September 2008 Archives

Hinduism - Day #6

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Today is kind of a funny day. Since we had a significant number of absences, we'll use the beginning half of class to both discuss some of the articles and to review materials that people may have missed or be confused about.

Later in the block, we take the Hinduism Multiple Choice Quiz. It will be 25 questions. (Remember, you can bring in a sheet with up to 75 words of notes.)

These are the articles from the Hinduism packet for Day #6:

  • "India's Past Becomes a Weapon," The New York Times, March 6, 2002
  • "Instability in India," The New York Times, March 7, 2002
  • "Hijacking India's History," The New York Times, December 30, 2002
  • "India's Big Dig:  Will It Settle or Inflame a Controversy?" The New York Times, April 3, 2003


This next section is simply reprinted from the previous class since a number of you left before we got here. I'll help with review here or on anything else until 2:30. At that point, we'll do the multiple choice quiz. 

These were the articles from the Hinduism packet for Day #5:

  • "Best Revolution; The Peacemaker," The New York Times, April 18, 1999
  • "The Other Face of Fanaticism," The New York Times, February 2, 2003
  • "All in the Family," The New York Times, August 26, 2007
  • "India's Internal Partition," The New York Times, August 15, 2007


Hinduism in Today's World:

Defining terms: Mahatma Gandhi, harijan, Pakistan, Jawaharlah Nehru, Indira Gandhi, sati

India and Pakistan - Many analysts believe that this is one of the world's hot spots. Riz Khan of CNN moderates a slide show here that you might find interesting. Otherwise, take a look at the respective timelines and other links.

Mohandas Gandhi- "Mahatma"

Sati- ancient tradition of immolation of the widow upon her husband's funeral pyre. NOTE: This is not an exclusively Hindu practice. It might be more accurate to think of it through its association with rural India, rather than solely as a religious phenomenon.

Sati: Virtuous Woman Through Self-Sacrifice looks at the controversy surrounding this practice. In particular, consider the case study of Roop Kanwar. DO THIS: Try to understand both sides of the debate over the practice of sati. Be prepared to comment upon the role this ritual played, or may continue to play, in segments of Hindu society.


HOMEWORK for Buddhism - Day #1

Your Hinduism Short Essay Exams are due by the start of class on Monday, October 6th. You can find the questions on the page to the right side of the blog.

You should start reading the Buddhism chapter in Huston Smith's The World's Religions. According to the reading schedule, you should try to read pp. 82 - 112 for Thursday's class.

Hinduism - Day #5

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"Bright but hidden,

the Self dwells in the heart.

Everything that moves,

breathes, opens, and closes,

lives in the Self.

He is the source of love

And may be known through love

but not through thought.

He is the goal of life.

Attain this goal!

- Upanishads

These are the articles from the Hinduism packet for today:

  • "Best Revolution; The Peacemaker," The New York Times, April 18, 1999
  • "The Other Face of Fanaticism," The New York Times, February 2, 2003
  • "All in the Family," The New York Times, August 26, 2007
  • "India's Internal Partition," The New York Times, August 15, 2007

It's funny how things work out... I'm looking at the brand new issue of Newsweek last night, and here's a story by a Sikh comic.


Jainism and Sikhism:

We'll see what you all got accomplished in your time on Tuesday. We'll hear from the Jains first, and then the Sikhs. Ideally, you have a "top ten" sort of thing to present to us in terms of what you found most important and interesting.

I'll recopy the links and questions from the last blog entry to help you out.

* When and how was the faith founded?
* Who was the founder of the faith?
* What other religions, if any, were "blended" with this faith?
* What values or beliefs are central to the religion?
* What symbols or rituals are associated with the religion?
* Where are adherents to the faith most heavily concentrated today?
* About how many people adhere to the faith?


Jainism:

Required terms and concepts: Mahavira, ahimsa, "Three Jewels"

Suggested Web Resources: Consult texts/books provided as well.

General Facts About Jainism: Pretty much what it sounds like.

Jain Students Group at University of Michigan: This has good links to a number of useful resources.

About.com: Jainism: There are good links to a number of Jain resources here. This is a very user-friendly site.


Sikhism:

Required terms and concepts: Guru Nanak, Punjab, "Five K's", Golden Temple

Suggested Web Resources: Consult texts/books provided as well.

