral History Collections include Ten interviews with Loy Witherspoon. (Link opens in a new browser).

The Department of Religious Studies also hosted the Alice Tate Lecture in Judaic Studies for many years until 2021. Information about that lecture and about Alice Tate can be found in the navigation to the left.

Celebrating nearly forty years of lectures

Witherspoon Lectures 2020 to present

2023-24 Jolyon Thomas, University of Pennsylvania, “Difficult Subjects: Religion and Education Under the US-Japan Alliance”

2022-23 Carolyn Chen, University of California Berkeley, “Work Pray Code: When Work Becomes Religion in Silicon Valley”

2021-22 Judith Weisenfeld, Princeton University, “Spiritual Madness: American Psychiatry, Race and Black Religions”

2020-21 Mark D. Jordan, Harvard Divinity School, “The Very Idea of Queen Religion”

Witherspoon Lectures 2010-2020

2019-20 Tanya Marie Luhrmann, Stanford University, “Shamans and Schizophrenia: How Religious Practice May Change Psychotic Experience

2018-19 John Stratton Hawley, Columbia University, “Paradise Lost? Krishna’s Forest Playground Confronts the 21st Century”

2017-18 David Nirenberg, University of Chicago, “Neighboring Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam”

2016-17 Jeffrey Kripal, Rice University, “Biological Gods: Science (Fiction) and Some Emergent Mythologies”

2015-16 Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Indiana University at Bloomington, “”The Impossibility of Religious Freedom

2014-15 Robert A. Orsi, Northwestern University, “Secrets of the Confessional: Children, the Sacrament of Penance, and the Making of 20th Century U.S. Catholicism”

2012-13 April DeConick, Rice University, “The Ancient New Age: How Gnostic Spirituality Revolutionized Religion in Antiquity”

2011-12 Frans B. M. de Waal, Emory University, “Morality Without Religion: Empathy, Fairness, and Prosocial Primates”

2010-2011 Michael E. Stone, Hebrew University. “Secret Books and Secret Traditions of Ancient Judaism”

Witherspoon Lectures 2000-2010

2009-10 Elizabeth A. Clark, Duke University, “What’s the Matter with Marriage? Some Early Christian Answers”

2008-09 Jonathan Z. Smith, University of Chicago, “Things Said/Things Done: The Relations of Myth and Ritual”

2007-08 Shimon Gibson, W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, “Jesus in Jerusalem: New Archaeological Discoveries”

2006-07 Brian Blount, Union Theological Seminary, “No Free Pass: An Apocalyptic Call for Prophetic Witness in the Book of Revelation”

2005-06 Bart Ehrman, UNC Chapel Hill, “Misquoting Jesus: Do We Have the Original New Testament?”

2004-05 Jack Sasson, Vanderbilt University, “Wooing Rebekah: How Isaac Got a Wife”

2003-04 Stanley Hauerwas, Duke University Divinity School, “Christians and the So-called State (We Are In) A Meditation on Loyalty after September 11, 2001

2002-03 Barbara Newman, Northwestern University, “What Does it Mean to Say I Saw?: On the Varieties of Visionary Experiences”

2001-02 John Williams, College of William and Mary, “Can the State be Virtuous? Muslim Political Philosophy, Old and New”

2000-01 Max Oelschlaeger, Northern Arizona University, “Caring for Creation: Religious Faith and the Challenge of Building a Sustainable World”

Witherspoon Lectures 1990-2000

1999-00 Donald S. Lopez, University of Michigan, “Searching for Shangri-La”

1998-99 Francis E. Peters, New York University, “Jerusalem: The Contested Inheritance”

1997-98 James H. Charlesworth, Princeton Theological Seminary, “Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls: What Do We Know After Fifty Years?”

1996-97 Katie G. Cannon, Temple University, “Translating Womanism into Pedagogical Praxis”

1995-96 Vine Deloria Jr, University of Colorado at Boulder, “Re-viewing Religious Knowledge”

1994-95 Thomas Keneally, University of California at Irvine, “Schindler’s List”

1993-94 Elaine Pagels, Princeton University, “Satan in the New Testament Gospels”

1992-93 James H. Cone, Union Theological Seminary, New York City, “Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare”

1991-92 Rosemary Radford Ruether, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, “Ecofeminism and Christian Theology: Symbolic and Social Connections between the Domination of Women and of Nature”

1990-91 Harvey G. Cox, Harvard University, “Religiopolis: Beyond the Secular City”

Witherspoon Lectures 1980-1990

1989-90 Wendy Doniger, University of Chicago, “Sexual Masquerades in the Hebrew Bible: Rachel and Tamar”

1988-89 William H. Poteat, Duke University, “The Banality of Evil: The Darkness at the Center”

1987-88 Martin E. Marty, University of Chicago, “In the Combat Zone Over American Values: The Vision of One America Versus the Vision of Many Americas”

1986-87 Michael J. Cook, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, “Evolving Jewish Views of Jesus”

1985-86 David L. Miller, Syracuse University, “The Question of the Book: Religion as Texture”

1984-85 Seyyed Hossein Nasr, George Washington University, “Religion and Religions: The Problem of Living in a Multi-religious World.”