hat, exactly, is religion? And why does one religious tradition often differ so markedly from another, even when you might not expect it to?
Why, for example, are the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—despite their common source—often so different? And what kinds of factors separate the beliefs of a Hindu or Buddhist not only from those held by Jews, Christians, or Muslims, or by each other, but also from others who identify themselves as Hindus or Buddhists?
A Powerful Force
Every day, religion affects your life, whether directly or indirectly.
- It forms the foundation for a wide range of moral codes.
- It is the driving force behind the conduct of many individuals.
- It can influence the actions of nations on the world stage.
- It can affect the public and private lives of citizens through religiously based acts of governance.
At a time when religion and religiously grounded issues are so prevalent in public and private life, it's difficult to overstate the importance of augmenting your understanding of this powerful force and its impact on so many. But it can also be difficult to get a solid working knowledge of the beliefs that unite and divide us—as well as how the perspective might differ from the other side of these divisions.
The 24 lectures of Comparative Religion offer you an opportunity to gain a solid grasp of the key ideas of religion itself—the issues that repeatedly surface when you look at any faith's beliefs, practices, and organization. Using five major religions—Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism—as illustrations of how religions can address the same core issues in parallel and different ways, award-winning Professor Charles Kimball of the University of Oklahoma leads you on an exploration of religion's complex and multidimensional nature.
It's an exploration that can strengthen the interpersonal understanding that underlies your daily relationships, enhance your perception of events in both a diverse world and an increasingly diverse nation, and deepen your appreciation of your own beliefs and the traditions followed by others.
Learn the Key Components on Which Every Religion Is Built
Using the basics of these five major religions as a starting point—and explaining those basics so that no prior knowledge is needed—Professor Kimball plunges deeply into each to reveal and clarify the essential structural components shared by all faiths:
- Creation myths and sacred stories
- Concepts of the divine
- Lifecycle- and calendar-based rituals
- Various types of sacred people, texts, objects, and spaces
- Religion's ultimate goals—the reasons its adherents give them such importance
A Professor Whose Own Diverse Background Energizes His Teaching Skills
A course like this can't help but remind you of the remarkably diverse world in which we live, and it's a diversity reflected by Professor Kimball's own unusual combination of professional, academic, and personal credentials: a doctorate of theology in comparative religion from Harvard with an emphasis on Islam; a great deal of personal experience in the Middle East; ordination as a Baptist minister; and an extended family whose members practice not only his own Christian faith, but Judaism and Buddhism as well.
By combining this background with a relaxed, likeable style, personal and humorous anecdotes, and skillful use of multiple perspectives to revisit key issues, Professor Kimball has created a course as enjoyable as it is provocative. After completing these lectures, you are able to "see with a native eye," as Professor Kimball puts it, when you wonder why followers of a given religion believe or act as they do.
Professor Kimball often asks his new students to answer the same question posed earlier: What, exactly, is religion? He is never surprised by the difficulty they find in answering it. Religion's many layers make it a hard question.
But it's also a question you are much better equipped to answer after learning to see with the "native eye" that may be this course's greatest gift.