Colloquium on the Future of Religion

Colloquium on the Future of Religion


Shot of the lower legs of two people walking on sidewalk

We continually see more and more young people abandoning religious and spiritual practice/belief at some point in their adolescence (between ages 12 and 17). Though many have viewed religion, in recent history, as a phenomenon that is on its way out of public discourse and society, it never fully dissipates. Will this remain true when Generation Z comes of age? If religion does not dissipate, what will it look like in the coming years?

The colloquium began with an address from Susan Palmer, a professor and researcher on children and religion. We then held two panel discussions addressing fostering religion and spirituality in early childhood, and how adolescents confront and navigate religious and spiritual experiences. Our inquiry will focus on how parents, educators, and community leaders lead children through religious and spiritual realities, and why university students choose to engage – or not – with faith and spirituality in their young adult years.

Participants in the colloquium represent a broad range of perspectives on these topics. They include researchers and experts in the field of children and religion or spirituality, parents of young children, and university students who have continued to engage with and explore religion, either personally or academically.

Keynote Address: Susan Palmer

Susan J. Palmer is a researcher and writer in the field of new religious studies. She is an Affiliate Professor at Concordia University in Montreal and is currently working at McGill University as Principal Investigator on a four-year research project supported by the Social Sciences and the Humanities Research Council: Children in Sectarian Religions and State Control. She is a Lecturer at the McGill School of Religious Studies where she also teaches the course on New Religious Movements.

Palmer has published eleven books, sociological studies of new religions, notably: Moon Sisters, Krishna Mothers, Rajneesh Lovers: Women's Roles in New Religions (Syracuse, 1994); Aliens Adored: Rael’s UFO Religion (Rutgers, 2004); The New Heretics of France (Oxford University Press, 2011); The Nuwaubian Nation: Black Spirituality and State Control (Ashgate 2010), and (co-authored with Stuart Wright) Storming Zion: Government Raids on Religions (Oxford University Press, 2015).


Panel A - Nurturing Faith in Children

The intersection of fostering religion and spirituality in early childhood, featuring expert professionals in the field of children and religion or spirituality.  Listen to recorded excerpts on our YouTube channel here.

Colloquium Panel "Nurturing Faith in Children"


Rabbi Boris Dolin

Boris Dolin is the rabbi of Congregation Dorshei Emet in Montreal, Quebec. He is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and received an M.A. in Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Boris began his rabbinic career as a summer camp song leader and educator. Since then he has worked as a rabbi in Oregon and spent a year as the rabbi of Beit Polska, the Union of Progressive Congregations in Poland, where he led a multi-congregational community working to help rebuild Jewish life in Europe. In addition to being a rabbinic fellow for InterfaithFamily, a support and outreach organization for interfaith couples, Rabbi Boris is active in interfaith dialogue and activism in Montreal and Canada. Boris lives in Montreal with his wife Sarah and his children Elijah, Ezra and Nehama.

Jean Daniel Ó Donnċaḋa

Jean-Daniel is our Protestant volunteer, sponsored by the United and Anglican Churches of Canada. He has a bachelor’s from Harvard and a master of divinity from Yale and was very involved in campus ministry at both schools. He is a PhD student in practical theology at the Université de Lausanne, where he is trying to prove that Jesus really truly meant it when he said, "Let the little children come to me." He is here for you, en anglais ou en français, comme vous voulez, whether to chat, to get a group together for an intense game of Apples to Apples or to help you figure out what in God’s name we can do together to make this a better world. And he is happy to meet up with any students no matter what they believe, or don’t.

Omar Edaibat

Omar is one of our Muslim faith volunteers at MORSL. He is currently completing his PhD at McGill’s Institute of Islamic Studies. His areas of research interest include the intellectual and social history of Sufism, Islam’s mystical and spiritual tradition, the history of Islamic law, and modern Islamic thought. Omar has been a mentor for the Muslim Students Association at McGill for a few years, where he occasionally delivers the sermon for the Friday congressional prayer. He is also an active member and volunteer with the Sanad Collective, a local Muslim community organization and registered charity, which provides educational opportunities on Islamic spirituality, including annual spiritual retreats, public classes, and lectures, and various interfaith initiatives. Please feel free to reach out to Omar by email, as he’s always available for a chat!

Hayley Juhl

Hayley Juhl is a copy editor and parenting columnist at the Montreal Gazette. She has had a complicated relationship with religion, beginning with her upbringing as a Jehovah’s Witness. Having explored several faith organizations, she thought she had all the answers — but then the little people in her life started asking questions. She has two children, 24 and 8, who are much smarter than her.

