Read Cultural Literacy for Religion: Everything the Well-Educated Person Should Know by Mark Berkson Online


According to polls conducted by Gallup and the Pew Research Forum on Religion & Public Life, the majority of Americans fail basic tests about religion, including tests on their own faith. This is troublesome because religious literacy is about so much more than naming deities or knowing the stories of ancient history. For many of us, religion is a way to examine and unAccording to polls conducted by Gallup and the Pew Research Forum on Religion & Public Life, the majority of Americans fail basic tests about religion, including tests on their own faith. This is troublesome because religious literacy is about so much more than naming deities or knowing the stories of ancient history. For many of us, religion is a way to examine and understand ourselves.Moreover, religious literacy – the knowledge of basic teachings, symbols, practices, founders, institutions, and values of the world's religious traditions - can shed new light on the world around us and knock down the boundaries between us, making us better neighbors and better citizens. These 24 enlightening lectures offer you the chance to experience the breadth and depth of the world's religions from all angles – historical, theological, and cultural. They take you on a tour of the world and its religious cultures. From India to East Asia to the Middle East to the United States, your journey with Professor Berkson introduces you to the beliefs and practices of other traditions and provides you with new insights into your own.The course approaches each religion from an "imaginative insider's perspective." What does the world look like from the perspective of someone within each tradition? What does this person value and care about? What are the everyday scriptures, rituals, traditions, and holidays like?Along the way, you'll discover certain features that are common to many religions – concepts of divinity, scripture, rituals, and explanations of good and evil - and you'll find new ways to attain greater self-understanding.Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.©2012 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2012 The Great Courses...

Title : Cultural Literacy for Religion: Everything the Well-Educated Person Should Know
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 15722398
Format Type : Audiobook
Number of Pages : 396 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Cultural Literacy for Religion: Everything the Well-Educated Person Should Know Reviews

