Author speaks out on causes of religious terrorism

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Dr. Scott Atran will deliver the first keynote address for the Ableson Religious Reconciliation Lecture at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 4 in the USAO Ballroom. Atran is an anthropologist who has interviewed and lived among known terrorists in order to better understand what drives a person to become violent in the name of religion. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call (405) 574-1362.

Is religion a biological urge? What makes a belief sacred? What motivates a person to kill in the name of God?

These are just a few of the questions that will be addressed by Dr. Scott Atran when he delivers the keynote address for the first Ableson Religious Reconciliation Lecture beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 4 in the USAO Ballroom at the University of Science and Arts.

The event is free and open to the public.

Atran has traveled the world interviewing and, in some cases, living among known terrorists in order to better understand the motivations of those who kill in the name of God.

He published his findings in a book titled, Talking to the Enemy: Faith, Brotherhood, and the (Un)Making of Terrorists (2010).

Dr. Zachary Simpson, assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies at USAO, chose Atran for the inaugural Ableson Lecture due to the breadth of his research as well as its timely message.

“Dr. Atran’s research focuses on how we come to form religious beliefs and communities, what motivates certain forms of religious sacrifice and the role of science and sacred values in society,” Simpson says.

“At the Ableson lecture, Atran will share his most recent research into suicide terrorism and the purpose of beliefs in society, both of which have been earned through first-hand field experience in Egypt, Indonesia, and Palestine.”

The Ableson Religious Reconciliation Lecture is named in honor of USAO Alumni Hall of Fame member U.S. Navy Captain Bradford Edward Ableson.

A visionary in religious reconciliation, an architect of the modern model for military chaplains and a chaplain to President Bill Clinton, Ableson graduated magna cum laude from USAO in 1980.

He went on to receive a master’s degree in pastoral counseling from Boston University, a master of divinity from Yale Divinity School in 1985 and a doctor of ministry from Columbia Theological Seminary in 1999.

Ableson served a 25-year naval career, providing combat ministry for the Marines during the first Gulf War, serving as an executive to the chief of Navy chaplains and, later, as command chaplain of the U.S. Strategic Command where he served as special advisor on matters of religion at the strategic level.

While at the Strategic Command, Ableson was named priest-in-residence at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral -- a position he held until his death at the age of 50 in 2009.

Dr. Dex Marble, vice-president for academic affairs at USAO, remembers Ableson with great pride.

“Brad was, without a doubt, one of the most outstanding graduates to ever attend USAO,” Marble says.

“After working his way through the university’s rigorous curriculum in just three years while graduating magna cum laude, he went on to distinguish himself as a scholar at some of the finest institutions in America before serving his country and, in the process, dramatically altering the function of the chaplaincy in the military.”

The endowed fund that supports the Ableson Chair was established by Ableson’s widow in 2009 and was later matched by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

The endowment provides for the establishment of the Ableson Religious Reconciliation chair, occupied by Simpson, as well as the funds for a speaker to come to USAO each year to speak on the topic of religious reconciliation.

More information about the event can be obtained by calling (405) 574-1362.

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