Nine Theories of Religion by Daniel L. Pals (earlier edition is “Eight Theories” also acceptable.)
The World’s Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions by Huston Smith
The End of Faith by Sam Harris
A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong
The professor has posted several questions about the week’s readings as a way of starting discussion. Probably you should think of those as a start point rather than an end point. Answer the questions below:
LEAPS AND WAGERS
What problem does Harris find with notions such as Kierkegaard’s “Leap of Faith”, or with “Pascal’s Wager”? (If you are unfamiliar with these quick references, the good news is that something the internet really is useful for is filling in the blanks when a quick reference is encountered.) What openings for response seem available to the sort of criticism Harris is making?
EAST AND WEST?
Smith draws an interesting strong contrast between the Judaic assessment of Creation and the Buddhist ultimate assessment of the worth of the world. What does he have in mind about Judaism, and about Buddhism? Can Hinduism be painted with that brush also? What about Taoism?
Armstrong describes two versions of the Flood Myth â€“ from the Artrahasis and the Gilgamesh. How do you explain the differences she describes? In particular, how would you describe the implicit contrast with the Flood Myth as it appears in Genesis?
Very often Christians will read backwards from Christianity to Judaism, and when they do that they usually light onto the idea of â€œmessiahâ€. How close is the Judaic idea of Messiah to the idea as it later is used by Christians? If there is more than one idea of â€˜messiahâ€™ or â€˜messianic idealâ€™ around, how are they distinguished from one another?