Christianity and Islam: Online Course Videos

For my online course on world religions I’ve uploaded the final two videos: Christianity and Islam.

symbols-judaism-buddhism-hinduism-taoism-christianity-islam

In my previous post I uploaded the videos for Buddhism and Judaism. You’ll find the video links in that post. The first world religion we investigated was Hinduism. The video for Hinduism is available here. So now we’re rounding out our investigation of five of the world’s major religions with a look at Christianity and Islam.

Outline of the Videos

The structure of these videos follows the pattern for the previous three videos:

  • A vocabulary list that identifies the distinct terminology of the religion. These are the terms and concepts unique (usually) to the specific religion.
  • A set of questions to guide students through identifying how Christianity and Islam describe the human predicament.
  • Another  set of questions about the religion’s solution to the human predicament.
  • A final set of questions that explore the religion’s conception of the supreme good, or higher life, that results from the pilgrimmage out of the human predicament.

In the three questions sets that track the structure of the analytical Model, I highlight a “challenge” question that appears on that module’s quiz. It requires a short paragraph response and so demands that the student access more insightful meaning than standard recall questions.

Christianity and Islam Videos

As I mentioned in my earlier posts about the course, I’m publishing the key content so that any of my readers can lurk. Just grab the course syllabus from my Faculty page and acquire course texts: Huston Smith’s The World’s Religions and Philip Novak’s The World’s Wisdom.

The Christianity video covers the ideas, beliefs, and practices of what is common to all Christian traditions. Some of the terminology may be specific to one of the three major sects or traditions within Christianity as a whole: Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Protestantism. This video is a little longer because I do think it is important to recognize the context in which this course is offered. Prior knowledge of or experience with Christianity, whether from within the religion itself or from the cultural markers familiar to those who are not on its quest, can be a barrier to obtaining the kind of objective, third-person point of view that the philosophical perspective requires. Also, Smith has a unique theme running through his chapter on Christianity, so I address this to forestall possible confusion. Here’s your guide to Christianity:

I’ve also completed the video for Islam. Even though the vocabulary list for Islam is among the lengthiest in the series, this video is a bit shorter than the others because fewer questions are required for completing the Model.

No Final Exam!

This completes this series of posts covering my summer semester philosophy of world religions course. If the format of the videos is confusing, you may find it helpful to review the introductory videos for the course, especially the video that covers the analytical model we use to situate the vocabulary, ideas, and practices of each religion within a simple and basic framework. Here are the links to these introductory videos:

Thanks for reading and checking out my work on this course. I plan to repackage it so that the specific course texts aren’t required to “take” the course. And I do hope to make it available on a convenient platform for anyone to access it and work through it at their own pace.

Buddhism and Judaism: Online Course Videos

In this post I’ve uploaded two more videos for my World Religions philosophy course: Buddhism and Judaism.

symbols-judaism-buddhism-hinduism-taoism-christianity-islam

In my previous post I introduced the World Religions course that I’ve been teaching for a couple of years. I’ve restructured it and want to make the content available for motivated and self-directed readers to participate. I provided links to the first three videos:

Video Outline

The structure of these videos follows the pattern I established for the Hinduism video:

  • A vocabulary list that identifies the distinct terminology of the religion. These are the terms and concepts unique (usually) to the specific religion.
  • A set of questions to guide students through identifying how the religion describes the human predicament.
  • Another  set of questions about the religion’s solution to the human predicament.
  • A final set of questions that explore the religion’s conception of the supreme good, or higher life, that results from the pilgrimmage out of the human predicament.

In the three questions sets that track the structure of the analytical Model, I highlight a “challenge” question that appears on that module’s quiz. It requires a short paragraph response and so demands that the student access more insightful meaning than standard recall questions.

Buddhism and Judaism Videos

As I mentioned in my initial post, I’m publishing the key content so that any of my readers can lurk in the course. Just grab the course syllabus from my Faculty page and stay tuned for the remaining videos.

