History of the CASR
The history of the Czech Association for the Study of Religions (CASR) began after the political and social change which took place in the satellite states of the former USSR in 1989. During the several years preceding this change, a group of mostly young academics from Brno who were dissatisfied with the situation in the field of study of religions formed a group. These academics started to prepare the foundations for a fundamentally different, ideologically unbiased approach to the study of religions. In April 1990, shortly after the democratization of the country, they were able to establish the Society for the Study of Religions, which brought together Czech and Slovak academics interested in the study of religions.
The first task of the new association was to define the basic orientation of the new academic discipline in the country and to define its immediate objectives as well as its long-term aims, with priority given to the institutionalization of the academic study of religions.
The effort to formulate the basic orientation of the academic study of religions in the Czech Republic inspired the first conference in the field held in Czechoslovakia, entitled The State and the Perspectives of Religious Studies in Czechoslovakia (19-21 September 1990). The conference participants agreed on the necessity of establishing contacts with other bodies at the level of international associations and organizations engaged in the academic study of religions. In the same year, the Czechoslovak association was adopted as a member of the International Association for the History of Religions (at the XVI IAHR Congress in Rome). Jan Heller, Prague scholar and Old Testament expert, was elected as the first president of the Czechoslovak Association.
Since then, close cooperation between Czech, Slovak and international organizations in the field of the study of religions has been developing. Cooperation has brought several important results such as two special IAHR conferences held in Brno (Religions in Contact, 22-26 August 1994; The Academic Study of Religions During the Cold War: Ideological and Theological Constraints, East and West, 9-13 August 1999; proceedings were published from both conferences). In 2008, the CASR co-organized the 8th annual conference of the European Association for the Study of Religions. In 2010, it co-organized the conference of the International Study of Religion in Central and Eastern Europe Association (ISORECEA).
The division of Czechoslovakia in 1993 also caused the association to divide, leading to the establishment of the independent Czech and Slovak associations. Břetislav Horyna was elected as the second president of the Czech association. In 2008, David Václavík was elected as the new president. The office of secretary was first held by Dalibor Papoušek, then by David Václavík, and is currently held by David Zbíral.
The Czech Association for the Study of Religions has continued to expand its work. It has gained institutional recognition by Czech universities and other institutes of higher education, developed international co-operation (after the establishment of EASR, it too became a member) and organized a number of activities in the Czech Republic. One of the most important of these is the publication, since 1993, of the journal Religio: Revue pro religionistiku (Religio: Journal for the Academic Study of Religions). Editorial, translation and research work are also of significance, in particular, the development of the book series entitled “Religionistika” (The Study of Religions), in which a number of works by Czech as well as foreign authors have been published (e.g. Luther M. Martin, William Paden, or Jacques Waardenburg), thanks to support from the Department for the Study of Religions, Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University.
At present, the Czech Association for the Study of Religions is engaged in a wide range of activities at the national and international level, both in the form of individual co-operation and international research projects. Members of virtually all departments for the study of religions in the Czech Republic are involved in the activities of the CASR.