The Aspen Institute is committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. To achieve our goals, it is important to take religion and its role in society seriously. Religion is unquestionably a major force in American society, one that drives how many view, engage, and experience the world. And of course, while religion can be a force for good, it is also the source of much tension.
The Religion & Society Program has done great work over its short but important tenure in the Aspen Institute to help advance religious equity and pluralism. The conversations it has facilitated have called attention to topics that people often avoid but that we all need to consider. The Program has also reached new audiences for us, including through programming at the Aspen Ideas Festival and collaboration with other Aspen programs such as Better Arguments.
It is clear that religious diversity is an aspect of diversity that should be celebrated and discussed. Obviously, this is only possible if we are able to talk about it. In the past few years, we have become increasingly comfortable with conversations around race and gender identities, how they shape us and allow us to move through society. I agree with Religion & Society’s Executive Director Simran Jeet Singh that religion is a critical next frontier for this essential dialogue. By talking about our own relationships with religion—or lack thereof—and by being curious about what animates ourselves and others, we can far better understand and care for one another. Both curiosity and understanding are essential to building justice and equity in society.
Elliot Gerson is the executive vice president of public and policy programs at the Aspen Institute.