As the modern world has grown smaller, religion, in many ways, seems to have grown larger and more significant. At this moment:
- A new wave of religious fervor is sweeping the Islamic world.
- Christianity is finding new environments in which to blossom, including Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Russia.
- In the United States, our neighbors and coworkers are increasingly likely to be devout followers of religious traditions that are unfamiliar to us.
Perhaps at no other time in history has it been more important to understand religion. What, specifically, do other people believe? How do these beliefs guide the way they lead their lives on a daily and yearly basis—how they dress, eat, work, pray, and raise their families? How do they view those who do not share their understanding of God?
Unfortunately, these questions—which can yield a genuine understanding of how religions are lived and practiced—are rarely asked in contemporary discussions of religion, especially in the news media.
These questions, however, are the focus of Great World Religions, 2nd Edition, an authoritative and up-to-date survey of the history and nature of the world's five major faiths: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. This enjoyable, informative course—taught by highly popular Teaching Company professors Luke Timothy Johnson and Malcolm David Eckel, as well as three dynamic specialists new to The Teaching Company—gives you an insider's look at each religion by exploring the issues most meaningful to its adherents.
What You Learn
What does the Qu'ran mean to a Muslim? Who was the Buddha? Why are history and the concept of collective memory so important to Jews?
These are just a few of the many rich questions whose answers you uncover throughout these 60 lectures. Throughout the course, as you journey from one faith to the next, you:
- Become familiar with the essential aspects of each of the five religions, including their origins, scriptures, beliefs, rituals, and basic history.
- Untangle the misconceptions that underlie the notion that Islam, by its nature, condones terrorism by exploring the complex meaning of the term jihad and sections of the Qu'ran, especially the "sword verses" that can be misinterpreted as legitimizing violence.
- Add a wealth of perspectives and information to your understanding of your own faith. How many Christians, for example, have considered what scholars believe to be true: that Jesus, in some ways, is not the founder of Christianity?
- Expand your traditional understanding of what religion is. As you will see, it can involve belief in one God, many gods, or no gods at all. It can focus on practice, faith, or both; the community, the individual, or both. Practitioners of certain disciplines like Hinduism maybe do not think of themselves as practicing a religion as we understand it.
- Examine the role that gender plays in issues like patriarchy, arranged marriages, divorce laws, the roles of goddesses and female deities, and the diverse status of women in contemporary Muslim societies.
- Study the efforts of these ancient faiths to survive and thrive in a rapidly modernizing world.
Five Faiths, One Human Community
Taken all together, Great World Religions, 2nd Edition will do more than enhance your knowledge of these five major religions. It will enable you to view religion in its totality, as a unified and integrated human activity. This enriches greatly the intellectual toolbox you use to consider other disciplines that are closely associated with religion.
For example, you see how religion's varying attitudes toward iconography—creating images of deities—have affected the development of art. You also see how Classical Greek and Greco-Roman philosophies have informed Christian ethics and ideology.
Great World Religions, 2nd Edition deepens the way you think about human civilization and psychology by examining some of the characteristics that religions share, including rites of passage; purification ceremonies; tendencies toward mysticism; belief in superhuman figures who can save or serve as a model for humans; and conflicts between conservative, liberal, and radical groups of believers.
Ultimately, what Professors Johnson, Eckel, Muesse, Gafni, and Esposito have created for you is an excellent start to a greater understanding of human culture. Great World Religions, 2nd Edition provides a broad and firm foundation from which to explore the faiths in which these professors specialize and for which they have an intellectual and personal passion.