The Buddhism video covers the ideas, beliefs, and practices of “original” Buddhism, and points to four of the major sects or traditions within Buddhism as a whole: Theraveda, Mahayana, Zen, and Vajrayana, or Tantric. Here’s your guide to Buddhism:

I’ve also completed the video for Judaism. This one is a little longer for a couple of reasons. It is the first of the monotheistic and Western religions we cover. I’ve also learned from previous classes that prior knowledge of Christianity, whether the religion itself or the cultural markers familiar to those who are not on its quest, often distorts the comprehension and interpretation of Judaism. So at a couple of key points on the way I digress to raise these issues. As Barney Fife recommends, “Nip it in the bud!” So here’s your guide to Judaism:

I’ll be updating with two more videos as I complete the productions: Christianity and Islam. Subscribe to the blog and you’ll get notified conveniently when those updates are posted.

Online Course Videos: World Religions

I’ve been in the process of updating my online course videos for the World Religions philosophy class this summer.

world-religion-solitary-monk

This post and the next few will give you everything you need to lurk in this Summer’s course! I’ve updated the video that goes over the analytical Model we use as a heuristic device to capture the key ideas and practices of each religion. I had intended this update to be shorter, but…alas. My excuse is the novelty of the Model and the assignments to which it is attached require a more thorough discussion to explain. I also included a lengthy section about how to define religion effectively so that we can distinguish the genuine article from pseudo or ersatz religions. Truth is, I enjoy talking about it!

Always Learning

I’ve taught the World Religions course about four times so far. This is the first semester I’ve implemented some much-needed updates to my approach. Whether in the traditional classroom setting or fully online, pedagogy is an iterative process: you experiment, test, and revise based on the successes and failures, the errors and omissions.

Starting this summer semester and going forward, I will be providing a broad overview of each religion in screencasts. The structure of these videos will be consistent and predictable:

  • A vocabulary list that identifies the distinct terminology of the religion. I need students to research and know these terms and concepts in order to “speak” the language the religion itself uses.
  • A set of questions to guide students through identifying how the religion describes the human predicament.
  • A set of questions about the religion’s solution to the human predicament.
  • A set of questions that explore the religion’s conception of the supreme good, or higher life, that results from the pilgrimmage out of the human predicament.

The Course is Open for You

I’ll be uploading each video on my blog so that these are available to anyone who’d like to lurk in the course. I think there’s enough content that you could work through the course by doing your own research into credible sources to answer the questions and compiling research notes. But if you’d really like to shadow the course, you can obtain our two texts.

huston-smith-world-religions

Huston Smith’s The World’s Religions is a classic text, eminently readable, and liberally sprinkled with erudite allusions that enrich his commentary. If I had to name one fault, I would say that it is probably too charitable in overlooking or brushing aside the rational and conceptual difficulties of each religion’s beliefs and practices. But that’s only a criticism that results from the use to which I’ve employed his book: it’s not a work of philosophy nor a philosophy of religion textbook. But its merits far outweigh this drawback, and besides, it’s my job to do the philosophical work with claims, concepts, and judgments.
philip-novak-world-religions

Philip Novak’s The World’s Wisdom is a collection of primary texts from each of the religions discussed in the Smith book. It is a natural and excellent companion to Smith and provides the critical element of primary texts that must be engaged if one is to hear and taste the language and, well, wisdom, of the religion. The selections are brief, arranged sensibly by topic, text type, and chronologically. Novak also includes a “Grace Notes” appendix to each of the core texts – these include non-canonical texts of the religion, important historical commentary from prominent figures in the religion, and more modern voices that establish a continuity of thought and experience with the primary texts.

You can grab the course syllabus from my Faculty page for now. Once the semester is over I’ll be uploading here on the blog as well as to my Academia.edu site.

The Videos

Here are the course videos currently available.

You can start with the semester introduction:

Defining religion and introduction to the analytical Model:

And lastly, the overview of Hinduism, our first religion:

I’ll be updating with additional religions as I complete the productions, so stay tuned for these upcoming posts on Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In the Fall semester, I’ll add Taoism and Confucianism, too. Subscribe to the blog and you’ll get notified conveniently when those updates are posted.

Commencement 2016

To all of my students and colleagues, past and present, at Truckee Meadows CC, Barrett Honors College at ASU, the University of Kentucky, and elsewhere now flung far around the globe…

graduation-commencement

It is another season where many of us teachers look fondly back at our students’ achievements and forward to the fruits of their education blossoming in due course. It is also a season of platitudes and well-intentioned lies woven by commencement speakers paid to give you one last blast of praise before you leave the paternalistic confines of your schooling. I can tell you, my dear students, that every one of us faculty have sat through a two-hour-plus commencement ceremony and thought to ourselves, “Wow. I could give a much better talk and I’d do it for free.” Okay, not that part about for free, but definitely the better speech part. I have decided this year to not wait for an invitation to address you. I am writing it down here, and if Fate or luck brings it to your attention, then I hope you will find some nugget or two worth remembering.

