In this course we will study the history of religion and how it impacts our world today. This course is designed to give you a clear understanding of some of the major world religions and how to discern for yourself what these religions actually mean in today’s society.
- I.) What is Religion? Why Do We Study It?
- II.) Early Religions (Division 1)
Book Assignment: “The Sacred and the Profane” by Mircea Eliade
- III.) Hinduism (Division 2)
Book Assignment: “The Weaver’s Song” by Kabir
- IV.) Buddhism (Division 3)
Book Assignment: “Freedom in Exile” The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama”
- V.) Chinese Religions and Philosophies (Division 4)
Book Assignment: “The Te of Piglet” by Benjamin Hoff
- VI.) Other Asian Religions (Division 5)
Introduction to World Religions
Everyone welcome to World Religions. In this course we will study a few of the World’s main religions. This course is not meant to confront or change your own beliefs, but it is meant to give you an unbiased impression of these religions. More than 50 years ago we would probably have never met another person on the street who believes something different from our own beliefs. Today it is very commonplace to cross paths with several people a day who have different beliefs than our own. I only hope that this course will help you to communicate better with those people in order to build strong relationships and a greater understanding of our world as a whole.
I.)What is Religion? Why Do We Study It?
What is Religion? Consider these different definitions of religion. Do you agree or disagree with them? Do you have a definition all your own?
1.) “A Religion is a system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.” –Clifford Geertz
2.) Religion’s “…single function is to give man access to the powers which seem to control his destiny, and its single purpose is to induce those powers to be friendly to him.” –H.L. Menken
3.) “Religion is an attempt to get control over the sensory world, in which we are placed, by means of the wish-world, which we have developed inside of us as a result of biological and psychological necessities, but it cannot achieve its end. Its doctrines carry with them the stamp of the times in which they originated, the ignorant childhood days of the human race.” –Sigmund Freud
4.) “…One who has attained to the ultimate truth sees that there is no such thing as ‘religion.’ There is only a certain nature which can be called whatever we like. It can be called God or Tao…[and many other things,] but we shouldn’t particularize that truth as Buddhism, Christianity, [Judaism]…and Islam, for we can neither capture nor confine it with labels and concepts. Still such divisions occur because people haven’t yet realized this nameless truth for themselves.” –Buddhadasa Bhikku, a Thai Monk (From a speech given in 1964 in Bangkok)