Importantly, Smith claims that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are each “historical” religions, in a way that Hinduism and Buddhism are not. What does he have in mind by “historical” if the idea is supposed to distinguish the Eastern and Western Religious traditions?
Faith and Madness
Something you hear from critics of religion a lot is that faith really calls for a psychological explanation. Freud, you may recall, thought of faith as a kind of neurosis. Harris certainly doesn’t follow Freud in the details, but does allege that faith is akin to madness. Why? What openings for response do you see to that charge?
One idea of Judaism that regularly draws fire is the idea of a “chosen people”. Why is that such a hot-button? Smith is anxious to interpret that idea in a way that defuses it. How does he try to do that, and how successful would you say he is?
Since your writing assignment submissions will be used as the primary indicator of your understanding of the course material, as well as the sophistication of your own thought, it is very important that you offer the fullest and best representation of your thought in responding to the questions. As the issues raised here are subtle and complex, give them the time and the thought they deserve. Your submission should be thoughtful:400-600 words.
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