For many years the American Academy of Religion met with the Society of Biblical Literature for their annual meetings. To the ordinary member this seemed to work very well. Then, some years ago, for some reason, the American Academy of Religion decided that it really did not want to meet with the Society of Biblical Literature anymore. Perhaps some of their members could not tolerate the Bible; who knows? It does not seem to matter now since the meetings are held jointly again. But for a number of years they were held separately.
Many academics are limited in the amount of travel that they can do. One trip to a conference a year paid for by the university seems to be standard. So professors had to choose one or the other conference to attend since they could not attend both.
When the split occurred one of my colleagues could not believe that I would chose to go to the SBL meetings rather than the AAR meetings since, according to him, AAR was the one true organization and the Society of Biblical Literature was an inferior organization. I have served for years on the program committee for one of the sections of the SBL and currently serve as the chair of the section. I disagree. None of that seemed to matter to him.
While I have attended some amazingly vapid presentations at SBL, the content, as a whole, seems to me to be more academically serious and rigorous than presentations at AAR, but perhaps I am too much an elitist snob. Over the coming days, while the AAR/SBL annual meetings are held, I will be highlighting some of the wonders of the American Academy of Religion particularly Mormon Studies. Since Mormon Studies now tends to view itself as a subset of Religious Studies, of which the AAR is the premier organization, one need look no further than the AAR to see how Mormon Studies is carried out by those in Religious Studies.