If you are teaching a comprehensive world religions course, you most likely start off the year with a look at indigenous religions around the world. This books is well worth checking out of the library and lugging home (and do use the library! Unless your school will pay for it…) for its beautiful portrayal of a variety of indigenous groups.
It does not focus on religion per se, but by capturing so many different cultures in their native places, it gives insight into the deep link between religion, geography, and traditions that can be difficult to dissect from one another when studying indigenous spiritual beliefs.
Each set of images shows how a group survives, what is important to them, and is complemented by some basic historical and ethnographical details. It would be useful to complement case studies assigned in class, or simply as a beautiful book for students to look through in the minutes before class is starting or as things wind down each day. Some of my favorite images are included in this post, and a link to where I first found the book, on the wonderful blog Brain Pickings, is below.
Source: Stunning Photographs of the World’s Last Indigenous Tribes | Brain Pickings
Here is a press release about the World War I project I participated in last summer:
SOE News – News & Events – UNC School of Education.
Off-topic, but well worth sharing. Some of my collleagues came up with wonderful lesson plans! Check it out if you are interested in the teaching of World War I.
In one of those moments of life synergy and synchonicity, the podcast that popped up yesterday on my daily dogwalk was a great episode from Interfaith Voices. I’ve written about them before: Maureen Fiedler, the host, interviews a wide variety of religious leaders, scholars, and authors on relevant and current religious topics. Her questions are thoughtful and the show is always interesting. This time around, she interviewed Gerard Russell about the forgotten religions of the Middle East (which happens to be the subject of a new book he has written called Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms). They touched on the Druze, Alawites (who hold some fascinating, secretive beliefs), Yazidis, and Zoroastrians and the challenges each face in today’s world, particularly as a result of terrorism and conflict in the Middle East.
I was excited to hear more about Zoroastrians since they have been our current topic of discussion in class. The best fun fact? I’ve mentioned before that Zoroastrians see the world as taking part in a great battle between good and evil. Dogs, according to Zoroastrians, are most definitely fighters on the side of good: kind, virtuous, and loyal. Seems logical to me.
Just one of those benevolent, honorable, amazing creatures.
I encourage you to give the podcast a listen, and I will certainly be checking out Russell’s book.
I’ve slowly been working my way through two Stephen Prothero books this fall: God is Not One: the Eight Rival Religions that Run the World and Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know–And Doesn’t. While I’m using the first as a resource and referring to chapters when they complement my teaching, the latter I read straight through. Upon reading the introduction, I felt a sense of satisfaction (the feeling you feel when someone incredibly smart agrees with your point of view). Parts of Prothero’s introduction read like a much better written version of my course syllabus. As he argues for the promotion of religious literacy, he states:
…I write here not as a believer (or unbeliever) but as a citizen. My purpose is not to foster faith or to denigrate it. Neither is it to advance the liberal arts or to boost high school students’ SAT scores (though these are both laudable educational ends to which religious literacy might be put). My goal is to help citizens participate fully in social, political, and economic life in a nation and a world which religion counts. (p. 15).
Yes!!! Like Prothero, I encounter huge gaps in my students’ religious knowledge, both in my elective course and as I try to wade through the American history curriculum. And, like Prothero, I strongly believe that increasing religious literacy is critical to building better citizens (and just better people). But while we agree on the problem facing America today, and I appreciated his scholarship on why exactly religious literacy has declined, I do differ with Prothero when it comes to the solutions he suggests.
I’m sure, like me, most of you are looking forward to a few days of break from school and work. I am always excited for these moments where I have a little space and time to pick up a new book, or just to start my Christmas gift-ing. If you are looking for something to read in these next few days, might I suggest:
Next, my students recently turned in book review or book covers on a reading of their choice that related to something we’d cover in our World Religions class. I am always fascinated by the choices they make. Below are some of the new picks this year (that came highly recommended by my kids):
Some of the book covers turned in.
- Irresistable Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne
- Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
- Greater than You Think by Thomas D. Williams
- My Jesus Year by Benyamin Cohen
- Annexed by Sharon Dogar
- Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths by Bruce Feiler
- My Accidental Jihad by Krista Bremer
Thoughtful gifts from our speaker today.
Finally, today we had guest speaker in class, the Rev. WongGon So from the Won-Buddhism meditation temple in Chapel Hill, NC. She was so wonderful and lively–her overview of the Won Buddhist beliefs was thoughtful but easy for students to grasp and her fearlessness with the students forced them to get involved–like a practiced teacher she called on individuals to read and share and walked them through various meditation practices. Her review of the Fourfold Graces and an effort to cultivate gratitude felt especially timely as we approach the Thanksgiving break. The Won interpretation of Buddhism was interesting and new to me, and if you are interested I encourage you to learn more about it here.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone!