I guess I should tell you what classes I teach. Because of my experience, position and presumed specialties (according to my boss -not me), I get a lot of freedom to choose the topics of my courses. My most popular ones seem to be Korean Sociology, US-ROK Relations, Modern Social Problems and Korean Gender Issues. These past two months though, my once popular Soc class has been slammed with people wanting to focus on religion. That's fine with me, but it's getting to the point that my syllabus is pretty much nothing but a useless piece of paper. People are hungry to discuss religion and, in all honesty, I'm totally open to indulge.
This made me reflect on my own life. Outside of church, the scope of my religious discussions lay somewhere between the whiskey bottle and the pipe. I took a healthy amount of religious studies courses during my undergrad, but they typically followed a set path where each religion was given a fair and alloted amount of time. That, and undergrads are not the most adventurous lot when it comes to getting really involved in a course. Half of the class (myself included) didn't read the entire assignment beforehand and those who did were hardcore followers of the religion being discussed.
People want to casually gab about religion, but I'm finding that there aren't enough public forums to do so in. That and the fact that most people don't actually know much about the religion that they want to discuss. If professors and pastors can't offer such a forum, where can we go for an unbiased and intellectual conversation on the subject? My students believe that they can come to my classes, but that's not true. I'm not qualified in the least to discuss religion intellectually. Yet, I think that's the appeal. If people can present religion in a nonchalant or non-threatening manner, then people might listen. All people are suckers for a good quote and even more people want to improve themselves.
Today I started my class with a single question:
Are you spiritually wealthy?
Students of all backgrounds and faiths spoke openly about this question. Some offered Bible verses while others quoted Confucius. Buddha came up several times and even Thomas Jefferson was mentioned. There was never an argument about which faith was correct or the intentions of such a verse. It was a pure interfaith conversation that everyone left feeling good about.
I'm not trying to lay the framework for next months Unitarianism, either. There doesn't need to be a religion based on this conversation. I don't think that works anyways because it's essentially creed-less (one reason that I'm considering changing next month to Quakerism). There needs to be more friendly exchanges of ideas that will make all of us happier in the end.
And when it comes to people of different faiths sharing ideas without becoming hostile, we need to look no further than Luke 6:31.
Do for others just what you want them to do for you.The Bible is full of goodness like that. In fact, all religions have their own Golden Rule.
|Christianity||All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye so to them; for this is the law and the prophets. |
|Confucianism||Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state. |
|Buddhism||Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. |
|Hinduism||This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you. |
|Islam||No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. |
|Judaism||What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellowman. This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary. |
Talmud, Shabbat 3id
|Taoism||Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.|
Tai Shang Kan Yin P’ien
|Zoroastrianism||That nature alone is good which refrains from doing another whatsoever is not good for itself. |
If you don't want others to argue, disrespect and try to convert you, then you shouldn't do it to them. From the mouth of the great Jackie Robinson, "I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me... All I ask is that you respect me as a human being."