Keywords: Multidisciplinarity; Public Theology; Critical Religion; Comparative Religion; University of California Berkeley
As a premier public university, the lack of a department of religious studies at the University of California has been the subject of consternation since the early 1960's. This is not to say that no religion was taught at Berkeley - to take one example, among the first courses on Chinese religions offered in the North America were those of John Fryer in the 1890's. Yet Fryer's approach was to teach East Asian religions as specific forms of universal religion, a framework that has also influenced some influential approaches to religious studies. This article examines the recent founding of the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion, outlining the circumstances of its founding and its commitment to creating a new approach to religion that preserves the diverse and multiple approaches to the subject already found at Berkeley in a critical and selfreflexive manner. Specifically it engages the question of how the members of Berkeley's new Center have attempted to adjust the teaching of religious studies in light of recent critiques of the universality of religion.