Week FIve: Islam
1. Detail the life and teachings of Muhammad according to Smith. Make sure to discuss the basic theological ideas, main practices, social teachings of this religion.
Next, discuss the video that you watched on Islam (narrated by Ben Kingsley…part one). What did you learn from the film? Illustrate that it was watched in full. Elaborate.
In Smith’s book, he gave us insight into the life of to the Islamic prophet Mohammed from the beginning of his childhood. Born into the Koreish tribe in 570B.C. Mohammed’s parents died while he was very young. Yet inspire of his hardships as a child, he was described to be kind, gentle and had a yearning for helping others. While growing up he worked hard, and eventually became a servant for a window named Khadija. It is said that during his time serving her, she as impressed by his strong morals, and eventually the two fell in love and married. Throughout his childhood and into his married years he often spent time seeking solitude. One day while seeking solitude in a cave the angel Gabriel appeared and spoke a message that made him realize that Allah was the only true God. He was delighted in his revelation and started spreading the word of Allah to all the people of Meca. Even though he obtained only a small following in his first years, the Mecan leaders saw him as a threat to not only their beliefs but the wealth of the city since a lot of their revenue was coming from people coming to make a pilgrimage to one of their many polytheistic shrines. A few years past and Muhammad’s following grew as well as Meca’s leaders impatience with him. They finally sent out to kill him, but in divine fate, he was summed by Yatib, a city not far away, to become their leader and escaped just in time. As a leader of Yatib (later changed to Medina), he resolved fights between tribes, ruled justly, lifted the cities spirits and the cities religion became that of Allah. Years later conflict between Meca and Medina sparked a war. Medina won and as a sign of peace Meca rededicated the cubical temple Ka’ba, to Allah.
The main Islamic belief system revolves around the words of the Koran. The Koran is believed to be not words from Allah, but word that the angel Gabriel spoke to Muhammed throughout the years. It is very different then the holy books of other western religions because instead of teaching fate through miraculous stories and moral tales, it is primarily a proclamation of the unity, omnipresence, omnipotence and mercy of God. As for theological concepts, its views parallel with Judaism and Christianity on many levels such as the belief of creation, God, human self, and most importantly day of judgement. Unlike Christianity’s view of the day of judgement, Islam believes that instead of being held accountable by Allah, you will be stuck with a great clarity of how you lived your life and have to answer to ones self. In addition, Islam also teaches that there are certin obligations one must fulfill in a life which are: 1. Graditude for life received 2. To surrender yourself to Allah. The second one means that if you surrender yourself to Allah, you will be able to escape other types of enslavement.
To help fulfill these obligations Islam follows the 5 pillars, each of which are a guideline for living your life and dealing with God. The first pillar is the confession to fate, also known as Shahandah. This confession translates to “there is no God but Allah and Mohammed’s his prophet. The second pillar is the canonical prayer, which is meant to be said 5 times daily at fixed times to give gratitude to Allah. The third pillar is Charity. Islam believes that all of those who can give to the need should. The fourth pillar is the observation of Ramadan which is time of fasting and reflection. This fast symbolizes Mohammed’s migration from Meca. Lastly, the fifth pillar is the pilgrimage to Meca. It is tradition that followers must come to show their commitment to God. This pilgrimage is done in plain clothes to show everyones community, and shares loyalty to God.
2. Discuss in detail the mystical form of Islam as presented by Smith. Follow this with Karen Armstrong’s position on this very topic and also what she finds appealing about Islam in general and its founder.
Sufism is described by Smiths book as a mystical form of Islam that was started as a statement against the new world form of Islam characterized by lavish castles and silk clothing. But even though this sounds like a very orthodox lifestyle it is in fact not. Sufis often live a normal lifestyle, have regular jobs, marry and have families, it is just a more disciplined way to surrender to Allah. The movement toward Sufism’s goal was to be able to experience Allah while still alive. Also, in the interview with Karen Armstrong she explains to us that by encountering the divine the lines between each religions God loose distinction, and become one. To accomplish this goal sufis use one of three paths (also known as the three mysticisms).
