Religious Pluralism Then and Now

The Virginia Center for the Liberal Arts and the UVA Lab in Dissecting Cultural Pluralism presents A Workshop for Teachers

Religious Pluralism Then and Now

Through the ages worldwide, the coexistence of different religious systems of thought and religious communities has posed great challenges and opportunities. This workshop for teachers will present three test cases of religious pluralism and religious conflict from classical antiquity and the Middle Ages as a vantage point from which to examine these phenomena and to consider the issues in relation to contemporary conflicts. Examples will be Roman, Etruscan, Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions in interaction. After the three presentations by UVA faculty, there will be a general discussion, Dr. Jennifer Sublette, with a view to how these subjects can be treated in the classroom with middle school and high school students both in historical terms and as a mirror for the world today. 

Lunch will be provided.


9:00 to 9:45

Registration & Introductions


‘Religious Pluralism as a Tool for Political Stability in Republican Rome.’
Anthony Corbeill, Basil Gildersleeve Professor of Classics, UVA

Roman religion could be remarkably welcoming of foreign cults (as with the Anatolian ‘Earth Mother’ in 204 BC) or strongly opposed (as with worship of Bacchus in 186). I will focus on a case of religious syncretism for which we have vivid contemporary evidence: the use of Etruscan prophets (haruspices) by the Roman senate to resolve a seemingly irresolvable political crisis in 56 BC.




‘Persecution, Pluralism, and the Challenge of Religious Difference in the Roman Empire.'
Karl Shuve, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, UVA

This presentation will examine the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire, and consider how this historical example might shed light on challenges posed by religious difference in modern America. We will ask both what led the Romans, who were generally quite tolerant of the worship of foreign deities, to attempt to suppress Christianity, and how the experience of persecution shaped the early Christian movement, leaving a complicated legacy in the West.




‘In the Heavens and On the Ground: Muslims, Jews, and Christians in Medieval Jerusalem.’
Jessica Andruss, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, UVA,

This presentation will address religious pluralism in Jerusalem during the early Islamic period (637–1099 CE). I’ll provide background on historical Jewish and Christian attachments to the city before introducing the Islamic elements. My focus will be on a foundational Islamic narrative about the prophet Muhammad’s miraculous “night journey” from Mecca to Jerusalem and his ascent from there through the heavens. The presentation will consider the power of religious narrative in shaping real ‘on the ground’ political and social conditions within a pluralistic society.




General Discussion of pedagogical applications. 
Led by Jennifer Sublette, Director of Professional Learning, Albemarle County Public Schools

Download Program Flyer

November 16, 2019 9:00am to 3:15pm

Zehmer Hall
University of Virginia

For questions, contact us.

The Virginia Center for the Liberal Arts and the UVA Lab in Dissecting Cultural Pluralism

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