I am a religious historian with expertise in the textual and lived traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism and the tradition of ancestor worship in India. My past research focused on the development of ancestral ritual traditions from the oldest Indian religious texts to the ongoing practice of pilgrimage to Gaya, India to honor one’s ancestors and feed them in heaven and their next life. My current scholarly interest is in religious diversity in higher education. My current creative project is a novel that engages with the Jewish and Christian traditions of theodicy—how to reconcile the existence of an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good god with the existence of evil in the world—and the Jewish figure ha satan and the Christian Devil.
- Thomas Rhys Vickroy Teaching Award, 2014
- The Faculty NOMA of the Year, 2010, Notice of Multicultural Achievement Award (NOMA).
- Feeding the Dead: Ancestor Worship in Ancient India. Oxford (2013)
- Edited Volume: with David Geary and Abhishek Singh Amar, Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on a Contested Buddhist Site: Bodh Gaya Jataka. Routledge (2012)
- 2022. Jenny L. Small, Sachi Edwards, Matthew R. Sayers, Renee L. Bowling, Julia R. Collett, Simran Kaur-Colbert, J. Cody Nielsen) “Recognizing Christian Hegemony as Broader than Christian Privilege: Critical Religion Scholars Respond to Glanzer,” Religion & Education. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/15507394.2022.2139996
- 2022. J. Cody Nielsen, Sachi Edwards & Matthew R. Sayers “Interfaith?: A Critical Examination of the Interfaith Learning and Development (ILDT) Framework for Religious, Secular, and Spiritual Identities,” Journal of College and Character, 23:4, 283-294, DOI: 10.1080/2194587X.2022.2123830
- 2020. “Ancestor Worship.” In Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Edited by Knut A. Jacobsen, Helene Basu, and Vasudha Narayanan. Leiden: E. J. Brill.
- 2019. “The Story of Me: A Myth-understanding of Vocation.” In Hearing Vocation Differently: Meaning, Purpose, and Identity in the Multi-Faith Academy. Edited by David S. Cunningham. New York: Oxford University Press.
- 2018. “Ancestral Rites Re-worked: The Transition from Solemn to Domestic Modes of Feeding the Dead.” In Ritual Innovation: Strategic Interventions in South Asian Religion, 111–127. Edited by Amy Allocco and Brian Pennington. Albany: SUNY Press.
- 2018. “Funeral and Ancestral Offerings: antyeṣṭhi & śrāddha.” In The Oxford History of Hinduism: Hindu Law: A New History of Dharmasastra. Edited by Patrick Olivelle and Donald R. Davis. New York: Oxford University Press.
- 2016. “Early Gayā: The Emergence of Tīrthaśrāddha.” Religions of South Asia 10.1: 9–30.
- 2015. “The śrāddha: The Development of Ancestor Worship in Classical Hinduism.” Religion Compass.
- 2012. “Claiming Modes of Mediation in Ancient Hindu and Buddhist Ancestor Worship.” Journal of Ritual Studies 26.1 5–18.
- 2012. David Geary, Matthew R. Sayers, and Abhishek Singh Amar. “Introduction: The Multiple Lives of Bodh Gaya: Defining Views and Changing Perspectives.” In Cross Disciplinary Perspectives on a Contested Buddhist Site: Bodh Gaya Jataka, 1–9. Edited by David Geary, Matthew R. Sayers, and Abhishek Singh Amar. London: Routledge.
- 2012. “Gayā-Bodhgayā: The Origin of a Pilgrimage Complex.” In Cross Disciplinary Perspectives on a Contested Buddhist Site: Bodh Gaya Jataka, 13–28. Edited by David Geary, Matthew R. Sayers, and Abhishek Singh Amar. London: Routledge.
- 2010. “Gayā-Bodhgayā: The Origin of a Pilgrimage Complex.” Religions of South Asia 4.1: 9–25.
- 2006. “Death and Dying in Indian Religions: A Bibliography.” SAGAR: A South Asian Graduate Research Journal 16: 79–93.
- 2004. “The Early History of the Term śāstra.” SAGAR: A South Asian Graduate Research Journal 13: 23–52.
- 2003. “Review of Peter Robb, A History of India.” Journal of Asian Studies 62 (2): 310–311.
- 2003. “Review of D. N. Jha, The Myth of the Holy Cow.” Journal of Asian Studies 62 (1): 311–312.
- “Vocation and the Religiously (In)Different Student” Panel Speaker. At: 2022 NetVUE Conference: Called into Community: Vocation, Engagement, and Difference, March 25, 2022.
- “Should Vocation Play a Role in the Religious Studies Classroom?” Panel Speaker. At: Vocation, Teaching, and Religious Studies: An AAR/SBL Pre-Meeting, November 21, 2019.
- “Comparative Religion” A presentation to the Women’s Civic Club of Hershey, Hershey, PA. April 2, 2019.
- “Islam and Hinduism” A presentation at Derry Presbyterian Church, Hershey, PA. October 16, 2018.
- “A Conversational Debate: Does God Exist?” An informal debate between Dr. Matthew Sayers and Dr. Michael Kitchens, Lebanon Valley College, November 19, 2014.
