The American Academy of Religion's mission is to foster excellence in the academic study of religion and enhance the public understanding of religion.

In a world where religion plays so central a role in social, political, and economic events, as well as in the lives of communities and individuals, there is a critical need for ongoing reflection upon and understanding of religious traditions, issues, questions, and values. The AAR's mission is to promote such reflection through excellence in scholarship and teaching in the field of religion and engagement with different publics.




The AAR upholds the following values as core to its mission and operations:

Professional Responsibility 

The AAR believes the organization and its members have an obligation to treat others honestly, fairly, and with dignity; to maintain integrity and accountability in all professional interactions; and to diligently avoid any behavior that could exploit power or status differences.


The AAR recognizes the importance of diversity in teaching, research, and service as well as the scholarly representation of different cultures, social locations, perspectives, disability experiences, and professional standings. These enrich and enlarge our understanding of ourselves and our community. 


The AAR is committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment that values and respects the contributions of all its members. The AAR challenges practices that have intentionally or unintentionally excluded underrepresented scholars and scholarly perspectives. 


The AAR recognizes the inherent worth of each member of the organization and is committed to giving careful attention to the constellations of power, status, and privilege that affect interactions and relationships. Fostering respect requires acknowledging and accommodating the challenges and the collaborative value of lived difference to the academy, to the academic study of religion, and to civil society.

Free Inquiry 

The AAR believes that free inquiry undergirds discovery, expansion, and discussion of ideas in research, scholarship, and teaching; the AAR also believes free inquiry requires protection, especially for those at risk due to faculty status. By deepening and enriching our understanding through the generation of new questions, arguments, and lines of investigation, free inquiry fosters original and valuable insights.

Critical Examination 

The AAR understands critical examination as the process of intellectual evaluation in which all scholars, regardless of their approach to the study of religion, are trained. It entails weighing evidence and arguments fairly, with an open mind to all possibilities—including one’s own errors and failures of apprehension or interpretations.  


The AAR promotes a culture of openness, accountability, reflexivity, integrity, and honesty. Clarity of information and the effective flow of that information foster confidence in the fairness of the processes of the organization. Transparent organizational practices also serve to increase diversity and inclusion and invite broader membership involvement.

Academic Excellence 

Academic excellence encompasses all values held by the AAR, requiring the organization and its scholarly community to balance many things: scholarly orthodoxies and disciplinary innovations, collaboration and individual genius, rigor and inspiration, and leading and following. Academic excellence demands a continuous process of mining fields of study for fresh insights, engaging in rigorous intellectual exchanges with colleagues, and reevaluating one’s path.