The first mysticism is Love. It is characterized by the emphasis on the hearts knowledge. Many people following this often have night vigils, and write poetry confessing their love for Allah, such as the poet Rumi. The Secound mysticism is Estatic. Estatics often go into deep trances where they see god. When they enter back into reality it is often with a message of the divine. This is also known as visual knowledge. Thirdly and most complex is intuitive discernment, which deals with mental knowledge. In intuitive discernment they focus on ignoring the things in the world around us visually and acknowledging that they are just a symbol and creation of God.
3. Many non-Muslims are unaware of the historical and theological connection between Islam and Judaism and Christianity. The historical connection is obvious: Muhammad grew up in Mecca, a city with strong Judeo-Christian ties. For this essay discuss the “theological similarities” with Islam and Judaism and then with Islam and Christianity. How is Islam similar to Judaism and how is it different? How is it similar to Christianity and how is it different?
Hint: Draw from the reading and not outside websites (you are encouraged to use the websites offered on the course syllabus however). There is a lot to discuss here. Discuss each separately. Do not just list a few ideas but develop a well thought out essay here. This is an important essay. Here is an example: Jesus is viewed as an important figure in all three religions…explain.
Week Six: Judaism
4. YALE ONLINE LECTURE ON THE BIBLE: You were assigned to watch ONE lecture by the Yale University professor on the Hebrew Scriptures. Which of the three lectures did you watch? Outline in depth the 45 minute lecture.
The Yale lecture on the bible that i chose to watch was Biblican Religion in Context. She describes the bible as being a product of “the minds reaction to the world around it.”In this lecture she introduced us to the two very different views of how monotheism developed. The first view is that of evolution and the second view was that monotheism was a revolution from the pagan religions of the time. The idea of monotheism being a natural evolution argues that over time pegan culture progressed and as it did, soon has lesser and lesser Gods. For instance, they started at polytheism(many gods), to Henotheism (one god)/ menology (one god better then the rest) and then finally to monotheism.
Supported by the fact that there are many stories in the bible that are very similar in other near eastern religions. The second view, of Yehezkel Kaufmann, strongly opposes that idea, and believes that monotheism is a revolutionary idea and could not have evolved from paganism.
In the lecture they go on to discuss the many pegan ideals and how monotheism was a revolutionary way of looking at things and could not have been a natural evolution. Pegan polytyisitc religions believe in a metadivine realm, which is a magical ungender/unhuman/formless realm that controls the fate of the universe as well as the other Gods lifes. Kaufman argues that since in monotheism God answers to no metadivine realm it must be revolutionary. Not only in this example but in many other pegan believes this is so. In polytheism, the universe is amoral (even though some gods may be) and there is no set law. Next, Cults can help the Gods by giving sacrifices are channeling them through an element. After that, salvation is escape, meaning you are able to set a magical barrier between you and them. Gods are born, and there are good and evil gods.
When looking at monotheism as a revolution you can see how it clearly dispels all these notions. First of all, God no longer is controlled by a metadivine realm. Secoundly, the line between God and human is clearly difined because he was not born nor dies nor has an age. Thirdly, he transcends nature, and instead of nature controlling him, he expresses himself through it. Fourthly, the cults have no power in controlling the fate of God, therefore powerless to fate. Sixth, there is no evil other Gods that try and battle God.
These reasons along with a few others are mentioned as the difference as to why it could not have evolved from paganism because of its drastic differences.
5. A detailed website on Judaism was offered on the course syllabus week five. There were twelve sections on the religion, from customs to holy days to ethics, etc… Using your own words briefly discuss the key ideas in these twelve areas…do not just list things but briefly explain the Jewish view in these areas.
The first section is Judaism at a glance. This section discussed how Judaism originated in the middle east by Moses and Abraham. As well as gave us quick overview of basic jewish traditions such as the oral law, Rabbis and the Torah.
The second section was Judaism’s main monotheistic beliefs. They strongly emphasize having a strong sense of religious community as well as family because following Gods rules for life means everything done in ones life can be seen as an act of worship. Even though this is so, they believe that personal responsibility to key because it effect Gods view of the group as a whole.
