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‘It’s a potluck dinner versus the melting pot’: 6 books for appreciating other religions

Discussions about religion in the U.S. are often fraught. Outside of family, about half of U.S. adults say they hardly ever (or never) discuss the topic, according to a 2016 Pew Research Center poll.

Interfaith leader Eboo Patel wants to change and jumpstart the conversation, from division to cooperation and diverse inclusion.

He shares his faith with others through his own books and the Interfaith Youth Core, a group he founded in 1998 that focuses on college campuses.

“How do we bring people from different religions to these shared values across faiths?” said Patel, author of the new book “Out of Many Faiths: Religious Diversity and the American Promise.” “We hope to be a part of writing the next great chapter in the way that America engages with religious diversity.”

Patel says that earlier in his life, he was an angry activist and even walked away from his faith in college. But in reading more about other religions, he slowly learned to appreciate diverse faith traditions.

He reconnected to Islam and committed to be an interfaith leader and help, as he puts it, “write the next chapter in the inspiring story of American religious pluralism.”

No matter how they view religion, Patel suggests Americans do what he did: educate themselves on different belief systems, find what they admire about those faiths and learn how they can work together to improve America.

“It’s a potluck dinner versus the melting pot,” Patel said. “The melting pot says we’re going to eliminate distinctiveness, but a potluck says we should bring something to the big, open table that welcomes different contributions from communities, and that’s the way the nation feasts.”

In his own words, here are six books Patel recommends for those looking to understand different religions.

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