- “The Kāmasūtra as a Religious Text” on the panel “Religion, Spirituality & Sexuality and Sexual Health,” part of the sEXPO …a conversation about sexuality and gender, Millersville University. April 18, 2014.
- “Feeding the Dead at Gayā: From the Buddha’s Enlightenment to a Modern Pilgrimage” an invited lecture at Hamilton College. November 4, 2013.
- “Feeding the Dead: Buddhist Influences on the Tradition of Ancestral Offerings in Ancient India,” part of the Buddhist Studies Forum at Harvard University. October 7, 2013.
- Panelist. “Secular Government: Bringing Believers into the Fold” at 2012 PA State Atheist Humanist Conference, Harrisburg, PA. September 29, 2012.
- “Feeding the Dead at Gayā: From the Buddha’s Enlightenment to a Modern Pilgrimage,” part of the South Asian Studies Colloquium at The University of Pennsylvania. February 23, 2012.
- “Let’s Meet at the akṣayavaṭa: Conjunction of Hindu and Buddhist Traditions at Bodhgayā,” part of the K. P. Jayaswal Research Institute Lecture Series at Patna University. June 24, 2011.
- “How Long Will I Stay in Heaven: The Sliding Soteriological Scale for the śrāddha” at Prognosis, Death, and Dying in South Asia at The University of Texas at Austin. February 6th and 7th, 2009.
- “A Broader Table: Bringing Missing Voices to the Interfaith Table” at the 2020 American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting online. December 7, 2020.
- “Should Vocation Play a Role in the Religious Studies Classroom?” at the 2019 American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting in San Diego, California. November 21, 2019.
- “REPUGNATIA VANA EST: Dissent, Dialogue, and Assimilation in the Papal Encyclicals” at the 92nd Annual Meeting of the Society for Values in Higher Education in Oberlin, Ohio. July 13–17, 2016.
- “Co-teaching across Multiple Boundaries: Hurdles, Successes, and the Future of Collaborative Teaching” at the 91st Annual Meeting of the Society for Values in Higher Education in Bowling Green, Kentucky. July 22–26, 2015.
- “Pilgrimage to Feed the Dead: The Earliest Connections between śrāddha and tīrtha” at 2015 American Oriental Society 225th Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. March 13–16, 2015.
- “An Atheist, an Interfaith Leader, and a Poor Person Walk into the Vatican” at the 90th Annual Meeting of the Society for Values in Higher Education in St. Paul, Minnesota. July 18, 2014.
- “Feeding the Dead at Gayā: From the Buddha’s Enlightenment to a Purānic Legend” at the 2013 American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. November 26, 2013.
- “The Development of Gayā as Pilgrimage Site: From Stray Reference to Mahātmyā” at The Annual Conference on South Asia in Madison, Wisconsin. October 23, 2011.
- “Escalating Ancestral Offerings: Classifying the Efficacy of Meats Used in the śrāddha” at 2011 American Oriental Society 221st Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois. March 11–14, 2011.
- “Synthesizing Ritual Classifications in Manu,” at 2010 American Oriental Society 220th Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois. March 12–15, 2010.
- “Claiming Modes of Mediation in Ancient Hindu and Buddhist Ancestor Worship” at 2009 American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting in Montreal, Canada. November 10, 2009.
- “Ancestral Rites Re-worked: The Transition from srauta to gṛhya Modes of Feeding the Dead” at The Conference on the Study of Religions of India at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan. June 18–21, 2009.
- “Brahmanical and Buddhist Contestation over the Householder Ideal” at The Conference on the Study of Religions of India at Maryville College in Maryville, Tennessee. September 11–14, 2008.
- “Let’s Meet at the akṣayavaṭa: Conjunction of Hindu and Buddhist Traditions at Bodhgayā” at XVth Congress of the International Association of Buddhist Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, June 23–28, 2008.
- “To “Know Thyself” You Must “Know Thine History” on the Vocation Matters Blog, hosted by the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE), November 3, 2020.
- “Twelve Ground Rules for Dialogue on Difference” on the Vocation Matters Blog, hosted by the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE), November 25, 2020.
- “Who and What Should I Believe?” on the Vocation Matters Blog, hosted by the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE), December 15, 2020.
- “A Call for Empathy and Honesty” on the Vocation Matters Blog, hosted by the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE), February 2, 2021.
- “A Skeptic’s Hope” on the Vocation Matters Blog, hosted by the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE), February 24, 2021.
- Co-host, “You and Your Faith” regular segment on “On Air with Laura LeBeau” 1270 WLBR-AM, October 2017 – July 2019.
- “On National Day of Prayer, make space for all religious traditions: As I See It.” Op-Ed for Patriot News. May 1, 2013.
- Encountering World Religions
- All the Religions You’ve Never Heard of
- Death, Dying, and Beyond
- Religious Diversity in America
- Evolutionary Controversy
- Race and Racism
- Encountering World Religions in London (short-term study abroad)
- Social Justice: Doing Right
- Critical Issues in Social Justice: White Christian Supremacy
- Comparative Scripture