February 2011 Archives

Day #6 - Introduction to Religion

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

REMINDERS: Your Blog Entry #1 is due by the end of this week. Your first Independent Assignment is due to be posted by the start of class on Thursday, February 10th.

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.

Small-group Discussion- At the end of yesterday's class you were also asked to form a small group and consider these issues. At least one person should have served as a "recorder" for the group. 

  • 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.

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

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

Stereotypes and Prejudice in Religion:
We'll start with a quiz here... Then, we'll try to make sense of these two concepts.

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

Sacred Literature:
After a few introductory comments, we'll  return to 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. (NOTE: We did this part last time...)

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 next time.

* 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.

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.

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