The Diversity Emphasis

Teaching About Religion
in support of civic pluralism
Each individual longs for something to give meaning and direction to life,
and to be a foundation for conduct in private and public realms.
Humans can reach their personal understandings
of the cosmos and humanity through
different pathways.

Why Academic Study of Religion?

To frame the basic philosophy underlying this website, we present the words
of Professor Dale Cannon, who wrote in “Essay 1” of Western Oregon
University’s Religious Studies Essays:
Public education religious studies affords an opportunity to study and
gather vitally important information about aspects of our world, other
cultures, and our own history and culture. But beyond this informative
purpose, and ideally directing it, the purpose of public education
religion studies is to prepare young people for confrontation with
religious diversity within the public realm and enable them to handle it
without having to be either offensive or defensive about religion. Such
study contributes directly to the building of a worthwhile public order in
which all persons are welcome to participate, so far as each in turn
welcomes others.

Public education religious studies, when conducted appropriately,
helps young people learn to deal sensitively with religion and religious
differences in such a way as to promote mutual understanding and
tolerance, overcome stereotypes which lead to prejudice and
discrimination, and develop the kind of sympathy that gives serious
hearing to diverse points of view within the public order.
The "religious diversity within the public realm" to which Professor Cannon
refers includes not only religious worldviews, but also the nonreligious (often
termed, "freethought") worldviews. People use both religious and
freethought means for reaching understanding of the cosmos and humanity.

Widely varied are the traditions and rituals and systems of belief
represented among the citizenry. Religions offer traditions and beliefs
concerning matters of ultimate concern, and nonreligious belief systems
offer complementary avenues. Either can give meaning and direction to the
life of a citizen and serve as the basis for action and association in public
realms, and in private ones. Hence, academic study of religion will of
necessity encompass study of nonreligion as well. [For elaboration, please
see the mission of the website.]

Corrections and comments invited. [last modified: 4/30/01]
Authors: Mynga Futrell, Ph.D. and Paul Geisert, Ph.D.