Why We Want to Study Religion | Dr. Carol Anderson | TEDxKalamazooCollege

Why We Want to Study Religion | Dr. Carol Anderson | TEDxKalamazooCollege
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good afternoon so my premise is that we have put religion in two boxes one is a row it says Christianity Hinduism Buddhism Jainism Baha'i Judaism Islam and so on second set of boxes is a pair and the first says good and the second says bad so I want us to talk about religion and spirituality I want us to talk about religion and spirituality so we can take those topics out of those boxes and play with them get to push at them hug at them a little bit toss them in the air turn them inside out I want us to explore religion and spirituality with fresh eyes and ask as many new questions as we can possibly think of so when I say that we can talk about religion and spirituality who is we when I use the word we in that sentence I am throwing the doors wide open inviting everybody into the conversation it doesn't matter if you consider yourself religious or not it doesn't matter if you consider yourself spiritual or not it doesn't matter if you were raised in a single religious tradition your whole life or it doesn't matter if you're raised in two religious traditions because your parents were of different faiths it doesn't matter if you are spiritual but not religious doesn't matter if you've changed religion doesn't matter if you've tossed religion out the door for example I was raised United Methodist when I was in junior high in high school what that meant is that religion shaped the structure of my Sunday's so whole family went to church I went off to Sunday School then we had the church service afternoon was spent with youth group and then I had to go back with another group of friends and we had rehearsal for the handbell choir yes I was in handbell choir and somewhere in the morning we had coffee our and when I was in junior high the goal was a snag as many cookies as you could without getting caught right so you get you get some idea of how my Sunday went now on the other hand some of the best scholars of religion in the country weren't raised in a religious tradition at all they call themselves nuns and oh and es right and that number is growing so it doesn't matter if you're an atheist it doesn't matter if you're an agnostic it doesn't matter if you are spiritual or religious there is no admission ticket to these conversations what does matter is that you want to talk about religion and spirituality what does matter is that we do it as broadly as we can possibly imagine so when I say that we can talk about religion and spirituality we get to define it however we want let me explain why I say that scholars of religion and theology have written volumes and believe me volumes on how to define religion how did it find theology who is God that's the point of many of the courses that we teach in the religion department to wrestle with the big defining questions what is Buddhism who was Muhammad is Catholicism in Kalamazoo the same as Roman Catholicism in 1970s Brazil what does Judaism look like in 18th century France what is that space between Jesus Christ and the establishment of Christianity as a religion so these are the questions we asked in class room when I say that I want us to talk about religion and spirituality though I really want us to talk about religion and spirituality outside the classroom so for you if religion means the faith that you are raised in that's great if for somebody else it means that you define spirituality and hiking along the Cascade crest trail that's wonderful beautiful part of the country if for somebody else religion means the opiate of the masses that I'm really really happy that you have read Karl Marx and if religion is something that you've left behind it's not a problem if somebody else defines religion in a very personal way that you're struggling with trying to understand what religion means for your life personally there are a lot of other people who are asking exactly the same question and you have a lot of company so for the purposes of these conversations we get to define what spirituality and religion mean for our lives that's the important thing we get to do to this thing we get to do the defining so my next premise is that we should only talk about religion and spirituality with people that we like yeah let me say it again so you really get it I propose that we only only talk about religion and spirituality whose company we enjoy friends family relatives people you'd like to get to know better and I've already heard your titter and you know that you're kind of breathing a sigh of relief there you oh good she's not saying that I have to talk about religion spirituality with the person who's comes to knock on my door about some strange religious tradition I don't know anything about right I am NOT saying talk to everybody about religion right I personally have a very difficult time talking about any topic with people who aren't interested in the mutual exchange the same is true for religion good conversations require a sense of vulnerability in order to hear what our conversation partners have to say we need to suspend our presuppositions and our assumptions we need to set those aside and just listen in order to be heard by our conversation partners we need to reach down deep and find the words to put to just those things that we're thinking about religion in spirituality we need to be candid we need to be open and just because we're being candid and open doesn't we doesn't mean we're being all nice and agreeable oh yeah that's cool right you get into real arguments and exchanges that's when the best conversations occur so when we talk with people that we like that's when we learn the most we enjoy the give-and-take and we learn more from each other than we would learn just on our own so what is it that we learn when we start talking about religion and spirituality well the first thing is we learned that people have a whole lot of different ways of talking about it right so not only the content but how they talk about it some people are nervous some people are okay and the other thing we learn is that religion is spear trailing mean very very different things to a lot of people I want to give you an example of conversation that I often have and it's usually with