Kate (kate_nepveu) wrote,

TTC: "God and Mankind: Comparative Religions"

I've started listening to lectures from The Teaching Company. These don't really belong on the booklog, yet it feels weird to spend so much time listening to something and not review it. (Ah, habit.) So I'll put brief notes here instead.

First up is "God and Mankind: Comparative Religions," eight 45-minute lectures. The course page sums up the lectures well if enthusiastically: the course considers religious cosmologies, particularly creation myths and religious hero narratives; theodicy; rituals and communities; and the Puritan influence on America. The lecturer does a nice job of showing how to abstract up from a particular piece of information about a religion to the way the religion views the world; the rhythm of the tale of Osiris' death and rebirth pointing to dualism, for instance, or the repetition of "it was good" in Genesis's creation story, which indicates that Judaism doesn't disdain created matter as some religions do. Nothing earth-shattering, but a useful primer (or reminder) on how to analyze religious data.

However, I would have liked it to be more comparative than it was. The examples were drawn principally from Judaism and Christianity; the lecturer said this was deliberate, as those were more generally familiar to the audience. I can buy that this familiarity lets people concentrate more on understanding the points he was trying to draw out, but still, it seemed kind of a wasted opportunity. I mean, since it's so well-known, did we really need to hear about the Book of Job in such detail?

My biggest objection, however, was that there was not a single example drawn from Islam. A statement that almost all religious founders have supernatural attributes? No mention of how Muhammad fits in—which I immediately wondered. The sect to church progression, and whether religions stabilize at church or go back to sect (that is, split off denominations)? Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, and Hinduism are all discussed, but Islam gets only a passing mention of the Sunni-Shi'ite split. Even Ancient Mesopotamian religion gets time, with a lengthy description of the Epic of Gilgamesh, but not Islam.

I also have a "Great World Religions" series, and was going to listen by order of age, but I think I'm going to skip straight to the one on Islam now, out of frustration.

Tags: teaching company courses

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