Increasing Religious Literacy at UW-Madison

submitted by Mary Borland; photo by Valerie Renk

Ulrich Rosenhagen 2 27 2019 Scale

Dr. Ulrich Rosenhagen (left) pictured here with Club President Jason Beren

Our guest speaker, Dr. Ulrich Rosenhagen, is the Director of Religion and Global Citizenry at UW-Madison. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Heidelberg in 2012 and is an author and researcher.

The mission of The Center for Religion and Global Citizenry (CRGC) is to increase UW-Madison students’ religious literacy and their facility for communicating across boundaries of faith so that they may function effectively as citizens of a religiously diverse world. This is achieved via two programs: The Interfaith Fellows Programs and The Interdisciplinary Religious Group.

The Center was established in August of 2017 after the closing of the Lubar Institute for the Study of Abrahamic Religions in June of 2016. The Center hopes to grow to become the hub for discussion of religious pluralism on the UW-Madison Campus and the greater Madison community. The CRGC is closely collaborating with The Interfaith Network at UW-Madison in order to promote interreligious literacy and cooperation on campus. The Interfaith Network at UW-Madison is a Registered Student Organization under the Associated Students of Madison.

Students meet weekly for conversation and to organize campus events. An upcoming example of a campus event is on April 6-7, titled, ‘The Intersections of Interfaith,’ an interfaith conference that highlights intersectionality— the interconnectedness of our religious, spiritual or atheist identities with our social identities. Through a series of workshops, panels and speakers, conference participants will learn the tools of interfaith leadership and explore the way identity shapes and complicates interfaith dialogue and activism. Because interfaith dialogue brings our identities into close contact with the identities of others, thinking intersectionally is crucial.

After the 9/11 attacks there was more public attention on the relevance of religion and how better understanding of religions can help explain international conflicts and the passions fueling them.  Expertise on religious principles is needed for diplomacy and many believe that the United States is religious but ignorant on religions. We need to understand the deep emotions of religion, not only the cognitive aspects of religion.

During the Q&A segment, it was stated that the number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling. This is referred to as the rise of the “nones”. Most religiously unaffiliated Americans think that churches and other religious institutions benefit society by strengthening community bonds and aiding the poor. With few exceptions, though, the unaffiliated say they are not looking for a religion that would be right for them.

Dr. Rosenhagen helped us better understand the importance of religious literacy to our world.

    If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video on our club’s YouTube Channel here.


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