Thursday, January 21, 2010

The importance of studying religions and the religious phenomenon

Below are excerpts from my students’ answers at Notre Dame University – REG 212 COURSE, Shouf Campus, Lebanon, January 2010. Thank you for your presence, participation, patience, etc.

'What is the importance of studying religions in our time?
Studying the world’s religions is very important and exciting. It arises out of an imbedded curiosity to study the nature of religions and there mystery traditions. Religious Studies is personally meaningful because it raises fundamental questions of purpose and value along with developing important life skills; it offers students training in a unique combination of analytical skills, including direct observation, critical thinking, communication skills and cross-cultural understanding; that are necessary for obtaining a successful and fulfilling career in a global society. It is not enough to know about and practice our own religion and in today’s scientific and increasingly technology-oriented society, religion continues to remain relevant in our times. We often learn a lot about our faith and appreciate it more after a careful study. We tend to respect our tradition further once we see it in context and contrast with other religions. For example, how it shares or differs in its origins, development, understanding and practice with other faiths. The academic study of religion will help us to know the common and different points between religions to gain wisdom not accumulation of knowledge. We are learned how to function as responsible global citizens by developing, tolerating and respecting our own religion and others. Recognition and appreciation of view points of others play an important role in developing compassionate relationships between an individual and society or nations' (Ashwaa Abou Diab).

‘This course helps us to develop spiritual intelligence that will equip us with the necessary resources for our own full participation in a multicultural world society that cries out for engaged and compassionate leaders (…). REG 212 makes me think more deeply and profoundly about living, history, mythology and one’s own place in the world, along with never taking anything that is read at its face value. It has helped me read literature on a deeper level, even reading for pleasure, outside of academia. Studying religion rounds out all other studies; it enriches everything else that one views or holds an opinion about. It centered me personally, and it has made me think in a broader scheme on many levels’ (Ashwaa Abou Diab).

‘ I have learned the most important beliefs of the most popular religions in Lebanon (…) and the golden rule which is a common view between all religions (…). Without diversity, life cannot continue because humans will no more learn from each others’ experiences and interpret things in different ways to conclude with the best (…)’ (Mayssam Bou Hamdan)

‘I became more aware of the complex diversities that we have in our world and specifically in our country Lebanon (…). I started to take more things into consideration and it changed a few points I believed were true. This course has been interesting and well enjoyable as a chance to provide acceptance and tolerance’ (Dalia Al-Gussaini)

‘This course helped me to know about all religions found especially in Lebanon (…). I noticed that all religions even if apparently different have common points (…). I am able to deal with other people from other sects (…)’ (Zeina Zeineldine)

‘Before this course I didn’t know about Judaism and the difference between Judaism and Zionism (…). I also learned more details about Christianity and Islam (…). I believe this course helped me correct misconceptions I had about other religions and understand other people’s beliefs and encouraged me to respect them all’ (Rasha Rashid)

‘This course introduced us to various religions and important ones such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism (…) and the information given in was fair; there was no discrimination (…)’ (Maya Abd Al Baki).

‘Religions is one of the most important courses taught. It informs us and enriches our knowledge with many aspects in our lives (…). I am able to understand now the differences (…) and overstep my hatred towards Jews for example since they aren’t responsible of the wars in the world. Moreover, studying about Christianity allowed me to understand the various branches in Lebanon. I learned more about Islam and the differences between Sunni and Shia. Furthermore, concerning Hindus, I used to know that they only adored cows, but now I understand their basic beliefs and the meaning of avatar – the name of a movie showing now in Lebanon’ (Farah Abou Shakra).

‘I actually learned quite a lot from this course. I really enjoyed the way the information was presented and enjoyed it (…). I learned about Judaism and Jews of Lebanon, Christianity and Islam (…). The part which I enjoyed the most is when we watched the documentaries because they increased my understanding of the material (…). I would like to say that this course exceeded my expectations because I thought that it would be another one of those boring courses we are obliged to take but it really wasn’t’ (Sabine Kamaleddine).

