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Author calls for peace, religious dialogue

Nov. 10, 2006

Aaron Turney/Lariat staff
Author Bruce Feiler spoke Thursday night in Waco Hall about the need for interfaith cooperation.


At a time when religious issues dominate society, it's imperative for people worldwide to recapture religious dialogue, Bruce Feiler told an audience of Baylor students, faculty and visitors Thursday night at Waco Hall.

"The idea that one religion is going to be the only religion in world is deader than it's ever been," Feiler said.

A best-selling author and journalist, Feiler delivered a lecture titled "Can We All Get Along?: Building Bridges Among the Religions in the 21st Century," to about 700 people as part of the fifth-annual Ferguson-Clark author lecture series.

Feiler said the events of Sept. 11, 2001, inspired him to find out if Abraham, the spiritual father of 14 million Jews, 2 billion Christians and 1 billion Muslims could play a part in religious reconciliation.

So he traveled to the lands where the religions began.

"I wanted to figure out, is religion just tearing us apart? Or can religion in some small way help bring us back together?" Feiler said.

Feiler traced the spiritual and exploratory journey that took him through Biblical lands such as Israel and Iraq, where he visited sites pivotal in the development of modern religious traditions.

Feiler emphasized the importance the city of Babylon in particular had to his travels.

Babylon was where the Jews, exiled from their homeland and separated from the temple, opened religion more to the community and "decided God belongs to everyone, not to one person or group," Feiler said.

"The idea that an untouchable, invisible god lives all over the world --that idea began in Babylon," he said.

In Iran, Feiler studied ancient Persian ruler Cyrus the Great, who allowed everyone in his domain to practice their own religion.

Feiler said the Hebrew Bible extensively praises Cyrus, who he called the inventor of pluralism.

"The message is God reaches out to anyone," Feiler said.

"God will embrace anyone who embraces him, no matter your religion, no matter your nationality."

Feiler said the Bible can't be read as saying one group of people has an exclusive claim to the truth, and is "too important to western civilization to be ceded to one side in the debate about God."

Feiler said the religious questions society deals with are too important to ignore or hope other people solve.

"This question is so important it has to happen in every neighborhood, every community and every heart," Feiler said.

"Why not here? Why not you?"

After the lecture, audience members had already begun the discussions.

Terrell sophomore Gautej Koradia said Feiler did a good job addressing the coexistence of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, but failed to mention religions such as Hindiusm and Buddhism.

"All doesn't just include monotheism," Koradia said.

Seguin freshman Brittany Davis took issue with Feiler's view of biblical interpretation .

"He said that in every generation, the Bible is interpreted differently, and he said that's all right," Davis said.

"I didn't really agree with that."