Call for Papers

2020 Annual Meeting
October 23–25, 2020
Westin Convention Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


Religious Responses in a Challenging World: Spirituality, Worship, and Communal Life


The theme of the 2020 meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion is “Religion and Spirituality in a Frightening World.” In response, the Religious Research Association proposes the reverse of sorts in its annual meeting theme: Religious Responses in a Challenging World: Spirituality, Worship and Communal Life. In choosing this theme, the RRA seeks paper and session proposals that highlight the ways in which local congregations respond to both frightening times and societal challenges. A basic assumption of early psychologists and sociologists was that religion and religious practice had largely negative effects on both individuals and the larger society: increasing racial prejudice or authoritarianism, for example, or hindering a society’s adaptation and economic progress. More recent research, however, has uncovered numerous instances in which religious practices have proved beneficial for individuals as well as larger groups or societies. Yet, at the same time, there remains evidence of negative religious responses to challenging times. In many societies, religious practitioners are more likely to support undemocratic or authoritarian leaders, and religious extremists often use their faith to justify violence and terrorism.

These opposing influences of religious practice are primarily played out on local levels, such as in church congregations and prayer groups and in social movement organizations begun and/or sponsored by denominations. The RRA has long attempted to bridge the gap between academic researchers who study the positive and negative effects of religion on individuals and societies. As a result, the 2020 RRA annual meeting will explore how recent research on religious interaction and participation can be applied to assist denominations, congregations, and individuals as they face the challenges of today’s world, both globally and locally.

Presentations and panel sessions are welcome at this meeting on all topics related to the social dimensions of religion and particularly on topics related to applied and organizational aspects of religion, which reflect the traditional focus of the RRA. In addition to sharing research findings, this call also encourages presenters to share experiences, strategies, and best practices in disseminating research to applied audiences.

Key topics for the 2020 meeting include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • How does religious participation affect individual and group responses to societal challenges such as cross-national migration flows or global climate change?
  • How do religious interaction rituals reflect and influence adaptation to societal challenges? Which rituals and practices are beneficial or unhelpful and why?
  • Given the increasing number of religious “nones” in the West, what non-religious “proxy” groups or secular rituals have resulted in similar beneficial or harmful effects? How do these non-religious practices differ from religious practices in their responses to challenging times?
  • With the increased ethnic diversity of religious congregations in the United States, how are local congregations handle differences related to worship style, language, emotionalism, and other important aspects of communal religious life?
  • How do denominations and local congregations respond to the challenges of generational changes in the children of their long-time members, as well as in the children of their more recently arrived immigrant members?

Please submit individual paper proposals, author-meets-critics session, and full session proposals through the online portal at, choosing the RRA option on the submission form.

Submissions of sessions and individual paper proposals open on February 1, 2020.

Submissions close on April 30, 2020.

Decision notification is on May 31, 2020.

Please direct questions to the 2020 RRA Program Chair, Gina Zurlo, at