About.com: Sikhism: There are good links to a number of Sikh resources here. This is a very user-friendly site.

The Sikhism Home Page
: This site contains a number of useful links and graphics on the basics of the faith.

The SikhNetwork: This Sikh-maintained site links to many useful resources.

History of the Sikhs: The title pretty much says it all on this one.



Hinduism in Today's World:

Defining terms: Mahatma Gandhi, harijan, Pakistan, Jawaharlah Nehru, Indira Gandhi, sati


India and Pakistan - Many analysts believe that this is one of the world's hot spots. Riz Khan of CNN moderates a slide show here that you might find interesting. Otherwise, take a look at the respective timelines and other links.

Mohandas Gandhi- "Mahatma"

Sati- ancient tradition of immolation of the widow upon her husband's funeral pyre. NOTE: This is not an exclusively Hindu practice. It might be more accurate to think of it through its association with rural India, rather than solely as a religious phenomenon.

Sati: Virtuous Woman Through Self-Sacrifice looks at the controversy surrounding this practice. In particular, consider the case study of Roop Kanwar. DO THIS: Try to understand both sides of the debate over the practice of sati. Be prepared to comment upon the role this ritual played, or may continue to play, in segments of Hindu society.


HOMEWORK for Hinduism - Day #6

For a variety of reasons, I'm going to push back our Hinduism guests to a future date. Instead, we'll do some review/wrapping up on Day #6, but we'll also take the Hinduism Multiple Choice Quiz on Tuesday, September 30th. It will be 30 questions. (If you'd like, you can bring in a sheet with up to 75 words of notes. That might help you with foreign words, etc.)

Your Hinduism Short Essay Exams are due by the start of class on Monday, October 6th. You can find the questions on the page to the right side of the blog.

Hinduism - Day #4

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In religion all other countries are paupers;
India is the only millionaire.
- Mark Twain


I know, it's Wikipedia, but this is a pretty extensive summary of The Satanic Verses controversy that we made reference to last session...

These are the articles for discussion today:

  • "'Love Guru,' Panned in U.S., Heads to India," The New York Times, June 20, 2008
  • "India Swears in 13th Prime Minister and First Sikh in Job," The New York Times, May 23, 2004
  • "Turbans Make Targets, Some Sikhs Find," The New York Times, June 15, 2008
  • "The Beliefs of the Jains," New Statesman, January 16, 2007
  • "Camp Joins Summer Fun With Teaching Hinduism," The New York Times, July 21, 2007


Religions influenced by Hinduism: Jainism and Sikhism

We will divide into four groups. Two will do some research and reading on Sikhism, and two will do the same with Jainism. We will present and discuss your findings.

DO THIS: Two of the four groups will investigate each religious faith that branches off from Hinduism: Jainism or Sikhism. (Buddhism, which also has its roots in Hindu tradition, will get more thorough coverage beginning soon.) You will probably have a little more than a half-hour to consult the web pages and sources provided.

Your job is to develop a "top ten" list of things you believe it is important for someone wanting an introduction to the faith to know. Notice that you are "required" to include certain items for each of the faiths. Some portion of your group will present the list to the rest of the class.


You might consider answering questions like these: Obviously, they are not all applicable to both of the faiths.

* When and how was the faith founded?
* Who was the founder of the faith?
* What other religions, if any, were "blended" with this faith?
* What values or beliefs are central to the religion?
* What symbols or rituals are associated with the religion?
* Where are adherents to the faith most heavily concentrated today?
* About how many people adhere to the faith?


Jainism:

Required terms and concepts: Mahavira, ahimsa, "Three Jewels"

Suggested Web Resources: Consult texts/books provided as well.

General Facts About Jainism: Pretty much what it sounds like.

Jain Students Group at University of Michigan: This has good links to a number of useful resources.

About.com: Jainism: There are good links to a number of Jain resources here. This is a very user-friendly site.


Sikhism:

Required terms and concepts: Guru Nanak, Punjab, "Five K's", Golden Temple

Suggested Web Resources: Consult texts/books provided as well.

About.com: Sikhism: There are good links to a number of Sikh resources here. This is a very user-friendly site.

