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NEH Summer Workshop

for K-12 Teachers


 Ethics, Religion, and Civil Discourse

 June 22, 2012, 9am-3pm

Application deadline: April 1, 2012


Dr. Vincent F. Biondo, III

Email: vbiondo(at)csufresno.edu

Associate Professor and Chair ad interim

Department of Philosophy, Religious Studies, and Pre-Law

and Middle East Studies Program

Irmgard Coninx Scholar, Berlin, 2010

Fulbright Scholar to the UK, 2009

Cardiff University

Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK

CSU Fresno, Humanities Assistant Professor of the Year, 2009

Personal Statement:

In 1963 the Supreme Court of the United States in Abington v. Schempp recognized that understanding the world’s cultures and the role of religion in them is vital to national interests.  Justices Goldberg and Harlan clarified how this would occur when they wrote that there is a clear difference between teaching religion and teaching about religion.  As a professor of Western Religions at a public university I am committed to increasing knowledge and understanding about Judaism, Christianity, and Islam without indoctrinating students into a particular faith or ideology.  I do this using a History of Religions methodology that is comparative and multidisciplinary and examines how religious phenomena interact with their historical and political contexts.  Mircea Eliade popularized this approach in the United States and influenced a generation of scholars including my teacher at the University of California, Santa Barbara (1999-2005), Richard D. Hecht.  Another important scholar in this field was Ninian Smart who argued that scholarship pursued with empathy and epoché, or bracketing one’s own judgment, makes it possible to apply the leading social scientific methods of the twentieth century to increasing our understanding and appreciation of religion and its role in the world.  At the undergraduate level, an exploration of the richness and complexities of the world’s religions effectively sharpens critical thinking and communication skills.

Academic Training:

Ph.D. Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara (2005)
          (With Critical Theory coursework at UC Irvine and Intensive Arabic at The American University in Cairo)
M.A. Liberal Arts and Sciences, San Diego State University (1998)
          (Also enrolled in Teaching Credential Program)
B.A. Religious Studies, University of California, San Diego (1995)
          (With Pre-Med, Buddhism, and Economics coursework at UC Davis and University of London, SOAS)

Recent Publications:

Co-editor, Religion and Culture: Contemporary Practices and Perspectives (Fortress Press, February, 2012).

“Interfaith Dialogue as Reconciliation,” Gerald MacLean, ed., Britain and the Muslim World (Cambridge Scholars Press, January, 2011).


Co-editor, Religion and Everyday Life and Culture, Three Volumes, and author of chapter “Religion and Economy,” (Praeger, March, 2010). 


“Between Tribalism and Pluralism in the U.S. and Britain,” The Muslim World, Hartford Seminary, Volume 98, Number 4, October 2008, pp. 475-484.Publication Cover


 “The Architecture of Mosques in the U.S. and Britain,” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, Vol. 26, No. 3, December 2006, pp. 399-420.


Encyclopedia entries for Juan E. Campo, Jocelyne Cesari, Edward E. Curtis, IV, Wade Clark Roof and Mark Juergensmeyer.

Review of Mahmoud Ayoub, A Muslim View of Christianity, for Andrew Todd, ed., Crucible: Journal of Christian Social Ethics, 2010.

Course Offerings:

California State University, Fresno -- Religion in California, Comparative Religion, World Religions, Islam, Western Religions, Religion in America, Religion and Modernity, Introduction to the Study of Religion, Judaism, Religion and Society, Religion in Public Life, New Religious Movements

Florida State University -- Islam in the United States, Introduction to Islam, World Religions

University of California, Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, and UC Riverside -- Theory and Methods in the Study of Religion: Sacrifice, Introduction to Islam

Service Activities:

Academic Senate, Department Assessment Coordinator, President's Commission on Human Relations and Equity, Interfaith Scholar Weekend, Multifaith Exchange, Interfaith Alliance, Religious Studies Club advisor, Faculty Basketball Team co-founder

CSU Fresno, "The Healing Power of Religion" Interfaith Dialogue, September 30, 2010

(Prof. Biondo standing on far right next to Su Kapoor)


Student Resources:

In two pages Russell McCutcheon addresses "What is Religious Studies?" 

