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, will teach the introductory course, along with religious scholars from the… Read more

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… Read more

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 strike someone outside the… Read more

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 important before… Read more

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 discourse. Some historians and religious scholars refer to this focus… Read more

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

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 Sunnis and… Read more

   The French National Library has a terrific online exhibition about the three holy books of the Abrahamic religions–the Torah, the Bible, and the Koran. It’s called “Books of  the Word: Torah, Koran, Bible.” It opened in 2006 but continues online. The exhibit is well organized and very colorful with tabs for each of the three holy books. Two other tabs, one called “open books” and the other called “representations”  analyzes the relationship between the three books. We learn, for… Read more

Next week, I begin a short unit on Jainism. Two museums with online exhibits provide students with an excellent introduction. One is the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the other is the Rubin Museum in New York City. That exhibit has closed but students can still see images from the exhibit in a New York Times slideshow.  Students can also read a good review of the show from the New York Times. The Victoria and Albert Museum has tons of information about Jainism, from short… Read more

Terrorism has increased intolerance and even bigotry. A Sikh man was beaten by two men in Fresno, California last week. The assailants thought he was a Muslim. And a number of Muslim mosques have been vandalized in different parts of the country. Some educators are trying to bridge this cultural divide. Two new programs that incorporate social media attempt to put together students from different cultures. One is called FaithBoxEd and the other is called CulutreBoxEd. FaithBoxed, founded by Amjad… Read more

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