The Sikhism Home Page
: This site contains a number of useful links and graphics on the basics of the faith.

The SikhNetwork: This Sikh-maintained site links to many useful resources.

History of the Sikhs: The title pretty much says it all on this one.



HOMEWORK for next session: Hinduism - Day #5

You should continue with your reading in the Hinduism packet of articles.

You should have completed reading the Hinduism chapter in Huston Smith's The World's Religions. Blog Entry #2 - Hinduism is due by the start of class on Thursday, September 25th.

Your second Independent Assignment is also due on Thursday, September 25th. Consult the blog pages on the right for specifics.

Hinduism - Day #3

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Covet nothing. All belongs to the Lord.
Thus working you may live a hundred years.
Thus alone will you work in real freedom.
Upanishads


We'll take a quick look at a couple of additional aspects of Hinduism, and we'll wrap it up with an excerpt from a series done by Bill Moyers and Huston Smith...

Here's an article about Lakshmi, the young girl whose "extra" limbs were removed last year in an operation.

These were the articles for today:

  • "An Opulent and Pugnacious Champion of India's Outcasts," The New York Times, May 4, 2003
  • "Holy Cow a Myth? An Indian Finds The Kick Is Real," The New York Times, August 17, 2002
  • "For Hindus and Vegetarians, Surprise in McDonald's Fries," The New York Times, May 20, 2001
  • "McDonald's To Settle Suits On Beef Tallow in French Fries," The New York Times, March 9, 2002
  • "A Religious Tangle Over the Hair of Pious Hindus," The New York Times, July 14, 2004
  • "How India Reconciles Hindu Values and Biotech," The New York Times, August 21, 2005


Sacred Literature of Hinduism- As I mentioned, even attempting to read a small section of Hinduism's sacred literature might occupy a lifetime. Rather than attempting to be at all comprehensive, we'll highlight some of the more important works below.

Vedas - These are the oldest and most sacred of the Hindu scriptures, the "breath of the eternal." They were long known only in oral form, and they deal predominantly with ritual.

Divided into four samhitas (collections):

Upanishads - "sitting down beside" - composed orally between 800 - 400 BCE, written down much later. They focus on two broad types of thought:

  • What is the essence of the human self?
  • What is the essence of the ultimate reality?

Mahabharata - considered the longest epic in the world, tells the story of a war between two Bharata tribes. This includes the full text of the Bhagavad-Gita , which is perhaps the most widely read of the Hindu sacred literature. It tells the story of the warrior Arjuna and his interaction with Krishna, one of the avatars of Vishnu. (Here are some interesting visual images from an edition of the Gita. Scroll down past the gurus and swamis and click on the images...)

Ramayana - This epic tells the story or Rama and his wife, Sita. Each represents an ideal model for Hindu life, and it is later revealed that each is a manifestation of the divine (Vishnu and Lakshmi).

The Laws of Manu - These were compiled somewhere between 200 BCE and 200 CE, and they serve as a sort of "guide" to ancient Hindu life. They offer rules and guidelines for caste, gender responsibilities, and many similar topics.

DO THIS: Browse a number of the links above to get a feeling for the various types of literature. Please bookmark or clip at least three quotations or other points of interest to share with classmates.


The Hindu Concept of Time - I've got a couple of visual representations of the reckoning of time according to the Hindu world view. While we are well into the "final" portion of this cycle of the universe, you can see that we don't exactly need to start panicking...


hindu_time.jpg

We can also take a quick look at a calendar and several festival periods.

HoliThis "Festival of Colors" celebration marks the birth of spring, and it is a time of license.

DivaliThe "Festival of Lights" is a five-day period in autumn.

DO THIS: Pick either of these two festivals. Check out the web site and be prepared to explain how that holiday might be celebrated in a Hindu community.


Huston Smith's The Wisdom of Faith: Hinduism and Buddhism

We will watch the first twenty minutes of this video series. As you might guess, they deal with Hinduism. In addition to being a good review of a number of topics, he raises some fairly complex and philosophical issues about art, beauty, and human desires.

Warning: This videotape series lacks the "bells and whistles" that some of you are accustomed to watching. It is not designed to "entertain" you. Instead, it should make you think. Huston Smith is unquestionably the West's most prominent expert on world religions. This is a chance to benefit from his knowledge in the twilight of his career. Give it a chance.


