It makes a lot of sense for my career to have begun and grown through the work to build religious pluralism. I grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, where protestant churches dotted almost every corner and my Lutheran church was an important source of community. In these ways, I saw religion do much good. I also grew up with two family members who migrated to the United States as refugees after being forced out of their birth country due to religious-based violence and genocide. Through their stories and learning about their background, I also saw how religion can be weaponized and cause harm.
Even when I didn’t realize it, the question of how and why religion could be a driving force for equity, community, and good and also manipulated to cause harm and pain drove many of my academic and professional pursuits.
Through the Religion & Society Program, we work to create a society where the good of religion is actualized and everyone has the rights, freedoms, and safety to worship, according to their conscience. I believe that one of the most important pieces of work we do to turn this vision into a reality is connecting and supporting the leaders on the ground who are already doing this work in unique and different ways, through our Powering Pluralism Network.
In my two-plus years working with the Religion & Society Program and over the last year working with our Powering Pluralism Network, I’ve seen us connect an Imam, Indigenous spiritual leader, and academic to write an article on the future of religious freedom; bring a community interfaith leader in to consult on a workbook for faith institutions; start conversations on religious literacy and mental health; and so much more.
This work all points to various answers to the question of what is needed to support religion as a force of good in our society, and it’s only just beginning. With a new name, 100+ faith-inspired leaders involved in our work, and ambitious goals, a future of religious pluralism is well within our reach.
Abigale (Abbie) Haug is the Program Associate for the Religion & Society Program at the Aspen Institute.