Teaching Philosophy of Religion Inclusively to Diverse Students

The Wabash Foundation-funded project  prepares faculty to teach courses in philosophy of religion from multiple perspectives and to provide a safe space for students to explore a diversity of positions and to encounter a variety of religious truth claims on their own terms. The final, in-person meeting of the project will take place at the 2021 AAR annual meeting.

In recent years, the student body of our colleges and universities has become increasingly diverse and inclusive. At the same time academic institutions have been striving to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. Despite these facts, most curricula in philosophy of religion have remained Christocentric and/or Eurocentric. The reason for this conundrum is twofold:

  1. Most instructors have been exposed to only a few methods and traditions and thus lack the training to teach philosophy of religion with a variety of approaches from a multiplicity of traditions using a variety of methods.
  2. While eager to learn “different positions” and encounter “different cultures,” many students feel uncomfortable when confronted with a plurality of irreconcilable and, thus, dissonant views.

    In short, despite the awareness for need for global and critical philosophy of religion, there still is a lacuna of concrete pedagogical strategies on how to translate these concerns into the creation of a safe and brave leaning-environment that enables students to engage multiple approaches to this field of inquiry.

After a five-year tenure as a seminar in global-critical philosophy of religion at the American Academy of Religion, a diverse group of scholars and philosophers of religion has formed to produce a textbook, teaching manual, and a companion series in global and critical philosophies of religion. To translate our academic discussions into teaching pedagogy, this group would like to create, implement, and assess teaching strategies to make college and university classrooms in philosophy of religion truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive. The goal of this project is twofold:

  1. We would like to empower students to explore a diversity of positions and to encounter a variety of philosophical positions and religious truth claims on their own terms.
  2. We would like to prepare faculty to teach courses in philosophy of religion from the perspective of multiple traditions using a variety of methods that provide a safe and brave space for our students.

Specifically, we envision formulating a pedagogical theory and concrete teaching strategies to facilitate student-centered global critical philosophy of religion. Our endeavor is driven by four central concerns:

  • How to make students from diverse backgrounds feel represented and at home in an increasingly diverse classroom environment?
  • How can we enable students in these diverse classroom settings to understand the beliefs and ways of thinking of their neighbors beyond the pervasive images and stereotypes characteristic of orientalism?
  • How might we enable faculty to teach global and critical approaches to the philosophy of religion in courses that provide a safe and brave learning environment?
  • How do we implement diversity, equity, and inclusion in our teaching of philosophy of religion?