Homework for Hinduism - Day #4

Read the articles in the packet for Hinduism - Day #4.

You should already have read through page 63 by this point. Please read pages 63 through 77 before Tuesday's class, as that finishes off the Hinduism chapter.

Reminders: Both the Hinduism Blog Entry and Independent Assignment #2 are due on Thursday, September 25th. The Hinduism Essay Questions are due on Monday, October 6th.



Hinduism - Day #2

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Lead me from the unreal to the real.

Lead me from darkness to light.

Lead me from death to immortality.


- Upanishads






DAY #2- HINDU SOCIETY, SYMBOLS AND WORSHIP

These are the Hinduism packet articles for discussion today.

  • "With Each Warm Embrace, A Guru Shares Her Message"
  • "In India, the Deity to Know"
  • "Discarded Hindu God Does Not Bless India's Water"
  • "When Hindus Brave a Big Crush for a Little Dip"
  • "India: Hindu Holy Men Say Ganges is Too Dirty for Sin"


The Hindu yoga- "Assignment" from last class: You were asked to look at two Hindu yoga. You'll be asked to discuss a specific type of Hindu yoga and ways it might be be applied to your life in pursuit of your goals.

Four Basic Hindu Yoga:

  • jnana - the way of knowledge
  • bhakti - the way of love and devotion
  • kama - the way of work/effort
  • raja - the way of meditation


The Four Stages of Hindu Life:

Defining terms: guru, sannyasin

Remember that the "Four Goals" we discussed were as follows:

  • dharma: duty

  • artha: participation

  • kama: pleasure

  • moksha: release

Consider how these goals are emphasized in the different life stages.

  • brahmacharya: student stage

  • grihasthya: householder stage

  • vanaprasthya: retired stage

  • sannyasin: spiritual pilgrim- ascetic


Caste System:

Defining terms: jatis, Vedas, Purusha

For a graphic and textual introduction to the caste system, check out this site. It also has useful information on the life stages.

You should be able to identify each caste and some of its prominent attributes.

  • Brahmins- "mouth," intellectual-priestly class

  • Kshatriyas- "arms," nobility-warrior class

  • Vaishyas- "legs," merchant-administrator class

  • Shudras- "feet," servant-laborer class

* Panchamas- "Untouchables"

How prevalent is caste in Hindu society today? How prevalent should it be?


The Hindu Pantheon:

Defining terms: Trimurti, avatars

The Hindu Trimurti:

  • Brahma
  • Vishnu
  • Shiva

The Hindu Pantheon has extensive written descriptions of the symbolism and roles of many influential deities. In addition, there are a series of links at the bottom to actual images.

Hinduism: Pantheon of Deities

Indian Heritage - Hindu Gods and Goddesses

DO THIS: Browse the on-line collections of the images described above. In addition to examining images of the three aspects of the Trimurti, select at least two other deities and attempt to understand their role and symbolism. Be sure that you can quickly refer to these and explain them if you are called upon.


HOMEWORK for Hinduism - Day #3

You should already have read through page 50 by this point. Please read pages 50 through 63 before Friday's class.

Complete the exercise above where you find images of Hindu deities. Be sure to have at least two of them bookmarked and ready to share.

Reminders: Both the Hinduism Blog Entry and Independent Assignment #2 are due on Thursday, September 25th. The Hinduism Essay Questions are due on Monday, October 6th. 

Hinduism - Day #1

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When goodness grows weak,
 
When evil increases, 
I make myself a body. 

In every age I come back 
To deliver the holy, 
To destory the sin of the sinner, 
To establish the righteous.
 
- Bhagavad-Gita, (IV: 7-8) 


DAY #1 - INTRODUCTION TO HINDUISM 
You should begin reading the Hinduism chapter in Huston Smith's The World's Religions. Try to be through page 50 by the time we resume our Hinduism unit next week. Pages 12 through 26 are a sort of introduction to the religion and its world view. Your assignment for next time, pages 26 through 50, deals with four of the yoga, or "paths" to God. You will use those pages below. 

