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 Bishop 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 atheist, although interest in religious pluralism in society is very strong.  A few days later, I gave introductory remarks in Andover Chapel 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 Diwali celebration of the Hindu Dharma 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 David 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 Metropolitan 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, “Sikh Vigil II,” was taken during a service and candlelight vigil at Gurdwara Singh Sabha 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, “Holi,” captured a celebration of the Hindu festival of Holi at Harvard University and Muhi Kwaja’s photo, “Praying in Spirit I,” was taken during Ramadan 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 Rabbi 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 Chaplains 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 Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, Director of the Department of Multifaith Studies at Rabbinical Reconstructionist 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 chaplain 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 Stedman 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 masjid and chapel – set aside for prayer and/or reflection; the Tufts University Interfaith Center, home to the Muslim, Protestant, 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 chapels 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 Circle.” 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 Dana McLean Greeley Lecture for Peace and Social Justice. Patel’s address was titled “New Rooms in the House of Religious Pluralism: Evangelicals 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 Evangelical 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 agnostics 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!