Dr. Juss Kaur Magon

Dr. Juss Kaur Magon is an International Education Consultant and has successfully mentored over 800 teachers in Saudi Arabia, UAE, India and Nigeria with Pearson Education and independently. Juss has been involved in inquiry related research in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology at McGill University in Montreal, Canada for a decade, where she was also an Adjunct Professor. Her in-depth experience of teaching at all levels of school life and community enables her to work very closely with both students and teachers. Juss is very passionate about teaching and learning. She finds the experience of meeting people from diverse backgrounds a joy and enjoys their personal connection to the Divine. Juss also holds motivational workshops that engage students with questions of faith, spirituality, mindfulness, and positive thinking.

Panel B - A Gen Z Perspective on Religion

Considering how adolescents confront and navigate religious and spiritual experiences from the voices of current university students. Listen to recorded excerpts here on YouTube.

Colloquium Panel "A Gen Z Perspective on Religion"


Gilli Cohen

Gilli Cohen is a U2 Joint Honours student studying Political Science and Religious Studies. Gilli grew up in a Jewish home and identifies as Jewish with respect to his historical and ethnic identity. However, in terms of theological speculation, he finds wisdom throughout the world's traditions. He has begun Buddhist Vipassana meditation techniques in an attempt to embody such wisdom and as a student of religious studies, he has the privilege of encountering religious teachings, texts, sociological developments, and historical flashpoints on a daily basis. Gilli cherishes the diverse sources of information and wisdom he is exposed to through his studies and aspires to one day be one of those sources taught.

Lucas Coque

Lucas Fava Coque is an U4 independent B.Th student who grew up in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and has been living in Montreal for the last nine years. He was raised in a Pentecostal context, was active in Reformed evangelical circles in Montreal, and today identifies as a Christian Agnostic. He is passionate about the ways we deconstruct and reconstruct our inherited identities and narratives in a post-Christian secular pluralist society.

Olivier Grenier-Leboeuf

Olivier Grenier-Leboeuf Portrait PhotoOlivier Grenier-Leboeuf is an undergraduate student at McGill University, where he is pursuing a joint major in Mathematics and Computer Science (U2). He is a Falun Dafa practitioner and participates in the Falun Dafa Club at McGill. He started to develop a passion for philosophy in high school. At the time, he tried meditating for about two hours every day, and after one month he had come to what he considered profound realizations, which were very similar to ideas discussed in Buddhist teachings. This led him to believe that perhaps there is more to Buddhist ideas than superstition. Gradually he started to believe more and more that there is something divine in the universe. One day he started to read a book about the practice called Falun Dafa, which is a Buddha school of self-cultivation and has practiced Falun Dafa since that day. The subject of self-care and sacredness of the self is intrinsically tied to his life and he is looking forward to meeting the other panelists and the attendees, but also to listen to what other people think about the universe and life. He believes it is remarkable for someone to still hold on to values and the belief in the divine despite the current state of society, which is why he cherishes everyone who still has faith and enjoys meeting them.

Khrystia MacKinnon

Khrystia MacKinnon is an undergrad in her last semester, majoring in Physiology and minoring in World Religions. She grew up in a Ukrainian Catholic home in Saskatchewan, attending public Catholic school from Kindergarten through to graduation. Throughout her adolescence, she frequently attended retreats and camps aimed at deepening the Catholic faith of young people. In her time at McGill, she has been heavily involved with the Newman Catholic Students’ Society, the Catholic student group on campus, sitting on the executive for the last three years. She is very much looking forward to listening to the other panelists and thanks MORSL and the Religious Studies department for organizing this event!

Sophie Sklar

Sophie Sklar is a third-year McGill student double majoring in History and World Religions with a minor in Judaic Studies. The academic study of religions is of great relevance to her life and her degree. She was enrolled in a religious school education up until her first day at McGill. At McGill, she sits on the student executive for the Religious Studies Undergraduate Society, and also sits on the student executive for Chabad at McGill, one of McGill's Jewish groups. Her favourite part of her World Religions degree is the exposure to new religious traditions from across the globe and learning about the ways religion interacts with other major societal institutions, such as politics, law, and human rights.

Zeytouna Suleiman

Portrait PhotoZeytouna Suleiman is a U3 Social Work student at McGill. During her time at McGill, she has been an active member of the Muslim community on campus and has served as an executive on the Muslim Students Association for two consecutive years. She currently works as an intervention worker at culturally and religiously sensitive women's resource centre, for victim's of domestic and conjugal violence.

Josh Werber

Josh is a student from Montreal majoring in World Religions and Political Science. He is a proponent of the study of religion for its ability to bridge the divide between people of different backgrounds and to facilitate community activism in the context of Montreal’s diversity. Further, sitting on the RSUS executive committee as VP Internal, Josh has been exposed to both the dynamics of student life amongst religious studies students and student-faculty relations and how matters of religion play into both.

Sophia Winkler

Sophia Winkler Portrait PhotoSophia Winkler is a graduating Honors International Development Studies student at McGill. She is originally from Amelia Island, Florida and was raised in the Unitarian Universalist religious tradition. Sophia is particularly interested in social issues affecting families and LGBT communities.


Colloquium on the Future of Religion

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