REMINDER: At the end of each unit, there is an exam that has two parts. First, you take 25-30 multiple-choice questions in class. The other 30 points of the exam come from your answering 3 short-essay questions that you choose from a list. More details on that to follow. They are generally due the second class period after the in-class portion of the exam. 


What is Hinduism? 

Defining terms: Hindu, Sanatana Dharma, henotheism 

"Why Am I A Hindu?" is written by a Hindu believer. This relatively short essay elaborates upon her reasons for practicing the faith. It definitely comes from a pro-Hindu perspective, but it is interesting. 


Historical overview: 

Defining terms: Indus River valley, Aryans, Dravidians 

In class, we will discuss the traditional "Aryan invasion" model of Indian history. Recently, a number of scholars have challenged and refuted that interpretation. They consider it to be Eurocentric and racist. This web site attempts to refute the "Myth of the Aryan Invasion." Those of you who enjoy history will find this worth checking out. There is an excellent slideshow of the Ancient Indus civilization available for you to view. It contains 90 images which introduce you to aspects of the archeology, history, and culture of the area. 
 


Basic tenets of the faith: 

Defining terms: Brahman, Atman, reincarnation, moksha, samsara, karma, dharma, bhakti, monism 

The Nine Basic Beliefs of Hinduism: This is a portion of the website developed by The Himalayan Academy. This particular page elaborates upon the core beliefs of mainstream Hinduism. 


The Four Basic Goals of Hindu Life: 

Defining terms: artha, kama, maya 

It is generally recognized that there are four basic goals common to most Hindus. They are listed below:
  • dharma: duty
  • artha: participation

  • kama: pleasure

  • moksha: release
The achievement of these goals will help overcome the maya of life. Actions, thoughts, and intentions can be channeled in this effort. Those efforts are the yoga of Hinduism. 


The Hindu Yoga- Four (or more) Paths to the Goals: 

Defining terms: yoga 

The text does a great job of introducing four methods of seeking a closer relationship with the divine. Smith explains jnana, bhakti, karma,and raja yoga. The Yoga Site goes into a good deal more depth of a wide variety of yogic practices. 


HOMEWORK for Hinduism - Day #2 

Select two forms of yoga. One of them MUST be one of the four forms described by Huston Smith. The other can come from the web page, or it can be another of Smith's. You task is to explain (perhaps in a paragraph or two) how you would use the yoga to reach your goals. In other words, how could/do you integrate this practice into your life? NOTE: You can simply do this in your notes. You don't need to blog this. 

You should already have read pages 12 through 26, which are a sort of introduction to the religion and its world view. and 26 through 50 deal with four of the yoga, or "paths" to God. You should have that section read for Wednesday's class.

If you want to get a real early start, I've posted the Hinduism Essay Questions for this unit. These will be due at the beginning of the class on Monday, October 6th. Both the Hinduism Blog Entry and Independent Assignment #2 are due on Thursday, September 25th.

Day #7 - Introduction to Religion

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This will be the final day of our introductory unit. We'll start with Hinduism on Monday. Remember that there is a Reading Schedule that you should be following.

I mentioned this in passing, and I know it was running real slow for people who did check it out. So, I'll again link Belief-O-Matic's quiz, "What's your faith?" No, it's not intended to convert, but rather to match your answers to 20 questions against the "typical" answers from different religions. You might find it interesting and/or entertaining to try at some point.


We'll start off today talking about both your first Independent Assignment and the final set of readings from the introductory packet.

These were the articles for today:
  • "Books on Atheism Are Raising Hackles in Unlikely Places"
  • "A Modest Proposal for a Truce on Religion"
  • "When Atheists Have Their Say"
  • "Taking the Debate About God Online, and Battling It Out With Videos"
  • "Brawl Over Islam on Facebook"

Sacred Literature: We'll hear from you on the creation story accounts you took a look at last class period. You were asked to take a look at some of the creation stories from the packet you were given. (You were all asked to read the Genesis account.) Let's hear what you found.

* According to each passage, how did creation happen?

* Based on these accounts, what general conclusions can be drawn about each religion's view on the role and meaning of human life?

* How are the views of creation in the passages similar? How are they different? Do they imply different views of the purpose and role of humans in the universe?


Sacred Literature links: We'll obviously do more with the sacred literature of specific faiths. Here are a couple of more general links that we didn't get to last time.

