December 20, 2012

In this Issue:

  • 2012 Pluralism Project Photo Contest Results
  • Pluralism Project Staff Celebrate End of Semester
  • “The Dignity of Difference: Developing Theologies of Religious Pluralism and the Challenges of Leadership”
  • Pluralism Project Staff and Friends Screen Life of Pi
  • Faitheist Book Launch Celebrated at Harvard Divinity School
  • Pluralism Project Research Director Participates in Sacred Space Seminar
  • Center for the Study of World Religions Hosts Eboo Patel for Third Annual Greeley Lecture
  • Religious Literacy Roundtable at the Harvard Club of New York City
  • Pew Research Center Finds Rise of the “Nones”
  • In the News – Election Edition
  • Support the Pluralism Project!

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Cambridge, MA! The semester is wrapping up and what a busy one it has been! In October I made a trip to Sweden where I gave a lecture in memory of the Reverend Dr. Krister Stendahl, former BishopA bishop is an ordained minister who supervises life in a diocese, synod, or other broad region and possesses, among other things, the authority to ordain clergy to the ministry of the church. The Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, and Protest... of Stockholm and Dean of Harvard Divinity School. I spoke about the rise of the “Nones” in the United States (as seen in the findings of the recent Pew Forum study) and the increased participation of Humanists in the interfaith movement. These topics were of particular interest to the audience given that 11% of Sweden’s population identifies as atheistMultivalent terms that often are used to describe people (or their worldview) who reject the practices, dogma, and creeds of established religious traditions. Some people, on the other hand, may identify as Humanist and also consider this either a belief ..., although interest in religious pluralism in society is very strong.  A few days later, I gave introductory remarks in Andover ChapelA chapel is a place of worship, smaller than the sanctuary of a church or synagogue, or in an institutional setting such as a college or hospital. at Harvard Divinity School to mark the launch of Chris Stedman’s book Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground With the Religious. At Lowell House, we hosted the annual DiwaliDivali (also called Dipavali or Diwali) is the autumn festival of lights in the Hindu and Jain traditions. In the Hindu tradition, the festival is in honor of the Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of Good Fortune, who is invited to be present. In the Jain trad... celebration of the Hindu DharmaDharma means religion, religious duty, religious teaching. The word dharma comes from a Sanskrit root meaning “to uphold, support, bear,” thus dharma is that order of things which informs the whole world, from the laws of nature to the inner workings ... student group, with well over 100 in attendance in the masters’ residence living room! In November, I lectured on America’s changing religious landscape at Notre Dame College in Cleveland, with very good attendance from members of the Hindu and Muslim communities.

Finally, in December I spoke at the initial meeting of a working group put together by the Aspen Institute and co-chaired by Madeleine Albright and DavidDavid was the King of Israel (c. 1000 BCE) credited with uniting the many tribes of Israel into a centralized kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital. David is said to have planned for the Temple in Jerusalem, which was subsequently built by his son Solomon... Gergen to make practical suggestions for an “Inclusive America.” This was a very promising meeting, with participants from many religious communities and advocacy groups. It was clear that our own work mapping the “Interfaith Infrastructure” will be an enormously useful on-the-ground road map of what is already happening. The Aspen project seeks to lift up and amplify efforts like these. Watch for it in the news next summer when the white paper is released.

Many in the academic study of religion recently returned from the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, which took place this year in Chicago. In years past, the Pluralism Project staff and I have very much enjoyed hosting a reception at the AAR where we have an opportunity to check in with our affiliates and friends about developments in their research. Although we did not host a reception at the AAR this year, we’d still like to hear updates from affiliates and friends of the Project. Please click here to share with us your news.

Claude F. Jacobs, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and long-time Pluralism Project affiliate, did just that. Claude and his students continue to map the changing religious landscape of MetropolitanA Metropolitan is the title given to a bishop, used especially in the Orthodox family of churches today. Detroit. The Worldviews Seminar, an intensive summer program promoting interfaith dialogue and engagement, is now in its twelfth year. Claude and his colleagues have begun to collaborate with the Ecumenical Seminary of Detroit in this effort. Thanks, Claude, for sharing with us your update! We hope to hear from some more of you who are working with students and advancing the study of religion in your work as scholars and teachers.

We’re also interested in receiving feedback from friends of the Pluralism Project on how you use the resources on our website and what additional resources would be useful to you in your work. Take a moment to share with us your thoughts using this link.

We wish you all the best in this holiday season and we look forward to hearing from you!