If you’ve been in one of my philosophy courses or Honors seminars, you’ve heard me prattle on about “the human predicament.” (I prefer ‘predicament’ to the noncommittal ‘condition’ or ‘situation’, which seem to me embarrassed euphemisms for the Real Thing.) If you are blissfully unaware of the human predicament’s existential grip on you, then what follows may sound like the ravings of an extraterrestrial. Nevertheless, I have about a half century of life behind me and have felt its ever-tightening and omnipresent hold on me and on all those whom I love and know. So if you are a student, I can think of no better way to encourage you on your way beyond these first few years of your adulthood to those that follow than to describe this predicament as I have experienced it and give you what paltry advice I possess to help you navigate it. Because what I would never say in class I say now: the human predicament is very real, and at times very painful, but with some perspective such as that offered by the great wisdom traditions, it isn’t to be taken too seriously.

My philosopher friend Bill Vallicella wrote a short post in 2009 on his blog that perfectly captures my own difficult experience coming to terms with this. It is the heart of this post—I quote it below in full. It is my favorite thing that he has written and I hope you will find it, as I have, as honest, enlightening, and encouraging as it is challenging. It is a great Mirror. mirror-lakeIt can show you your own heart, that seat of will and desire, as well as the hearts of others. This Mirror will show you the truth about yourself. It is therefore no easy matter to stand before it and take in its revelations without the cover of our well-worn robes of self-delusion and bad faith. It will confirm the presence of real wounds you have suffered, those scars you carry, even from youngest childhood, while those fabrications of your own design dissolve. It will reveal to you, like Nietzsche’s greatest weight, in “your loneliest loneliness,” that which we take extraordinary pains almost every hour of every day to conceal about ourselves from ourselves and others. Bill’s text is quoted in blue; my edits and commentary are in black:

 

I’ve been loved, hated, honored, loathed, respected, scorned, justly penalized, unjustly maligned, praised for what I should not have been praised for, lionized, demonized, put on a pedestal, dragged through the mud, understood, misunderstood, ill-understood, well-understood, ignored, admired, envied, tolerated, and found intolerable. And the same most likely goes for you.

 

Can you control what others say and think about you? Nope, not one bit. Reputation is a fickle and cruel master. And the gossip train is always on time (gossip is the currency of the small-souled, bitter, and envious—for your own sake renounce it and all of its ways). Far better than managing your reputation (what a depressing phrase!) is the life’s work of developing your character. John Wooden, the great basketball coach, said it well: “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” And if you really are, on balance, a decent character, this, like truth, will out in the end. But how do you know if you really possess good character? You can know by the quality of your friends—what does the Mirror reveal about them? The true friend, like my dearest friend Jack, knows your character. He will celebrate with you your joys and praise your victories—but not overmuch!—and will not forsake you when you do wrong because he knows doing wrong is not in character for you. The true friend always accepts you but doesn’t always approve—and because he’s a friend he will tell you when he doesn’t approve. You can endure and overcome any abuses to your reputation with such friends. Dare to be transparent and vulnerable to them.

 

I’ve been the object of Schadenfreude, of glacial indifference, of jealousy. I’ve been the object of every emotional attitude by someone or other, at some time or other, for some reason or other, or for no reason at all. I’ve been loved and then hated by the same person, and the other way around. I’ve been liked by people who do not now love me, and loved by people who do not now like me. I attract and I repel, sometimes different people, sometimes the same people at different times. I have been different people to different people and different people to myself. And the same most likely goes for you.

 

That first sentence is ordinary professional life in a nutshell! The rewards of most of the work available to professionals of all kinds in these days, in tandem with the penalties, are delivered by aggressive forces of dehumanization. We easily become its agents and inevitably suffer as its patients. Your well-being will oscillate, sometimes wildly, under the force of these vicissitudes if your own sense of worth and importance is attached to the judgment and approval of those around you.

