Business across Religious Traditions

BART events

2012-2013

Religious Literacy: What's at Stake?

This event featured David N. Hempton, Dean of Harvard Divinity School, McDonald Family Professor of Evangelical Theological Studies and John Lord O'Brian Professor of Divinity, and Stephen Prothero, Professor of Religion, Boston University, and author of The New York Times bestseller Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know – and Doesn't (HarperOne, 2007). The two spoke on November 7, 2013, at The Harvard Club of New York City.

Watch a video of the event:

"The United States is one of the most religious places on earth," writes professor Stephen Prothero in his recent book Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know – And Doesn't, "but it is also a nation of shocking religious illiteracy." HDS Dean David N. Hempton echoes this sentiment and writes in his essay, "The Fog of Religious Conflict" that all citizens ought to "be religiously literate, not just in a forensic way of knowing more information about religious traditions, but globally engaged and morally committed." These two leading scholars discussed the steep costs of religious ignorance and the work that must be done to improve literacy and to address the roots of religious conflict in the United States and the wider world.

This Harvard Divinity School program was made possible through the generosity of H. Bruce McEver, MBA '69 and MTS '11, founder and president of The Foundation for Religious Literacy.


2011-12

The Role of Your Faith in Global Capitalism: Does It Have a Place?
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Harvard Club of New York City
New York, New York

An evening with Bill George, Professor of Management Practice, Harvard Business School, and former chairman and CEO of Medtronic; moderated by Ronald F. Thiemann, Bussey Professor of Theology, Harvard Divinity School, and director, Business across Religious Traditions.

Bill George is the author of several best-selling books on leadership, among them Seven Lessons for Leading in Crisis and True North Groups: A Powerful Path to Personal and Leadership Development. PBS has named him one of the "Top 25 Business Leaders of the Past 25 Years."

View this event online.
View a slideshow of this event
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2010-11

Good Value: Reflections on Money, Morality, and an Uncertain World
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Harvard Club of New York City
New York, New York

An evening with Stephen Green, group chairman, HSBC Holdings, and author of Good Value: Reflections on Money, Morality, and an Uncertain World; moderated by Ronald F. Thiemann, Bussey Professor of Theology, Harvard Divinity School, and director, Business across Religious Traditions.

In this lecture, Stephen Green discussed topics from his critically acclaimed book, Good Value: Reflections on Money, Morality, and an Uncertain World, which the Financial Times named a Book of the Year and described as "a striking personal insight into money and morality by someone on the inside."

View this event online.


2009-10

Moral Guidance in a Time of Crisis: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam on Wealth and Poverty
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Harvard Club of New York City
New York, New York

Ronald F. Thiemann, Bussey Professor of Theology, Harvard Divinity School; Mark C. Biderman, MBA '69, former vice chairman of National Financial Partners; David Hamilton Jeffries, managing director, the Royal Bank of Scotland; Sherif Lotfi, MPP '86, managing director, the Royal Bank of Scotland

Ronald F. Thiemann led this program with a lecture that explored the basic precepts in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam that underlie modern attitudes toward wealth and poverty. Three businessmen responded from their particular faith traditions, addressing such contemporary concerns as greed, risk-taking, executive compensation, charity, philanthropy, and other personal obligations imposed by religious practice, and together, they responded to questions from the audience.

Strange and Familiar Coworkers: Overlapping Discourses of Religion and Spirituality in Business
Colloquium
Monday, October 5, 2009
Sperry Room, Andover Hall
Harvard Divinity School

Douglas A. Hicks, Associate Professor of Leadership Studies and Religion, Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond

Corporate Christianity: Wal-Mart and "Free-Market Fundamentalism"
Colloquium
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Sperry Room, Andover Hall
Harvard Divinity School

Bethany E. Moreton, Assistant Professor of History and Women's Studies, University of Georgia, Athens

View this event online.