‘Throughout this course, we had the opportunity to be introduced to all religions, their beliefs, principles, practices and history. We live in a diversified country, Lebanon, and as Lebanese we don’t know much about religions found here and how they influence our political and social environment (…). This course has encouraged us to respect all different religions, away from discrimination and (…) false judgments’ (Lilian Bou Nassif).

‘We are able to know others’ beliefs in order to respect them (…). At least we know more about our environment and what are the common points between religions. We are able to communicate more and dialogue using more facts (…)’ (Maysaa Abou Dargham).

‘One of the most important rules I learned is to accept others and respect their beliefs and never judge people just because they adhere to different religions. If I want others to accept me in society, I should learn to accept them as they are (…). In Lebanon, every citizen should be aware of all the concepts and the beliefs of others. We are living a multireligious country and it’s a basis to live peacefully’ (Pascal Bou Diab).

‘This course helped us learn more about different religions and this is important especially in our country Lebanon where Sectarianism constitutes our social and political system (…). All religions look alike, they have basic concepts in common, even if they have different applications and interpretations’ (Daniel Audi).

‘ I have learned more detailed information regarding the origins of each religion, its basic beliefs, rituals and traditions, its religious figures, geographic distributions… From the history of the religions, we are able to justify some recent actions and ways of thinking… All religions aim to guide people to God but with different ways (…)’ (Haitham Nasr).

‘Religions are based on myths and stories that make no sense (…).God exists in a way or another. I have to stick to this idea so I can believe in him only’ (Taymour Rafeh).‘I am more convinced that major religions rely on the belief in God but use different concepts (…). I am more convinced that religion is man-made and religions divide people (…). When I treat people ethically, it is enough for me to be a good person and non-religious’ (Ibrahim Al-Jurdy).

‘It helped me understand how different cultures and societies live, think, believe, and that is an advantage to know how to deal with diversity. I live in Lebanon which is a multireligious society, many of our wars were based on religions or used religions (…). I learned not to judge people because of their beliefs’ (Rabih Ghannam).
‘Before, I had a shallow knowledge of religions (…). I learned a lot about religions, about Judaism and the situation of Jews in Lebanon, Islam, Christianity, their beliefs and branches (…)’ (Ghina Bou Dargham).

‘Even if we consider ourselves highly educated, there will always be something new to learn. This course gave us the chance to be introduced to many religions. It allowed us to see diversity within religions and their beauty and uniqueness, (…) and their common characteristics (…). This course emphasized the importance of treating all humans in a good way in order to have a good life and clear conscious’ (Montaha Nasrallah).

‘This course if one of the most important ones I took in university because it helps me in my daily life here in Lebanon. Religion is not only a word written on my official papers but more a part of what I am. The course helped me understand my environment which is multireligious … But none of these religions convinced me’ (Al-Aiham Bou Mattar).

‘I learned the characteristics and history of each religion and I gained general knowledge. I am able to determine the differences and the common points. I can relate to the present situation. I became more open-minded to respect and accept others’ (Omar Bou Ezzeddine).‘Religion is a popular subject full of controversies but an important issue in the culture of Lebanon. I mostly enjoyed the fact that I have learned all the basic beliefs and practices of the most important religions and it definitely helped me have the sufficient consciousness to decide which religion suits best my views (…)’ (Sandra Rashid).

‘This course improved our education and introduced us to things we never saw before. It gave us the chance to know our religion and others’ religions while using an objective approach (…). Before I took this course, I thought that all religions are different, but now it is obvious that religions have also common points and they all call for good and their conflicts are based on having different interests’ (Tarek Ajab).

‘I learned about a diversity of religions, their history, beliefs, practices, their relation to society and diaspora, their branches, …’ (Rashad Khodr).

‘In fact, there was no motivation to attend this course, but after the first session, I found out it is very interesting to know more about religions and what is going on around us’ (Maisoon Hassoun).


Anonymous said...

Why study religions? To discover ourselves as we are homo religious!

Anonymous said...

Interesting post!


Anonymous said...

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