Scholars to bring range of perspectives to discussion on religious thought, human ideals

A three-day conference at the University of Chicago Divinity School will bring together scholars from around the world to explore the role of religious thought in shaping human ideals.

William Schweiker, a scholar of theological ethics, organized the conference, “Theological Reflection and the Pursuit of Ideals,” which runs from Sunday, May 8 to Tuesday, May 10 in Swift Hall.

Understanding the relationship between theology and ideals is especially crucial at a time when “the religions are sources of insight and goodness, but also, sadly, too often expressing themselves in less than humane ways,” said Schweiker, the Edward L. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor in the Divinity School and the College and Director of the Martin Marty Center. “What we’re really hoping to do is to provoke a discussion about the relationship between careful, critical, constructive religious thinking—that is, theology—and the ideals that human beings can and should pursue.”

The conference grew out of Schweiker’s interest in Christian humanism, a “strand of thought that is concerned with human flourishing and human excellence,” he explained. However, the speakers represent many religious traditions and perspectives.

Conference participants will examine a wide range of topics, including religion and art, climate change, moral philosophy, science and spirituality, and poetry. Italian philosopher and former European Parliament member Gianni Vattimo will deliver an opening address on religion in the “New Europe.”

Despite their different backgrounds, the speakers are united by a common set of questions and concerns, Schweiker said. “Can we reclaim a more humane way of understanding living the religious life? What [can religion] teach us about the depths and turmoil—but also the glory—of our humanity?”

“Theological Reflection and the Pursuit of Ideals” is free and open to the public. For more information and a full list of speakers, please visit