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

World Religions: Islam

The flag of Pakistan, showing the Muslim star and crescent, as well as the color green (which has special significance in Islam)

Below are my presentation and handout from the Islam sections of my World Religions class.  Last night, we finished our coverage of Islam and began looking at Judaism.

Reminder: there will be no class next week (March 24) because I’ll be out of town.  We’ll resume class on March 31 by looking at contemporary issues in Judaism and beginning our look at Hinduism.

Helpful Links

Handbook on Islam: Don Tingle, who many at Lakeside know, has written a handbook on Islam for US military personnel. You can download the entire handbook from his website. You can also read an article about Don’s work from the Christian Standard.

Muslim Followers of Jesus? Although their presence isn’t widely acknowledged in the mainstream press, there are millions of people worldwide who claim to be Muslim followers of Jesus (who is called Isa in Arabic).  Christianity Today recently looked at this phenomenon, and also devoted an article to it in 2007.

Using the Koran to Preach the Gospel? The CAMEL Method uses the Koran to introduce Muslims to Jesus.  Last week, the New York Times examined critics and supporters of this method.

Download the handout and view the presentation by clicking “Read More.” Continue reading

World Religions: Christianity

We had a great turnout last night.  If you missed the first class, feel free to drop in another time.  We’ll be meeting Wednesday nights at 6:30pm at Lakeside Christian Church. There are a couple of nights that I will be out of town, so we won’t be having class on March 24, April 28, or May 5. Missing class for two weeks in a row is not ideal, I know, but a last minute change of schedule came up just as we were starting class. On May 5, I’ll be in Chicago auditioning for Jeopardy!

Each week, I’ll post some additional resources online, as well as the notes and slides from the class. For Christianity, here are a few good resources:

  • follows media coverage of all religions. It’s a great place to see critical assessments of how well the media covers various religions, as well as to learn a lot more about different religions.
  • Christianity Today’s news page collects Christianity-related news from across the Internet. CT also has a Christian History page that collects articles about Christian history, as well as important events. By utter coincidence, today is the day when Alexander Campbell, one of the founders of the Restoration Movement, died in 1866.
  • The official website of the Orthodox Church in America is a great place to learn more about the 2nd largest Christian communion in the world.

Are there any other resources you are looking for? Resources from last night’s class can be found by clicking “Read more.” Continue reading

World Religions Class Starts Tonight!

Tonight will be the first meeting of the World Religions Class that I’m teaching at Lakeside Christian Church. First up: Christianity. Might as well start off on something easy, right? Yeah, right.

If you are interested, feel free to join us, and let others know, too. I’ll be posting updates and helpful links about each of the religions that we cover. You can also drop in at any time. This ain’t college, you know.