Matthewson-IGT Knowledge Center outside shot.
File Photo/ Nevada Sagebrush
The Matthewson-IGT Knowledge Center as it stands on September 2019. The COLA panel on religion and ethics was hosted in the KC on Wednesday, Oct. 23.

The College of Liberal Arts presented the panel “Beyond Toleration,” on Wednesday, Oct. 23, which provided an open discussion among a panel representing various religious and philosophical viewpoints about how to better understand and embrace differences to create a more unified campus and society. 

The panel featured Sean Savoy, Ryan Bell, Sara Zober and Mustafa Hadj-Nacera. 

Savoy is a local community organizer who identifies as a universalist. Bell is a humanist chaplain and former Baptist minister but is now an atheist. Zober is a Reno-based rabbi. Hadj-Nacera is a research assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UNR who also practices Islam. They all offered their own ethics as it relates to their beliefs, while focusing on the common ground between their perspectives. 

The panel offered up the common misconceptions they feel get applied to their faiths. Zober clarified that Judaism is not simply “Christianity minus Jesus” and Bell shared his issues with the myth that atheists/non-religious people have no moral or ethical grounding. Hadj-Nacer emphasized that Islam is a religion of peace. Hadj-Nacer explained how seriously this concept is taken in his faith: the greeting “As-salāmu ‘alaykum,” or “peace be upon you,” is not merely a custom but a pledge. It is to be used with anyone a person who practices Islam encounters even if they don’t practice the religion. It is also an obligation that no harm will come to them. 

Savoy later explained his beliefs in universal metaphysics, as at the core of all traditions is the tenant of being a good person and living a fulfilling life. He believes these concepts can be applied in a general manner and speak to a greater cosmic truth that connects us all. 

Zober said when the Tree of Life synagogue shooting happened in Pittsburgh, it was a brutal blow to the Jewish community. Zober said the first call she received was from the local mosque, offering condolences. When the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand took place five months later, Zober called the Reno mosque back to offer condolences. Zober shared this anecdote to implore other organizations that there is more strength in unity among religious faiths, and that, although they may not agree on everything, they must support one another in times of crisis. 

The title of the panel, “Beyond Toleration,” refers to the idea that simply tolerating those with differences should not be an ideal end goal for our society. The panel preached that tolerance is a minimal effort, and often can come across as condescending, indifferent and un-directional.

The panel entered a consensus to embrace others, to actively seek them out and enter discourse with their ideas, to find common-ground through interaction, that is what it means to go “beyond tolerance.” It requires effort, but it pays off; as the panel suggested, even our siblings are different than us, but we must embrace their differences. 

The panel agreed that tolerance is significantly better than intolerance, but is not the ideal end-point.  The panel believes when people go beyond tolerance, they argued. They also acknowledged how people are not defined by their ideologies, religions, politics, etc. 

Matt Cotter can be reached at or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.