  • Clif Hostetler
    2018-12-02 07:58

    There's a lot of information presented in these twenty-four lectures about a wide varieties of religions. Perhaps I'm now a bit more culturally literate. However, I don't feel ready to take a test on the subject. One of the points made in the first lecture is that there is wide spread ignorance on the subject of religion. Surprisingly, there's often a lack of knowledge about people's own professed religion. Thus, it's not difficult to be above average in "literacy for religion."Even though there's plenty of information in these lectures that was not retained by my mind, perhaps in the future; if I read an article about an Islamic holiday, Hindu ritual, or a debate about church state separation; if I'm invited to a bar mitzva or baptism; if I encounter someone who meditates or fasts on certain days; if I see an ancestral altar or an image of a sikh guru, or a yin yang symbol; after listening to these lectures perhaps I will have a chance to understand the larger context and have a greater appreciation for the religious commitments behind those things. (view spoiler)[Some of the wording in this paragraph is paraphrased from the end of Lecture Twenty-Four. (hide spoiler)]I thought the following long excerpt from the end of Lecture Twelve was particularly interesting. It discusses the differences between belief and practice when it comes to religion. So if you look at belief the Japanese do not seem religious. But if we look at practice we see high levels of involvement. In addition, when polls are taken asking Japanese people what religion they practice, or what they're connected with, the number of checked religions is far greater than the total population of Japan. This means that most people checked more than one religion. In general the Japanese tend to practice a particular religion at certain moments in their lives that the religion is best suited to. For example when a baby is born or a new business is started a Shinto priest might be called in conduct the ritual. But when someone dies a Buddhist priest who deals more with issues of impermanence and death will be called upon. There's a Japanese saying, "Born Shinto, die Buddhist." In fact Christian weddings have also become quite popular in Japan leading some to expand the saying to, "Born Shinto, marry Christian, die Buddhist." Some call this approach to religion contextualism. And many Chinese and Japanese see religions as dealing with different spheres of life rather than being at odds with each other. They are complimentary, not conflicting. It's worth reflecting on why the east Asian approach to religion is so different from the Western approach. Here's one perspective. Affiliation in monotheistic religions is based mostly on belief, and many of the beliefs are mutually exclusive. One cannot both be a Christian and a Muslim because beliefs in these traditions about the nature of Jesus and the status of the Quran cannot be reconciled. But if religion affiliation is more about practice and less about belief, then being affiliated with more than one tradition becomes possible. This approach to religion is becoming more common in the West as people are combining the religions of their birth, like Judaism or Christianity, with Asian traditions, like Buddhism or Confucianism. And this is why there are more and more people in the West who think of themselves as "Buddhist-Jew" or "Zen-Christian." The following is a listing of the lecture titles followed by a short description. The descriptions come from the Great Courses website.1. Religion—Its Meaning and Importance Start by reexamining basic questions: Why does religion matter? What makes a religion? As you explore the answers, you’ll embark on a journey toward a better understanding of the world, its histories, and its cultures, as well as a better understanding of yourself and what it means to be a good citizen in a diverse global community.2. Facets of Religion—Divinity and Devotion God. Divinity. Ultimate Reality. Start your journey by looking at how different religious traditions approach the concept of “God.” In addition to exploring the concepts of divinity, you’ll also look at key components of religious devotion: scripture, ritual, ideas about good and evil, and doctrines of salvation.3. Hinduism—Foundational Texts and Teachings Explore the history of what some scholars consider the oldest living religion. You’ll begin with the Indus River Valley civilization, and then you’ll learn key elements of the Aryan and Vedic traditions, including scriptures, the pantheon of deities, and the social caste system. Then turn to the soul—Atman—and the concept of rebirth.4. Hindu Gods and Devotional Practices In this lecture, uncover new insights into the nature of divinity by studying the variety of fascinating Hindu deities, including Vishnu and his avatars, the many forms of Shiva, and forms of the goddess Devi. You’Il also look at ways Hindus worship, from chanting in temples to festivals such as Diwali.5. Gita to Gandhi—Yogas and Modern Hinduism Examine Hinduism’s many paths to spiritual liberation, from the teachings in the Bhagavad Gita to the many types of yoga. Your study of Hinduism concludes with a survey of its role in the world today: Hindu nationalism, modern democracy of India, and the influx of Hindus to the United States.6. Waking Up—The Buddha and His Teachings The life of Siddhartha Gautama—the Buddha himself—is a fascinating journey from a wealthy and sheltered upbringing to an understanding of Samsara, the cycle of rebirth and perpetual discontent. After meditating beneath the bodhi tree, he woke up with Buddhism’s key to liberation: the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.7. Vehicles to Nirvana—The Schools of Buddhism Take a look at the three major schools of the Buddhist world: Theravada Buddhism, with its five precepts of ethical behavior; Mahayana Buddhism, the “great vehicle” that created new paths to Nirvana for its practitioners; and Vajrayana—including Tibetan—Buddhism. Also, explore the history of Tibet, the Dalai Lama, and the Tibetan Book of the Dead.8. Chinese Religion and Cosmology