Warmly,


2012 Pluralism Project Photo Contest Results

Congratulations to Stefanie Felix, of Seattle, WA, for her winning submission to the 2012 Pluralism Project Photo Contest. Stefanie’s photo, “SikhSikhs call their tradition the “Sikh Panth,” meaning the “community (panth) of the disciples of the Guru.” The tradition reveres a lineage of ten Gurus, beginning with Guru Nanak in the 16th century and coming to a clos. with the death of Guru Gob... Vigil II,” was taken during a service and candlelight vigil at GurdwaraThe gurdwara, “the gateway of the Guru,” is the place for community gathering and worship in the Sikh tradition. The Guru is the Adi Granth, the sacred scripture of the Sikh tradition. Each center will include a chamber where the Adi Granth is kept, a... SinghUpon initiation into the Khalsa, Sikh men assume the name Singh, “Lion.” SabhaSabha is a general term for an assembly, a council, or the hall in which such an assembly meets. in Renton, WA held a week after the tragic shootings at the gurdwara in Oak Creek, WI. Stefanie also produced a video of the event at the request of Faith Action Network. The video is available on the Faith Action Network website. We would also like to recognize two additional photographs which earned honorable mention: Kris Snibbe’s photo, “HoliHoli is a Hindu springtime festival, marked by rituals of revelry including “playing” with colored powder which celebrants throw on one another. In some temples Krishna participates by throwing the colors on his devotees. Holi falls on the first day o...,” captured a celebration of the Hindu festival of Holi at Harvard University and Muhi Kwaja’s photo, “Praying in Spirit I,” was taken during RamadanRamadan is the ninth lunar month during which the first revelation of the Qur’an came to Muhammad. Each year in this month, Muslims abstain from all food, drink, and sexual activity from dawn until sunset. They ar. also meant to make a conscious effort ... at the Dar Al Faruq Youth & Family Center in Minneapolis, MN.

These photos and other excellent submissions are featured on the Pluralism Project website. Click here to see the slideshow.


Pluralism Project Staff Celebrate End of Semester

Pluralism Project staff recently gathered to celebrate the end of the semester. Highlights from the gathering include research associate updates from work on the forth-coming web-based edition of On Common Ground: World Religions in America as well as a sneak peak at the web design for OCG. We look forward to sharing both with you in 2013!


“The Dignity of Difference: Developing Theologies of Religious Pluralism and the Challenges of Leadership”

A panel discussion on Tuesday, December 4th at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government featured discussion on “The Dignity of Difference: Developing Theologies of Religious Pluralism and the Challenges of Leadership. Panelists included Ali Asani, professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Culture at Harvard University; Diana Eck, professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies and Director of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University; and Lord Jonathan Sacks, Chief RabbiRabbi means “my master,” an authorized teacher or master of the Torah and the classical Jewish tradition. After the fall of the second Temple in 70 CE and the scattering of the Jewish people in exile, the role of the rabbi became very important in gat... of the United Kingdom for conversation with Ronald Heifetz, Co-Founder of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.


Pluralism Project Staff and Friends Screen Life of Pi

On Thursday, November 15, Pluralism Project staff and over seventy friends from Harvard Divinity School, the Harvard Interfaith Council, and the Harvard ChaplainsA chaplain is a member of the clergy who serves in a prison, a hospital, a college, or some other institution outside the context of the normal congregational life of a religious community. screened the film Life of Pi at the AMC Loews Theater on Boston Common. Directed by Academy Award Winner Ang Lee, Life of Pi is a 3-D adaptation of the 2001 novel by Yann Martel. The film was released on November 21st. Click here to read a recent blog post in the Huffington Post by RabbiRebbe is the title of the spiritual leader of the Hasidim, the pietist Jewish movement which began in 18th century Poland and continues today, with its honoring of holy teachers and its emphasis on prayer and devotion. Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, Director of the Department of Multifaith Studies at Rabbinical ReconstructionistThe Reconstructionist movement is a recent development in American Judaism, beginning with Mordecai M. Kaplan (1881 - 1982) who understood Judaism to be a civilization and culture, kept vibrant by constantly changing and adapting to new situations. The ce... College.


Faitheist Book Launch Celebrated at Harvard Divinity School

Over 100 people gathered in Andover Chapel on Friday, November 2nd to celebrate the launch of Chris Stedman’s book Faithest: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious. Diana Eck gave introductory remarks and Stedman, the assistant chaplainA chaplain is a member of the clergy who serves in a prison, a hospital, a college, or some other institution outside the context of the normal congregational life of a religious community. for the Harvard Humanist Community, read an excerpt from the book. The evening was organized by Harvard Divinity School Humanists, a student group on campus. Paul Escobar, one of the event organizers, is a 2012-2013 Pluralism Project research associate. (Photo of Chris StedmanChris Stedman (1987-) is an openly gay atheist, interfaith activist, and Assistant Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University. He is founder of the blog Non-Prophet Status and is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. Stedman is author of the 2012 mem... courtesy of Alex Dakoulas)


