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Teaching Religion in the Twenty-First Century

Tazim R. Kassam

The Lure of Religious Studies

What drew me into the study of religions? Chantings of the Rig Veda; the Buddha’s smile in serene meditation; the smoke and smell of incense at shrines; the muezzin’s piercing call to prayer at the crack of dawn; flickering candles and quiet gestures offered before the altar; shining black bodies leaping in wild dance to the beat of pounding drums; funeral processions of mourners crying, “Allahu Akbar” and “Rama Rama.

The rich liturgy, pageantry, and aesthetics of religious life lured me into the study of religions. These surfaces of enchantment extended an invitation to delve deeper into the mysteries of life as they were felt, expressed, and celebrated by different people. The desire to understand the evocative songs of Mirabai and the breathtaking dances of Bharata Natyam led to a study of Vedic scriptures, Indian philosophy, and Hindustani classical music. The exquisite design of Islamic art and architecture, the scintillating touches of Quran manuscripts, the rapt whirling of Turkish dervishes inspired a study of Islamic Civilization and the poetry of Sufi mystics such as Jalalludin Rumi and Ibn al-Arabi. The cryptic sayings and koans spoken by David Carradine in the popular television series Kung Fu kindled an interest in Zen Buddhism, the Analects of Confucius, and Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching.

Philosophy, art, architecture, music, ritual, literature, poetry, mysticism, metaphysics, cosmology, myth, community, culture, ethics, sacrifice, self-realization—religions appeared to encompass all of these. As William Scott Green says, “unlike art, politics, or even philosophy, religion tends to expand its reach, to be comprehensive in scope, and to exhibit an enormous range of expression. It makes demands on the entire human person and claims to provide definitive answers to the urgent questions of life and death.”1 Thus began a journey of a thousand steps.

Specializing in the History of Religions

When I set out to study religions, I did not want to focus on a particular religion but to study several religions concurrently. Specialization in Comparative Religion or what is now called History of Religions enabled me to do so. Looking back on my years at McGill University’s Faculty of Religious Studies in Montreal, I enjoyed three vital conditions: (a) to be able to encounter the diversity of religious expressions in terms of their own intrinsic interest; (b)-to do so within an academic, nonsectarian, and multicultural context; and (c)-to be required to entertain interdisciplinary perspectives and engage in critical reflections on the nature of religion.

To be able to study several religions in depth is to get an appreciation of the marvelous array of symbols, stories, rituals, and insights produced over the course of human history. It permits an enlarging experience of human cultural diversity in indigenous terms through rigorous language study and cultural immersion. At the same time, studying religions together helps raise fundamental theoretical questions. For instance, it complicates the meaning of the term “religion” which means different things to a Christian, a Buddhist, or an American Indian. Indeed, the particularity of meanings led Wilfred Cantwell Smith to assert that there is no such thing as religion in the abstract, only specific instances of religious practice, persons, places, and so on. The very concept of religion was a stepchild of the Enlightenment constructed as the antithesis of reason and the enemy of science. Religion as a field of study and as a caption of academic departments is of relatively recent coinage. Although the term religion falsely suggests an entity that is stable, definable, homogeneous, self-contained, what we call World Religions—Islam, Christianity, Buddhism—are not static but dynamic, evolving, mutually influencing traditions. Thus, the study of any one religion often entails a study of the many cultures in which it developed and through which it found self-expression.2

The opportunity to learn about religions in an academic, nonsectarian, and multicultural context is a gift of democracy, liberal education, and the American Constitution. William Scott Green notes that “by mandating both freedom of and freedom from religion, the First Amendment guarantees religion as a legitimate, legally protected form of difference in American society”3 and argues that the status of religion as a privileged cultural category makes it a highly relevant subject in this society deserving formal study. But the Enlightenment ethos of higher education continues to marginalize the study of religions as a serious academic endeavor. Colleagues in other departments often confuse teaching about religions with doing theology and inculcating faith. It is precisely the fact that the academic study of religions necessitates a deliberate, self-conscious analysis and, to the extent possible, suspension of preconceived notions and personal beliefs that makes it such a promising intellectual enterprise. Apart from learning to respect, understand, and deconstruct religious life by utilizing native categories, academic study makes many conceptual demands germane to a liberal arts education: searching for themes and patterns; formulating theories to account for rites and rituals; investigating the social and intellectual history of sacred texts; and so on.

Teaching to Learn and Learning to Teach

“But why do I need to know any of this stuff?” a student asks. “All these myths about Hindu gods are cool but some dude with an imagination made them up, right?! So Muslims like to pray five times a day and fast for a month but that isn’t my business. Isn’t religion kind of private anyhow? What difference does it make to me what other people believe in?! I don’t care if my doctor goes to Church on Sundays or meditates in a Zen temple so long as she can fix my cold.” It’s like New York University law professor Burt Neuborne said: “When you accept public office, you’re not a Catholic, you’re not a Jew. You’re an American.”4

The primary reason I wanted to teach about religions and cultures was to share my own enthusiasm and fascination with these subjects and to rediscover and reconsider with students their history, role, and complexity. Hence, it came as a rude shock to read this student’s journal entry that considered even basic information about world religions to be irrelevant. Of what use, I wondered, would s/he find intricate philosophical debates over concepts such as sunyata or nishkamya karma yoga or tawhid? As scholars and teachers smitten by the love of learning, it may be easy to dismiss the student’s attitude as parochial, but this demand to know of what use it is to be well-versed on a particular subject is both legitimate and prudent.

When I first began to teach, I had the notion inculcated by graduate studies that my primary responsibility was to transmit a body of knowledge and its critical apparatus to my students and to turn them into mini-experts, as it were, thoroughly acquainted with the historical, conceptual, and cultural intricacies of the religions which I taught. In such a framework subject matter and the unfettered search for knowledge reigned supreme. The truth is that most academics went through graduate school and became scholars because they have a passionate interest in their fields of specialization. The quest for knowledge and the thrill of research and discovery is not to be belittled. But in our enthusiasm for our subjects, legitimate and proper in one context, we develop what M. Robert Gardner has aptly termed the “furor to teach.” Ironically, he says: “True teachers want too much to teach, want to teach too much, and want too much to teach what they want to teach whenever, however, and to whomever they want.”5 So keen and earnest is our desire to convey to students what we think they ought to know that we forget the pedagogical necessity to find a fit between what teachers want to teach and what students want to and are ready to learn. We overlook the educational imperative that scholarship and learning needs to be meaningfully connected to the realities of our students. In fact, by venturing to see through the eyes of students we gain an opportunity to take a fresh look at our own enthusiasms and conceptions and thereby revitalize them.