people who have just met me they say so Carol what do you do for a living and I always have a great response I say I teach religion absolutes tiny stillness not a word right then then the I broke us up sometimes this one sometimes this one look at me he say so and I bailed him out at that point and I say I teach a comparative religion or I teach Buddhism and Hinduism at college and there and then he variable in the next comment is oh that's so cool I always wanted to know more about Buddhism and then we're off to a good conversation because Buddhism of course is the good religion inevitably the next question is so do you believe in Buddhism and when I say I am most comfortable being Buddhist in a Buddhist country like Burma or Sri Lanka then I really get the raised eyebrows they're like oh right I get the funny looks and then I have to go on and explain that for me religion isn't about belief it's about how it feels so is it a natural thing to go to the local temple does everybody take their shoes off when you go up the stairs where do you get your offerings do you recognize the chants that are being played over the loudspeaker do you know the prayers and at this point they're kind of getting it right and then when I say it's no different for me than it was from my grandmother who said she went to church for the music then they get it that this is about how it feels and at that point in time I usually reflect the question back to them I say so what does religion feel like for you and then we have a really interesting conversation and in that exchange although I've just in the course of coming up with this talk I'd only come to think of this as the process of taking religion out of boxes but we've taken religion out of the Buddhism box and we've also taken Buddhas amount of the good box and we mixed it up a little bit my conviction is that the best conversations about religion and spirituality are those convictions that are woven into other conversations about what's going on in our life let me give you another example I have a neighbor she's no longer neighborhood she used to be a neighbor and we would walk our dogs in the evening I don't have the dog see but you get what I'm saying and we would walk you know around the neighborhood about a mile loop and we would talk about our day how'd it go what was going on you know how the dogs doing what's making you crazy and after a few years of doing this on a regular basis I realized that she went to early mass every Sunday and it just became part of the thing that we were talking about I said did you go to Mass today she said yeah and we would kind of move on and recently I have come even though those conversations have stopped I've come to talk about think about those conversations as sort of things that make up our life and I realized in the course of our conversations that when she would talk about going to Mass and what that meant to her it was exactly the same way as I would talk about going down to the local Kalamazoo gay and lesbian Resource Center where I was and still I'm on the board right these are both things that our time commitments for us we commit our time in our energy to the institutions the Roman Catholic Church on the one hand local nonprofit on the other and they shape the texture in the shape of our week in our months in our daily lives now you might think that somebody who is a devout Roman Catholic wouldn't have anything in common it was somebody like me I've been out as a lesbian for well over 30 years right if you pay attention in the media Roman Catholic lesbian absolutely antithetical right but when we embed that conversation in how we really live our lives religion is just a thing it's not a big thing it's just a thing helps us shape and define our lives and it certainly has never gotten in the way of our friendship even though we don't walk the dogs together we still are friends to this day so religion and spirituality don't fit into the boxes right christianity hinduism buddhism good bad religion to spirituality are bigger than those boxes now don't get me wrong i'm not saying there isn't such a thing as christianity hinduism buddhism good bad religion is good right religion is bad there is absolutely no denying that i'm not going to argue otherwise but i am saying that we can talk about religion and spirituality in a more expansive way religion and spirituality are about big questions what do we think the world is what is human nature it's about the fact that people have asked these questions for hundreds and thousands of years right certain religions have rejected some answers and kept others and when we begin to talk about it just in a usual human way we get to wrestle with those questions and answers to in short we get to make religion human we get to define it we get to answer it we get to take religion and spirituality and make it real for us so talk about religion talk about spirituality above all make these conversations real and then see what happens thank you

This is helpful lecture by Dr Bilal Phillips what's the purpose of life? Is there true religion? Dr b Phillips 🙂

Meaning why "she" wants to study religion. Some of us can't stand religion and want to, as she said, "leave it behind".

Great themes & aims… "Sow the seeds of My divine wisdom in the pure soil of the heart, and water them with the waters of certitude, that the hyacinths of knowledge and wisdom may spring up fresh and green from the holy city of the heart." ~ Baha'i Faith

I used to have an imaginary friend when I was a child. Her name was Susan. I grew out this phase when I reached six or seven. What's wrong with you all you believers ? You have no more proof of your friend than I did of mine. So I'm sorry to say this, but you all need to seek help for your delusional ideas. A doctor once told me that the medical profession on the whole think that people who believe in god are in fact mentally disturbed. Can anyone actually defend their delusions as reality ? I'd love to hear from you. And besides, you only get one life, how are you going to tell your kids on your deathbed that instead of spending valuable time with them, you preferred to waste and squander it on talking to an imaginary friend because your scared of going through life on your own without the idea of a protector. Grow up you fools.

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