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World religions expert Stephen Prothero to lecture at ASU

Stephen Prothero
October 15, 2013

Are all religions simply different ways up the same mountain? Or is the key to religious tolerance found in better understanding differences?

Stephen Prothero, an award-winning and best-selling author, addresses these issues in a free public lecture at 1:30 p.m., Oct. 21, in the Old Main Carson Ballroom on the Tempe campus.

The lecture will draw from Prothero’s book, "God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," in which he argues that focusing more on the differences between religions will build religious tolerance.

“Both tolerance and respect are empty virtues until we actually understand whatever it is we are supposed to be tolerating or respecting,” Prothero says.

Prothero, a professor of religion at Boston University, has been described by Newsweek as “a world religions scholar with the soul of a late night comic.” His books have inspired a Time magazine cover story. He has also spoken on the need for religious literacy at the White House.

"With humor and wit, Prothero helps us appreciate why understanding the differences among religions is so crucial to negotiating the power and politics of religions in the contemporary world,” says Linell Cady, director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict.

Prothero’s best-selling books include "American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon," named one of the top religion books for 2003 by Publishers Weekly; the New York Times best-seller, "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know – and Doesn’t;" and "God Is Not One," which was named one of the top religion books of 2010 by the Huffington Post.

He also won the Best First Book award of the American Academy of Religion in 1997 for his study, "The White Buddhist: The Asian Odyssey of Henry Steel Olcott."

Prothero is passionate about the need to understand the influence of religion on culture and politics. In addition to his scholarly work, he writes for a wide variety of popular magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Newsweek, Slate, Salon, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and CNN’s Belief Blog.

He comments on religion for NPR and on television programs, including "The Colbert Report," "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "The O’Reilly Factor" and "The Today Show," and he was a major contributor to PBS’s video series, God in America.

He even managed to teach a world religions class entirely on Twitter.

Prothero’s was named a “Literary Light of 2012” by the Boston Public Library and a finalist for Best Religion Commentary by the Religion Newswriters Association in 2011 and 2012. In 2012 he was elected to the American Society for the Study of Religion and was named the Goldman Sachs Senior Fellow at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of American History.

The lecture is part of the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict’s “Religion and Conflict: Alternative Visions” public lecture series. This lecture series brings nationally and internationally recognized writers, scholars and policy experts concerned with the dynamics of religion and conflict, and strategies for resolution to ASU. Past lecturers in the series have included Peter Bergen, Elaine Pagels and Reza Aslan. The series is supported by a grant from philanthropist John Whiteman.

The lecture is free and open to the public but due to limited seating, reservations are suggested. For more information, see the center's website. To reserve seating, RSVP here or call 480-727-6736.