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West campus hosts panel-debate on religious differences


September 29, 2008

A night of debate and discussion about religious diversity and the challenges it presents is featured in “Religious Diversity and Public Discourse,” scheduled November 13 at Arizona State University’s West campus.

The event, free to the public, takes place in the campus University Center Building (UCB), La Sala, and will be moderated by Owen Anderson, assistant professor of philosophy and religion in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.  The discussion begins at 6:30 p.m.  The campus is located at 4701 West Thunderbird Road in Phoenix.  Visitor parking is $2 per hour.

“It is hard to go a day without seeing news about global and national conflict that can be traced to religious differences,” says Anderson, author of the just-released “The Clarity of God’s Existence: The Ethics of Belief After the Enlightenment.”  “We need to learn how to discuss these differences in a public format.”

The event will include three featured speakers: Surrendra Gangadean, Paradise Valley Community College professor of philosophy; Hoyt Tillman, ASU history professor; and Moses Moore, ASU professor of religious studies.

“We have invited scholars who represent three fields – philosophy, history and religious studies,” says Anderson.  “Surrendra studies ways that humans can learn to work together on common ground.  Professor Tillman is a historian who works on global issues, especially those connected with China.  Professor Moore is a scholar of religious studies who focuses on religion in America.”

Gangadean will discuss philosophical approaches to religious diversity, while Hoyt will focus on the historic and contemporary challenges between the U.S. and China.  Professor Moore will speak about religious diversity and its impact on American politics.

Co-sponsored by New College and the Arizona Humanities Council, the event has its roots in a religion forum moderated by Anderson years ago at the West campus that featured well known Buddhism scholar Robert Thurman, father of Hollywood actor Umma Thurman.  Similar forums focusing on religion in context with current issues followed, including one hosted by the campus philosophy club.  Anderson believes the events are important to all.

“These forums are timely and topical,” he says.  “Its important that we consider such questions as the challenges religious diversity presents to the contemporary world, or on what basis can there be unity, or even how public discourse can help in finding common ground between diverse religious traditions.

“We need to continue to provide such a forum, and I’m inspired by this kind of work, which is what ASU does very well – reaching out to the community.”

For information about “Religious Diversity and Public Discourse,” contact Anderson at 602-543-6027 or via email at oanderson@asu.edu.