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.

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