Taking the cue from the students’ remarks, I would like briefly to consider the contemporary living and learning context of North America and the relevance of teaching about religions in the twenty-first century.

Teaching Religions in North America

Several decades ago, Marshall McLuhan drew our attention to the fact that the natural and the built environment are coded with messages and together they form a crucible for shaping individuals. Learning environments include home, schools, churches, malls, food courts, video arcades, city centers, the Internet, sporting events, parks, and so on. Popular culture, television, mass media, and the entertainment industry are powerful instructional settings, all the more so because their messages are covert and subliminal. The truth that human development occurs within the total milieu of life is encapsulated in the African saying, “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” The artificial segmentation of life into education, work, and leisure belie the fact that the formation of the individual takes place not only in educational institutions but also in the myriad situations of life made possible within a given society. While McLuhan makes his point with reference to the habitat created by the burgeoning electronic and communication technologies of this century, the truth in his pithy phrase, “the medium is the message,” has wider application. All humanly constructed environments, regardless of their scientific and technological advancements, are richly programmed with messages. Terms such as culture, heritage, or civilization are pressed into service to convey this notion of meanings (or messages) socially constructed and encoded within any given society’s living techniques, symbol systems, behavioral codes, and organizational patterns.

What, then, are some of the broader contextual factors that need to be borne in mind when thinking about teaching religions and cultures in the twenty-first century? What conditions and forces shape the learning habitat of our students? Numerous factors condition the character of our times, including the constantly changing nature of the American population; the impact of media in all its variety; the growth of multiple family structures and relationships; escalating violence and insecurity in schools and neighborhoods; the impact of global technologies and communications on employment and lifestyle; serial careers in the work force; protection of the environment and natural resources; inequities and divisions of race, gender, and class; development aid and the push for capitalism, democracy, and a global economy; and so on. Changes in all these areas occur so rapidly that one of the ongoing challenges of education and the curriculum is frequently to test and validate its prevalent representations of these social, political, and technological realities.

The present discussion of our students’ living and learning environments is by no means extensive. It merely intends to draw attention to a few areas that have a bearing on the broader educational aim of preparing students to build their future. The idea is to respond seriously to the student’s question, “Why does it matter to me to know about religions and cultures?” How would knowledge of and sensitivity to other religions and cultures assist students in effectively dealing with their current and evolving realities? As a teacher of religions and cultures, it seems essential to grapple with this issue of relevance and to articulate how such knowledge might serve the students’ self-interest. How does one make a convincing case to students that as they assume the responsibilities of adulthood and are called upon to solve problems and to make decisions, they would do well to take into account deeply embedded religious and cultural patterns of societies as carefully as economic, political, and geographic facts and figures? Unless one can convincingly build this case, what we teach in departments of religion will remain “elective” subjects—exotic, abstruse, and interesting, but inconsequential in the larger scheme of things. These questions also serve as a provocation for thinking about how to advance the appreciation of religions and cultures among the many publics beyond the college campus.


In Future Shock, Alvin Toffler identifies four defining characteristics of the highly technological post-industrial society: the death of permanence, signifying a decisive break with the past; transience—the psychological counterpart of acceleration and high turnover; novelty—the escalating ratio of new material goods and products to old; and diversity—a surfeit of choices, variety in lifestyles, and social differentiation.6 Bearing out his predictions, in the few decades that have passed since his work was published the world has quite literally changed: innovations in science and technology have occurred in leaps and bounds; revolutions and wars have reconfigured national boundaries and sociopolitical structures; and the cold war, which polarized and paralyzed the world in a deadlock of superpower maneuvers, is over. Yet, it is startling to find, on rereading his work, that many of Toffler’s insights into the nature of the future continue to be germane. His main point in the seventies was that Western society was hurtling toward a future that was much different from anything it had known in the past. Unless societies deliberately anticipated and prepared themselves to adapt to the future, they would go into “future shock” and experience disorientation and confusion similar to the “culture shock” felt by visitors when they set foot in unfamiliar cultures.

One of Toffler’s most provocative ideas pertains to the altered nature of time and change. Change itself is not new. What is unprecedented about change in this century is its acceleration. As Neil Postman puts it: “Change changed.”7 Whereas in the past, the lag between human response and the pace of environmental change was manageable, now “change occurs so rapidly that each of us in the course of our lives has continuously to work out a set of values, beliefs, and patterns of behavior that are viable, or seem viable, to each of us personally.”8 And just as soon as a working solution is developed, it becomes irrelevant because so much has changed in the meanwhile. Toffler refers to this situation as “the perishability of fact. Every seasoned reporter has had the experience of working on a fast-breaking story that changes its shape and meaning even before his words are put down on paper. Today the whole world is a fast-breaking story.”9

The hallmark of the experience of reality in a highly technological society is transience. Speaking of life as a series of experienced situations, Toffler indicates that not only is the flow of situations faster but also the similarity between situations decreases as novelty increases. He identifies five components in any given situation: things, place, people, organization, and information.10 As such, as long as some of these components remain relatively stable while others change, societies are able to cope. But what happens when change occurs in every component? Toffler endeavors to show that each one of these once dependable pivots of orientation and stability have come loose. Things are disposable; dwellings are temporary; relationships are short-lived; organizational structures mutate; informational maps of reality become obsolete the moment they are drawn. This “death of permanence” is likely to create acute disorientation in societies, whose experience of slower times and steadfast tradition have provided an enduring source of comfort.

As they adapt, technological societies begin to live with an expectation of transience, novelty, and speed. Generation X, even more so than their baby boomer parents, take it for granted that reality is highly variable, fast-paced, and ever-shifting. Toffler refers to durational expectancies, that is, how long individuals expect their relationships, jobs, things, interests, and so on to last.11 In highly technological societies, these expectancies and attachments have shortened dramatically. Recycling emphasizes the quality of impermanence and the reality of “morphing.” What was newspaper yesterday is a paper cup today and a cabinet tomorrow. The death of permanence signifies a break with the past both literally and psychologically.