Travel east to China to survey the elements of Chinese cosmology that have shaped Chinese thought for millennia: the forces of yin and yang, and the metaphysical notions of qi and feng shui. You’ll see that the goal of Chinese cosmology is to restore harmony to the world, and the focus is on family, nature, and the home.9. Confucianism—Rituals and Relationships Professor Berkson charts the life of Confucius whose impact on East Asian thought is impossible to overstate. Born in the 6th century B.C.E. during a time of chaos in China, Confucius’s religious tenets emphasized learning, self-cultivation, and human relationships in this world—rather than the supernatural, revelation, or life after death.10. Daoism—Harmony, Nature, and the Way Learn about China’s second major religion through the Dao De Jing, a collection of sayings that advocate a life of simplicity and contentment. Consider how Daoism’s process of unlearning complements Confucianism’s emphasis on learning, and see how to practice effortless action—or wu wei.11. Kami and Spirits—Shinto and Shamanism Professor Berkson takes you to Japan and the tradition of Shinto. Here you’ll see how the Kami (gods/spirits) relate to everyday life in Japan, including agriculture and the role of the emperor. You’ll then explore Shamanism, especially the characteristics of the Korean and Hmong traditions.12. East Asian Buddhism—Zen and Pure Land Conclude your journey through the Asian traditions with a study of Zen and Pure Land Buddhism. Chinese Buddhism gave rise to the “laughing Buddha," which affirms the joys of the world. Japanese Zen, with its emphasis on “just sitting" and its famous lcoans, has drawn practitioners from other traditions and given rise to Zen-Christians.13. Judaism—God, Torah, and Covenant Your voyage through the Western traditions begins with the world’s oldest monotheistic religion: Judaism. Explore the nature of the Jewish people, who have both a religious and an ethnic identity. At the heart of Judaism is the Torah, and you’ll examine its stories, its laws, and the major figures who shaped the religion.14. Varieties of Jewish Thought and Practice Witness the history of the Jewish people, from the first destruction of the temple 3,000 years ago to the aftermath of the Holocaust. You’ll study the varieties of Jewish culture in diaspora, from the tenets of Orthodox Judaism and Hasidism to the views of Conservative and Reform Jews.15. Living a Jewish Life This lecture explores the rhythms that shape Jewish life: the weekly Sabbath and annual Jewish holy days, including Yom Kippur, Passover, Chanukah, and Purim. You’ll also learn about specific customs and rituals of Judaism, such as kosher food, what happens at a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah, and the wedding ceremony.16 The Life and Commemoration of Jesus Return to the ancient world and uncover the life of Jesus. The writings of the New Testament show a man who preached love, forgiveness, and turning the other cheek. You’ll witness the major events of his life, from his birth and baptism to the story of the Passion, and see how these events are linked to major Christian holidays.17. Catholic and Orthodox Christianity How did Christianity flourish in its early years? Discover the process that led from Paul’s letters in the 1st century to Constantine’s conversion in the 4th century and the eventual formation of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. Then look at the theology and sacraments of Catholicism.18. Protestantism and Christianity Today Encounter the Protestant Reformation and its central tenets—justification through faith, a priesthood of all believers, and a focus on the Bible. You’I| also look at the major denominations that developed, such as Lutheranism and Methodism. Then consider various nondenominational movements in today’s world: evangelicalism, fundamentalism, and liberal Christianity.19. Muhammad, Qur’an, and Islamic Civilization Islam was founded in the 7th century by Muhammad, who received the revelation of the Qur’an. In this lecture, discover the depth and diversity of this major world religion. Along the way, hear the poetic qualities of the scripture, learn about the customs of Islam, and explore its connection to Judaism and Christianity.20. Unity in Islam—The Five Pillars Despite its diversity, Islam is unified by the Five Pillars. Examine each in detail and witness the beliefs and rituals of Muslims: the nature of God, the ritual of prayer, the importance of giving alms, the fast during Ramadan, and the pilgrimage to Mecca. Then uncover the truth about jihad and Islamic law.21. Forms of Islam—Diversity among Muslims Learn the history of Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, which began with the question of who would succeed Muhammad after his death. Follow the historical narrative through the 18th and 19th centuries, when Muslims were forced to grapple with Western values, then finish with an analysis of Islam in the world today, from the Middle East to America.22. Jains, Sikhs, and Baha’is This lecture takes you beyond the most widely practiced religions and shows you the self-discipline and renunciation of the Jains, who are committed to non-harming; the highly influential Sikhs, who make up only 2% of India’s population; and the Baha’i faith, a growing, pluralistic religion with roots in Shi’a Islam.23. Religion and Law in America Return to America, where an important piece of cultural literacy involves understanding the Constitution and the relationship between church and state. You’ll learn how the establishment and free exercise clauses have influenced both education and the freedom of religious practice by taking a closer look at several fascinating (and controversial) Supreme Court cases.24. Religion Today—Trends, Challenges, and Hope Religion is a moving target, constantly changing in our modern world. This lecture examines four demographic trends and how they impact the health of both religious traditions and society at large. The lecture concludes with a consideration of the relationship between religion and violence—how violence emerges and how it can be reduced.