Pluralism Project Research Director Participates in Sacred Space Seminar

On October 25 & 26, research director Ellie Pierce participated in a Radcliffe Seminar, “Sacred Space in a Secular Nation of Believers.” The seminar explored sacred space in healthcare contexts, the military, and higher education. Sessions focused on specific cases, including the Ulfelder Healing Garden at Massachusetts General Hospital, one of three spaces at the hospital – in addition to the masjidMasjid (plural masajid) in Arabic means “place of prostration,” or the place where Muslims bow in prayer; in English, this word has become “mosque.” A masjid contains a prayer hall in which there is a mihrab or prayer niche, and a minbar or pulpit... and chapel – set aside for prayerPrayer is the vocal or silent address to the Divine. It may consist of fixed words, spontaneous words, or rest in silence with no words at all. Some forms of prayer are accompanied with specific postures or gestures, while others are not. and/or reflection; the Tufts University Interfaith Center, home to the Muslim, ProtestantProtestant is a term used for the range of reform movements that broke with the Roman Catholic Church during the period called the Reformation. There are many branches of Protestantism, including the Lutherans, Anabaptists, Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists..., and Catholic chaplains, and is used by a range of student religious groups; and the U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel, designed with separate chapelsA chapel is a place of worship, smaller than the sanctuary of a church or synagogue, or in an institutional setting such as a college or hospital. for the Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant faiths. Today, the Cadet Chapel also houses an “all faiths room,” a newer Buddhist chapel (“the Vast Dharma Refuge Hall”), and, the most recent addition, a dedicated space near the building for Earth-Centered Spirituality, known as “Falcon CircleIn some Pagan traditions, a “circle” refers to the people who gather for a ritual. When standing in a circle, all the participants are able to see each other, with no one member elevated over any other. This practice is often felt to encourage egalita....” This engaging multidisciplinary seminar was organized by Wendy Cadge from Brandeis University, Alice Friedman from Wellesley College, and Karla Johnson, from the architectural firm Johnson Roberts Associates.


Center for the Study of World Religions Hosts Eboo Patel for Third Annual Greeley Lecture

On October 25th the Center for the Study of World Religions hosted Eboo Patel, founder and president of the Interfaith Youth Core, for the third annual DanaDana is a religious gift as well as the quality of liberality or generosity. In the Buddhist tradition, generosity is one of the six paramitas (“perfections”) that one cultivates on the bodhisattva path. The other perfections are. discipline, forbeara... McLean Greeley Lecture for Peace and Social Justice. Patel’s address was titled “New Rooms in the House of Religious Pluralism: EvangelicalsThe Greek word euangelion means “good news” and an evangelist is one who proclaims and shares the good news of Christ. Evangelism is the preaching and witnessing to that good news. Evangelicals are Christians who emphasize the personal experience of G... in the Interfaith Movement.” In his remarks Patel, author of the recently released Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America, called for increased participation of EvangelicalThe Greek word euangelion means “good news” and an evangelist is one who proclaims and shares the good news of Christ. Evangelism is the preaching and witnessing to that good news. Evangelicals are Christians who emphasize the personal experience of G... Christians in the interfaith movement, change he argues will only be brought about when “new rooms” are added to existing spaces in a movement shaped by theological liberals and political progressives. A video of Patel’s lecture is available on the Harvard Divinity School website.

The Interfaith Youth Core is gearing up to host an Interfaith Leadership Institute in Atlanta, GA from January 25-27th. To learn more about the upcoming leadership opportunity for college students, click here.


Religious Literacy Roundtable at the Harvard Club of New York City

On October 4, the Foundation for Religious Literacy and the Coexist Foundation co-sponsored a Religious Literacy Roundtable at the Harvard Club of New York City.  The Roundtable brought together representatives from diverse schools, groups, and organizations engaged in building religious literacy. Research Director Ellie Pierce, as well as two Pluralism Project alumnae, Dr. Marcia Beauchamp (now of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation) and Rev. Chloe Breyer (now of the Interfaith Center of New York), were among the participants. Together, the group discussed current projects and prospects for religious literacy, with an emphasis on information-sharing and collaboration. A second Roundtable will be held in the coming months to build upon and extend the impact of these initial conversations.


Pew Research Center Finds Rise of the “Nones”

In a report published in October, the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life announced a record number of Americans—nearly one-fifth of the U.S. population—identifies as unaffiliated with a particular religion. Atheists and agnosticsA person who believes that it is impossible to know whether or not a god exists. One can be an agnostic theist or an agnostic atheist and the term is often seen to be seen as a kind of “middle ground between theism and atheism. make up roughly 6% percent of that number and those who describe themselves as having “no particular religious affiliation” comprise the remaining 14%. Research also indicates that this increase in the “nones” can be seen across educational, regional, economic, and age spectrums, although the number is higher (closer to 30%) among the millennial generation. Click here to read the full report.


In the News – Election Edition


Support the Pluralism Project!

If you like our work and would like to see it continue, please consider making a donation to the Pluralism Project. Donations can be made by check or online. Click here to read a letter from Dr. Diana Eck about the impact of our work or click here for information on how to make a donation by check or online. THANK YOU!