Institutions exist in part to evaluate individuals because people love to evaluate each other. It is up to you how much stock you will place in their measures, both favorable and unfavorable. I have been the recipient of many gifts, honors, and kindnesses, the genuine outweighing the treacherous many, many times over. These validate the good and true things I know about my work as a teacher and scholar. Even as they fill me with gratitude, I release them and their hold on my ego, just as I brush away arrows of spite and malice intended to poison me. If you were a student of mine, I probably had you read a Stoic–Seneca, Cicero, or Epictetus–and probably Boethius. Their works can be of consolation to you as your years accumulate and you endure the progress of Rota Fortunae. It’s good soil and the harvest will sustain you.

What is there of value to glean from these musings? I have added some of my own thoughts in the commentary above, some of which coincides with the points distilled by Bill in his post:

 

The human heart is fickle, and there is no call to care too much about what anyone thinks of you, whether good or bad — even yourself.

 

Easy to believe, hard to practice. Which reminds me of a related point that my friend George taught me a few years ago. Moral rules, guidelines, and policies have no power to guard or change your behavior.

Just above, I told you “Don’t be a gossip!” What good is that command if you haven’t the power to prevent yourself from gossiping? The answer to that question is the real purpose of such rules: to judge and condemn. That is their real power. And we humans love to exercise that power. And to turn the screw another perverse notch, we can condemn you for lacking the power to obey the rule.

But why isn’t knowledge of the rule enough? Why can’t you “just do it” (or don’t do it)? Often, the rule, or the fear of failing to do it, or the fear of breaking it, is enough to goad or restrain you. But sometimes behavior originates from our wounds. And wounded people wound others. Wounds—those of the heart as well as the body—have to be tended to and healed. Can you heal yourself? Maybe. But many of us need assistance outside of ourselves. The great wisdom traditions speak to this need for transformation. A good counselor or therapist can be a lifesaver. Don’t spurn these aids. That pretty much includes all of us.

wreckage-fuselageHave you broken a moral or institutional rule and been subsequently judged or condemned for doing so? Then you have learned the point of such rules the hard way. Now comes the test: you have the option to own it or evade it. I recommend owning it, and let others think what they will of you. It may chasten you when you are tempted to stand as judge over a fellow rulebreaker. Such are the tests of character that actually count when owning your failures, mistakes, or transgressions: remorse and empathy. All of your deeds, good and bad, are part of your story, for better and for worse. And the same goes for all of us.

 

Human reality is an ever-shifting play of perspectives and evaluations and, insofar forth, bare of ultimate reality and so not to be taken with utmost seriousness. All of the great wisdom traditions teach the need of detachment or non-attachment. You are grasping at straws and chasing after shadows if you seek your worth or ultimate reality in the broken mirrors of others’ subjectivity. My mirror and your mirror are broken, too.

 

In the clear Mirror of Bill’s wisdom, a wisdom that springs from the likes of the Stoics, Boethius, and the teachers, ascetics, and monastics of the great religions of the world, the deformities and blemishes of our own hearts are laid bare. You may thunder “I!” as loud and as long as you please. Duly consider all that your hands have done and the toil you have spent in doing it. Is it worth anything? Of course! Is it where your worth is to be found? You might as well chase after the wind. Fix your gaze above the vanities, schemes, and petty vengeances in which your ego longs to embroil you, and with which others would brutalize you.

 

If you have been done wrong, think of the times you have done others wrong. If on occasion you have not gotten what you deserve, recall the times when you got more than you deserved — and perhaps at the expense of the more deserving. If you judge that you have been unfairly treated, bear in mind that it is just someone’s judgment that you have been unfairly treated, and that the mere fact that this someone is you is not all that significant.

 

“I have been done wrong!” I have shouted, mostly to myself. And it was true. But that first sentence of Bill’s does not let me play the victim. Self-righteous indignation is not an option on the table because I have done others wrong, too. Will you be treated unfairly tomorrow? Almost certainly. And who judges this treatment unfair? You? That’s just another human judgment, yes? So don’t make too much of this shadow play of fairness while we tarry in the Cave.

You are not alone in the barbed net of the human predicament. Share in each others’ trials and joys as fellow sojourners through the heights and depths of this too transient life. You will know your true friends and you will be known by them. I am grateful always to those who have seen me in the Mirror and not turned away: Jack and Jack, Jack, Jeff, and Chris, and my family. My fondest wish for all of you is not that you will live a morally spotless life, or that you will know only pleasure and happiness and never pain, or that you will achieve an unbroken string of worldly success unblemished by failure. No, none of these patronizing fictions will do for this event. I give you instead this Mirror and trust that you will dust it off from time to time, heed its lessons, and persevere in the hard work of building your character and your life.