Religious Traditions and Economic Practices in China
Executive Education Seminar
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Harvard Club of New York City
New York, New York

Michael J. Puett, Professor of Chinese History, Harvard University


2008-09

Religions of China
Friday, November 21, 2008
Fairmont Hotel
San Francisco, California

Featuring Michael J. Puett, Professor of Chinese History, Harvard University

Religious Traditions and Economic Practices in China
Economic development in China has always been intimately related to religious practices. Indeed, it is difficult if not impossible to understand many of the particular features of the Chinese economy without also understanding the religious practices and views that underlie it.

This seminar explored several of these features, including the emphasis on mass production of goods, the types of market networks being formed, and the emphasis on education. The primary focus, however, was on the ways that views of nature derived from Chinese religions have affected the development of the economy in China. Particular attention was focused on the rising agricultural biotechnology economy in China and how many of the distinctive features of that economy are based in religious values. For example, the seminar discussed why, unlike in India, the use of genetically modified crops has been embraced in China—much more so even than in the United States—and why so many resources are being poured into biotechnology in China.

Religions of South Asia
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Reform Club
London, United Kingdom

Featuring Charles S. Hallisey, Senior Lecturer on Buddhist Literatures, Harvard Divinity School

Religious Diversity and Economic Culture in India
Economic life in India (as elsewhere) has deep relations to religion, but one of the enduring features of Indian cultural life has been diversity in terms of religions, languages, regions, and communities. This enduring diversity makes considering the links between economic life and religion in India particularly fascinating, and especially so in the context of economic and cultural globalization and a constitutionally secular Indian state that continues to be a primary economic agent. Charles Hallisey explored how religious ideas, values, and practices in a plural society can support, but also impede, economic development. This discussion also highlighted recent questions about religion and entrepreneurial culture, as well as religion and economic development directed at improving the lives of the poor in India.

Islam
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Harvard Club of New York City
New York, New York

Featuring Ali S. Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures, Harvard University

Economic Development as an Islamic Imperative
Philanthropy and charitable giving hold a central place in the teachings of the Islamic faith. They are closely related to the goal of enabling human beings to maintain their dignity and status as God's greatest creation. In Islamic terms, the best charity goes beyond short-term material support and provides long-term commitment to support marginalized members of society in recovering their lost dignity by building different and better futures for themselves. Inspired by these ideals, one Muslim leader, Karim Aga Khan IV, has created the Aga Khan Development Network, the world's largest network of private economic and social development agencies.

Ali Asani provided an overview of the development initiative and, using the recently released film, An Islamic Conscience: The Agha Khan and the Ismailis, by Harvard Divinity School student Shamir Allibhai, led a discussion that explored and examined the Aga Khan's vision of how Islam and business can mix.


2007-08

Islam
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Harvard Club of New York City
New York, New York

Featuring Baber Johansen, Professor of Islamic Religious Studies, Harvard Divinity School

The First Muslim Globalization
Muslim contract law in the eleventh and twelfth centuries legalizes "the first Muslim globalization." Muslim jurists of that period define goods less by the material from which they are made or by the region whose name they carry than by the models that determine their production. Regional products fabricated in standardized production are not protected by trademarks; they can be copied everywhere. Their production and exchange are thus freed of all regional limits. The investment contract, of particular importance in this context, is concluded between a capital investor and his insolvent partners who depend, for their integration in the commercial exchange, on the capital that he advances to them. This contract had great practical importance for the nineteenth-century modernization of Egyptian agriculture and the transformation of Palestinian soap and oil production. The case study presented Grameen Bank, an organization of micro-finance for the poor in Bangladesh, established in 1976, and the echo of this approach to engaged social banking found in the publications on Islamic finance.

Judaism
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Harvard Club of New York City
New York, New York

Featuring Jay M. Harris, Harry Austryn Wolfson Professor of Jewish Studies, Harvard University

Jewish Law and Marketplace Ethics
The legal dimension of the Jewish religious tradition emerged as an all-encompassing system of law that did not conceive of anything outside its purview. Thus, the tradition is replete with reflections on, and regulations governing, business practices of all kinds, from the credit markets to the labor markets. This discussion focused on a passage of Talmud—the primary source of almost all Jewish law—that deals with many aspects of unjust enrichment and ill-gotten gains. In the process, participants learned about the tradition's views on pricing, interest, wages, and the ethics of the marketplace more generally. The seminar also afforded the opportunity to focus on the patterns of reasoning that produce some startling conclusions. This led, in turn, to a broader conversation regarding the religious framework for regulating human behavior and its effectiveness (or lack of same).