You might also want to take a look at World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts. Pick a couple issues and see what various works of sacred literature have to say on the subjects.

Others of you might be more interested in this. It is a site comprised of texts from various faiths.

If you are interested in comparing various "editions" of a work of sacred literature, in this case the Christian Bible, try this site.


Alternatives to Religion: Some of you may disagree, but it seems reasonable to me to look a bit at some of the alternatives to religious faith in a class about religion. You were asked to consider these two questions in preparation for today.

  • Is religion a less powerful force today than it has been in the past? If so, why do you think it has declined in importance? If not, why has it remained strong? Be specific.

  • Do you think religion will ever become obsolete? Could human society and culture exist in a world without religion? Why or why not?

We'll build from here to do two things. First, we'll consider several terms used to describe those with varying attitudes toward religion and religious belief. Next, we'll think about non-religious activities that serve to fulfill some of the same functions that religion attempts to fill.

Here's an interesting set of resources linked to the concept of "agnosticism."
Here's the home page for the "Council for Secular Humanism."


Discussion - The New Atheism: Within the past few years, a number of widely-read critiques of religion have emerged from a group of what are frequently referred to as the "new atheists."  It's worth our time to take a look at some of what they have to say. Rather than be too prescriptive, I'm going to give you a number of resources to take a look at, and then we'll discuss what you've found.



HOMEWORK for Day #1 - Hinduism

We'll turn our attention to the religion of Hinduism for the next six sessions. You'll be expected to read in Huston Smith's The World Religions according to the schedule posted on the Reading Schedule - The World's Religions page. You'll also be expected to make a blog entry for this chapter after that is posted.

For Monday, September 15th, you should read Chapter 2, "Hinduism" (pp. 12 - 26).
Blog Entry #2 - Hinduism needs to be posted by Thursday, September 25th.

Your next independent assignment is due Thursday, September 25th. More specific information is available on the "pages" listed to the right on the blog itself.



Blog Entry #2 - The World's Religions - "Hinduism"

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We can use the blog to hold "conversations" about reading in Huston Smith's The World's Religions. We'll certainly talk about some of the readings in class, but this gives you another chance to share your ideas. Here's how we'll do this. You may respond to one or more of the questions, and you can also react to comments posted by others. I'll expect a comment of one good paragraph or more. (To me, that means 5-6 sentences at a minimum.) You do not need to worry about perfect grammar, spelling and punctuation, but they must be understandable. Remember that this is a public site, and you are responsible for the content of your postings.

You should post a response of at least one good paragraph to one or more of these questions by Thursday, November 19th. (You can also react to other posts.)

These questions are taken from "The Lifespan Series: Understanding the World's Religions - A Study Guide to Huston Smith's The World's Religions."

1. Based on what you read, what did you find most intriguing or appealing about the Hindu religion? What did you find most difficult to accept or understand?

2. According to Hinduism, our work and daily responsibilities can be spiritual pathways when performed correctly (page 38). Do you agree? If so, what examples can you give from your own experience?

3. Do you believe in the law of karma, where "everybody gets exactly what is deserved" (page 64). In what ways do you believe this idea to be true or false?

4. On page 73, you see the claim Hinduism makes that all religions are "routes up the mountain." Do you believe it is best to, like Ramakrishna, sample various faiths and belief systems, or should one choose a single path to follow wholeheartedly? Why?

Day #6 - Introduction to Religion

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We'll use our two sessions this week to wrap up our introductory look at religion. Today, our foci will be on stereotypes/prejudice and sacred literature. Thursday. we'll turn our attention to "alternatives to religion." After that, we'll tackle Hinduism as our first specific faith next week.

REMINDERS: Your Blog Entry #1 was technically due before the start of class today. (Given the uncertainly about posting comments, I won't count those late this time for another 24 hours.) Your first Independent Assignment is due before the start of class on Thursday, September 11th.

Here are the readings for today:

  • "Holy Missteps"
  • "The Muslim Stereotype"
  • "University Installs Footbaths to Benefit Muslims, and Not Everyone is Pleased"
  • "It's a Simple Scarf, but Its Meaning is Much More Than Faith"
  • "6 Imams Removed From Flight for Behavior Deemed Suspicious"
  • "The Separation of Church and Job"

Sacred Time and Place: At the end of our last session, you were asked to bookmark two of the photos you find particularly meaningful or interesting from Sacred Sites, which features the work of photographer Martin Gray. Let's see what you've found.