This zeitgeist has important ramifications in terms of attitudes toward history and identity. History, it is felt, can no longer serve as a guide as it did in more stable societies, where tomorrows repeated yesterdays and traditional systems of knowledge could be counted upon to transmit effective patterns of survival. Being dislocated from the past does not only mean that it cannot be looked upon for help in meeting the unprecedented problems of today but also that the past is a strange and different place. It has become foreign territory. Dramatic changes have caused a rupture, signifying the end of history. Breaking with the past conjures up the idea of being free from custom and tradition. Americans hold dearly to the belief that they founded a new society unencumbered by the baggage of centuries of tradition of their European ancestors. This love of progress at times belies a kind of prejudice toward the past. Consequently, “the inhabitants of the earth are divided not only by race, nation, religion or ideology, but also, in a sense by their position in time.”12

For educators, the fact of unprecedented change has many implications. What is old, ancient, and in the past has lost its cultural caché and hold over the imagination and teachers have to work harder at restoring a sense and love of history.


In many ways bias against the past is understandable. To some extent, it is rooted in modernity and the experience of the comforts, amenities, and freedoms afforded by developments in industry, science, and technology in the last century. Advancements in many sectors of life including health, communications, transport, automation, and construction have vastly benefited modern society. Through an alliance of capitalism, democracy, global politics, and scientific progress, Americans have created a wealthy superpower, and they live privileged lives relative to a vast majority of the world’s population. What is distinctive about contemporary students is how very thoroughly their identity is located in and constructed by situations—things, places, instruments—that have come into existence only in the last few decades. Certain about the powers of science and technology, students have a future positive mentality and optimism that things can only get better and better. This confidence, however, which is deeply rooted in and reliant upon the conditions of modern life can be a source of estrangement not only from the past, as we have seen, but also from less-developed societies and nations.

It is important to put the advances of modern life into historical perspective. Using a clock metaphor, Postman says if sixty minutes of the hour represent three thousand years of civilization then each minute represents fifty years. On this scale, there were no significant media changes until nine minutes ago. At that time, the printing press came into use in Western culture. About three minutes ago, the telegraph, photograph, and locomotive arrived. Two minutes ago: the telephone, rotary press, motion pictures, automobiles, airplane, and radio. One minute ago, the talking picture. Television has appeared in the last ten seconds, the computer in the last five, and communications satellites in the last second. The laser beam… appeared only a fraction of a second ago.13

In the area of medicine, open-heart surgery arrived about ten seconds ago; more discoveries have occurred in the health sciences during the last minute than in the previous fifty-nine. This “knowledge explosion” is happening in every field. The microchip which appeared a millisecond ago will make possible new technologies in genomics, biotechnology, and smart products that will continue to boost living standards and lead to unimaginable new products and services.

The issue at stake for students and coming generations is that such extraordinary developments will also spawn unprecedented problems and dilemmas. Even though technological society is barely in its infancy, it already faces perplexing ethical decisions such as whether or not to permit human cloning. Einstein once said that we would never be able to solve the problems of the world from the level of thinking that we were at when we created them.14 What is noteworthy is that as dependence on technology increases, so too does the unconscious and uncritical acceptance of scientific norms of truth and veracity. Modern Western cultures have thoroughly assimilated scientific values, attitudes, vocabulary, and techniques. In his study of the historical significance of science in Western culture, Richard Olson asks, “Has modern culture become so scientized that it is on a course toward a kind of stasis characterized by a monotonous but benign totalitarianism of scientific and technological reality?”15 Scientific efficacy and mastery of physical reality, however, need not invalidate the aesthetic and intimate search for order, underlying form, and universally valid knowledge also to be found in religions and the arts. As Elizabeth Newman effectively argues, students need to challenge the objectivist framework of scientific knowledge and recognize that what and how we know cannot be separated: “scientific knowledge does not simply hang in midair, describing the real world ‘out there.’ Rather, as has been noted for some time, scientific knowing is rooted in the beliefs, judgments and commitments of the scientific knower; and thus is temporal and dynamic.”16 By examining the constructed axioms and circumscribed practices of scientific thinking, students can cultivate the intellectual independence to question its premises and to entertain multiple modes and methods of perceiving and relating to reality.


So persistently is the point made in public discourse that the Constitution separates church and state that it leaves the impression that Americans are a faithless people. Hugh Hewitt asks, “When did many of us begin to believe that most of us had ceased to believe?”17 The “us” refers to the “chattering class, the editorial writers, the TV producers, the professionally opinionated, and a large swath of the Academy.”18 In truth, Americans are a deeply religious people. According to Jacob Neusner, 92.5 percent of the American population professes belief in God and prays regularly. Most agree that “in God we trust” and “explain what happens in their lives by appeal to God’s will and word and work, and they form their ideal for the American nation by reference to the teachings of religion: ‘one nation, under God.’”19 Hewitt hosted a radio talk-show in Los Angeles for five years (1990–1995) during which time he set aside an hour a week to talk about faith. His purpose was to highlight questions of everyday faith rather than to go after hot-button controversies. Of his experience, which frequently drew a full board of callers, he says: “I have to conclude that a great many Americans want to hear about, talk about, think about God in a serious way.”20

Americans are not only religious, but they are also a people of many religions. Almost every living religion in the world is represented in the United States. The statistics of believers are as follows: Protestants: 60 percent; Roman Catholics: 26 percent; Muslims: 2 percent; Jews: 2.5 percent; Hindus: 1 percent; Buddhists: 1 percent.21 In addition, it is home to followers of Zoroastrian, Shinto, Taoist, Sikh, Native American, and Latin American religions. Neusner aptly remarks that not only does this religious diversity make North America an opportune place to study religions; but also that religions in the United States are more interesting to study because they are multiracial, multinational, and multicultural. For example, in addition to having various types of European Christianity in America, there are Christians from Africa, South Asia, and the Far East.22 Quite literally, the United States has become a microcosm of the diversity of ethnicities, religions, and cultures around the globe.

What holds this nation together is the American ideal that a person of any creed, color, race, language, gender, and country of origin can become a good citizen under the American Constitution and Bill of Rights. In recognizing religion as a native and unquestioned category of American life, the First Amendment guarantees that America will be home to more than one religion. The Constitution deliberately names and sets religion apart for special consideration, regarding it to be a legitimate, legally protected form of difference in American society. It declares freedom of religion to be a fundamental civil right of all its citizens, a liberty as basic as the right to free speech, free press, and free assembly. The First Amendment has two clauses that stipulates the government’s role (or lack thereof) with respect to religious life: (a) the Establishment Clause and (b) the Free Exercise Clause. The Establishment Clause asserts that the government may not set up a church nor pass laws that aid or give preference to any particular religion nor force religious belief upon its citizens nor punish disbelief. The Free Exercise Clause inhibits the government from controlling or restricting people’s religious beliefs or behavior.23 In other words, the American Constitution is highly tolerant and protective of religious diversity.