The third section enlightens us on the four major Judaic customs:the observation of the Sabbath, the wearing of Tefilllin, Eruvs and Kippah/Yarmulke. The Sabbath is a weekly day of rest that spans from friday’s sunset to saturday’s sunset. This day serves as a reminder of Gods day of rest after creating the universe. Tefillin’s are black cubes containing text from the bible, often worn during prayer and before Mitzvah. Evras are spaces of land in which jews are allowed to carry or push items in public during the Sabbath (which is normally not allowed). They are created to allow the handicapped as well as those dependent on carrying items such as medicine to be able to celebrate the Sabbath outside of their homes. The last jewish custom is the kippah/yarmlke is a head cap or scarf worn during synagogue as a sign of respect and fear of God.
Section four revolved around the history of judaism. This section shows that history is a key component in their religion because its all written in the bible. In addition to the history written in the bible the Jews history is evidence of them being the chosen people. In-spite of enduring many hardships such as the holocaust, expulsion from england and the distraction of their temples, Judaism still remains one of the worlds largest religions.
Along with that, chapter five was about one of the most tragic events in Jewish history, the holocaust. The holocaust was the mass extermination of the Jews, (along with other ethnicity’s other than Arian) by Nazi government in Germany. The holocaust had a huge effect on religious thoughts by jews, many wondered why God would do this to his people? Yom Hashoah, a day of remembrance landing on the 27th of the month NIssan in the jewish calendar, was developed in memorial for this event.
Section six was on the Holy days: Days of Awe, Passover, Rosh hashanah, Savour, Tish B’av, Yom Hashoah, Hanukkah, Purim, Sabbath, Sukkot, Tu B’shevat and Yom Kippur. These holy days are set aside each year to commemorate separate parts of Judaic historical events, as well as to strengthen a sense of community and festival in families.
Section seven contained the Ethical views of Judaism such as: abortion, capitol punishment, contraception, genetic engineering, war, animals, circumcision, suicide and organ donation. In short, Jews do believe in abortion (but only if the mothers life is in danger), do not believe in capital punishment, allow genetic engineering only to heal the sick, permits war in certain circumstances, encourages organ donation, believes suicide is murder, and believe that as a commandment by god all jewish boys must be circumcised (and only on the sabbath).
In section eight, they discussed the important figures in the bible. Abraham, was the first to be discussed because he was the first teacher of the monotheistic judaic practices and was sent on a mission by God to purify the Judaic religion. Secondly, Isaiah was important because he was perceived to be authors of the prophetic books of the bible that laid out the by the theme of jesus being our “suffering servant”. Thirdly joshua, the famous warrior who lead the army who concurred Jericho as well as Canaan. Fourth, Moses, who’s intellect and essays started a major movement of jewish philosophical writing. Fifth, David, the first kind of Jerusalem who in the story of David and Goliath shows how is you put you trust in gods words, everything will be well. Sixth, Joseph, who saved egypt from famine by predicting it and taking measures to ensure provisions to service. Lastly but most importantly, Moses, was proven to by god to create the 10 commandments for morality which are still in use today.
In section nine, we learned of Judaism’s baby rites and wedding rites. Jewish baby rites are different for males and females. Baby boys must be circumcised when 8 days old and at the same time given his name. While Females are given their name at the first Torah reading at Synagogue. As for Jewish wedding rites, there are many rules and traditions that must take place before, during and after a wedding ceremony. For example, on the wedding day the couple is supposed to fast to cleanse themselves. Jewish marriages must be seen by a rabbi but not necessarily performed by one. Then as the marriage is complete, it is traditional for them to break a plate or glass.
In Section ten they discuss the many subdivisions of Judaism such as: Conservative, Liberal, Orthodox, Reform, Humanistic, Modern and Reconstructionist Judaism. There is a lot to discuss about each one, so i will discuss the oldest and the newest subdivision. The oldest, Orthodox jews are the most committed to the traditions set out in the ten commandments and torah. In addition they also conform to wearing traditional Jewish attire, wearing hats, and married men not shaving their beards for example.
