General Question

Siren's avatar

Are interfaith dialogues, via events and organizations, effective in bringing people of different faiths closer together in harmony, understanding and mutual respect?

Asked by Siren (3391 points ) January 30th, 2009

There are some organizations in the US whose mandate is to bring Muslims, Christians and those of the Jewish faith together through events and causes which benefit the general population as well as creating venues to have open dialogues and exchange ideas. If you have heard of these organizations and practise any of these religions, I would like your opinion on whether you think they have been effective (if so, how), or not (why not?).

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31 Answers

Judi's avatar

My mom has been president of Church Women United in her town. She loves it and sees it as a venue for peace and kindness.

Vinifera7's avatar

I can’t say, statistically, how effective they’ve been, but look at the state of things: pervading zealotry, bigotry, and ignorance.

cwilbur's avatar

When you get people in the same place and talking, it becomes apparent that the things that we have in common are much more numerous and much more visceral than the things that divide us.

When people associate only with people who are culturally and ideologically just like them, it is much easier to demonize everyone else.

Siren's avatar

@Vinifera7: Do you think we need more of these organizations then, or that these organizations need to step it up and get more prominent media-wise? If you get what I’m trying to say

Siren's avatar

@cwilbur: So, two thumbs up, in your opinion?

Vinifera7's avatar

@Siren
Definately the later. Pretentious bigots in the media like Bill O’ Fuckface Reilly are part of the problem in my opinion.

Edit: Scratch that. Bill O’Reilly is a physical manifestation of everything that is wrong with our society.

Siren's avatar

So, maybe they need to step it up so that more people will have heard of them and get on the band wagon if they want to be a part of the solution.

@Judi: Does Church Women United meet with groups of other faiths? Or is it more among other Christians groups?

cwilbur's avatar

@Siren: I think the more you get people talking to each other people as human beings, the harder it is to hate them as members of an abstract group.

Some years ago I read of a study that found that the single most determinative factor in whether someone held anti-gay opinions was whether or not they knew someone that they knew was gay. When “gay people” are an abstract group, it’s easy to hate them all. When “gay people” is a group that includes Ted from the office, Jane who works as the school secretary, and Mike who comes to poker night a couple times a month, it’s a lot harder to hate “gay people” was a group.

cwilbur's avatar

@Vinifera7: One of the problems with the media is that sound bites win out, because they’re easy to edit into a 30-second news presentation. This is one of the reasons that evolution and creationism are so often opposed: because the sound bites are easier to get that way. Any potential reconciliation between the two viewpoints takes more than three words to explain, and so is left out of the discussion completely.

And so you get the lunatic fringe on the right side, and the lunatic fringe on the left side, and they’re both shouting sound bites and slogans at each other. Most people, and the truth, are somewhere between them.

Vinifera7's avatar

@cwilbur
You’re exactly right for the most part, however the truth doesn’t always lie somewhere in the middle of two opposing viewpoints. This is why “teaching the controversy” is a ludicrous idea.

Siren's avatar

@cwilbur: I see your point, but since we’re talking about interfaith organizations specifically among Muslims, Jews and Christians, I don’t know how far your study could be linked to, and apply by extension, to them.

cwilbur's avatar

@Siren: I don’t see much of a qualitative difference between an irrational hatred born out of ignorance and directed at gay people and an irrational hatred born out of ignorance and directed at people of a particular religion.

cwilbur's avatar

@Vinifera7: I have yet to see a situation where two sides were shouting sound bites at each other where either side was remotely close to the truth.

Siren's avatar

@cwilbur: That’s nice, but the topic again is about interfaith organizations, and I’m specifically asking people of those faiths I listed above, about organizations for people of those faiths I’ve listed above. Get it?

cwilbur's avatar

@Siren: That’s nice, but you realize that you can ask the question, but not direct what answers and responses people choose to give. Get it?

bodyhead's avatar

When your religion teaches that everyone that isn’t your faith goes to hell, no amount of interfaith activities can make you a good person.

Siren's avatar

@bodyhead: I don’t believe those three religions preach that. I can certainly speak for one of them, anyways.

Siren's avatar

@bodyhead: Sorry, I should not have made that comment above. It’s glaringly obvious you don’t respect one of these religions Or all so this question probably doesn’t apply to you at all.

cwilbur's avatar

@Siren: certain Christian sects and denominations do teach that people who are not of their particular sect or denomination are excluded from salvation. Take a look at any Chick tract, especially the ones directed at Roman Catholics, or read the Roman Catholic catechism.

A Chick tract

Jack79's avatar

I really believe they are useful. I had many wrong assumptions about Islam, and once gave a lecture at a university where I mentioned something about it. A Turkish friend took me aside and eventually got me to read the Quran, which made me respect Muslims a lot more than I did until then (even though I still consider the Quran pretty messy as far as books are concerned).

I think you can actually see the results of the inter-faith dialogue the late Pope initiated (as opposed to the guy they have now, whom I will refrain from characterising in fear of insulting any Catholics present)

Inter-faith dialogue can only be a good thing

Siren's avatar

@cwilbur: You’re correct. I guess they won’t want to be part of the solution, right? They certainly are not going to be part of the demographic that does participate in reaching out.

I am talking about people of these religions who actually want to reach out to other religions and close the ignorance gap. Understanding promotes respect, even if the differences contradict each other’s beliefs. That is the agenda of these organizations.

@Jack79: That’s cool, your experience. I have had similar encounters myself with people of other faiths. That’s actually how I found out more about their religion. It seems, by the answers I’m seeing so far, that there aren’t that many people even aware of these organizations.

fireside's avatar

I think it is a slow road, but the interfaith dialogues are definitely a positive thing.
It is still easy enough to go for an morning or afternoon and then when you leave start sniping and backbiting.

But, as was mentioned above, the more you get to know people the easier it is to get over your prejudices. The more experience you have the less room there is for conjecture.

Judi's avatar

@Siren ;
they are mostly Christian but there is a big swing in that catagory! I believe there are Jewish and Muslim members as well.

cdwccrn's avatar

While I have no data, the reports I have heard say these gatherings make a difference-at the very least to the people who participate.

Siren's avatar

@Judi: That is really cool. Kudos to your mother for being so pro-active. Lurve to you for participating in this thread. ;)

@cdwccrn: I have not participated in those events nor looked into those organizations myself, although I too initially heard the same sentiments. Wanted to get a feel for people’s thoughts on them here at fluther before looking more closely into it (ie if they were effective/how they could be improved, etc.).

cdwccrn's avatar

Siren, if you have an opportunity, I would definately choose this type of program to get involved with. You can
Learn so much and make new friends that you would not have a chance to meet otherwise.

Siren's avatar

@cdwccrn: Thanks for your advice. Do you know of any in particular which merit looking into? I know there are a few on the internet I found doing a Google search, but word of mouth is better for me :)

cdwccrn's avatar

I don’t. The ones I have heard of were short term opportunities. But the Internet or universities might be places to start, or perhaps you could form your own.

thegodfather's avatar

I have seen dialogues help to soften the exclusivism of some denominations and become more open and understanding of other traditions. And, no question dialogues, when approached in a spirit of goodwill, help correct misunderstandings which are all too common place in the religious and political arenas in our country.

Adagio's avatar

@cwilbur Re: Chick Tract

Holy Shit! that’s scary

Ron_C's avatar

I find that sort of event to be disingenuous. They invite all the people that worship the same god, Christians, Jews, Muslims. Where are the Wiccans and atheists? If you want to have a genuinely ecumenical event invite everyone.

When the most common faiths get together, the most likely event is the persecution of the non-believer.

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