It is important to recognize the fact that “America is multireligious by design and not because of an accident of history or immigration.”24 The “disestablishment” principle commonly referred to as the separation of church and state detaches civil authority from the sphere of religious activity in a way that puts restraints upon the former. It also forbids the oppression of one religion by another through means of the juridical system. Such measures were advocated by religious minorities such as the Quakers, who wanted to protect their religious life from the control of majority denominations. William Scott Green notes that “the United States was the first nation in history to apply the separation of church and state as a practical political principle, the first nation to make disestablishment of religion a foundation for its national life.”25 What often gets obscured in the religious rhetoric against secularism is that it is these very secular principles that have enabled and safeguarded religious pluralism. As a basic civil right, the freedom to practice religion is a secular and not a religious principle. Given that the term secular is commonly (mis)understood as irreligious, it is ironic that secular principles enable different religions, races and cultures to flourish in America in a manner that lets them “be true to themselves and to the American vision of a diverse society.”26


As Stephen Carter endeavors to show in The Culture of Disbelief, despite the fact that most Americans believe in God and seek moral instruction and personal inspiration from their faith, American law and politics trivializes religious devotion and presses the faithful to act “as though their faith does not matter to them.”27 For a nation whose Constitution protects religious freedom on the one hand and whose people are predominantly religious on the other, Hewitt argues that it is ironic that “the overclass is laced with a deep-seated assumption: that Americans do not really believe in God anymore.”28 He defines the “overclass” as the culture-defining, talk-show intellectuals in the spheres of law and politics, academe, and the mass media, who shape public perception on most issues. In his work, Carter shows how the legal and political establishment belittles religion through the message that faith is suspect and something to be ashamed of, as it “represents a kind of mystical irrationality, something that thoughtful, public-spirited Americans would do better to avoid.”29 Persons who frankly express that their faith influences their thinking run the risk of ridicule and contempt.

Similarly, the mass media look upon religious commitment as a troubling curiosity. Individuals who argue a political or ethical position based on religious formulations are worrisome; those who hold the tenets of their faith to be superior to social and political convention are suspect. Psychiatrists and cult specialists are called upon to explain their “strange” behavior. In general, the media and press only take notice of religion in the context of political conflicts, “a convenient substitute for a searching look at believers’ beliefs.”30 The entertainment and film industry is more subtle in its rejection of religion, making light of it simply by ignoring its existence. “This near total removal of God from the vast amount of media we consume has an effect of gradually diminishing the relevance of the Divine to ordinary life.”31 Avoiding the “G” word is practiced by talk-show hosts, television producers, news makers, editors, and journalists. Attitudes percolate. Religion is an awkward, indelicate, and sensitive topic in everyday American conversation. Hewitt says, “Nervous laughter and sidelong glances will greet any watercooler talker who broaches even as ordinary a subject as prayer.”32

Green attributes this reluctance to converse about religion to the fact that “historically, too few Americans have had the opportunity to study it and learn how to think about it.”33 In her 1991 presidential address to the American Academy of Religion, Judith A. Berling offers the following reasons why American culture and the academy are “skittish about religion as a topic of public conversation”: (a) statements about religions are assumed to be in favor of a particular religious position; (b) learning about other beliefs might undermine one’s own faith; (c) the legal separation of church and state is interpreted to mean that religion is a private matter unfit for public discourse; (d) statements about religion cannot contribute to the common good because they are sectarian; and (e) religions can only encounter each another within a competitive framework.34 These undisputed preconceptions play a major role in dissuading cordial, frank, and intelligent conversation about religion. The net effect is that Americans are shy to talk about their own faith and remain ignorant about other faiths. If allowed to persist in a highly multireligious and multiracial society, such mutual incomprehension is likely to create conditions ripe for conflict and unrest.

Of the many problematic assumptions that prevail among the elite, culture-defining class is that religion is fundamentally anti-intellectual, irrational, and archaic. This attitude is especially evident in the academy. The antipathy toward religion in academe is chronicled in George Marsden’s The Soul of the American University.35 Marsden makes the case that religion is marginalized and excluded as a credible conversation partner in the academy’s intellectual life. Indeed, religion as a legitimate field of study and as a discerning, substantive and rigorous intellectual orientation “hangs on the academy’s perimeter.”36 Joshua Mitchell suggests that this dismissal of religion in higher education stems from the fact that religions admit a transcendent dimension which, naturally, cannot be proven by conventional scientific means. To admit such a thing in the Enlightenment tradition of academe is to “risk one’s credibility as a rational being.”37 Scholars in modern universities are thus either oblivious to or intolerant of religion: it is either irrelevant or dangerous. “Straussians worry that religion is a species of un-reason… postmodernists are too busy showing the instability of all things social to be concerned about religion, which is but one mode of oppression among many. Liberals and democratic theorists treat beliefs as “preferences,” and so mock anything approximating real belief.”38 Carter identifies this incongruity to be a problem of epistemology. Rules of evidence and justification in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences differ. Scientific claims can be tested and verified but there are no settled rules to assess aesthetic, moral, and religious claims. Hence, the general impatience among academics and policymakers with any talk of “higher things.”

Given the cacophony of messages beamed from their various living environments, it should not surprise teachers of religions that students feel confused, indifferent, ambivalent, alarmed, and curious about studying religions. Scholars and teachers of religion should, however, be deeply concerned over the degree of hostility, ignorance, and discomfiture that exists about religion(s) in the public square. The task of teaching religion is at times exhausting, given the dominant and influential cultures of disbelief working against serious and respectful intellectual engagement with religious data. “If religion comes to be taken seriously within the academy, it will be because it has become a large enough presence in the world that it can no longer be ignored.”39

Teaching Goals: Tolerance, Creative Encounter, and Critical Thinking

The function of education, T. S. Eliot said, is to help us to escape not from our own times, for we are bound by them, but from the intellectual and emotional limitations of our times. In the preceding section I have attempted to highlight a few of these limitations and paradigms. We live at an extraordinary historical juncture. Technological advances have sped up the pace of life and shrunk the globe. Telecommunications, satellites, and computers transmit information instantly everywhere in multiple formats: textual, aural, visual, and virtual. Contact among cultures has escalated. Encounters and exchanges of every kind—material, social, cultural, political, artistic—are commonplace.