In section eleven the two main text are addressed. First of all the Talmud . The Torah is the first part of the Jewish bible (the old testament). The torahs words are meant to be from God and dictated to Moses on Mount Saini. Secondly, the Talmud is a list of Jewish laws written in the 2nd century CE by combining Halakhah which is the original oral law and Gemara which is the rabbinic discussions about the laws after they were written.
In section ten the place of worship is discussed. Synagogue is the Jewish place of worship. Its services are lead by Rabbis whom read from the Torah (more times then not, only in hebrew). In orthodox services its custom for everyone besides unmarried women to cover their head in some way. Also, men and women are to sit on separate sides of the room (except for children).
Choose between 6 and 7:
6. Explain the main argument in FALSE TESTAMENT and offer several
(offer “four to six”) specific, detailed examples of why they call it “false
The main argument in the false testament was that Judah’s post exilic period scribes created these false stories in order to create a great past that would further them to become a major political power. By obtaining this power through creating stories of concurring lands and battling armies, they would then be able to have evidence when fighting for land rights. The story of king Josiah sharing the scripts not only with the priests and advisers, but with the entire people of Judah, opened up a sense of community and made the religion more appealing to the masses by allowing them to become an active part of the survival of religion. By each person pledging themselves to this covenant with God, it felt much more personal, and gave them reason to give up the polytheistic views and remain monotheistic. Then, like in the stories of exile, they showed that if you disobey Gods covenant the consequences you will endure will be tremendous.
Lazre offered us many examples of how his archeological research dispels tradition. For example, tradition says that the Israelites invaded canaan but research shows that there is no evidence of any invasion. It then goes on to show that Judaic monotheism grew from a small indigenous culture located along the river jordan 1200 B.C. Secondly, tradition states that the Israelites were exiled from Egypt and wondered in the desert for many years. In Lazares research, they found no camp site remains or evidence of there ever being an exodus. In addition, tradition states that they used many camels for traveling while in exile but in research they found that camels didn’t become a common animal for transport in that region until many years later.
Not only did he dispel traditional views but he also showed how early archeological were inaccurate and bias. Yigael Yadins research, he says, represents the politicalization of archeology because Yadin was military, pro bible, and pro jewishly bias in his research.
Week Seven: Christianity:
8. Utilizing Smith’s material (chapter 8) on Christianity, outline in essay form
the history of Christianity, paying special attention to the
differing schools of thought/branches (Protestantism, Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, etc.) within it and how they developed.
Next, discuss in depth the film from the History Channel. What did you get out of the video and find interesting and even challenging? Offer proof that it was watched. For example, explain what did Crossan say in the video, etc….? There are 12 parts…you were assigned 6 of these 12 parts…. you can either discuss each separately or the key ideas overall to show me that it was watched in full.
In the History channel video, they targeted the question of “who wrote the bible?” They also discussed how the bible changed over the years threw different translations and interpretations. Through the years historians have been able to conclude that unlike the entirety of the bible coming from one sole author, there are in fact four. These four authors are refereed to as Jay, Elohim, Priest, and David. By the method of documentary hypothesis, historians use the parallels of many of the stories in the bibles different accounts to identify the four writing styles. The hypothesis of why there are many different versions of similar stories in the bible starts off with King david appointing two high priests. Before his death, his sons run against each other for the throne, each with a different priest on their side. Solomon wins, and gets rid of the priest that was on his brothers side by banishing him from the kingdom along with his followers. Historians believe that Israel, along with the Priest that was banished who later became the priest of Judah, both produced their own retellings of the biblical stories. To support this theory Crossan calls our attention to the book of genesis, and how it favors the 2nd son in many stories. Judah, symbolically was Israel’s second son and indadvertedly wanted to portray that in their bible.
9. Explain in depth what Gnosticism is. Why do you think that it failed and that Christianity succeeded?
I do not know.
10. You were assigned material on the work of the biblical scholar J.D. Crossan, who paints a picture of who he thinks the “historical Jesus” was.
First describe his specific “research methodology” and then, most importantly, his actual findings on the life and teachings of Jesus. Discuss briefly the four very short films on him. And, finally do you like the philosophy of the historical Jesus as presented by Crossan?