In Religious Literacy Stephen Prothero agrees with John Dewey that illiterate voters do not guarantee a successful democracy.  Take his Religious Literacy Quiz on page four of Bostonia (Spring 2007) to see where you stack up.

Here are the requirements for a Fresno State degree in Religious Studies, Philosophy, or Pre-Law from the Department of Philosophy.

Learn more about the new U.S. Department of Education minor program in Middle East Studies and our inaugural conference October 16-18, 2008, featuring a musical performance by the UCSB Middle East Ensemble.

The Carnegie Corporation once sponsored 100 Islamic Studies scholars.

Learn how to apply for a Fulbright.

The UNC Writing Center explains thesis statements, Chicago-style footnotes, and how to write papers for Religious Studies classes.

Learn about graduate programs in Religious Studies and the general discipline from the American Academy of Religion.

Google and Wikipedia are convenient resources for looking up non-controversial facts online.   They should not be used, however, in the study of religion, culture, or politics, which requires an analysis of the qualifications, agendas, and biases of the scholar and the scholar's financiers.  If the individual author's personal name, institutional affiliations, professional experiences, and funding sources are not clearly stated and easily accessible, navigate elsewhere.  Here is a guide from Cal library on how to evaluate websites.


A useful bibliography can be found at the end of each entry in the Encyclopedia of Religion on the BL shelf in the Reference Section of Madden Library.

In addition to browsing the new Henry Madden Library you can have any book in California delivered to the front desk in 24 hours using Link+Oxford University Press is a leading publisher of textbooks in Religious Studies.  I have found the quality of the scholarship described in the Princeton University Press Religion catalog (.pdf) to be fairly consistent.

If you find a more obscure book in the University of California Library system or more popular book from Amazon then you can request it via Interlibrary Loan.


Academic Search Premier and JSTOR have the most religion-related full-text journal articles for free download in Adobe's .pdf format.  (You may need to be within the campus computer network.  Journals that are "peer-reviewed" are more likely to be academic.)


The New York Times and Newsweek/Washington Post have religion sections online.  The BBC Religion website may be useful.

You can also search for religion-related news stories at The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, PBS Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, Religion Dispatches, and Trinity College Religion in the News.

From within the campus computer network you can search most of the nation's newspapers at LexisNexis.

Research Centers:

UC Santa Barbara Capps Center, USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, Boston College Boisi Center, Harvard Pluralism Project, Carnegie Council, Social Science Research CouncilCongressional Research Service

The First Amendment Center's Religion Research page introduces issues of national concern.

David Smock leads the Religion and Peacemaking program at the United States Institute of Peace.

Other Resources:

University of California Television online video lectures in the Humanities

British Library Sacred Texts, Gifford Lectures, Nobel Foundation, MacArthur Fellows, American Academy, British Academy

The Tony Blair Faith Foundation and Eboo Patel's Interfaith Youth Core are working together to eradicate malaria and save millions of children's lives.  Learn more about the UN Millennium Development Goals from Jeffrey Sachs' The Earth Institute.

For those confident in their faith, who want to strengthen local communities by solving common problems together, The World Conference of Religions for Peace  and The Inter Faith Network for the UK have provided free online guidebooks with ideas for how to start a local interfaith organization.

Varun Soni leads the USC Office of Religious Life, which has a helpful interfaith calendar.


Department of PhilosophyCalifornia State University, Fresno

2380 East Keats Ave. M/S MB105 ◘ Fresno, CA 93740-8024

Phone: (559) 278-6644 ◘ Fax: (559) 278-6484

Email: vbiondo--@--csufresno.edu

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Last updated September 19, 2011

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