Cultures in the past were able to flourish and preserve their integrity because of their relative isolation and distance from each other. Such seclusion is no longer possible. The travel and leisure industry has made visiting the remotest places on the earth economical, quick, and effortless. Not only are Americans highly mobile, but also many executives and consultants lead transcontinental lives. Commuting, traveling, and regularly relocating for work or leisure has become second nature. But Americans do not have to go abroad for cultural exposure. The United States is a land of immigrants, refugees, foreign students, investors, and visitors from almost every country in the world. Sizeable ethnic enclaves exist in all its major cities.

The demise of geography has meant severing the enduring connections between community and place. The disruption of traditional life and its customs has resulted in anxiety and instability in many societies. A the Aga Khan observed in a recent address to a gathering of international press owners: “Wherever we look, we find people seeking refuge from the disorienting waves of change in the tranquil ponds of older and narrower loyalties, in the warmth of familiar memories, in the comfort of ancient rituals.”40 The threat to cultural and social identity is experienced not only physically in terms of border struggles and conflicts over land, but disorientation and social instability is also precipitated by the cultural invasion of hitherto isolated societies. Ideas, newspapers, toys, movies, music, cars, and grenades are transported into these environments by communications, travel, and international trade. Capitalizing on the profit motive, tourism across the world has turned cultural heritage into a commodity.

What is the impact of these encounters? How are they shaping us and our societies? Rapid acceleration of contact among cultures has unleashed the twin forces of multinational homogeneity and cultural particularity. Globalism has begotten tribalism and a reclaiming of ethnic and national identity. Resisting the bland homogeneity of the melting pot, Americans too reassert their particular identities. This is palpable in American life: divisions of class, race, religion, gender, ideology, and sexual preference. But when groups within a society define themselves primarily in terms of differences, the climate becomes one of chronic strife and conflict. The mere fact that cultures have been thrust face to face with each other does not mean that they will instinctively understand each other. In major cities of the United States, many groups of different origins and backgrounds collide on a regular basis at work and in subways, malls, and theatres. Their meetings occur at the safe level of a nominal American identity, but the deeper layers of religious, racial, and historical identities remain hidden and privatized.

Teaching and learning about religions is an opportunity to turn the experience of diversity and difference into a creative encounter. This cannot be done merely by transmitting information. “Data flows in greater volumes, at higher speeds, over greater distances to larger audiences than ever before. And yet the result has not been greater understanding or enlightenment. In fact, it has often been just the reverse.”41 The information explosion has proven that understanding and wisdom are still hard won. Developing the capacity to hear the dreams and stories of the rainbow of people who make up the daily workaday world takes deliberate effort. Rather than increasing cultural sensitivity, workshops in diversity training often exacerbate conflicts by confirming what teachers of religions and cultures already know: learning to respect what is truly different and to understand what we do not embrace is hard work, takes time, and demands a great deal of intellectual and imaginative perception. Cultural sensitivity means much more than good-natured tolerance or gracious etiquette. “In truth, cultural sensitivity is far more rigorous, something that requires a deep intellectual commitment. It requires a readiness to study and to learn across cultural barriers, an ability to see others as they see themselves.”42

In the United States, pluralism and diversity have evoked more conflict than cooperation. Programs and policies under the banner of these terms have often resulted in finger-pointing and segregation instead of mutual appreciation and exchange. One observes a troubling trend of politicization, antagonism, and division among groups on campuses. Encouraging self-expression of different ethnic and racial identity has bred more—not less—insularity, intolerance, and prejudice. People’s diverse histories and cultures, instead of being an occasion for broadening the resources of society at large and for seeking solutions to common human problems, have become an occasion to blame, censure, exclude, demand special rights, and so on. This situation can and must be ameliorated. A strong case can be made that learning about religions and cultures provides a favorable context for the respectful and rigorous study of difference.


Our commitment as teachers and learners of religions is to treat our subjects fairly, incisively, and with balanced perspective. Students need to develop the capacity both to appreciate and to critique the data that comes under the rubric of religions. Anthropology and the History of Religions often take a phenomenological approach to understanding cultural materials. A primary goal is to enter a culture or religious tradition and attempt to understand it from within. This means discovering the set of meanings participants themselves attach to a particular symbol, ritual, or myth. Embracing the Kantian notion of “enlarged mentality,” the exercise of empathetic encounter involves taking the standpoint of the other person seriously enough to challenge one’s own worldview, thereby pushing back the limits of one’s own horizons.

Crossing over familiar boundaries to visit the worlds of the strange and unknown takes courage, awareness, and discipline. This important journey can be frightening and frustrating for students. Many experience the discomfort, resistance, and shock felt by travelers to foreign lands. Exercising the self-restraint of epoché, namely, temporarily suspending judgment and bracketing out one’s own assumptions, makes the experience emotionally and intellectually demanding. But as Merleau-Ponty said of phenomenology: “This is a remarkable method which consists in learning to see what is ours as alien and what was alien as our own.”43 It is not possible truly to observe a culture in and of itself without also learning anew how to observe one’s own. Empathetic participation thus goes hand in hand with detached self-observation, a curious combination of Buddhist mindfulness and Ricoeur’s hermeneutics of suspicion.

Self-scrutiny and diligent attentiveness to cultural particularity takes hard work. Because assumptions are by nature unconscious and deeply buried, much effort must go into helping students learn to observe and trace the etiology of their own thinking. Often students in college get to investigate and confront their assumptions for the very first time when they take a course in religion. Exercises to help students accomplish this process include journals, simulations, and case studies. Personal involvement and freedom of expression allow them to surface or vent their views, to examine their assumptions and to verify information. When successful, they learn to appreciate that how one sees an issue can vary immensely and to own the fact that much of what persons perceive and defend is deeply linked to where they are, who they are, their history, culture, intellectual and natural environment.


Facing diversity and confronting differences are unsettling experiences. Students of diverse backgrounds who are assigned to work on a group project will try very hard to ignore or hide the fact that they have racial and cultural differences. When questioned about this, students will deny that they are covering up their differences. They interpret their silence about their own particular backgrounds as a sign of tolerance. By not needing to focus on differences, they feel this shows that they have transcended them. Rather, they participate in an amorphous American identity that erases the particularity of being a Jew or Christian. Since many students in cosmopolitan settings already enjoy ethnic foods, attend multicultural fairs and festivals, listen to world music, and experiment with clothing and customs of other cultures, they feel they have successfully accepted and incorporated them into their worldview. But beneath this attitude lies hidden a combination of romanticism and resistance.

