Sunday, September 2, 2018

Wahhabism & its Relationship to Saudi Arabia

Studying Wahhabism?

Saudi Arabia recently arrested Saleh al Taleb, a prominent Mecca imam, and a member of the Wahhabi sect of Islam.

Ali A Olomi, a scholar of the Middle East and host of the podcast, Head on History, used the occasion to review the history of Wahhabism and its relationship to Saudi Arabia.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Sufism: Introductory Clips

Studying Sufism?

Here are a couple of introductory clips from Oprah Winfrey and one from the Religion and Ethics News Weekly.

The first comes from her series, Belief, and  the second comes from her other series,  Super Soul Sunday.

The Religion and Ethics News Weekly has a an excellent short segment  on Sufism here. Reporter, Deryl Davis, discusses the attacks on Sufism from Muslim fundamentalists and talks to scholars like Coleman Barks who has translated many of Rumi's Sufi poems and who here explains Sufi beliefs and the meaning of whiling dervishes.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Buddhas Among Tallest Statues in the World

Statutes of Buddhas are among the tallest in the world. 

The Wall Street Journal recently published a slideshow of the five tallest statutes in the U.S. and  the five tallest in the world.  Four of the five tallest in the world are Buddhas. 

Two are in China, one is in Myanmar, and one is in Japan. The one below is the tallest at 420 feet. It's called the Spring Temple Buddha and is in China.
By Zgpdszz - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
This is the Laykyun Setkyar Buddha in Myanmar. It is the second largest statute in the world at 381 feet.
By Tetsuya Kitahata - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

And here is a Japanese Buddha, Ushiku Daibutsu in Ibaraki,in Japan. It's the third largest statute in the world at 360ft.

The fourth largest statute in the world is this Buddha called The Guanying. It's in the South Sea of Sanya, in China, and stands 354 feet tall.
By C Ling Fan from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. - GuanYin deity, CC BY 2.0,
The video below includes three of the Buddhas above, the Ushiku Daibutsu  in Japan, the Laykyun Setkyar Buddha in Myanmar, and the Spring Temple Buddha in China. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Three Teachings: Resources for Teaching Chinese Religion

Teaching Chinese religion?

Here's a great website to consider for background or as a student resource.

Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism are known as the Three Teachings in China. Historian Stephen Teiser notes that a 6th century scholar referred to Buddhism as the sun, Daoism as the moon, and Confucianism as the five planets.

 Asia for Educators has a terrific website about the three religions, all adapted from Professor Teiser's book,  “The Spirits of Chinese Religion,”  part of which you can download in pdf.  Teiser is the D. T. Suzuki Professor in Buddhist Studies and Professor of Religion at Princeton University.

Students can read a brief overview of the Three Teachings and why they are so important in understanding Chinese history. Next, they can read about each of the traditions.

Professor Teiser offers us insights far beyond what BBC and other encyclopedic religion sites offer.   For example,  readers will learn about the way of the Celestial Masters, an early Daoist movement that began in the second century.  According to Professor Teiser, the celestial masters added mythology and rituals to many Daoist groups.

And in the Confucianism section, students will learn the attributes of a the ideal ruler which, according to Teiser, are "benevolence toward others; a general sense of doing what is right; and loyalty and diligence in serving one’s superiors."

Here's a review of the Three Teachings from "It's History." 


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Shinto Resources

By Rdsmith4 - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5
Teaching Shinto, the ancient religion of Japan?

Here are some very short clips that help explain it.

The first is a basic overview from Khan academy and runs about four minutes.

The second clip explains the three types of kami, or gods. These include ancestors, spirits, and souls of great people, all of whom coexist with us in the natural world.

The third clip explains the importance of the torii gate and the Shinto shrine.

And finally, a professor explains the great myth of the Japanese sun god, Amaterasu who is the daughter of Izanami and Izanagi. She was born from Izanagi's left eye!

Shinto overview form Khan Academy

The gods of Shinto

The goddess Amaterasu

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Religious Liberty Education: Newseum Religious Freedom Center

Want to learn more about religion, or religious liberty, or the first amendment?

If so, consider taking a blended or online course through the Religious Freedom Center which is part of the Newseum.

I just finished an online course on the history of religious liberty in the United States. We examined the development of religious liberty in colonial America by reading about John Winthrop and Roger Williams and their opposing views of religious freedom. We studied the influence of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison on the First Amendment.

Some of the most interesting units included Supreme Court cases that tested the limits of religious liberty, especially those in public schools.   In 1940, for example, during the beginning of World War II, a young Jehovah Witness in  a Minersville, Pennsylvania middle school sued his school district for asking him to salute the flag every morning during the pledge.  The Supreme Court did not agree and in an 8-1 decision said that symbols of unity like the flag were more important than religious freedom.  Three years later, the Supreme Court reversed itself with a similar case.

Another highlight of the course included reading about Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X and the extent to which religion motivated them. Muhammad Ali refused induction into the army in 1967. The courts convicted him of draft evasion  despite his claim of conscientious objection, but the Supreme Court eventually overturned the decision.

Finally, I learned about two terrific resources. PBSs Frontline series, God in America, is great. It weaves a lot of history into a engaging and fascinating story.

Living with our Deepest Differences in a Pluralistic Society is another great resource. Put together by the First Amendment Center, it includes teacher resources and lesson plans. A lesson about Nativism in America, for example, reviews the main waves of immigration in America with charts and period cartoons.

Registration for Spring course ends on January 7th. Summer and fall applications are due May 18th.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Story & History of Human Rights

Here's an excellent overview of Human Rights from The Youth for Human Rights.

And here is excellent history explaining how the United Nations Universal Declaration of Rights developed. It comes from from Facing History and Ourselves.