The methodology described by Crossan seems logical, unbiased, and
centered around the truth. By taking into account several perspectives
on one subject he ensures that no one opinion formulated by other
authors can be the predominant authority in his personnal work. The
key focus of Crossan’s article is to identify that there are more
aspects to be accounted for than those written in common biblical
texts. Crossan invokes the reader’s attention to the acknowledgement
of texts that have not been widely published about Jesus that could be
considered slanderous to the way Jesus is depicted in the more widely
known and accepted biblical texts by Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Crossan asserts an idea that the four gospels named earlier wrote
works that met the standard of which a more miraculous Jesus existed.
By bringing into light the existence of other gospels such as the
gospel of Thomas which is simply a collection of sayings and does not
share the story like fashion of the “canonical foursome” Crossan
presents a theory that the four authors shared more than a fashion of
characterizing Jesus but also, had in part a way of censoring what the
public was to view in text of what Jesus’ work had been.
What Crossan is doing in his cross-examination of available texts
about the life and works of Jesus is painting an unbaised picture of
what is available to be understood of the life of Jesus. The
revelation that works have been censored throughout history about
Jesus do not prove that Jesus was any less remarkable a figure but do
bring into light the posibility that what the public has common
reference to about Jesus has been intentionally misleading since the
creation of the press. Crossan acts as a journalist seeking truth
trough multiple references and what he finds is very believable.
Week Eight: Future of Religion and Your Personal Perspective
11. Week 8 Video:
What is the future of religion? Discuss the Night line Debate and the different positions within it? Who do you think won the debate? Explain.
Taking into consideration the views of each party in this debate, i feel as if the future of religion is destined for its mysticism to be dispelled, and replaced with scientific fact. Not to say that it will become useless, it will be looked more upon as guidelines for living life as a good person to further society as whole, rather then to please a “god” or natures forces.
In the debate, Deepak Chopra and Jean Houston stressed the significance of the acceptance of scientific facts but made it very clear that there is in fact divine force as the meaning for these things to be true. Chopra also referenced the mysticism behind Quantum mechanics multiple times in his argument saying that because it is difficult to explain, the only explanation must be God. In rebuttle to these points made, Michael Shermer and his debate partner Sam Harris stated that all of Chopra’s words are “woowoo science”. Meaning that, because some scientific phenomenon’s are difficult to explain, Chopra uses religious concepts that are also difficult to find meaning in as the only explanation for science. One of Shermer’s main points was that all religious out of body of divine experiences can be recreated without religion. For example, out of body near death experiences or visions can be replicated when using deep depravation, oxygen depravation or even by exposing the brain to certain sound waves. Then, Chopra rebuttled saying that magical feelings such as love cannot be explained. To that, Shermer informed us of Oxytocin the chemical in our brains that is created for bonding feelings only to be questioned by Chopra as to who created it.
In my opinion i feel as if Michael Shermer and Sam Harris won. They stated scientific explanations for each of Chopra and Houston’s religious explanations of events. Also, they were able to rebuttal Chopras argument using words and phrases that most of the audience understood. As for Chopra’s loss, it was most definitely due to his lack of clear explanation as to why such facts are true. Almost all religions involving God encourage a sense of “blind fate”. I think Chopra really tried to play into the audiences spirituality in his argument but was swiftly shot down by Shermer’s logical reason.
12. Of all of the religions we studied this term, which religion (outside of your own; Eastern or Western) impacted you the most and explain in depth why? Offer personal insights how this alternative philosophy changes your thinking in some way.
Between eastern and western religions i found the eastern religions to be much more spiritual and interesting. Out of all the eastern religions that i learned about in this course, i found Jainism to be the most eye opening for me. I was really excited to learn about this religion because it is like no other. The Jains show a truly unwavering commitment to the practice of ahimsa and to reach moshka (which is similar to Buddhism’s nirvana). Jains are strict vegetarians, don’t have sex, nor do they do any sort of drugs, all are ideas which in America seem completely blasphemous. Similar to Hinduism, Jains also believe in Karma. This karma is used when trying to escape the never-ending cycle of births and deaths which can only be escaped by attaining moshka. Their goal in life is to eliminate all of their past negative karma through physical and mental purity. I find it really refreshing to be able to release ones self from their past karma’s and impurities.