Minnich speaks of the “the stubborn temptation to turn diversity into something familiar that does not challenge systems of privilege and power.”44 This is an understandable impulse. To honor another’s culture or heritage may involve a probing of one’s own that threatens cherished beliefs and celebrated heroes. There is great pressure in college life to get socialized into the status quo and deeper understanding can be subversive and threatening to this goal. It may raise the possibility that existing structures of authority need to be changed, reformed, or resisted. True comprehension may mean a frank facing up to and resisting of an oppressive social custom or misleading narrative that one’s own forebears have collectively constructed. A far less unsettling route to dealing with diversity is by good-heartedly incorporating its exterior and exotic aspects. The weakness of superficial phenomenology is that a sympathetic apprehension of cultures may lead to romanticism and domestification. As Aziz al-Azmeh pointedly explains, “Exoticism, frivolous or aesthetic admiration, is of course premised on an unreflected notion of utter otherness; it is a mode of consuming an object, of employing it for decorative and other purposes, in a context other than its own. Exoticism is a pleasant way of subjugating one’s contrary.”45

Students who get beyond this mark begin a sustained process of self-awareness. They start to ask: How come I never questioned this before? They begin to see familiar situations, reactions, and behaviors anew. Their entry into foreign territory has extended their reach. They alight upon what Tylor describes as the “possibilities of one another.”46 For instance, when I deal with the oral nature of religions, so accustomed are students to thinking that only textual or written information is trustworthy that they are struck by the notion that in some cultures truly valued esoteric knowledge is only transmitted orally. They learn to recognize that just because something is published or posted on the Internet does not mean it is true, accurate, or reasonable. With skepticism begins a deliberate process of thinking for themselves. This independence of thought is a critical goal of intellectual endeavor. An essential part of one’s task as teacher is to cultivate students’ capacity for reflection and critical analysis: to help them become self-conscious of what they know; to question and observe their own epistemological activity; to pay attention to how ideas and artifacts are historically coded; to repeatedly investigate the data until they have done it full justice; and to appreciate the disciplined rigor of intellectual work.


Thus far, I have treated the subject of religions and cultures in an appreciative perspective and emphasized that this heritage contributes to the richness, beauty, and insights of human civilization. But no discussion of beauty is complete without a discussion of its opposite. Martin Marty puts it bluntly: “Religion motivates most killing in the world today.”47 The cumulative historical evidence indicting religions and cultures for causing oppression, hatred, conflict, and war is incontestable. This is another potential pitfall of the phenomenological method. Suspending personal biases and restraining premature judgment is dangerous if it entails total abdication of thinking. Withholding judgment to enter another’s worldview does not mean relinquishing the exercise of all judgment. Otherwise put, the role of criticism and analysis in the study of religions remains as important as in any other academic discipline. Students often equate tolerance and understanding with acquiescing or agreeing with. To “make sense” of a ritual or belief means to see it as au courant or to use the jargon “just cool.”

This raises a number of ethical dilemmas. For instance, my students view a film that has a segment showing Hindu worshippers bathing in the river Ganges. The commentator explains that Hindus regard the water of the Ganges to be pure and to have healing powers. He follows this with the scientific observation that, in fact, the water of the Ganges is highly polluted and many bathers contract diseases. Students will often ask how they can be expected to respect the bathing ritual and the Hindu belief in the miraculous nature of Ganges water when they know it is filled with bacteria and ashes of the dead. For some, this proves that religion entails blind faith. Others take the attitude that since truth is relative, the Ganges could have curative powers for the Hindu.

What is the way out of this conundrum? One wants to avoid the twin pitfalls of instant denunciation and blithe relativism. This issue offers an opportunity to explore with students what Carter calls “epistemic diversity.” There is the language of faith and the language of science. Each appeals to different systems of value, truth, and human experience. To drive this point home, Rabbi Kushner says, “In that sense the Bible is truer than the daily paper, because the stuff in the daily paper really happened but it’s irrelevant.”48 He adds, “Asking what a prayer means is like asking what a flower means.”49 Even if Hindu worshippers were to accept the scientific assertion that Ganges water is polluted (and many do), this does not diminish the religious significance of this body of water. The literalism of science obscures the imagination and symbolism of religious life. In the religious landscape of Hindu myth, poetry, art, and ritual, the Ganges is the great source of life, the mother that replenishes and purifies and embodies the powerful flow of existence. Indeed, for some Hindus, any river into which a drop of Ganges water is poured has the power of the Ganges because ultimately all rivers are but manifestations of her. The point is that meaning is not static and singular and that since human experience of reality has multiple dimensions (emotional, cognitive, aesthetic, practical), each generates and expresses itself through its own language and symbol system.


This leads me to the question of advocacy and identity issues in the classroom. There is no escaping the fact that we are largely constructed out of where, who, when, and what we are. Being teachers and scholars makes our ideas and understanding no less subject to external conditions and forces. It bears reminding that scholarship “is inseparable from the cultural politics of its day, and knowledge never was, and will never be, an innocent endeavor, but was, and is, utterly sullied.”50 So that students learn to recognize the socially constructed nature of their own knowledge and experience, whenever possible, I disclose the standpoint from which my own views are constructed. But contrary to Donald Wiebe’s view, one endeavors to practice the academic study of religions and not the theological or ideological study of religions.51 Teaching about religions is not identical to propagating religions. If advocacy means inculcating a particular faith, then it belongs outside the secular classroom.

Sympathetic appreciation may constitute a first step to approaching religious data, but it must be balanced by detached analytical, theoretical, and interpretive tasks. Students can learn what it means to Muslims to perform the hajj. (And there is not one meaning, of course, but at least they ought to be encouraged to look at the many meanings of the hajj expressed by Muslims.) But by itself, this information is insufficient. The hajj needs to be analyzed from a number of perspectives: its historical origin and precedents; the social function of this ritual for Muslims; the political and symbolic role of Mecca as the orienting point of Islamic prayer and mosque architecture; the modern hajj industry of travel agents and tourism; hajj in context of pilgrimage patterns in different religions. To bring to bear the range of theoretical and critical perspectives by which the hajj can be analyzed requires sufficient detachment and disengagement from the primary religious meanings attached to it by adherents. Faith commitments, in my view, can and often do inhibit such analysis.

Commending one or another faith, apart from being inappropriate in academic institutions, also works against the cultivation of multiple viewpoints that is essential for intellectual development. Advocacy excludes genuine consideration of alternative worldviews. Advocating faith also means assuming for oneself the authority of being a representative of a specific religious tradition. An individual teacher’s presentation and interpretation of a faith is thus communicated as normative. No matter how well-informed, erudite, and convincing that interpretation is, to advance a particular interpretation as normative is polemical and has political implications. One has to look critically at the question of representation. Attempts to authentically represent the voices of hitherto victimized and marginalized groups often result in reification. Religious and cultural groups are not homogeneous but have their own internal distinctions, and attempts at representation inadvertently privilege one over another. It is for this reason that the argument that religions ought to be taught by scholar-adherents because they provide “authentic” interpretations of the tradition is inherently flawed. Authenticity is a claim to authoritative discourse and such testimony is part of the religious data that gets studied. However, the ability to advance respectful and critical understandings of religions is a learned and cultivated capacity that walks a fine line between sensitivity and discernment.

