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"How do we respect one another when we have a conversation across religious and philosophical divides?"

Beyond toleration: Having difficult conversations in the age of social media

College of Liberal Arts' Engaging the Power of Diversity series tackles religious divides

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"How do we respect one another when we have a conversation across religious and philosophical divides?"

Beyond toleration: Having difficult conversations in the age of social media

College of Liberal Arts' Engaging the Power of Diversity series tackles religious divides

Many of us have been told all our lives that it’s best not to bring up politics around our friends and family with different beliefs than our own. In our current polarized climate, however, some are beginning to question the wisdom of that advice.

Daniel Enrique Pérez, The College of Liberal Arts’ associate dean of diversity and inclusion, is one of those people. In his eyes, most of us live in “isolated physical and virtual spaces” that prevent us from engaging in conversations that allow us to better understand one another.

As part of an ongoing effort to encourage those conversations, the college will be hosting “Beyond Toleration: Finding Common Ground Across Religious and Philosophical Divides” Wednesday, Oct. 23. “Beyond Toleration” is part of The College of Liberal Art’s Engaging the Power of Diversity series and is co-sponsored by the Gender, Race and Identity program; Core Humanities; and the Department of History.

The event will feature a discussion about shared values among people of various religious and secular beliefs while avoiding debates about metaphysics, said Chris Church, assistant professor of history and one of the event’s organizers.

Church said he is looking for ways to foster meaningful conversations between people of different beliefs. He has been particularly concerned with these following recent incidents of hate speech on campus as well as the results of a campus climate survey that found significant numbers of respondents have “experienced exclusionary, intimidating and/or hostile conduct.”

“That’s what we want to model in this conversation,” he said. “How do we respect one another when we have a conversation across religious and philosophical divides? Instead of focusing just on how you’re different than me, let’s figure out where we agree.”

The discussion will be moderated by Church and include Ryan Bell, humanist chaplain, University of Southern California, Office of Religious and Spiritual Life; Mustafa Hadj Nacer, University professor of engineering and faculty advisor, University Muslim Students’ Association; Sean Savoy, director, Interfaith Spiritual Center, Renown Regional Medical Center; and Sara Zober, rabbi, Temple Sinai Reno.

“The goal is not sameness, but understanding and appreciation,” Bell said. “We may not be able to honestly appreciate every aspect of someone else's culture or religious belief. Some things may conflict so deeply with my beliefs that I cannot accept them. But the struggle to understand, when it is reciprocal, is a path to a much richer future.”

Something Bell, Church and Pérez all agree on is that merely tolerating others is not enough.

“Toleration is about putting up with someone else,” Church said. “It’s not about actually getting along with them or even necessarily acknowledging the shared humanity with that person.”

The organizers hope modeling a discussion based on shared values versus toleration will keep people talking after the event is over.

“We intentionally built in time for questions and answers from the audience but also a reception afterward where we hope people will continue the conversation,” Pérez said.

This event is free and open to the public. More information and tickets available online.

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