Dr. Stephen Prothero , professor of religion at Boston University, discussed the relationship between religion and public life in the “Many Roads Up the Same Mountain? Surveying Religion Today” lecture on Tuesday night in the Brown-Lupton University Union Ballroom.
The event was sponsored by the Daryl D. Schmidt Lectureship Committee. The committee was created in honor of Dr. Daryl D. Schmidt, a former TCU religion department faculty member and chair, who passed away in 2006.
Dr. Darren Middleton, professor of religion and chair of the Daryl D. Schmidt Lectureship Committee, said the committee was able to contact Prothero through a former TCU religion professor.
Prothero has contributed to several media outlets about the role of religion in today’s world, according to his official website. He has made appearances on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” “The Colbert Report” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” He is also the author of many books, including a New York Times best-seller, “Religious Literacy: What Americans need to Know,” and his latest book, “God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World–And Why Their Differences Matter.”
“Religion and our world are intertwined; you cannot comprehend one without making sense of the other,” Prothero said.
Religions can not be the same because all religious groups have different beliefs and perform different practices, he said. Each religion has a different idea of who God is or how many gods exist.
“Religions are not essentially the same,” Prothero said. “To believe they are is untrue, condescending and dangerous.”
When people try to connect each religion, it makes our society unable to handle the true nature of problems happening around the world, Prothero said. An individual cannot understand the conflict between Israel and Palestine if they do not know about the religious beliefs of both groups.
“What is needed is an understanding of religious difference, not an appearance of religious unity,” Prothero said.
Differences do not make enemies in a society, it is the society’s inability to manage diversity, he said.
“[Prothero] emphasizes that we need to celebrate the difference between different groups and that celebration will lead to better understanding and hopefully reduce conflict,” sophomore political science major Taylor West said.
Prothero said there will always be differences, but there is one connection between all religions.
“At the top of the mountain is the ethic of compassion,” Prothero said.