Christianity
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Harvard Club of New York City
New York, New York

Featuring Ronald F. Thiemann, Bussey Professor of Theology, Harvard Divinity School, and Faculty Convener, BART Seminar Series

Christianity on Wealth, Poverty, and the Workplace
Christianity and capitalism have had a close relationship, especially in the modern West. Max Weber argued in his classic, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, that attitudes toward wealth that emerged among post-Reformation European Protestants strongly encouraged the quest for prosperity in both Europe and the United States. Many of the "barons of capitalism" in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were Protestant Christians who amassed enormous wealth but also used that wealth for philanthropic purposes. Contemporary evangelicalism counts many ministers among its number who preach a "gospel of prosperity." This seminar explored the tensions within Christian teaching and practice concerning wealth and poverty. Participants gathered in an effort to understand how these paradoxical attitudes have developed within the context of modern democratic societies. The seminar concluded with a case study of a multinational corporation whose culture has been shaped by fundamental Christian values but which operates successfully in many non-Christian societies.


2006-07

Religions of China
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Harvard Club of New York City
New York, New York

Featuring Michael J. Puett, Professor of Chinese History, Harvard University

Transforming the Natural World: Religion and Business in China
Economic development in China has always been intimately related to religious practices. Indeed, it is difficult, if not impossible, to understand many of the particular features of the Chinese economy without also understanding the underlying religious practices and views. Michael Puett explored several of these features in his presentation, including the emphasis on mass production of goods, the types of market networks being formed, and the emphasis on education. Particular attention focused on the rising agricultural biotechnology economy in China, and how many of the distinctive features of that economy are based in religious values. For example, the seminar discussed why, unlike in India, the use of genetically modified crops has been embraced in China—much more so even than in the United States—and why so many resources are being poured into biotechnology in China.

Hinduism
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
Harvard Club of New York City
New York, New York

Featuring Anne E. Monius, Professor of South Asian Religions, Harvard Divinity School

Genes, Seeds, and Karma: Religion and Agribusiness in South Asia
Why has the introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops into India created such a storm of controversy? Why has a country with millions of undernourished citizens begun to ban the sale of Monsanto's GM cotton, potatoes, and corn? This presentation explored the ways in which bioengineered seeds, foods, and cloth violate basic South Asian religious notions of both dharma (moral order) and samskara (cultivation). The wider effects of Monsanto's business practices on the religious institutions of India's cotton-growing regions were also examined. Not surprisingly, grassroots movements using explicitly religious language have emerged in the past decade to protest Monsanto's presence in India; the presentation assessed one of the most effective among them and concludes by asking: Can genetically modified crops be more effectively integrated into Indian agriculture?

Buddhism
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Charles Hotel
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Featuring Donald K. Swearer, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies and director of the Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard Divinity School

Ethics, Wealth, and Salvation: Buddhist Economics—An Oxymoron?
Max Weber characterized early Indian Buddhism as the paradigmatic example of an "otherworldly mysticism," religion that had little to do with economic matters. However, Weber's interpretation of the tradition ignored how Buddhism—despite being a largely monastic institution in much of Asia—deals with patterns of daily life related to wealth and economics. This seminar explored Buddhist teachings about wealth and examined how Buddhism addresses issues related to economic justice, the equitable distribution of wealth, and related matters. After citing classical and modern examples, Donald Swearer presented an in-depth consideration of two cases—one, from Southeast Asia, critical of the models associated with global capitalism; the second, a contrasting model from East Asia—to further examine these themes. The discussion painted a contextual setting in which Buddhism and its sometimes contradictory ideals are seen as part of a total cultural system that explains and enhances life's meaning through personal, social, and cosmic means.