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Increasingly social media sites and media driven conversations are herding people into like-minded circles, and our connections to those who differ from us politically, socially, economically, and culturally are becoming rarer. We hear what we agree with; we listen to those who preach what we believe. This is equally true in religious arenas, and many might argue that the inability or unwillingness to listen to and understand the belief systems of others contributes to fear and hostility between followers of different faiths.

In a society that is growing more multi-cultural every year, where it is possible to live next door to those whose faith may seem foreign or mysterious, the ability to listen carefully, accept differences, and articulate one's beliefs without antagonism or coercion on either side has become more than a matter of social etiquette. For a half-century, interfaith dialogue has been a means of striving for peace, overcoming ignorance and indifference, and building bridges of understanding and compassion between adherents of different faith traditions. Yet the effort also has many critics, who argue that it involves mostly like-minded people and that it leads to little more than vague statements and resolutions about our shared humanity.

An earlier site-wide discussion on the merits of interreligious dialogue, including a wide range of viewpoints, can be accessed here, with an eye to the events and issues today. Now we ask again: What does interfaith dialogue accomplish? Does it have any measurable impact? Does it help reduce violence or solve any real-world problems?

The Patheos Public Square is produced in partnership with Christianity Today and the Progressive Christian Initiative.

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Featured Panelists

In the Middle of the Process

In the Middle of the Process

Drea Parker, Pagan

We're trying to create a more amenable world that all of us want to live in.

Interfaith Dialogue in a World of Hurt: Consider the Alternative

Interfaith Dialogue in a World of Hurt: Consider the Alternative

Peter Laarman, Progressive Christians Uniting

When there is urgent peacemaking or justice-seeking work to be done is when the value of interfaith relationships comes to the fore.

Beyond the Interfaith Tea Party

Beyond the Interfaith Tea Party

Holli Emore, Blogger, Wild Garden

There is an art to agreeing to disagree.

Perfect Fear Casts Out Love

Perfect Fear Casts Out Love

Adrian Warnock, Blogger, Adrian Warnock

We all tend to fear people who are different from us, and fear prevents us from showing love, or from really listening to others.

Commentary From Our Blogging Community

There Are Many Right Ways

There Are Many Right Ways

Rev. Heather Rion Starr

This week, our kid’s favorite book-to-have-read-to-her is Lift Every Voice and Sing. Illustrated by Bryan Collier, the book creates a pictorial narrative for the words of the hymn written by James Weldon Johnson in 1900. It is not the lightest bedtime reading, for me—“We have come over a way that with tears has been watered, [Read More...]

Is Interfaith Dialogue Worth The Trouble?

Is Interfaith Dialogue Worth The Trouble?

Lynn Swayze Wilson

Interfaith dialogue is a mainstay of modern interfaith relations. It is touted as a way to bring communities together and find common ground. I’m not sure I could find many theists who would say, “Yeah, interfaith dialogue is a bad thing.” No one says that, at least not openly. But is it true that interfaith [Read More...]

A Visit with Mormons

A Visit with Mormons

Ambaa

The last time a pair of Mormon missionaries knocked on my door (two years ago), I was not in the mood. I shortly told them that I had a religion already and I was very happy with it. They asked if I would tell them about it and I declined, suspecting that they were not [Read More...]

The Stakes in Inter-Religious Relations

The Stakes in Inter-Religious Relations

Robert Hunt

Those who follow this blog may have noticed a recurrent theme in the discussions. It is a disagreement over whether religion is primarily a personal path that each individual pursues with whatever resources or companions are amenable, or a community endeavor that requires some level of exclusive devotion and commitment to a community. Related to [Read More...]

Pagans and Interfaith

Pagans and Interfaith

Jason Mankey

Interfaith work can be beneficial, sometimes even personally gratifying, but can we take it too far? What are its objectives and does it come at a cost to our own community?

Circle: my own version of  “interfaith dialogue”

Circle: my own version of “interfaith dialogue”

Women of Spirit and Faith

Three women sit around a table laden with cookies and candles. We are here to bare our souls and to connect to each other, to “Higher Power” and to our own inner wisdom. The only rule: nobody is here to fix anybody else. This is my version of interfaith dialogue. Wikipedia describes interfaith dialogue as: [Read More...]

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