  • Tiana Warner
    2018-11-21 09:05

    A solid, objective overview of the major religions in the world. A crazy amount of subject matter to cover in a single book, so I found it simultaneously too dense and too high-level. Still, I feel more knowledgeable about world religions, so it did its job! The narrator was clear and well spoken.

  • Jared Gillins
    2018-12-05 07:42

    This series was really well done. Everyone should listen to it (or something similar to it—just learn about religions, okay?).My only real complaint, and this was probably unavoidable, is that it felt like we only scratched the surface of most of the religions covered. Each lecture is 30 minutes. Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all got three lectures. Every other religious tradition got one lecture or shared a lecture with one or two others. If I were going to lecture a group to help them understand Mormonism, I would be hard-pressed to explain all of the essentials in an hour and a half—let alone doing so for Christianity as a whole.Again, this probably couldn't really be helped. And given the amount of time he had, Professor Berkson did a remarkable job introducing each faith or belief system and giving the listener a cursory understanding of it. And to his credit, he inspired me to learn more about all of the religions he taught about. Here's to a greater mutual understanding among all of us.Incidentally, I think that after Robert Greenberg, Mark Berkson is the best Great Courses lecturer I've listened to.

  • Becky
    2018-12-06 02:01

    I highly recommend this one. It was really interesting and really well organized. Dr. Berkson is really good to listen to and he approaches the his content with gentleness, knowing that religion is something that potentially defines a lot of people's lives. He's also incredibly knowledgeable. This is one I'd actually be interested in listening to again, as there's a lot of information here and it's engaging enough so as not to be too boring for another listen through.Definitely worth a listen.

  • Katherine
    2018-11-22 09:58

    The biggest thing we can do to fight bigotry is to learn more about people who are different from ourselves. This is a great overview of the biggest religions worldwide and a few smaller groups! The variety within a religion is discussed including the many varied Christian denominations. He ends with a lesson on religion and the US government followed by a lecture discussing what we individually can do to foster hope and understanding rather than a breeding ground for hate and violence.

  • Jessi Smith
    2018-11-28 04:55

    On a Goodreads Scale of 1--5 Stars, I give this audiobook course 10 Stars!! This neutral and unbiased overview of so many of the world's religious traditions, from ancient to present times, was extremely well done. Each is so vastly unique in history and culture, and yet as they were laid out, I also perceived so much commonality, beauty, and much to admire. With the overview of Christianity, I realized how much I did NOT know about all the different modern denomonations, and how this one grew out of that one. And of course there was discussion about when religion meets politics and socio-economics, the affects on those made vulnerable and disenfranchised by oppression, abuse and neglect, and why conflicts and violence arise in the name of religion. What I take away from this is, no matter our personal leanings and religious committments, we absolutely need to learn a great deal more about the world that lives outside of our own little circles. There is a rich and complex tapestry of religious and cultural tradition all around us that deserves, at a minimum, our respect, more education and understanding, listening and learning, acceptance and inclusivity, cooperation, and appreciation for all this amazing diversity.

  • Howdy
    2018-12-04 10:05

    This was informative and just the right length. Bergson zips through the world’s religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, the Chinese folk religions, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He takes a positive view of each and summarizes key beliefs and practices. His last two lectures, on how religion intersects with the law in the US and on religion and violence, I thought were pretty superficial and not as good.

  • Jessica Meyers
    2018-11-28 07:42

    Fantastic group of lectures by professor Berkson! I have already taken a religion class in college, so a big part of the book was basically review for me. However I still found each religion fascinating and even learned a bit more than I already knew. I definitely recommend this to anyone who wants to know more about the world's religions and history.

  • Evgeniy Vasilev
    2018-12-03 08:06

    Very well balanced view on some of the most popular religion nowadays.