Stereotypes and Prejudice in Religion:
We'll start with a quiz here...

Stereotypes:
  • What is a stereotype? What are the various types of stereotypes?
  • Why do we stereotype?
  • Is stereotyping always a bad thing?
  • How do we best manage our tendency to stereotype?

Prejudice:
  • What is prejudice?
  • Why does prejudice exist? Is it inevitable?
  • What are the five levels of prejudice?

Sacred Literature:
We'll do several brief exercises related to sacred literature. After a few introductory comments, we'll look at one example of a work of sacred scripture, the Tao Te Ching (or Dao De Ching). Next, we'll consider the role of creation stories around the world.

Tao Te Ching:
The Tao Te Ching is the sacred literature of Taoism. There are different speculations about it authorship, yet it is the second most widely translated "book" in the world, following only the Bible. The Tao Te Ching is composed of 81 very short "chapters" or verses. There are a series of them. Spend perhaps ten minutes passing them around and reading/ discussing them. Try to come up with any generalizations or insights that you can regarding the work and its meaning.

Check this site for more information on the Tao Te Ching. Compare several of the translations and consider the issues raised by different translations.


Creation Stories:
You will next look at some examples of creation stories for various religions. One of the purposes of sacred literature is to explain notions of "origin" and creation. Take a packet and work in a group of two or three students. Each group should select four stories and the Judeo-Christian story found in Genesis 1 and 2. Read the selections and jot down answers to the following questions. Your group should be prepared to show evidence of this work on Thursday.

* According to each passage, how did creation happen?

* Based on these accounts, what general conclusions can be drawn about each religion's view on the role and meaning of human life?

* How are the views of creation in the passages similar? How are they different? Do they imply different views of the purpose and role of humans in the universe?

If you have time remaining today, take a look at World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts. Pick a couple issues and see what various works of sacred literature have to say on the subjects.

Others of you might be more interested in this. It is a site comprised of texts from various faiths.

If you are interested in comparing various "editions" of a work of sacred literature, in this case the Christian Bible, try this site.


Small-group Discussion- At the end of Friday's class you were also asked to form a small group and consider these issues. At least one person should serve as a "recorder" for the group. If you have yet to do this, you should try to form a group and do this in advance of Thursday's class.

  • Is religion a less powerful force today than it has been in the past? If so, why do you think it has declined in importance? If not, why has it remained strong? Be specific.

  • Do you think religion will ever become obsolete? Could human society and culture exist in a world without religion? Why or why not?

Fun Site for the Day: BeliefNet has a lot of resources related to religion. It's not the most academic site in the world, but it has some fun stuff. Here's Belief-O-Matic's quiz, "What's your faith?" No, it's not intended to convert, but rather to match your answers to 20 questions against the "typical" answers from different religions. Take it if you'd like, but take it with a grain of salt...


HOMEWORK for Day #7 - Introduction to Religion

We'll turn our attention to issues related to the "alternatives to religion" and the rise of what many are calling "new atheism." Please read the articles assigned for Day #7 in the reading packet.

Your first independent assignment is due Thursday. You can find the reminder at the top of this entry, and more specific information is available on the "pages" listed to the right on the blog itself.


Day #5 - Introduction to Religion

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We'll use today's lesson and our two sessions next week to wrap up our introductory look at religion. After that, we'll tackle Hinduism as our first specific faith.

REMINDERS: You have Blog Entry #1 due before the start of class on Tuesday, September 9th. Your first Independent Assignment is due before the start of class on Thursday, September 11th.

Here are the readings for today:

  • "Our Fight is Righteous"
  • "Religion in World Affairs: Its Role in Conflict and Peace"
  • "Religion Journal: Shrines Serve the Need for Healing in Public Spaces"
  • "Adam and Eve in the Land of the Dinosaurs"
  • "Beliefs; In four pages, Al Franken ranks world religions and explains the thousand faces of God"
  • "Summer Movies; God: Still Ready for His Close-Up"

Discussion question: On balance, is religion more a force of unity or division in today's world? Why?

