Consecutive Days Riding: 92 Days Blogged: 90
New Mileage: 12 Total Trip Mileage: 733
I am riding the bike tonight in a great deal of pain. Last week I made a trip to the dentist. It made for an interesting experience and was mentioned in my blog, but something is amiss! So I will try and get in to see someone in the next couple days. Hopefully all it will take is an antibiotic and some pain killer to make things right.
Today I met with the two sections of my Psychology of Religion course for the first time. Close to fifty young people will sit through my lectures and tests for the next fourteen weeks. We will discuss the various personal and societal functions that religion meets within our individual lives and our culture. We will explore fourteen different religious traditions that now have roots in the United States, everything from Jainism, Baha’i’, Zen, to Islam.
We talked today about the difference between diversity, a recognition of the wide variety of different faith traditions, and pluralism, which is an acceptance of the validity of these beliefs for each tradition. For society to function properly we must have at least a tolerance of the diversity within our society. For our society to flourish and prosper I would argue we need to not just tolerate others but celebrate our differences by embracing a pluralistic attitude.
I tell my students that it is not my intention to challenge or undermine their belief systems. I do not want them to “lose their religion.” However, I expect that they will explore their beliefs on various topics that are important in the discussion of religious traditions. Such as:” What is the source of mankind’s suffering? What is the nature of the divine (Deity or Godhead)? What happens after we die? Each of the various belief systems has an answer to these questions. Our exploration and discussion is not undertaken to establish which of the belief systems has “the truth,” but to explore how each express and experience “their truth.”
I challenge the students to recognize the importance of culture and time period (e.g. how were Buddha’s beliefs tied to Hinduism, India and the time period of 400 BCE) to understand what shaped the nature of a tradition’s beliefs. I challenge them to recognize the various sources of knowledge and how different religions make use of these sources. For example, the primary monotheisms are called “people of the book” for their reliance on the revealed wisdom of the Old Testament; whereas Zen Buddhists will tell you to burn all of your sacred books because true knowledge and understanding comes from revelations of moment-to-moment experiences.
We will study the differences between cults, sects and churches and the importance of mystical experiences in some of the wisdom traditions. We will discuss the characteristics of belief systems that head down a “slippery slope” to what some people would call an “evil religion.” One of these characteristics is holding to the belief that “the ends justify the means.” I remember hearing someone after the 9/11 terrorist attacks make the statement: “kill all of the Muslims and let God sort them out.” In their eyes the goal of safety with respect to a perceived threat trumped the death of innocents and the ill will that such actions would generate.
It will be an interesting semester with so many religious topics in the news to act as fodder for our class discussions. Of course as the semester progresses the unfolding “signs of spring” will make it harder for the students and their teacher to focus on course materials. Maybe rather than lecturing on Taoism I will just send the class out to commune with nature and “know Tao” as an in-the- moment experience!
Please keep the people of Haiti in your prayers as they struggle with the effects of today’s earth quake.