  • Forrest
    2018-12-05 01:45

    This series of lectures provides an excellent overview of a vast subject. Twelve hours isn't enough time to do more than skim the surface of comparative religion, but Professor Berkson's friendly style and strictly neutral manner make the material approachable and inspire a yearning to learn more about all the traditions covered.Three lectures are devoted to each of the big five world religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), with a smattering of other living faiths touched upon only briefly, and a few additional lectures on patterns of belief and the social impact of religion (particularly in the United States). Berkson tries to address the history, main pillars, and key practices of each tradition; and helpfully points out features the listener is likely to encounter when visiting a practitioner's home or place of worship.As an agnostic/atheist, I believe in none of these religions, but I appreciate their profound depth, beauty, and influence on the world. As a human being, I know it's vital that we all understand each other if we're going to make it as a species. If you've never explored the beliefs of others, or just need a refresher course like I did, this is a pretty good place to start.

  • Nurşen Töre
    2018-11-22 06:55

    it is too dense, very few information about religions sticks in my mind. It assumes general knowledge about the religion and it gives very dense summary. May be in a country where you already meet with that culture it gives information, but if you are from a country where you don't encounter that culture, it is a bit too much. But i like the topic how in america, secular government handles that many religions. And also topic of pluralist religion is interesting.

  • Mary Treystman
    2018-11-30 06:48

    Lots of info. This is a great overview of the major religions of the world. It's a straight up class though so if you're looking for entertainment, this isn't it. I found myself zoning out here and there because of the more facts/less interpretation style but it was still super interesting and informative.

  • Ron Harris
    2018-11-17 07:09

    Long, really long, I mean crazy long. By the time I got to the end I couldn't remember what I discovered at the beginning. I'll have to go back and re-do and keep notes. Structured as a series of lectures, it can be hard to follow.

  • Mikehendo
    2018-11-20 06:52

    Very cursory

  • Chelsie Hermsen
    2018-11-27 02:58

    Very interesting!

  • David
    2018-12-16 01:58

    A must for everyone!

  • DanielaK
    2018-12-08 09:09

    If I were looking for a book to learn some basic facts about world religions I could not find better (or maybe I could but I have not so far). The audio book is well and engagingly presented by Professor Mark Berkson. Religion is everywhere especially these days and it looks like we are not going to get rid of it any time soon. What can we do is to try to understand at least a bit what “they” think and why “they” think the way they do. No one will obtain any deep understanding of various religious groups just by learning some basic facts about their belief. But it would allow people at least to tolerate behaviour and customs which differ from their own. Professor talks about the main world religions such as Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and touches upon some others such as Sikhism, Jainism, and others. A bit of history, a bit of supernatural and some philosophy. He sets out the facts clearly, accessibly, without bias. So if you are looking for an intro into religion this audio book might be a good choice for you. It will be worth your time.

  • David Woods
    2018-11-28 10:05

    A great introduction to all religions. Easter Religions are very different from the 3 monotheistic religions, yet it's easy to see why followers of all religions display growth and positive change, as many of the practices by various religions would be good for the mind and body. I wasn't sure what I'd find in this course, but after, I feel even more confident in my faith. I am reminded we need to approach people of all faiths for dialogue, in a spirit of humility and love, and with the intent to listen first. I don't know what the professor's background is, or if he has a strong religious affiliation, so it's always curious to hear how someone will describe one's own faith. I was pleasantly surprised he did a great job capturing the person of Christ, and weeding out all that people and church have added or subtracted over the years. The religion I walked away with the most questions about is Hinduism. There is a lot going on in that religion, and I think this course left me with more questions than answers. A great intro to all the other religions though. I recommend this course for all.

  • Mars Cheung
    2018-11-26 06:00

    I listened to this course a while back and have to say, it's a must read/listen. It begins with an explanation and definition of what constitutes a 'religion' (not necessarily involving an omnipotent deity) and delves into a overview of religions celebrated by the world over, including their primary sects and denominations, all the while discussing the variances in beliefs between them. Though religions are too complicated to be described in 30-45 minute lectures, this course does an excellent job of providing the listener with enough information to be reasonably well-informed with at least the rudimentary aspects of the world's faiths. An excellent course.

