World Religions: Buddhism

Quick reminder: we will not be having class on April 28 or May 5. We’ll be resuming on May 12 with a special speaker on contemporary issues in Islam.

The handout for Buddhism is below, and my presentation can be seen after the jump. Meanwhile, a couple of links you might be interested in:


Buddhist Handout (PDF, 61KB) Continue reading


Twitter Updates for 2010-04-20

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How to Choose a College

InterVarsity’s Gordon Govier recently published a very helpful article called “How to Choose a College…and Keep Your Faith.” Gordon asked me (among others) for suggestions, and he quotes from a recent interview on the Emerging Scholars Blog that highlights the importance of choosing your collegiate friends wisely.

The College Transition Initiative of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding also offers a college prep seminar. In an interview with InterVarsity’s Mike Hickerson on the Emerging Scholars blog, Initiative director Derek Melleby offered four questions that every college bound student should ask. One of the four is, “With whom will you surround yourself?”

If you’re in the process of choosing a college, or know someone who is, Gordon’s article is a great resource, with links to excellent websites, books, and articles about making your college choice wisely.

World Religions: Hinduism

Hindu Man Covered in Color

One of the more "colorful" Hindu traditions is the spring festival of Holi. As part of the celebration, people spray each other with brightly colored pigments.

Last night, we had a great class covering Hinduism. I realized after class that it might have been helpful to summarize the “good news” according to Hinduism, since the concepts are so foreign to Western Christians.  Here’s my attempt:

  • According to Hinduism, we are trapped in a cycle of reincarnation (samsara). Each time we die, we are reborn into a new life – but this isn’t a good thing, because life is filled with suffering and illusion.
  • Our next life is determined by the karma we accumulate in our current life. Good karma means we can be reborn into a better life (traditionally understood as a higher caste).
  • How do we accumulate good karma? There are many ways, including:
    • By fulfilling our dharma, including our caste, social and ritual obligations (Vedic Hinduism).
    • Through philosophy and meditation (Vedanta).
    • Through mental and physical discipline (Yoga).
    • By devoting ourselves to a specific god or avatar (Bhakti).
  • By accumulating enough karma, we can eventually achieve moksha – release from the cycle of reincarnation and connection with Brahman (the divine reality behind all existence).

This final state is a good thing, but it’s not the same idea as heaven. For one thing, many forms of Hinduism believe that our personal existence comes to an end. Further, Brahman is a not a personal god – Brahman is more like “the Force” from Star Wars, a spiritual energy that fills everything.

Photo: An Indian man celebrating the Hindu spring festival of Holi. Photo by wanderinghome

Next week, Buddhism!

Hinduism Links

You can read more about Arjuna and Krishna here.

Here is the link to the local Hindu Temple. If you are interested in learning more about Hindu gods, be sure to see the Temple’s deities page. There are some great photos of their shrines, as well as a brief description of each god or goddess. Some of the ones we mentioned last night:

Materials from class can be downloaded after the jump. Continue reading

World Religions: Judaism

My World Religions class at Lakeside Christian Church continues on.  Last week, we wrapped up our coverage of the major “Abrahamic” religions – those religions that trace their history back to Abraham – in other words, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  This week, we’ll move east by looking at Hinduism.

Photo: Judaica, by Gila Brand via Wikipedia.

Helpful Links

Local links: Cincinnati has a rich Jewish heritage, particularly in Reform Judaism.

  • Hebrew Union College is the oldest Jewish seminary in the U.S.
  • Mayerson Jewish Community Center: In Cincinnati and many other cities, Jewish Community Centers serve as “common ground” where Orthodox, Reform, and Conservative Jews, who may disagree with each other about religious issues, can come together for social, cultural, and service events.
  • Jewish Federation: The “United Way” for Cincinnati’s Jewish charities.
  • David’s Voice: “The Voice of Jewish Cincinnati”

In 2008, several Jewish organizations in Cincinnati collaborated to create the Cincinnati Jewish Community Study. If you’re interested in the Jewish community in Greater Cincinnati, this is a great resource.

Star of David: Some class members were asking about the origins of the Star of David.  The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has an interesting article on the Star’s history and meaning, including several ancient artifacts that use the Star.

Jewish Bloggers: A couple of Jewish bloggers to note:

  • Brad Greenberg is a Jewish-Christian writer, formerly a journalist but now in law school, who writes the God Blog for the Los Angeles-based Jewish Journal. Brad can be a helpful bridge between Jewish and Christian worlds.
  • Rabbi Shmuley Boteach might be the closest thing we have to a “Jewish Billy Graham.”  He writes a blog on

Bonus link for sports fans: did you know that the early days of professional basketball was dominated by Jewish players? Players like Dolph Schayes, legendary coaches like Red Auerbach, owners like Abe Saperstein (the founder of the Harlem Globetrotters) – Brad Greenberg wrote a great story about the Jewish roots of basketball for the Jewish Journal. (Today, there are only two Jewish NBA players – LA Laker point guard Jordan Farmar, and Omri Casspi, an Israeli forward who plays for the Sacramento Kings).

Materials from class are available after clicking “Read More.” Continue reading