Lecture 1: Tuesday October 25, 2016 (7:00-8:30pm)
Perspectives on Religions
Beginnings are important to a religion—and to studying it. One of the best ways to understand a phenomenon as complex as religion is to begin simply, in this case with etymology, the origin and history of the word itself. We will also explore the five lenses we will use to study religion: the sacred, myth, ritual, community, and the individual.
Lecture 2: Tuesday November 1, 2016 (7:00-8:30pm)
The Sacred in Native American Religions
The oldest religions on earth can be found in contemporary expressions of indigenous traditions. In the face of globalisms old and new, their resilience is astonishing, and some of their adaptations are immensely creative. Their understandings of sacred space and time both predate and influence our own. Centered on the landscape and oral storytelling, these traditions represent a religious perspective that is unique and integrative.
Lecture 3: Tuesday November 8, 2016 (7:00-8:30pm)
Myth in Hinduism
Like indigenous religions, Hinduism contains traces of religious belief that antedate it by incalculable years. Hinduism emerged from these earlier beliefs and practices to create the oldest institutional religion on earth. Much of its vitality is found in its sacred texts and myths, which include deep philosophical ruminations, songs, epic poems, and manuals for the performance of rituals. We will examine Hinduism through the lens of myth, specifically, in terms of its nature and functions.
Lecture 4: Tuesday November 15, 2016 (7:00-8:30pm)
Ritual in Buddhism
Buddhism is a branch of Hinduism that developed into its own, full-fledged religion, and it is in part a set of rituals that is uniquely centered in the body, from its beginnings in its founder’s early asceticism to its ritual practices of meditation. One of the most widespread and eclectic religions, Buddhism has many incarnations across the world. We will examine Buddhism through the lens of ritual, specifically, the body, symbol, and magic.
Lecture 5: Tuesday November 29, 2016 (7:00-8:30pm)
Community in Chinese Religions
For much of its existence, Chinese culture was closed to other cultures, especially Western cultures. As the Chinese gazed inward, they focused religiously on domestic balance and harmony. All of these religions see ethical practice, relationships, and the maintenance of institutions as the highest expressions of the sacred. We will examine Chinese religions through the lens of community, specifically, ethics and institutions.
Lecture 6: Tuesday December 6, 2016 (7:00-8:30pm)
The Individual in Zoroastrianism
Often overlooked even in world religions courses, Zoroastrianism has been a pivotal religion in the development of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, contributing much of its ideas of individuality and eschatology to them while retaining a small but dedicated group of adherents even today. Unique rituals and concepts combine to make Zoroastrianism one of the most influential and interesting world religions. We will examine Zoroastrianism through the lens of the individual, specifically, salvation and the afterlife.
Lecture 7: Tuesday December 13, 2016 (7:00-8:30pm)
The Sacred in Judaism One of the oldest living religions, Judaism offers a unique perspective on identity and tradition by virtue of its anthropomorphic deity and vital traditions. In addition to thriving despite millennia of persecution, Judaism has given birth to other religions, notably Christianity. We will examine Judaism through the lens of the sacred, specifically, anthropomorphism and tradition.
Lecture 8: Tuesday December 20, 2016 (7:00-8:30pm)
Myth in Christianity Christianity begins by taking another religion’s story as its own, then adding a global, evangelical element. As such, Christianity’s story has been at the center of its history and practice, even with radically diverse versions of it. We will examine Christianity through the lens of myth, specifically, its forms and relationships.
Ritual and Islam: A religion that was effectively “the world religion” for much of the Middle Ages, Islam is unique in its focus on practices, whether it is the pilgrimage to Mecca (the hajj) or one of the other five pillars. We will examine Islam through the lens of ritual, specifically, rites of passage and communitas.
Greg Salyer is the Dean of Students at the University of Philosophical Research and has been a teacher and administrator in higher education for almost twenty-five years. He has a Ph.D. in Literary Theory, Contemporary Literature, and Religious Studies from Emory University’s Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts and has taught in many venues, from small liberal arts colleges to a major research university, and also online since 2000. He has taught world religions at most of these schools and has developed a unique approach to the subject, one that uses five “lenses” from the discipline of religious studies to examine particular religions.