Interfaith Relations Advising

Interfaith Relations Tutors

Kimberly E. Oaks Takacs - email
Axel M. Oaks Takacs - email

On Being

On Being is a bi-weekly discussion table that takes place in the main dining hall of Kirkland House, Wednesdays at 6:15 p.m. Axel and Kim Oaks Takacs, Interfaith Relations Tutors, will be hosting this table, which is inclusive of all (non-)beliefs and practices, including all religious traditions, atheists, humanists, and agnostics, as well as those who find affinity with queer, feminist, mujerista, Asian, latinx, black, womanist and liberation theologies, and also Nones and spiritually-inclined persons (and more!). Wondering what some of those terms are? Then you should join! We welcome so-called traditionalists and so-called progressives of any religious affiliation, and everything in between! This table intends to discuss the ways in which each of us finds value, makes meaning, and seeks t/Truth in our daily lives, relationships, practices, and choice of studies and careers. What moves you? What principles, if any, guide you? What communities shape(d) you? This table will be a space to discuss how religion forms your identity, and what it means “to be religious” at Harvard, in the public domain, and in our modern climate and culture. Come join this table if you want to share your own religious ideas, upbringing, and/or passions, or if you are curious about the manifold ways in which people are “religious” beyond what are perceived as normative definitions of a “religious person”. Topics may be circulated in advance.

Remaining Dates: April 19, May 3 -- Look for the On Being sign! 

April 19: As usual, we are happy to leave the discussion free to journey hither and thither as participants guide it. However, given the auspicious coincidence of the Jewish Passover and the Christian Holy Week (OK, not really “auspicious”), perhaps we can discuss the role of suffering and redemption in various religious traditions. There is a rich Jewish tradition of protesting against God on account of suffering (and the constitutive event for the Jewish tradition is the exodus from suffering/oppression to liberation/justice), and the constitutive event for the Christian tradition is the passion of a certain 1st-century Jewish rabbi who is subsequently resurrected. The Four Noble Truths of the Buddhist tradition begin with acknowledgement of suffering (dukkha) and end with liberation therefrom (magga). The necessary concomitant to passionate love in the Islamic tradition is pain, grief, and suffering on account of separation from the b/Beloved (“never has there been a rose without thorns”); humanity itself is considered unjust for taking on faith. Lest this list be protected, I end with those examples. What is it about suffering that makes it a central—if not formative—experience in so many religious traditions? How do you make sense out of suffering, whether your own or someone else’s? Why are there so many cultural and secular platitudes regarding suffering? What ways are there to deal with suffering? What are the dangers of glorifying, exalting, and putting suffering on a pedestal, as it were?


Interfaith, Interreligious, and Chaplaincy Resources at Harvard

Harvard College Interfaith Forum: The Harvard College Interfaith Forum (HCIF) is a student organization that encourages dialogue and collaboration between different religious communities and people of various backgrounds. We provide opportunities for the Harvard community to learn about different faiths and discuss topics of spiritual and religious relevance in a non-denominational, interfaith environment. During the year, HCIF holds weekly meetings and "Feasting on Faith" discussions, interfaith community service projects, and other interfaith-related events. All members of the undergraduate community from any religious (or non-religious!) background are welcome to join us!

Harvard Chaplains: The Harvard Chaplains are a professional community of more than thirty chaplains, representing many of the world’s religious, spiritual, and ethical traditions, who share a collective commitment to serving the spiritual needs of the students, faculty, and staff of Harvard University. (website)

The Pluralism Project: The Pluralism Project is a two decade-long research project that engages students in studying the new religious diversity in the United States. We explore particularly the communities and religious traditions of Asia and the Middle East that have become woven into the religious fabric of the United States in the past twenty-five years. (website)

Religious Life at Harvard: List of organizations serving various religious communities at Harvard College. (website)

Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School (website): By its resources and programming the Center seeks

  • to promote the study of the world's religions in their classical and historical forms, drawing on traditional and contemporary disciplines of learning;
  • to promote understanding of the complex roles that religions play in today’s cultures, economies, and political structures;
  • to convene conversations among scholars and practitioners across the global network that is the Center’s heritage and future.