Monday, April 24, 2017

Has Globalization Increased Religious Fundamentalism?

In this short clip, James Hoge, editor of Foreign Affairs, argues that globalization increased religious nationalism among most of the world's religions.

Hoge points to the evangelical forces in Christianity, the rise of the Wahhabi movement in Indonesia, and the rise of fundamentalism in Hinduism and Judaism.

Why? The migration and movements of peoples has led many of them to question the surety of their identities.

Is Hoge right?

This might be an interesting debate in a world history or religion class.

The clip comes from a larger speech Hoge made about America and the world at the New School in 2010.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

When God was a Girl: Bettany Hughes Documentary

Here, historian Bettany Hughes, follows the trail of ancient female figurines that suggest a time when women were considered divine.

Near the beginning of the documentary, Hughes notes that the majority of the total number of figures dug up around the world between now and 30,000BC are female. She explores why and what it says about religion.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

3-D Tour of the Sistine Chapel

Students and faculty at Pennsylvania’s Villanova University created these awesome virtual 3D tours.

There are six in all (which I found on Open Culture) and include Basilica of St. Peter, Basilica of Paul Outside-the-Walls, Basilica of St. Mary Major, and The Pauline Chapel.

I've seen 3D tours of the Sistine Chapel but not of the others. If you look at the St. Peter Basilica, you can click on different numbers to view specific areas like the nave or the pieta or the alter.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Buddhist Art of Myanmar: Explained

buddhist art
If you missed the exhibit of Buddhist art from Myanmar at the Asia Society last year, you can watch experts examine some of the pieces in the clips below. The exhibit opened in early February last year.

The New York Times called it "quietly majestic" and the Guardian called it "beautiful and fascinating."

I saw the exhibit and loved the way it was organized. The first floor included images related to the life of the Buddha. For example, the stone sculpture reviewed below shows the mythical birth of the Buddha. Another sculpture showed the Buddha cutting his hair as he prepares to search for enlightenment.

We also saw the Buddha meditating under the Bodhi tree and being tempted by Mara.

An expert reviews that image below.

If you studied all the pieces on this floor, you would walk away with a good idea about the life of the Buddha.

The second floor included pieces about ritual and devotion.  You could see a beautiful  large and intricately carved shrine as well a number of small wooden figures that represent "nats," spirits commonly worshiped  in Myanmar. They can be benevolent or malevolent and can be found in households, pagodas, and temples.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Zoroastrianism's Influence

Which religion influenced the beliefs of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism?

Monotheism started with its founder long before Abraham. The idea of heaven and hell originated with it, as did the idea of good and evil.

Not only did its ideas influence the Abrahamic religions, they also influenced culture.

Richard Strauss' "Thus Spoke Zarathustra"  can be seen in the score of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Freddy Mercury, lead signer of Queen, got inspiration from the religion's founder and the Mazda car maker takes its name from the founder.

Zoroastrianism started in Iran and grew with the three great Iranian empires which included that of Cyrus the Great, but began to weaken after the invasion of Alexander the Great and the later development of Islam. Many Zoroastrians fled and migrated to India where they became known as Parsis. Ahura Mazda.

In a terrific essay for BBC Culture, called "The Obscure Religion that Shaped the West," Joobin Bekhrad examines the influence of Zarathustra's beliefs on western culture.

You can find out more about Zoroastrianism from BBC Religion.

And here is an interesting article about the vanishing population of India's Parsi community.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Teaching the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Studying the formation of Israel and the ensuing Israeli Palestinian Conflict?

It's hard to find clips about the conflict that are completely void of bias. TestTube's short four minute clip below probably comes closest.

Nonetheless, I like the thirty-two minute documentary produced by the American Task Force on Palestine in 2005 and the ten minute clip developed by Max Fisher and Johnny Harris for Vox.

The American Task Force divides its film into two fifteen minute parts. Two young hosts outline the history of the conflict in the first part and break that history down so that it's understandable to both younger and older students.

The hosts outline a solution, two states, in the second fifteen minutes.

I showed it to my students and stopped it numerous times to answer and discuss questions.

The second clip from Vox also does a good job outlining the history of the conflict and argues that the status-quo today is not sustainable for the Palestinians.

Finally, I showed students a short clip about growing jewish settlements on the West Bank from PBS Newshour last week. I wanted students to understand the relevance of the issue.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Believers: Do We Need Religion?

Here is a terrific documentary that aired in 2013 that tackles the beliefs and values of the major religions in a thoughtful and provocative way. 

It is what I had hoped that Reza Aslan's CNN series, Believer, might have been.  While Aslan focuses on the fringes of some religions like Hinduism and Christianity, and on the strangeness of smaller religions like Scientology and Vodou,  Believers host Sacha Sewhdat focuses on how the major religions understand God.

Sewhdat, a young Hindu Canadian, talks to six religious figures--a Muslim Imam, an orthodox Jewish rabbi, a Theravada Buddhist monk, a Protestant Christian pastor, an atheist columnist, and a Hindu religious leader.

The ensuing conversations help us to understand the basic beliefs the different faiths have about God. Sewhdat asks basic questions.  For example,  he asks each of the religious figures to sum up their beliefs in one sentence.  These six authorities cut to the quick and give us terrific overviews of their faiths. 

The Hindu priest suggests that Hinduism is a way of life while the orthodox Jewish rabbi suggested that Judaism offered laws with which all human beings could live. The atheist columnist suggested that atheists are non-theists.  And the Muslim Imam argued that Muslims submit to the will of Allah, who is the the Abrahamic god.

I love the basic nature of Sewhdat's questions. He asks the Hindu priest to explain the idea that Hinduism is a monotheistic religion with a polytheistic view. 

The Theravada monk, when asked if he worships the Buddha, tells us that he worships the the awakening or the enlightenment of the Buddha.

The rabbi tells Sewhdat, "I look around at the beauty and wisdom of our world and have to believe there is a maker."

Believers can serve as a great introduction to the five faiths or as a review at the end of the year.

Has Globalization Increased Religious Fundamentalism?

In this short clip, James Hoge, editor of Foreign Affairs, argues that globalization increased religious nationalism among most of the worl...