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A Journey into Religious Diversity

Updated: Apr 21, 2023

As this first year of the Living Our Beliefs podcast draws to a close, I want to thank my guests and you, the audience. I appreciate your enthusiasm and generosity of spirit. Guests have revealed tales of faith expressed, challenges overcome, and new methods of observance discovered. Audience feedback has fostered a clearer message and encouraged my efforts. Thank you for being on this journey of exploration with me. I look forward to continuing our conversations.

This is a journey of learning with head and heart for me. I began the Living Our Beliefs podcast to learn about how various Jews, Christians and Muslims live their religion – how it is present in daily life. I have been richly rewarded. The personal stories have unveiled unfamiliar perspectives and shed new light on familiar ones. The knowledge is intellectual while the exchange is emotional – a potent mixture.

I am fascinated by the power of faith and dedicated practice. Even as I have become more committed to Jewish practice, the impetus and experience of others remains intriguing. We hold beliefs and maintain practices for all sorts of reasons – structure, meaning, community, comfort, wrestling, and more. Some take belief as a given, while others are more questioning.

Journeys involve questions. Mine revolve around the nature of observance and bridging differences of belief, including: How does religion provide an operating system for life? How does faith show up in daily life? What is helpful? How can I meaningfully understand a perspective distinct from mine?

Having begun with questions, what have I learned on this journey so far? Two main lessons stand out.

People have different central points in their beliefs. For Allyson Hilliard, a Baptist, God’s enduring presence and reliability of providing what she needs is critical. David Green prizes Torah as ‘True’ and having proof, a view common in his Orthodox Jewish community. On the other hand, Maxine Shapiro, a liberal Jew and Zen Buddhist, treasures the kaleidoscope that various traditions offer, and the emotional experience gained from being present. Shabiha Sheikh, a Sunni Muslim, models the enduring benefits of kindness and letting one’s professionalism win over the skeptics at work. These are but a few of the values guests have described. My reactions are equally varied. I am charmed, surprised, stretched and left speechless by guest perspectives and experience.

Bridging differences of faith and devotion is sometimes challenging, but it is possible and worthwhile. Given the personal topic and public forum, building trust is critical. This is a two-way street. As the host, I approach each encounter with respect and curiosity, listen deeply, ask open questions, and generally retain a posture of learning as a fellow traveler. The guests bring their personal story and scholarship, as well as their unique personality and energy. Values and observance come alive in the particularities of a life. Connecting from a solid base in our own tradition seems the best approach and is the one I take – sturdy in my Jewish practice yet respectful of others. I hear this from guests as well.

With lessons of the past year in mind, I turn to the coming year. I will continue hosting a range of guests with interesting stories, meeting them with my open heart and inquisitive mind. New aspects will likely develop. After all, change is a part of growth. The journey continues!

The ‘Living Our Beliefs’ podcast is available on Apple podcasts, other major podcast platforms, and through my Talking with God Project website.

Thoughts? Send comments and questions to me at I look forward to hearing from you! Méli

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