  • David Teachout
    2018-11-17 02:48

    If you're looking for a great overview of religious traditions and don't want to wade through a book, this lecture series is really quite good. Yes, it's academic but Berkson does a great job showing just how much he loves the topic and his enthusiasm is infectious. There is a, what has become standard among liberal academics these days, conciliatory tone when it comes to Islam, but it's still good information. The goal in these lectures isn't to convert or criticize, but to inform, which is what makes the last few lectures in the series so utterly peculiar. Definitely great for a starting place.

  • Clayton
    2018-11-23 07:43

    Exactly what the title suggests, this series of lectures give a shallow, but informative, look at major world religions. The speaker compares and contrasts various aspects of each religion's history, customs, current standing and artifacts with enough depth to have a fighting chance with a first round Jeopardy category. The only part I did not like was the detour into Christianity in American society with regard to the first amendment. It was unnecessary and made me question all of the other sensible sounding information I had just heard.

  • Cory
    2018-11-30 08:45

    Very objective overview of the world's six major religions - Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Discusses the origin, traditions, and major worldviews of each. Also touches on terrorism as related to religion, important US cases on separation of church and state, as well as changes in religious practice in America. I really enjoyed this series and learned a ton, especially regarding the Asian religions. Speaker is fairly charasmatic and entirely unbiased. Should be required learning for all of us.

  • Annie
    2018-12-18 06:01

    Just as we benefit from knowing literature or foods from around the world, we would benefit from knowing the history and beliefs of religions around the world. This book explains the difference among the religions, like Catholicism, Christianity, Lutheranism, Protestantism, Anglicanism, and Calvinism. Then there's Hinduism, Buddhism, Zen, and Confucianism (which may or may not be considered a religion). In fact, what is even considered a religion? This is only sampling of the many religions that people are practicing.

  • Jon
    2018-11-22 07:04

    Professor Berkson does a wonderful job of respectfully outlining the beliefs of a broad collection of the world's religions - including the main ones that are observed in the USA. I appreciated the coverage of the various Christian sects in addition to an in-depth discussion on Judaism and Islam.This type of course should probably be strongly recommended at the college level - if not high school. A solid enough curriculum could be developed to cover one quarter or semester. Understanding of others' religious beliefs is critical to building a more equitable society.

  • Nilesh
    2018-11-27 10:11

    A truly introductory course which could be useful for anyone without any exposure to major religious traditions. However, for readers with even the most elementary knowledge of world's religions, the book is unlikely to offer anything new. Apart from the basic facts (as claimed by the respective religions' text) descriptions of the most basic tenets, the lecture series has no time to go into any details, nor had intention to provide any critical views.

  • Ravyn
    2018-12-13 03:02

    The most significant book on religion I've ever experienced. Over 24 lectures Professor Berkson describes the history, tradition and practices of the world's major religions, from Daoism to the Abrahamic religions all the way to the Baha'i faith. Not with the intent of proving one's religion superior to another, but simply with the hope of understanding our neighbours, the world we live in and our time, better.Truly life-changing. A must-read.

  • Paul Warner
    2018-12-10 01:48

    Excellent series of lectures to help you learn some basics about all religions, their history, customs, traditions, etc. In addition, the final chapter/lecture is a very impressive, moving, educational, & inspirational message for people of various beliefs (and those with none) to help you reach out to each other with understanding rather than labeling, stereotyping, & judging. Good stuff.

  • Ryan
    2018-12-12 07:41

    For what this course is designed to do, this series by Dr. Berkson is thoughtfully prepared and excellently presented. I highly recommend this series for anyone who wants to increase their understanding of the world's religions and their ability to function and contribute to society in a increasingly globalized and religiously diverse world.

  • Katrina
    2018-11-29 07:08

    This is a short course on major world religions. It has been very interesting and covered a lot but obviously couldn't go into great detail. I struggled a little in taking in some of the words as they were foreign to me and I am more of a visual learner. I might need to order the book that goes with it if I want to listen to if again.

  • Robert
    2018-12-09 05:51

    Not as good as the course on economics, but still well done. I knew a lot of what was covered already, but this was a good overview of all world religions, covering the facts.Page Turner: 7/10Honest: 7/10Intelligent: 8/10Uplifting: 7/10