Wednesday, November 24, 2010
This was a very interesting course for me. For several years now I have been trying to make sense of the different religions. I generally knew (or at least I thought I knew) the major differences between for example Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and so on.
But I liked to learn more about the differences within the main streams: Quakers, Mormons, 7th Day Adventists, Baptists, Methodists, etc.
Two years ago I bought a book: The Everything World’s Religions Book. It has the main facts of many of the main and some of the smaller religions. I was quite surprised and also overwhelmed.
I went through that book several times, and also with research on the Internet tried to map out the relationship. That actually has proven to be quite a bit task.
Earlier this year I found out about the ULC Chaplaincy program and I enrolled in it. Comparative Religion was one of the first courses I started with.
When I first got started with it, it was not quite what I expected. My day job is in computer consulting: design and development. So I was initially looking for clear-cut tables, lists and cross-references where all major religions were compared and explained.
But getting in to the course materials I got used to the way it was presented. And with 5200+ religions in the world it is practically impossible to list everything.
What I really liked about the course was the background stories from the different religions. I have taken notes of many of those and placed them on my smart phone for easy reference. I read through them often hopefully memorizing them somewhat so I can discuss them when I meet people of the religion of that story.
Other information I got from the course I did re-work into my own attempt to categorize at least the main religions.
Eventually working towards my chaplaincy degree, I like to be prepared to meet with people from different backgrounds, faiths, and religions. This way, at least I can show them that I have made an attempt to understand where they are coming from.
By the way: I have been looking for an appropriate title for myself. I originally called myself “interfaith minister”, but not think that “Multifaith minister” (as also listed on my business cards) is a better title for me. It shows not only that I look at the dialogue between faiths but that I embrace all faiths.
Having finished this course, I feel that I have gained a lot more knowledge about at least the basics of many religions.
The subject of Religious Ceremonies and especially Ritual Objects was a great eye-opener for me. Between the ages of 5 and 11, I used to frequent a Roman-Catholic church as my friend attended that. At such a young age I was somewhat turned off by the formal rituals. After this course, and also after I visited that church and spoke with the pastor about my experiences there (45 years ago…), it now all makes sense to me. I actually am now thinking back with good feelings about that church and my visits there.
Also the exoteric and esoteric subject I enjoyed quite well. As I have been philosophizing for many years, I have found now that I have formalized my studies, that I have come to the same views but did not know they were called exoteric and esoteric.
I don’t think there is anything that can be improved much or if there was anything I did not like about this course. I do believe that it is best that this course is takes in conjunction with other ULC offerings like Religious Philosophy and others in order to get a better and more complete picture.
I am looking forward to taking many more courses from ULC, not only the ones focusing on the Chaplaincy degree, but I will continue with others as well. I have found that the more I study, the more questions I get. I am looking forward to a lifelong learning process in this area.
Rev. Peter Paul van Sluis
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