Dixie Forum brings diverse faiths to campus

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The Dixie Forum “Great Faiths” series takes attendees on spiritual trips everywhere from evangelical churches in the Mississippi Delta to the arid desert lands where worshipers pray to Allah.

Just as religions are diverse, smaller groups within religions differ, and Joel Lewis, Dixie Forum adviser and Dixie State College assistant professor of history, said finding speakers who could discuss numerous denominations of major religions was a challenge, because smaller groups within religions have many different interpretations. 

Lewis said the series was designed to “meet Dixie State College’s mission themes of promoting a culture of learning, values and community” and will open the communication from diverse groups of people that is necessary in a democracy.

Lewis corresponded with several religious leaders in the region, including a chairman of the Hindu Jain Temple in Las Vegas. Satish Bhatnagar, University of Nevada-Las Vegas professor of mathematics, was asked to give the presentation on Hinduism on Oct. 2.

Bhatnagar said presenting information on his faith would not only give students a variety of information on different ways of thinking, but would also strengthen their own religious beliefs.

“It is important to understand the forces behind other religions,” Bhatnagar said. “It will make you understand the strengths of your religion and some of the flaws and weaknesses.”

Erin Gliddon, a freshman elementary education major from Las Vegas, said Bhatnagar’s presentation related to her because of the way he made reference to a prominent Hindu figure in world history.

“He talked about Gandhi, which helped me link some of the ideas with things I’m familiar with,” Gliddon said.

Bhatnagar not only set a historical background referencing Gandhi, but also acknowledged the ways Hinduism compares with more prominent religions in the area, such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Along with introducing series-goers to basic ideas of Hinduism, such as reincarnation, Bhatnagar encouraged questions and comments from the audience. Bhatnagar said the greatest way to find out about different religions is interaction.

“Direct knowledge and interaction is better than reading a book,” Bhatnagar said.

The “Great Faiths” series, located in the Dunford Auditorium of the Browning Resource Center, began with Bhatnagar’s presentation on Hinduism and continues every week until November, closing with Christianity on Nov. 12.

For basic information and a schedule of the remainder of “Great Faiths” series presentations, go to the Dixie Forum webpage: http://www.dixie.edu/humanities/dixie_forum.php. 

The forums are held Tuesdays from noon to 1 p.m.