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DAVENPORT — What do “god” and happiness have in common?

Dr. Diana Cates, a University of Iowa expert on religious ethics, offers an answer that may surprise you at her seminar Saturday at Scott Community College-Urban Campus.

Cates will offer the premise that both “god” and happiness are things humans are able to create for themselves.

During her presentation at “Finding Happiness in a Difficult World,” which starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, Cates will explain how even atheists or people traumatized in some way by religion can reconstruct god in a way that focuses not on spirituality, religion, following rules or earning eternal life, but on “what would make me feel like i’m fully human, fully alive, have potential for joy and compassion in my life…. What would THAT god be like? What would that god look like?”

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She’ll also offer the premise that happiness is not an emotion or state of mind, or a matter of putting on your best face. Rather, happiness is  “an activity, a lifetime full of compassion and kindness. It has to be something vulnerable.”

Happiness also may involve suffering in some way, Cates says.

“Being well and doing well, doesn’t necessarily mean being pleased all the time, free of suffering or avoiding suffering,” she says. “It certainly doesn’t mean avoiding the suffering of others. It’s more a mode of being human in relation to other humans, a way of being that utilizes our best potential as humans in relation to each other. It has a lot to do with goodness.”

Saturday’s event will likely feature people sharing thoughts about what happiness means to them, along with what difficulties they’ve been through. By doing so, Cates says, it’s possible to “rebuild” a sense of community through “ deep listening” and pondering deeper questions.

Cates also assures introverts – of which she is one – that her explanation of happiness doesn’t mean forcing one’s self to be around people all the time, talking with them. Cates says the freedom and sense of well-being that brings  true happiness might involve spending time with nature, or with relatives. Her own most healing activity, in fact, is being with nature.

The key, she says, is to find a place where one is free to “explore, and experiment, without judgment.” Transfer that approach over to how people communicate with each other, she says, and you start to unravel more about the tension that seems to be prevalent today, and how to lessen it.

“The goal is to  look more deeply at who people are and why they are the way they are, what they’re driven by,” she says. “There’s a kind of relaxedness about that that brings more mental clarity and smarter response, more effective response.

“Part of what happens is people tend to demonize each other, and there’s no way i can be empowered by demonizing.”

Saturday’s three-hour event is at the urban campus of Scott Community College, 101 W. 3rd St., Davenport. If you attend, you’ll spend the first two hours joining with others in your choice of two of these break-out sessions:

  • Tracy Singleton from the Lincoln Center
  • Ann Schwickerath with Project Renewal
  • Gail Karp and Marwa Genena with the Sisterhood of Salaam/Shalom
  • Dr. Kitt Ford with the Argrow House
  • Moms Demand Action
  • LGBTQ+ issues and discussion
  • Rabbi Henry Karp who will lead a panel on pro-life/pro-choice issues
  • The Teen Diversity Group from Davenport Central High School

Cates’ presentation starts at 11 a.m. For more information, contact event organizer Joanie Demmer at 563-343-8936. Learn more about One Human Family QCA and its year-round efforts to fight hate at onehumanfamilyqca.org.

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