See the Presentation Rubric for more on expectations and grading standards.
As we are considering the story and historical context of the origin of Israelites, Judaism, and Old Testament, this presentation will focus on the story and historical context of the origin of Buddhism. Note that there are other presentation topics on course Buddhist ideas (Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path). You can mention those things, but focus on the origin story.
The Israelites and their ancient neighbors thought of gods as personal beings. Gods are more or less like people in that they can thought of as being in a particular place and relating to others like people do (talking, seeing, hearing). However, that is not the only way of thinking about God.
The Greeks also thought of gods as personal beings, but with much more family drama.
As we learn about Israelite ideas about the explanation and solution to suffering, we can also learn about the Buddha’s response to the same question.
We can think about destruction as evil or in opposition to the work of the creator. Alternatively, we can think of creation, sustaining, and destroying as existing in a balanced natural cycle.
As we learn about how the Israelites answer the question, “How should we live our lives?” we can also learn about Buddhism’s response to the same question.
As we learn about Plato’s ideas about the afterlife and their influence on Christianity, let’s take a closer look at the story the way Plato told it.
Western thought tends to assume we have one life, followed by the afterlife. Eastern thought does not assume that. More broadly, we think of not just our lives as having a beginning, middle, and end, but also the world itself as having a beginning, middle, and end. We think of time as a time line. What if it is not a line, but a circle, or a squiggle? Besides Buddhism, this is raised in contemporary culture (Ted Chiang, Story of Your Life made into the movie “Arrival,” and Jeremy Bearimy in the series “The Good Place.”)
Along with Christian understanding of second coming of Christ, judgment day, and the end of the world, let’s learn about Islam on similar questions.
As we consider the historical story of the central figure of Christianity, let’s also consider the story of the seal of the prophets of Islam. Note there are other presentations on Islamic beliefs and practices, so focus on the story of the person.
As we consider the story of Jesus’ journey to the underworld, consider also this earlier story from Greek culture.
Also on the question of how to practice religious faith, let’s look at Judaism today (not to be mistaken for Judaism 2000 years ago or the Bible). Don’t get bogged down (for now) on the question of degree or manner of practice, which varies across Judaism. The liturgical year (major holidays) serve as a good introduction to contemporary Jewish practice.
As we conclude the unit on early Judaism and Christianity with a chapter on the question of how faith should be lived out, let’s also learn about the central Islamic teaching about religious practice.
The Hebrew Bible reflects different attitudes towards marriage with people of different religious or ethnic backgrounds. What do Jews today argue about intermarriage?
As we look at these more recent figures in American History, let’s look especially at the role of faith and Mary in their lives.
As we learn about how Christianity went from an underground movement with no political power to Christendom, let’s also learn some of the history of early Islam as it took on the role of governing society in a political sense.
For most of its history, Judaism had nothing resembling a Pope as central leader, much less a political empire. However, some teachers were especially persuasive and influential. Let’s learn about the most famous Jewish teacher of the middle ages.
Christianity uses the word “mystery” for something beyond human comprehension, something to be contemplated rather than simply understood before moving on. Compare the role of mantras in eastern religions.
Much as Christianity has a complex relationship with Judaism from its origin and subsequent histry, so too Islam.
As we learn about mysticism in Christianity, let’s also learn about mysticism in Islam and/or Judaism.
As we begin to learn about the major division in Christianity, let’s also learn about the two major groups within Islam.
Let’s learn how Muslims answer the question, “Whom do you trust with big decisions” (when the Bible/Qur‘an is not clear on the answer)?
This presentation relates to the historical context of the beginning of the reformation and the flourishing of new ideas, events, and a changing world. People say that history moves faster in modern times, but there was a lot going on around 1500. On the very day that Christopher Columbus was to set sail (and discover the New World, changing world history dramatically), he was delayed. The reason? The harbor was too crowded with boats of Jews being driven out of Spain, finally ending centuries of convivencia, a period in which Jews, Muslims, and Christians mostly co-existed in Spain.
While Islam differs substantially from Christianity on the divinity of Jesus and consequently whether Mary is the mother of God, Mary is quite significant in the Qur’an and Islam.
As we learn about different ideas in Christianity about how individuals can achieve salvation, they mostly agree on what salvation is. Namely, existing for eternity (as an individual) with God in heaven or some sort of blessed existence. Buddhism and Hinduism do not have the same understanding of what the goal is, or how to get there. References to the final season of “The Good Place” are also welcome here.
As we learn about monasticism and religious orders in Christianity, let’s learn especially about the founders of St. Mary’s University (William Joseph Chaminade, Adèle de Batz de Trenquelléon, Marie Thérèse Charlotte de Lamourous). (This is the exception to the pattern than presentations look at non-Christian ideas.)
René Descartes personally had a complex relationship with religion during his lifetime. His legacy is associated with the age of reason, individualism, and enlightenment ideas that would ultimately reject the authority of communal religion.
Karl Marx ties together several themes near the end of the course. He advocates an economic system that advocates collective responsibility over individualism. He concludes that faith cannot be reconciled with reason, and that religion is an impediment to social progress. His ideas significantly influenced the politics of the twentieth century. It will be helpful to read ahead to the end of the textbook before giving this presentation.
While most of them avoid the term “religion” or much organizational structure, there are substantial ideas about spirituality and the spiritual realm that have developed and flourished in recent decades. Especially with this one, be in contact the instructor more than once to pick a focus and develop it.
As we consider the question, is religion irrelevant or even detrimental to society, let’s learn about one of the major voices in recent times arguing “yes.” The responsibility to respectfully and fairly describe ideas even when you disagree with them applies equally to atheism as with all the traditions we have been exploring.
You likely know more about Martin Luther King Jr. than you do about Malcolm X. They responded to the same injustice and saw religious faith as part of the solution, but differed on their views of Christianity. Although it is not short or required, I very highly recommend the 1992 film by Spike Lee, “X.”
Many Jews also found their faith to be relevant to the struggle for justice.
How do other religions answer the question of how faith is relevant to moral practice, particularly the question of abortion?