Cultural Literacy for Religion: Everything the Well-Educated Person Should Know

Cultural Literacy for Religion: Everything the Well-Educated Person Should Know
Course Trailer
Religion-Its Meaning and Importance
1: Religion-Its Meaning and Importance

Start by reexamining basic questions: Why does religion matter? What makes a religion? As you explore the answers, you'll embark on a journey toward a better understanding of the world, its histories, and its cultures, as well as a better understanding of yourself and what it means to be a good citizen in a diverse global community....

32 min
Facets of Religion-Divinity and Devotion
2: Facets of Religion-Divinity and Devotion

God. Divinity. Ultimate Reality. Start your journey by looking at how different religious traditions approach the concept of "God." In addition to exploring the concepts of divinity, you'll also look at key components of religious devotion: scripture, ritual, ideas about good and evil, and doctrines of salvation....

30 min
Hinduism-Foundational Texts and Teachings
3: Hinduism-Foundational Texts and Teachings

Explore the history of what some scholars consider the oldest living religion. You'll begin with the Indus River Valley civilization, and then you'll learn key elements of the Aryan and Vedic traditions, including scriptures, the pantheon of deities, and the social caste system. Then turn to the soul-Atman-and the concept of rebirth....

31 min
Hindu Gods and Devotional Practices
4: Hindu Gods and Devotional Practices

In this lecture, uncover new insights into the nature of divinity by studying the variety of fascinating Hindu deities, including Vishnu and his avatars, the many forms of Shiva, and forms of the goddess Devi. You'll also look at ways Hindus worship, from chanting in temples to festivals such as Diwali....

30 min
Gita to Gandhi-Yogas and Modern Hinduism
5: Gita to Gandhi-Yogas and Modern Hinduism

Examine Hinduism's many paths to spiritual liberation, from the teachings in the Bhagavad Gita to the many types of yoga. Your study of Hinduism concludes with a survey of its role in the world today: Hindu nationalism, modern democracy of India, and the influx of Hindus to the United States....

30 min
Waking Up-The Buddha and His Teachings
6: Waking Up-The Buddha and His Teachings

The life of Siddhartha Gautama-the Buddha himself-is a fascinating journey from a wealthy and sheltered upbringing to an understanding of Samsara, the cycle of rebirth and perpetual discontent. After meditating beneath the bodhi tree, he woke up with Buddhism's key to liberation: the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path....

30 min
Vehicles to Nirvana-The Schools of Buddhism
7: Vehicles to Nirvana-The Schools of Buddhism

Take a look at the three major schools of the Buddhist world: Theravada Buddhism, with its five precepts of ethical behavior; Mahayana Buddhism, the "great vehicle" that created new paths to Nirvana for its practitioners; and Vajrayana-including Tibetan-Buddhism. Also, explore the history of Tibet, the Dalai Lama, and the Tibetan Book of the Dead....

31 min
Chinese Religion and Cosmology
8: Chinese Religion and Cosmology

Travel east to China to survey the elements of Chinese cosmology that have shaped Chinese thought for millennia: the forces of yin and yang, and the metaphysical notions of qi and feng shui. You'll see that the goal of Chinese cosmology is to restore harmony to the world, and the focus is on family, nature, and the home....

30 min
Confucianism-Rituals and Relationships
9: Confucianism-Rituals and Relationships

Professor Berkson charts the life of Confucius, whose impact on East Asian thought is impossible to overstate. Born in the 6th century B.C.E. during a time of chaos in China, Confucius's religious tenets emphasized learning, self-cultivation, and human relationships in this world-rather than the supernatural, revelation, or life after death....

31 min
Daoism-Harmony, Nature, and the Way
10: Daoism-Harmony, Nature, and the Way

Learn about China's second major religion through the Dao De Jing, a collection of sayings that advocate a life of simplicity and contentment. Consider how Daoism's process of unlearning complements Confucianism's emphasis on learning, and see how to practice effortless action-or wu wei....

31 min
Kami and Spirits-Shinto and Shamanism
11: Kami and Spirits-Shinto and Shamanism

Professor Berkson takes you to Japan and the tradition of Shinto. Here you'll see how the Kami (gods/spirits) relate to everyday life in Japan, including agriculture and the role of the emperor. You'll then explore Shamanism, especially the characteristics of the Korean and Hmong traditions....

30 min
East Asian Buddhism-Zen and Pure Land
12: East Asian Buddhism-Zen and Pure Land

Conclude your journey through the Asian traditions with a study of Zen and Pure Land Buddhism. Chinese Buddhism gave rise to the "laughing Buddha," which affirms the joys of the world. Japanese Zen, with its emphasis on "just sitting" and its famous koans, has drawn practitioners from other traditions and given rise to Zen-Christians....

31 min
Judaism-God, Torah, and Covenant
13: Judaism-God, Torah, and Covenant

Your voyage through the Western traditions begins with the world's oldest monotheistic religion: Judaism. Explore the nature of the Jewish people, who have both a religious and an ethnic identity. At the heart of Judaism is the Torah, and you'll examine its stories, its laws, and the major figures who shaped the religion....

