More than a Century of Leadership

Established in 1909, the American Academy of Religion (AAR) was originally intended to be an organization for professors and scholars of Biblical Studies. The association grew over the years to support those who study any and all religions, and today it is the world’s largest scholarly society dedicated to the academic study of religion.

The AAR's recently updated mission is to foster excellence in the academic study of religion and enhance the public understanding of religion. The AAR is not a faith-based organization. The expertise of its membership spans virtually all religions, and the AAR neither endorses nor condemns any religious belief or practice. An affiliate of Emory University, the AAR is registered as a 501(c)(3) organization with executive offices located in the Luce Center on Emory's campus in Atlanta, Georgia. 


The AAR Board of Directors consists of twelve members elected by the membership and the AAR Executive Director, who serves in a nonvoting role. The Board of Directors governs the AAR through strategic planning, policy development, assessment, and advocacy, and it oversees the work of the AAR's volunteer leadership groups as well as the executive staff. 

In addition to its Board of Directors, the AAR has five Committees of the Board—Audit, Executive, Finance, Nominations, and Program—and numerous Working Groups, such as awards juries, task forces, and standing committees.

The AAR bylaws outline the duties of each member of the AAR Board and those of the Committees of the Board and Working Groups.

Collaboration with SBL

The AAR is closely associated with the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL). In 1969 the two groups founded the Council for the Study of Religion, the first of several joint ventures. The following year they began to hold joint annual meetings, a practice that continued until 2008. Since 2011, the two groups have held concurrent annual meetings in the same city at the same time.


Timeline of AAR events:



Professor Ismar J. Peritz of Syracuse University conceives the idea of forming a new organization for professors and scholars of Biblical Studies to stimulate scholarship and teaching in religion. Professor Peritz along with three colleagues—Irving Wood of Smith College, Raymond C. Knox of Columbia University, and Olive Dutcher of Mount Holyoke College—found the Association of Biblical Instructors in American Colleges and Secondary Schools.


The association holds its inaugural annual program.


Members vote to change the organization's name to the National Association of Biblical Instructors, acquiring the acronym NABI ("prophet" in Hebrew).


The Journal of the National Association of Biblical Instructors, published twice a year by Oxford University Press (OUP), is launched.


NABI's journal is renamed the Journal of Bible and Religion and becomes a quarterly periodical.


The association, sparked by dramatic changes in the study of religion, recognizes the need for a transformation. Upon the recommendation of a Self-Study Committee, NABI becomes the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and is incorporated under this name the following year.


The Journal of Bible and Religion receives its present-day name, the Journal of the American Academy of Religion (JAAR).


The first monograph series with OUP is launched.


The AAR becomes a member of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), a private, nonprofit federation of 75 national scholarly organizations and the preeminent representative of American scholarship in the humanities and related social sciences.


The AAR joins the National Humanities Alliance (NHA), an advocacy coalition dedicated to advancing humanities education, research, preservation, and public programs.


Religious Studies News (RSN), the AAR's magazine, launches.


The AAR becomes a member of the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR), a worldwide body of member associations and affiliates dedicated to the scientific study of religion. RSN transitions to an online-only publication.


New bylaws are put in place, having undergone a full revision to align with nonprofit best practices.


The AAR launches Reading Religion (RR), its online book review publication.