Philosophy in the City creates dialogue for religious diversity

Joy Webb

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A topic like religion is often avoided in conversation, due to the range of differing beliefs we have in the United States. However, religion was not too controversial or polarizing a subject for the UCCS Philosophy Department to tackle at this month’s Philosophy in the City.  

     Philosophy in the City is an event series that the philosophy department hosts on the first Friday of every month to create dialogue on relevant topics. Their latest talk, “Religious Diversity: The Promise and the Warning,” was held virtually on Feb. 5 and is still available to stream on YouTube. 

     Each event includes professors who are knowledgeable about the topic or idea that is being discussed, and this month attendees heard from Patrick D’Silva, assistant professor in the philosophy department.  

     The event was hosted by Jennifer Kling, also an assistant professor in the department, who helped facilitate questions and commentary. Anyone watching the live stream was able to ask questions in the comment section, and most were answered or discussed by D’Silva.  

     The conversation focused on the importance of embracing religious diversity and understanding and respecting other’s beliefs, even if they do not align with our own. D’Silva posed the question at the beginning, “How do we deal with diversity?”  

     D’Silva discussed the colonization of the U.S. and highlighted the clause in the First Amendment of the Constitution, which gives all citizens the right to practice religion freely. This clause came as a result of the conflict surrounding the lack of freedom of religion in Great Britain. However, they point out that the culture in the U.S. is still largely dominated by Christianity, the most accepted religion within our society.  

     D’Silva pointed out that American history is rooted from the colonization of our country for the purpose of practicing religion freely, yet the U.S. does not welcome religions that are not native to the American colonizers. 

     “There is this promise that I feel like I grew up hearing, and a lot of other people internalized as well, that [the U.S.] was supposed to be a place for everyone,” D’Silva said. “My own father immigrated here to America in the late 60s along with my grandparents and my uncles.” 

     D’Silva shared personal experience with having family that were immigrants to America and who practiced an uncommon religion.  

Coexist tattoo, proclaiming tolerance between religions. This version includes the Islamic Crescent for "C", the Buddhist Dharmachakra for "o", the Hindi Om for "e", the Jewish Star of David for "x", the Shinto Torii and the Taoist Taijitu for "i", the Celtic Triple Spiral representing paganism for "s", and the Christian Cross for "t".
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

     Though the discussion touched on quite a bit of religious history, D’Silva and Kling made the conversation engaging and interesting by using relatable examples from both historical and contemporary perspectives.  

     Intersectional topics like race and gender were also brought into the discussion. D’Silva highlighted how religion and politics are becoming more intertwined and that a religious text or doctrine (usually the Bible) is still of influence in our government and system.  

     D’Silva ended with the warning that if there is not more acceptance of religious diversity, then there will be greater polarization. He believes that honest conversation, listening to each other’s stories, being hypercritical citizens and making a shared agreement to move forward are possible solutions.  

     “I want [students] to get used to asking critical questions of every single thing that they are ever exposed to,” D’Silva said. “What are you doing to put yourself on that right direction?”  

     These events provide valuable insight and provoke thought processes and questions about ideas that might not otherwise be talked about.  

     The next Philosophy in the City event “Education: Theory and Policy,” will take place on March 5, and there will be two other events following that for the spring semester. Register here for upcoming Philosophy in the City discussions.