Religion Scholars:  I gave you the little slips of paper pertaining to one of seven scholars of religion as you left last time. Let's hear just a bit about each of these folks and how they have influenced the study of religion.

  • Emile  Durkheim
  • Sigmund Freud
  • Rudolf Otto
  • Mircea Eliade
  • Wilfred Cantwell Smith
  • Karen Armstrong
  • Diana Eck

Sacred Literature:
We'll do several brief exercises related to sacred literature over the next few days. After a few introductory comments, we'll look today at one example of a work of sacred scripture, the Tao Te Ching (of Dao De Ching). Next week, we'll consider the role of creation stories around the world.


Sacred Time and Place:
We've touched on these issues in both our discussion of ritual and of the religion in general. Sacred Sites features the work of photographer Martin Gray, who has spent more than 25 years photographing sacred sites around the world. DO THIS: Browse through the collection, focusing on sites important to Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as anything else that interests you. Be sure to read the descriptions found beneath some of the photos. Bookmark two of the photos you find particularly meaningful or interesting. We'll share them next session.


Small-group Discussion
- If time permits, I'll ask you to work in groups of three or four for this short discussion. Get together and discuss these questions to bring back to the large group. We'll take a good ten minutes, maybe fifteen for this. At least one person should serve as a "recorder" for the group. We may not get back to the "big group" until next week.

  • Is religion a less powerful force today than it has been in the past? If so, why do you think it has declined in importance? If not, why has it remained strong? Be specific.

  • Do you think religion will ever become obsolete? Could human society and culture exist in a world without religion? Why or why not?


HOMEWORK for Day #6 - Introduction to Religion

We'll turn our attention to issues related to the roles stereotyping and prejudice can play in looking at religion. Please read the articles assigned for Day #6 in the reading packet.

You've got two assignments due next week. You can find the reminder at the top of this entry, and more specific information is available on the "pages" listed to the right on the blog itself.

Day #4 - Introduction to Religion

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Welcome back.  I hope you all enjoyed the long weekend, whether you were at the State Fair or protesting the RNC or protesting the protesters or whatever...

Here are the articles for today.  As you might guess, ritual will be our focus.

  • "The Other National Conversation"
  • "Two Worlds of Rituals Are Joined in the Operating Room"
  • "In Hispanic Ritual, a Place for Faith and Celebration"
  • "Pilgrims at Heart"
  • "Is Ritual Circumcision Religious Expression?"

We didn't get to this activity the last two times I posted it, so we'll start today with it...

Religion ScholarsAs you would probably imagine, a number of influential thinkers and scholars have studied religion over the years.  You can take entire courses in the philosophy of religion or on theories of religion.  Today, we'll take a very cursory look at the work of a handful of these scholars, both past and present.

You'll get a slip with one of seven names on it, as well as a little bit of information on them.  Use that as a starting point to do a little Internet research on your figure.  3-4 of you will have each one.  We're not asking for a book report or anything here.  Instead, simply tell us who the person was and how they contributed to the study or religion.  

Emile Durkheim
Sigmund Freud
Rudolf Otto 
Mircea Eliade
Wilfred Cantwell Smith
Karen Armstrong
Diana Eck


Rituals and Ritual Behavior in World Religions:
We'll turn our attention today to the behaviors and actions that comprise the component of "ritual" in our worlds, both religious and secular. As with "symbol," we'll attempt to derive a working definition of the concept. We'll also take about a wide range of examples with the goal in mind of categorizing them into four groups.

If time permits, we'll do a quick activity with sacred literature.  Otherwise, we'll get that next time.


Homework for Day #5 - Introduction to Religion 

Please read the articles from the packet that are assigned for Day #5.  Our focus will be on the roles stereotyping and prejudice play in the way people look at world religions. We'll also continue to ponder the role of sacred literature as we move into creation stories.

I've posted a separate blog entry for the initial chapter in Huston Smith's The World's Religions. You are required to post an answer to one of the three questions listed before the start of class next Tuesday, September 9th.

Your first of the "Independent Assignments" is also due by the start of the class on Thursday, September 11th. Remember that you can do them in any order that you choose, and you'll post a response on the appropriate blog page.

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