Philosophy Class LIVE! – Week 13

Our next and final LIVE online meeting for PHIL 135 – Introduction to Ethics – is on Wednesday, 27 Apr 2016 at 11:00 noon (PT), right here and on Google+ Hangouts on Air. This week you have two articles on the topics of terrorism and torture. Next week you have two articles on the moral status of the environment. We will also discuss your final assignment – a research/analytical essay on a moral issue of your choice.

This is specifically for my Truckee Meadows Community College students, but everyone is welcome!
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Agenda

  • Quiz 13
    • Readings: “Terrorism: A Critique of Excuses,” Michael Walzer (Ch 24)
    • Readings: “Should the Ticking Bomb Terrorist Be Tortured?,” Alan Dershowitz (Ch 25)
  • Quiz 14
    • Readings: “The Ethics of Respect for Nature,” Paul Taylor (Ch 28)
    • Readings: “Ideals of Human Excellence and Preserving Natural Environments,” Thomas Hill, Jr (Ch 29)
  • Final Analytical Essay
  • Q&A!

Philosophy Class LIVE! – Week 10

Our next LIVE online meeting for PHIL 135 – Introduction to Ethics – is on Thursday, 07 Apr 2016 at 12:30 noon (PT), right here and on Google+ Hangouts on Air. This week you have two articles on the morality of abortion. This is specifically for my Truckee Meadows Community College students, but everyone is welcome!
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Agenda

  • Quiz 10 Preview
  • Readings: “A Defense of Abortion,” Judith Jarvis Thomson (Ch 30)
  • Readings: “Why Abortion is Immoral,” Don Marquis (Ch 31)
  • Final Analytical Essay: Overview
  • Q&A!

Philosophy Class LIVE! – Week 8

Our next LIVE online meeting for PHIL 135 – Introduction to Ethics – is on Friday, 25 Mar 2016 at 12:00 noon (PT), right here and on Google+ Hangouts on Air. This is specifically for my Truckee Meadows Community College students, but everyone is welcome! Post-production note: the first 60 seconds has no sound! You may want to jump forward to the point when I enable the microphone!
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Agenda

  • Quiz 7: How did you do?
  • New Book! The Ethical Life
  • Quiz 8 Preview
  • Readings: “Puppies, Pigs and People: Eating Meat and Marginal Cases,” Alastair Norcross (Ch 26)
  • Readings: “Moral Standing, the Value of Lives, and Speciesism,” R. G. Frey (Ch 27)
  • Q&A!

Philosophy Class LIVE! – Week 7

Our next LIVE online meeting for PHIL 135 – Introduction to Ethics – is on Friday, 11 Mar 2016 at 10:00 am (PT), right here and on Google+ Hangouts on Air. This is specifically for my Truckee Meadows Community College students, but everyone is welcome!

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Agenda

  • Quiz 6 Autopsy: How did you do?
  • Quiz 7 Preview
  • Readings: Virtue Ethics (Ch 17)
  • Readings: Feminist Ethics (Ch 18)
  • Q&A!

Philosophy Class LIVE! – Week 6

Our next LIVE online meeting for PHIL 135 – Introduction to Ethics – is on Wednesday, 02 Mar 2016 at 11:00 am (PT), right here and on Google+ Hangouts on Air. This is specifically for my Truckee Meadows Community College students, but everyone is welcome!

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Agenda

  • Quiz 5 Autopsy: How did you do?
  • Quiz 6 Preview
  • Readings: Ethical Pluralism (Chs 15-16)
  • Q&A!

Philosophy Class LIVE! – Week 5

Our next LIVE online meeting for PHIL 135 – Introduction to Ethics – is on Friday, 26 Feb 2016 at 10:00 am (PT), right here and on Google+ Hangouts on Air. This is specifically for my Truckee Meadows Community College students, but everyone is welcome!

Agenda

  • Quiz 4 Autopsy: How did you do?
  • Quiz 5 Preview
  • Readings: Social Contractarianism (Chs 13-14)
  • Q&A!