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Westar Institute

- an Advocate for Literacy in Bible & Religion -

Religious Literacy

The separation of church & state is not a license to remain piously ignorant. Religion is the fourth "R" of basic knowledge.

Religious literacy is essential to

  • understanding world conflicts

  • comprehending cultural dissent

  • bringing religious claims into perspective

  • liberation from religious bullies

  • appreciating one's religious heritage

  • innoculation against fanaticism

The Westar Institute provides important information for making intelligent choices in a free society.



Why Westar Institute?

The name Westar is a symbol of scholarly research into Christian origins.

In the gospel of Matthew, magi (ancient Persian astrologers) travel west to Jerusalem and Bethlehem following a star and asking "Where is he...?" (Matt 2:1-2). The direction of Christian movement for most of history was also largely westward, from western Asia to Europe to the Americas. Now north American scholarship has taken the lead in many fields of research, including Bible and early Christianity. The name Westar reflects research focused on clarifying both ancient Christian sources and the religious heritage of modern Americans.

Westar Institute was founded in 1986 as an advocate for religious literacy. It is a scholarly "think tank." Through its conferences and publications, it addresses questions like the following:

  • Who was Jesus? What did he say and do --- really?

  • How did the Bible come into being? What was the impact of these writings on their original audience? Can a modern translation convey an accurate impression of the original texts?

  • What is the role of a scriptural canon? What criteria were used to form the New Testament? Can a collection of writings made more than 1000 years before the printing press have the same function in the age of electronic information? What other ancient sources are necessary to know to have an accurate impression of Christian origins?

  • What is the proper relation of Christians and Jews? Are the sources of tension between these traditions based on fundamental differences in principle or upon poorly informed prejudices? Are the impressions of Jews conveyed by Christian scriptures fact or misinformation?

  • Is violence an essential part of religion?

  • Does the Bible really predict that the world is coming to an end?

  • What are the American myths? What stories --- religious and secular --- do Americans really live by?

The Westar Institute was created to bring reputable scholars into dialogue with all persons interested in reclaiming their religious heritage. The academic study of religion has been well established in colleges and universities since the seventeenth century. The treasures of that scholarship, however, have been buried in tombs of unintelligible jargon. Westar proposes to translate that scholarship into the common idiom.

Westar is a private, non-profit research institute. It is not affiliated with any religious institution nor does it advocate a particular theological point of view.

Visit Westar Institute on-line.



Fellows: the Professional Base

Westar enlists well-trained scholars of religion to become Fellows of the Institute. 

Westar Fellows are teachers & researchers in leading colleges, universities, seminaries, churches, and synagogues. They have impeccable credentials and established records as authors and speakers. Fellows represent a broad spectrum of opinion in Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and independent thought.

Roster of active Westar Fellows.



Associates: The Public Base

Westar seeks as Associate members those who recognize the importance of religious literacy in a free democratic society. 

Religious literacy frees people from the tyranny of dogmatism and bigotry of narrow-mindedness. Only with a broad and substantial Associate membership can Westar hope to succeed in its goal of promoting religious literacy.

Associate members:

  • alert scholars to public concerns and perspectives

  • insure that the technical language of scholars is translated into terms that can readily be understood by non-specialists

  • participate in seminars and workshops for their own edification

  • are the primary means of enlisting other Associates in the work of the Institute

  • provide, through membership dues and contributions, the support base on which the work of the Institute depends.

Further information on Westar Associates.



- This page was revised 21 February 2023 -


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