World Religions Through Scriptures: New Harvard EDX Course

Harvard University is offering  a series of  free edX courses about World Religions through their Scriptures starting March 1st.The fist introductory course, Religious Literacy: Traditions and Scriptures, will explore the diversity of religion and the ways in which religions change and evolve as living traditions.Diane Moore, a senior lecturer on religious studies and education, a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of World Religions, and director of the Religious Literacy Project … [Read more...]

Valentine’s Day is Coming: Do You Know Rumi?

If you're studying Islam, this week might be a good time to study Rumi, the Sufi mystic and poet. That's because Valentine's Day is coming and much of Rumi's popular poetry is about love. Rumi lived in the 13th century and wrote a "massive collection of verse called the mathnawi, an Arabic term referring to a rhymed verse couplet." Coleman Barks translated much of Rumi's work into a book called The Essential Rumi. Today, Rumi is the best selling poet in the United States and Amazon sells over a 1 … [Read more...]

Funeral Practices Around the World

What do funeral practices around the world tell us about religion and culture?Lavish cremation ceremonies characterize funerals in Bali, where people believe that cremation releases the soul so it can be reincarnated.In Madagascar, Malagasy people exhume family members and dance with the bodies as a band plays.In an interesting review of these practices, Kate Torgovnick May, writing for TED, reviews the different funeral practices and notes that they are "hugely varied" and "might … [Read more...]

The Many Meanings of Dharma

What does dharma mean?  When we study Hinduism in World History, we define dharma as a Hindu's religious duty.But Robert E. Buswell, Professor of Buddhist Studies in the UCLA Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, and Donald S. Lopez, Jr., Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies at the University of Michigan, in this 2014 essay for Tricycle Magazine, note that dharma has many meanings, especially as it applies to Buddhism.For example, Buswell and Lopez note that dharma was im … [Read more...]

A New Approach to Teaching Religion

High school world religions curricula should not only focus on a religion’s texts, doctrines, and rituals, but also on how the different religions are practiced today.In a recent essay for Routledge Research in Education and Religion, Dr. Henry Goldschmidt, Director of Education Programs at the Interfaith Center of New York, argues that teachers can promote an understanding of religious diversity through the study of each religion’s contemporary politics, culture, and public disc … [Read more...]

Free Online Courses about Islam

The recent terrorist acts in San Bernardino and Paris increased the attention on Muslims in this country. Presidential candidates called for limits on Muslim immigration. Donald Trump even suggested that the United States should close down some mosques.Hate crimes are also on the rise. Two California youths beat up a Sikh man because they thought he was a Muslim. And assailants vandalized two California mosques.Learning about Islam and its basic beliefs might go a long way in combatting … [Read more...]

Why the Sunni-Shia Split

Saudi Arabia just executed 47 prisoners, including a renowned Shi'a cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, who was a fervent critic of the Saudi royal family.Iran, a Shia country, condemned the execution and Iranians overran the Saudi embassy and set it on fire. According to the Washington Post, "Shiites around the world expressed outrage, potentially complicating a surge of U.S. diplomacy aimed at bringing peace to the region."This might be a good time to review with students the differences between … [Read more...]