A Global Philosophy of Religion in the Local Des Moines Community

Globally, our Lecture and Dialogue Series enacts an innovative approach to religiously inclusive philosophy of religion, exploring common religious themes from different religious perspectives through scholar lectures, practitioner dialogues, and philosophical comparisons. Locally, our Religions of Des Moines Initiative generates informative media about religious communities in the greater Des Moines area, collaborating with local practitioners to create narrative guides, digital stories, and engaging photos of their communities.

06/03: Meet My Religious Neighbor at Ezan: Islamic & Education Center

Join us on Saturday, June 3rd at 8:30 pm for the next open house in our Meet My Religious Neighbor series. This open house will be held at Ezan: Islamic & Education Center on 6202 Douglas Ave in Des Moines. Around 8:30, the community will be engaging in the sunset prayer (maghrib), after which they will partake in the breaking-of-the-fast meal (iftar), then perform the final prayer of the night (isha’a).


05/04: Comparative Philosophy of Death and Dying

  • Tim Knepper, Professor of Philosophy, Drake University
  • Lucy Bregman, Professor of Religion, Temple University
  • Mary Gottschalk, Adjunct Professor of Religion, Drake University
  • Allen Zagoren, Associate Professor of Public Administration, Drake University

May 4, 2017, 7:00 p.m.
Cowles Reading Room, Cowles Library


For the final event of its 2015-2017 series on death and dying, four scholars will offer their comparative philosophical reflections about death and dying in the religions of the world, especially with regard to the influence of the medicalization of death on traditional theologies and rituals.

  • Timothy Knepper is a professor of philosophy at Drake University, where he directs The Comparison Project, a public program in global, comparative religion and local, lived religion.
  • Lucy Bregman is a profess of religion at Temple University and is the author of several books on death and dying, including Death in the Midst of Life, Beyond Silence and Denial, and Preaching Death.
  • Mary Gottschalk has served as an adjunct instructor at Drake University for the last two years, teaching courses on death and dying.
  • Dr. Allen Zagoren is Associate Professor of Public Administration in the College of Business and Public Administration at Drake University, where he teaches in the areas of health education in health policy and bio-ethics.


“To Die in Peace”: Negotiating Advance Directives in a Navajo Context

Michelene Pesantubbee, Associate Professor of American Indian Studies, University of Iowa

Thursday, March 23, 7:00 p.m.
Sussman Theater, Olmsted Center

Health care providers in IHS facilities and hospitals have long been reluctant to raise end-of-life issues with Native American patients for fear of violating tribal customs. Dr. Pesantubbee will discuss Navajo beliefs associated with illness and death and how those ideas informed Navajo refusal to consider advance directives. She will conclude with a summary of how the Fort Defiance Indian Hospital staff worked with Navajo social workers to devise a plan that resulted in extraordinary success rates in obtaining Navajo end-of-life directives.

Michelene Pesantubbee is an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Iowa. She specializes in Native American religious traditions especially Native American women and religious change and Native American religious movements. She is the author of Choctaw Women in a Chaotic World published by the University of New Mexico Press.

Listen to the audio of the lecture below:

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Brain Death; Islamic Theological Responses to Medicalized Dying

Aasim Padela, Director of the Initiative on Islam and Medicine, University of Chicago

Thursday, March 2, 7:00 p.m.
Sussman Theater, Olmsted Center

Dr. Aasim Padela’s lecture will describe critical Islamic theological concepts and relevant juridical rulings pertaining to end-of-life healthcare. Specifically, it will examine ethico-legal perspectives on withdrawal and withholding of life support and brain death, and cover how notions about moral obligations and preservation of human dignity inform viewpoints on death and dying.

Dr. Aasim Padela is the Director of the Initiative on Islam and Medicine and an Associate Professor of Medicine at the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago. Dr. Padela is a clinician-researcher and bioethicist whose scholarship lies at the intersection of community health and religion. He has served as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar from 2008–2011, a Visiting Fellow at the Oxford Centre of Islamic Studies in 2010, and a Templeton Foundation Scholar from 2013–2015.

Video of the lecture