29 min
Varieties of Jewish Thought and Practice
14: Varieties of Jewish Thought and Practice

Witness the history of the Jewish people, from the first destruction of the temple 3,000 years ago to the aftermath of the Holocaust. You'll study the varieties of Jewish culture in diaspora, from the tenets of Orthodox Judaism and Hasidism to the views of Conservative and Reform Jews....

31 min
Living a Jewish Life
15: Living a Jewish Life

This lecture explores the rhythms that shape Jewish life: the weekly Sabbath and annual Jewish holy days, including Yom Kippur, Passover, Chanukah, and Purim. You'll also learn about specific customs and rituals of Judaism, such as kosher food, what happens at a bar mitSTah or bat mitSTah, and the wedding ceremony....

29 min
The Life and Commemoration of Jesus
16: The Life and Commemoration of Jesus

Return to the ancient world and uncover the life of Jesus. The writings of the New Testament show a man who preached love, forgiveness, and turning the other cheek. You'll witness the major events of his life, from his birth and baptism to the story of the Passion, and see how these events are linked to major Christian holidays....

31 min
Catholic and Orthodox Christianity
17: Catholic and Orthodox Christianity

How did Christianity flourish in its early years? Discover the process that led from Paul's letters in the 1st century to Constantine's conversion in the 4th century and the eventual formation of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. Then look at the theology and sacraments of Catholicism....

33 min
Protestantism and Christianity Today
18: Protestantism and Christianity Today

Encounter the Protestant Reformation and its central tenets-justification through faith, a priesthood of all believers, and a focus on the Bible. You'll also look at the major denominations that developed, such as Lutheranism and Methodism. Then consider various nondenominational movements in today's world: evangelicalism, fundamentalism, and liberal Christianity....

32 min
Muhammad, Qur'an, and Islamic Civilization
19: Muhammad, Qur'an, and Islamic Civilization

Islam was founded in the 7th century by Muhammad, who received the revelation of the Qur'an. In this lecture, discover the depth and diversity of this major world religion. Along the way, hear the poetic qualities of the scripture, learn about the customs of Islam, and explore its connection to Judaism and Christianity....

33 min
Unity in Islam-The Five Pillars
20: Unity in Islam-The Five Pillars

Despite its diversity, Islam is unified by the Five Pillars. Examine each in detail and witness the beliefs and rituals of Muslims: the nature of God, the ritual of prayer, the importance of giving alms, the fast during Ramadan, and the pilgrimage to Mecca. Then uncover the truth about jihad and Islamic law....

30 min
Forms of Islam-Diversity among Muslims
21: Forms of Islam-Diversity among Muslims

Learn the history of Sunni and Shi'a Muslims, which began with the question of who would succeed Muhammad after his death. Follow the historical narrative through the 18th and 19th centuries, when Muslims were forced to grapple with Western values, then finish with an analysis of Islam in the world today, from the Middle East to America....

33 min
Jains, Sikhs, and Baha'is
22: Jains, Sikhs, and Baha'is

This lecture takes you beyond the most widely practiced religions and shows you the self-discipline and renunciation of the Jains, who are committed to non-harming; the highly influential Sikhs, who make up only 2% of India's population; and the Baha'i faith, a growing, pluralistic religion with roots in Shi'a Islam....

31 min
Religion and Law in America
23: Religion and Law in America

Return to America, where an important piece of cultural literacy involves understanding the Constitution and the relationship between church and state. You'll learn how the establishment and free exercise clauses have influenced both education and the freedom of religious practice by taking a closer look at several fascinating (and controversial) Supreme Court cases....

31 min
Religion Today-Trends, Challenges, and Hope
24: Religion Today-Trends, Challenges, and Hope

Religion is a moving target, constantly changing in our modern world. This lecture examines four demographic trends and how they impact the health of both religious traditions and society at large. The lecture concludes with a consideration of the relationship between religion and violence-how violence emerges and how it can be reduced....

36 min
Mark Berkson

Religious traditions should be approached not merely as objects of analysis, but also as challenges to be experienced subjectively. A deep encounter with another religion engenders intellectual and spiritual exploration and growth.

ALMA MATER

Stanford University

INSTITUTION

Hamline University

About Mark Berkson

Dr. Mark Berkson is Professor of Religion at Hamline University. He earned a B.A. from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, an M.A. from Stanford University in East Asian Studies, and a Ph.D. from Stanford University in Religious Studies and Humanities. He has twice received Faculty Member of the Year awards and has received multiple fellowships for his work in Asian religions. A world traveler, he has lived in China and visited religious and pilgrimage sites in countries such as India, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, and Greece. Professor Berkson has given well over 100 presentations at conferences, universities, community meetings, and churches, and he has also appeared on radio and television news shows in segments dealing with religious issues. His scholarly work has addressed topics such as comparative religious thought, religious ethics, death and dying, and interfaith dialogue and has appeared in books and in such prestigious journals as the Journal of Religious Ethics, Teaching Theology & Religion, and Buddhist-Christian Studies.

Also By This Professor