Campus & Community

Religion and Violence Speakers Series debuts this fall

Long before Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed at the United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, Arthur Gilbert was planning a series of lectures and panel discussions on religious violence. Recent events, Gilbert says, only underscore the importance of such discussions.

“The recent unrest in the Middle East and North Africa underlines the problem and makes our series on religion and violence especially timely,” says Gilbert, a professor in the Josef Korbel School of International Studies. “This is a new and exciting direction for international studies, and it is great to think that we are in the vanguard with our series.”

The four-event series, which begins Sept. 27, will explore how religion and violence intersect. Co-sponsored by the Korbel School’s Center for Middle East Studies and the Iliff School of Theology, the series features speakers from various University of Denver academic departments, as well as visiting professors. Each lecture will be accompanied by food provided by local restaurants.

Gilbert wanted to start the series after teaching a graduate class on the subject. “It occurred to me that one of the most important topics of our time had not received the scholarly attention it deserved,” Gilbert says. “While we have books with titles like God’s Century and God is Back, the deity is often treated as an unwelcome stranger at schools of international affairs.”

William Cavanaugh, a professor at DePaul University in Chicago, will discuss his book The Myth of Religious Violence during the opening session on Sept. 27. Cavanaugh argues that religion does not cause violence, and that secular ideologies such as communism and fascism are to blame. Cavanaugh’s lecture will be followed by a panel discussion featuring former Gov. Richard Lamm, religious studies Professor Carl Raschke and Korbel Professor Erica Chenoweth.

Korbel professor Haider Khan will analyze “the deeper roots of both the spiritual quest in its many forms and its perversions that result often in tragic violence” during his Oct. 18 lecture, “Spirituality Contra Fetishism: Values and Violence.”

Professor John Calvert, of Creighton University, will discuss “Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood: Between Ideology and Political Pragmatism” on Oct. 24. Calvert’s presentation will address the history of political pragmatism within the Muslim Brotherhood.

The last session, on Nov. 2, will feature Professor Hector Avalos, from Iowa State University. Avalos will discuss his book Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence, which examines the texts of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to find out if religion is inherently violent. Professors Edward Antonio and Albert Hernandez, from the Iliff School of Theology, will serve as panel members.

Gilbert hopes the series will be welcomed at the University and the community at large.

“I look forward to students from schools like the Iliff School of Theology mingling with international studies students and sharing a meal and good conversation with distinguished academics,” Gilbert says. “It is my hope that the religion and violence initiative will continue beyond this school year, and that this incredibly important topic will find a home at an institution of higher learning.”

For more information and to make luncheon reservations for each session, email




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