Concluding Thoughts: Religion Matters

Teaching and learning about religions is a challenging task to attempt today. Apart from the disputed role of religion in a highly technological and secular society, there is a deeply imbedded skepticism and even contempt of religion in academe, the media, and the legal and political establishment. Their faith in the ultimate authority of science and the Enlightenment legacy of rationalism is pervasive and often unconscious. Religion as a subject matter is felt to be anti-intellectual and thus unworthy of intellectual attention. Even though literature deals with fiction and imagination, it is still considered to be a worthy subject to study because students get to explore the themes of life. But religion, which is such an integral part of the lives of most citizens in America, is viewed as passé and inconsequential to the functions of society.

The fact is that religions are thriving and they are a sine-qua-non of contemporary American life, and indeed, of life on this planet. According to the organizers of the first Millennium World Summit held at the United Nations in 2000, “83 percent of the world’s population believe in some formal religious or spiritual belief system.”52 Individuals and societies are shaped and guided by religious ideas and activities. In turn, they alter and develop the manifold aspects of religious life and thought. Furthermore, it is far from true that religious identity, because it is a personal choice, is irrelevant in secular life. Religion matters to people and bears upon their choices and actions. For many, religious values are more real and vital than the nation or the opinion of others. Declaring that the state and church are separate institutions does not thereby preclude the values of one from influencing the values of the other. In fact, often there is common ground. The attempt to restrict religion to the private domain does not mean it is inconsequential to civic life. Carter notes that the “religious devout hold principles that they will not surrender to societal demands.”53 Because religion matters so much to followers, it remains an ever-present subversive force in society. The autonomous authority of religious creeds and the commitment of believers to this authority remains a permanent source of instability for the status quo. “One way of coping with the fear is to try to brush off the religiously devout as fanatics, as is done with depressing regularity. Another way to deal with the fear of the subversive independence of religions is to try to domesticate them.”54

A fundamental goal of education is to prepare students to face and re-create their world. Perhaps our solutions for today will not work for their tomorrows. We may not be able to provide ready answers, but we can ensure that they will have recourse to the cumulative insights and failings of all our yesterdays. Studying the cultures and civilizations of the world offers them this resource. It also helps to place them and their own society on a time continuum, providing necessary perspective and knowledge. When we turn to examine the pivotal and enduring legacy of world cultures and civilizations, we consistently encounter the crucial role of religions. The foundational “texts” that have shaped and sustained society include among others the Babylonian creation myth, Enuma Elish; India’s Rg Veda; Plato’s Republic; the Analects of Confucius; the Bible and Quran; the Bhagavad Gita. Is it impossible to discuss cultures and civilizations without talking about their art, aspirations, scriptures, celebrations, and patterns of life. Students thus appreciate how profoundly religions, however defined, permeate the self-understanding and development of human civilization.

Finally, I would like to address the question of how our learning and teaching about religions contributes to society from the point of view of my own area of specialization, Islamic Studies. Samuel P. Huntington in his work, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order,55 suggests that Islam will replace communism as the enemy of the West. With the end of the Cold War, “the next substantial opponent of the West may be the Islamic world, partly because of its opposition to the materialistic side of western capitalism.”56 If the Cold War taught us anything, it should have taught us how these kinds of polarizations lead to dogmatism, escalation of war machines, and at the individual level, hatred and demonization of strangers as well as neighbors.

The point here is not to get into Huntington’s thesis but to emphasize the importance of developing student’s critical thinking skills. Neil Postman calls this ability “crap detecting.”57 In this case, students must learn to see the flaw in the idea of “civilizations” as homogeneous, static, and monolithic entities and to question a model that juxtaposes civilizations as adversarial and self-contained blocs. To construct an argument of civilizations clashing with each other is to essentialize the highly complex and variegated conglomerate of societies which have ancient ties of exchanges in goods, genes, ideas, and skills. Thus, for instance, if we assume Western civilization to be solely the creation of the peoples of Europe (as if Europe itself can be viewed in monolithic terms), one may ask: “Is Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which includes Turkish marches, a part of Western civilization, or the late nineteenth- and twentieth-century French paintings, whose creators were influenced by Japanese art? And what of the cubists, through whom the influence of African art changed modern painting?”58 Such dualistic thinking reduces reality to the following kind of rhetoric which breeds further misunderstanding:

More than a clash of cultures, more than a confrontation of races, the collision between the global civilization emanating from the West and Islam is a straight-out fight between two approaches to the world, two opposed philosophies. Under the layers of history and the mosaic of cultures, we can simplify in order to discover the major positions. One is based in secular materialism, the other in faith; one has rejected belief altogether, the other has placed it at the center of its world-view. 59

Students, journalists, and even scholars need to understand why this kind of writing does not inform or educate; why it does not illuminate what tensions exist, where they exist, what their true scope is, and precisely, what groups within the mosaic of the West and the Islamic world are involved in creating such hostile representations of each other. Teaching and writing about the Muslim world in an environment filled with sensationalism complicates the task of cultural translation and criticism. Sloganism, stereotyping, and oversimplification leads to defensive postures that result in a dialogue of the deaf. Hence, taken together, the fact of living in a multireligious society and given the surfeit of conflicting data received from the media, Internet, and print literature, it is particularly important for students to learn how to judge sources and think critically and constructively.

