Monday, November 19, 2012

Creeds, dogma, doctrine

I am on a discussion list designed to find ways to heals rifts in Christianity.  Back in March 2011, I wrote a post here musing on this very topic - or rather musing on the possibility there is no one religion called Christianity, but many, many religions claiming Christ as a central figure.

Today there was a rambling post on that discussion listserv about two Christian credal statements: the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed.  The poster did not make a lot of sense as he thought the Apostles creed was more specific than the Nicene, while the opposite is true.  What interested me is the propensity to attempt to delineate faith.  Muslims have the Quran, but also the Hadith.. and also arguments over how one should interpret these and live by them in the world.  While there are not the thousands of divisions as exist within Christianity, there are quiet a few actually.  Jews, of course have several divisions also.  None of this can take account of what goes on in an individual's head and heart either.  What is particularly telling for me is how this listserv which began with Catholics, many types of Protestant and many types of Orthodox debating, often in an most uncharitable way, how to achieve unity - now consists mostly of Catholics and Anglicans and a few Calvinists.  I doubt unity is possible - and perhaps not even desirable.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

thoughts on living one's faith

As I near the end of another term teaching the history of religion, I think about religion as a way of life. What, exactly, does that mean? Does it mean that you must consult a check list of approved actions and thoughts before doing or thinking? Or is it something more subtle and amorphous? I think the latter as only the most fiercely faithful could maintain that state for long without exploding in a paroxysm of heterodoxy. Rather, for most - or perhaps only for me - faith permeates unseen and only on occasion felt. It informs an attitude of mind and body.

Watching worshippers and studying the actions of the faithful of many religions across time has led me to this conclusion.

Here is John Ruskin's idea of the attitude proper to Christians. Note it is an attitude of mind, not an assent to dogma .

“it is so consistent with all that Christian architecture ought to express in every age (for the actual condition of the exiles who built the cathedral of Torcello is exactly typical of the spiritual condition which every Christian ought to recognize in himself, a state of homelessness on earth, except so far as he can make the Most High his habitation),”

Excerpt From: Ruskin, John. “The Stones of Venice, Volume II (of 3),.” iBooks.
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Check out this book on the iBookstore:

Friday, November 16, 2012

moving into high gear

Well, Friday once again... my weekly time for resolutions... that are usually blown out of the water by Sunday..... but determination is one of my few virtues, so as my grandmother taught me:  Persevere.

Today a lot of organizing and marking - but I will set aside time to put chunks of my work on Islam into my  iBook Author program - with something added:  I am going to try videos of my talking head.  If it works well, I will add these to my online courses.

Beginning with Islam is especially important in this day and age - I have many Muslims in my Guelph/Humber classes and they are earnest, decent and hard working - and  have good senses of humour [my personal gauge for character] - and need some counter action to the violent radicals that infect so much of humanity.

Not really an academic post.... but just a few random thoughts on my motivation to begin my Religions of the World portal with Islam.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Art and Faith

I came across the painting by Salvador Dali today on my Artfinder app - then located this youtube video posted by the BBC.

It is worth meditating on:

Christ of St. John of the Cross

Friday, November 9, 2012

Teaching Religious history

When I teach the history of religions - I am not teaching the history of religions.

What I am doing in my underhanded, nefarious way is teaching evidence-based critical thinking.  Like the character Grissom in the original CSI television show set in Las Vegas, I teach the basic principle of careful, judicious thought:  Follow the evidence.

By this I mean that my job is to convince students to look at any issue in life almost with their minds a tabula rasa - a wiped hard drive - and fill it with evidence, then use that evidence to form a provisional conclusion.   I say provisional because uncovering or learning later evidence should allow you to change your mind.

By evidence, as  I teach in the Humanities and more specifically in History, I mean the entire context of a period in time and how change occurs from time to time.  So... for example, if you want to understand the hot button issue of violence and its connection to religion, and even hotter button, Islam and violence, you must begin by understanding the full context in which Islam arose, and the various contexts in which it spread - keeping all the while a careful, neutral mind set and letting the evidence speak to you.  The evidence must look at all possibilities and aspects - political events, cultural norms, physical geography, climate, human psychology, trade and commerce, finance.... everything.

So .. the study of religions in history serves as a lens to focus on the primary duty of any thinker in the Humanities - critical, evidence-based, contextual thought.

I suspect this habit of mind will benefit anyone in any profession in life, not to forget one's personal relationships with family, friends and strangers.