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Interreligious dialogue and the problem of defining religion

Jonas Atlas, theologian and peace activist, Belgium

The second webinar in Baraza - URI Europe webinar series was titled “Interreligious dialogue and the problem of defining religion” and it was held on 3rd February. Even though ‘religion’ is a core theme of many contemporary debates, a solid and settled definition of the concept cannot be procured. Several possibilities have been proposed by plenty of academics, yet they vary greatly and no single definition ever became generally accepted. On top of it, the word 'religion' had many different meanings throughout history and until quite recently, the concept didn't exist in various cultures throughout the world. So how can we actually engage in proper interreligious dialogue if we're not really sure what religion actually is? What seems like a semantic debate at first, leads to profound philosophical questions. It forces us to have a deeper look at the very idea of religion itself and to perhaps rethink our approach to dialogue in our contemporary globalized world.

Jonas Atlas is a theologian and peace activist from Belgium. He writes and lectures on religion, mysticism and societal change. Spiritually, he’s rooted within the Christian tradition, although, for many years, he also immersed himself into various Eastern religions. After his studies in philosophy, anthropology and theology at different universities he became active in various sorts of local and international peace work, often with a distinct focus on cultural and religious diversity. His texts, essays and books can be found on www.jonasatlas.net.