The religious heritage of humankind has much to say about the making and managing of the affairs of this world, including human relations, the exchange of goods, the arbitration of disputes, the organization of labor, and the celebration of life and nature. Historically, religions have played a central role in the task of building civilizations. Cultural and religious pluralism need not be an occasion for division and conflict but can be turned into an opportunity for creative encounters to work toward building common ground and an enabling environment for tolerance, cooperation, reconciliation, and an ethic of inclusion and respect. From the richness of American diversity, students can knit together a viable and vibrant society for tomorrow, which strikes partnerships that draw on the best accomplishments of individual cultures, and still learn from the latter’s defects and mistakes. It would be an achievement if their academic encounter with religions left them feeling as Ari Goldman did after his Harvard Divinity School experience:

Today, when I go on assignment to a church, a synagogue, mosque, or temple, I no longer go as a stranger, an outsider. The ideas preached and the rituals practiced are familiar, unthreatening, and ultimately, enriching to me. The amazing dialogue that began at Harvard between the Judaism within me and other faiths I encountered continues at St. Paul Community Baptist Church in a black section of Brooklyn, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue, at a Reform temple in Cincinnati, at a Zen retreat center in Los Angeles, at a Sunni mosque in Detroit…. In each case I leave as a Jew, rooted in the richness of my own faith but nourished by the faith of others.60


This essay was originally written for a consultation on Teaching and Learning in Religion and Theology sponsored by the American Academy of Religion and the Lilly Foundation held in Santa Fe on April 18–20, 1997. The purpose of the consultation was to explore various topics, including the teacher’s life and vocation; primary goals for teaching religion; the tension between advocacy and objectivity in the classroom; specialist versus interdisciplinary discussions of religion in college contexts; and what the study of religion and theology contributes to society and goals of good citizenship.

1. William Scott Green, “Religion within the Limits,” Academe 82/6 (November–December 1996): 28. Find it in your Library

2. Stephen D. Crites, ed, The Religion Major: A Report (Atlanta: American Academy of Religion, 1990), 9. Find it in your Library

3. Green, “Religion within the Limits,” 27. Find it in your Library

4. The law professor quotes this from Stephen L. Carter, The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion (New York: Basic Books, 1993), 63. Find it in your Library

5. M. Robert Gardner, On Trying to Teach: The Mind in Correspondence (London: Analytic Press, 1994), 5. Find it in your Library

6. Alvin Toffler, Future Shock (New York: Random House, 1970), 6. Find it in your Library

7. Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner, Teaching as a Subversive Activity (New York: Dell, 1969), 11. Find it in your Library

8. Ibid. Find it in your Library

9. Toffler, Future Shock, 4. Find it in your Library

10. Ibid., 33 Find it in your Library

11. Ibid., 42 Find it in your Library

12. Ibid., 37 Find it in your Library

13. Postman and Weingartner, Teaching as a Subversive Activity, 10. Find it in your Library

14. Marianne Williamson, Illuminata: Thoughts, Prayers, Rites of Passage (New York: Random House, 1994), 25. Find it in your Library

15. Richard Olson, Science Deified and Science Defied: The Historical Significance of Science in Western Culture, from the Bronze Age to the Beginnings of the Modern Era (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), 5. Find it in your Library

16. Elizabeth Newman, “Teaching Religion and Science: The Challenge of Developing a New Conceptual Landscape,” Religious Studies News: Spotlight on Teaching 4/1 (February 1996): 2. Find it in your Library

17. Hugh Hewitt, Searching for God in America (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1996). Find it in your Library

18. Ibid. Find it in your Library

19. Jacob Neusner, ed., World Religions in America: An Introduction (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1994), 1. Find it in your Library

20. Hewitt, Searching for God in America, xv. Find it in your Library

21. Neusner, World Religions in America, 2. Find it in your Library

22. Ibid., 4. Find it in your Library

23. William Scott Green, “Religion and Society in America,” in Neusner, World Religions in America, 295–297. Find it in your Library

24. Ibid., 299. Find it in your Library

25. Ibid., 296. Find it in your Library

26. Ibid., 300. Find it in your Library

27. Carter, Culture of Disbelief, 3. Find it in your Library

28. Hewitt, Searching for God in America, xiii. Find it in your Library

29. Carter, Culture of Disbelief, 6. Find it in your Library

30. Hewitt, Searching for God in America, xiv. Find it in your Library

31. Ibid., xiii. Find it in your Library

32. Ibid., xv. Find it in your Library

33. Green, “Religion and Society in America,” 297. Find it in your Library

34. Judith A. Berling, “Is Conversation about Religion Possible?” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 61/1 (Spring 1993): 1. Find it in your Library

35. George M. Marsden, The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993). Find it in your Library

36. Green, “Religion within the Limits,” 26. Find it in your Library

37. Joshua Mitchell, “Of Answers Ruled Out: Religion in Academic Life,” Academe 82/6 (November–December 1996): 30. Find it in your Library

38. Ibid. Find it in your Library

39. Ibid., 31. Find it in your Library

40. Aga Khan IV, “Keynote Address at Commonwealth Press Union Conference in South Africa,” The Ismaili, Canada(March 1997): 44. Find it in your Library

41. Ibid., 45. Find it in your Library

42. Ibid. Find it in your Library

43. Cited by Elizabeth Kamarck Minnich, “Resisting Reality: Critique and Creativity,” Religious Studies News: Spotlight on Teaching 2/2 (September 1994): 3. Find it in your Library

44. Ibid., 2. Find it in your Library

45. Aziz al-Azmeh, Islam and Modernities (London: Verso, 1993), 128. Find it in your Library

46. Cited by Berling, “Is Conversation about Religion Possible?” 8. Find it in your Library

47. Martin E. Marty, “You Get to Teach and Study Religion,” Academe 82/6 (November–December 1996): 14. Find it in your Library

48. Hewitt, Searching for God in America, 43. Find it in your Library

49. Ibid., 47. Find it in your Library

50. Al-Azmeh, Islam and Modernities, 126. Find it in your Library

51. Charlotte Allen, “Is Nothing Sacred?” Lingua Franca 6/7 (November 1996): 33. Find it in your Library

52. “World’s Religious Leaders in New York without Dalai Lama,” New York, August 28, 2000 (Reuters). Available: http://www.tibet.ca/wtnarchive/2000/8/28_3.html

53. Carter, Culture of Disbelief, 42. Find it in your Library

54. Ibid., 43 Find it in your Library

55. Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996). Find it in your Library

56. Frank Whaling, ed., Theory and Method in Religious Studies (New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1995), 5. Find it in your Library

57. Postman, Teaching as a Subversive Activity, 1. Find it in your Library

58. Ishmael Reed, “America: The Multinational Society,” in Multi-Cultural Literacy: Opening the American Mind, ed. Rick Simonson and Scott Walker (Saint Paul, Minn.: Graywolf Press, 1988), 157. Find it in your Library

59. Akbar S. Ahmed, “Media Mongols at the Gates of Baghdad: The West’s Domination of the Media—Civilizations at Odds,” New Perspectives Quarterly 10/3 (June 1993): 10. Find it in your Library

60. Ari L. Goldman, The Search for God at Harvard (New York: Random House, 1991), 282–283. Find it in your Library

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