As a way to build shared understanding and cultural literacy, I suggest we study materials about a variety of world religions and intellectual traditions / movements, with a goal of understanding how different people draw inspiration from them that motivates them toward compassion and to improve the lives of others.
I have a copy of the course "Cultural Literacy for Religion", from The Great Courses at teach12.com that currently has a 29/30 recommendation score. It looks like it would be a good course for our group. Each of its chapters are 30 minutes long. We could do it over a number of weeks, a few episodes at a time, in order of the chapters. Or, we could pick and choose which order we want to follow.
Course Professor: Dr. Mark Berkson
Dr. Mark Berkson is Professor of Religion at Hamline University. He earned a B.A. from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, an M.A. from Stanford University in East Asian Studies, and a Ph.D. from Stanford University in Religious Studies and Humanities.
He has twice received Faculty Member of the Year awards and has received multiple fellowships for his work in Asian religions. A world traveler, he has lived in China and visited religious and pilgrimage sites in countries such as India, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, and Greece.
1 Religion—Its Meaning and Importance
2 Facets of Religion—Divinity and Devotion
3 Hinduism—Foundational Texts and Teachings
4 Hindu Gods and Devotional Practices
5 Gita to Gandhi—Yogas and Modern Hinduism
6 Waking Up—The Buddha and His Teachings
7 Vehicles to Nirvana—The Schools of Buddhism
8 Chinese Religion and Cosmology
9 Confucianism—Rituals and Relationships
10 Daoism—Harmony, Nature, and the Way
11 Kami and Spirits—Shinto and Shamanism
12 East Asian Buddhism—Zen and Pure Land
13 Judaism—God, Torah, and Covenant
14 Varieties of Jewish Thought and Practice
15 Living a Jewish Life
16 The Life and Commemoration of Jesus
17 Catholic and Orthodox Christianity
18 Protestantism and Christianity Today
19 Muhammad, Qur’an, and Islamic Civilization
20 Unity in Islam—The Five Pillars
21 Forms of Islam—Diversity among Muslims
22 Jains, Sikhs, and Baha’is
23 Religion and Law in America
24 Religion Today—Trends, Challenges, and Hope
Just the Beginning
Obviously, there are other popular traditions and current movements to consider than just those above. People draw inspiration and meaning from all kinds of perspectives. To name a few:
* Scientific understanding of the universe that remains "agnostic" toward the prospect of the supernatural
* More abstract philosophical views, which may view the supernatural or god as ultimately mysterious, but rooted in love at the core
* And on to views that explicitly deny the supernatural: atheism
* And, I'm sure there are others to mention
Regardless of the ultimate historical or factual truth of any of these views, there are people who find inspiration and motivation to be compassionate and to improve the lives of others by contemplating one or more of these views.
Seeking Your Suggestions
I'd like for group members to suggest other content that we can prioritize for future viewing. Just remember in your suggestions that our goal is to promote understanding and understand how different views, sometimes radically different, can still serve to inspire compassion and action for improving other people's lives in the here and now.
Anyway, if you're interested in seeing this happen, sign up and then we'll figure out how a good time and place for the first session!