The religious experience is an extraordinarily powerful force that can define and shape the communities it creates. Over the course of 24 lectures, Professor Jones takes a vibrant first look at the discipline known as religious studies and shows how other fields - sociology, psychology, anthropology, and phenomenology - have tried to explain the complex relationship between individuals, cultures, and faith.
This relationship is as old as the first human quest for answers to fundamental questions of life, death, and what may lie beyond. Here you'll trace the idea of studying religion itself, drawing not only on the challenging and provocative collection of theories from the many disciplines that have influenced the development of religious studies, but also on revealing anecdotes and illuminating case studies that make this course a surprising delight.
You'll explore the way "functional" anthropologists such as Malinowski and A. R. Radcliffe-Brown helped pull their discipline out of the drawing room and into the field to study a given culture. You'll also study Immanuel Kant's phenomenology, his theory that we can never make actual contact with the external world but can know it only from the internal images our minds construct from the raw data pulled in by our senses.
By examining belief and what it means - for believers and nonbelievers alike - you'll come away with a solid grasp of the major thinkers and ideas that have contributed to this fascinating field of study, including their strengths and weaknesses, as well as insights into many aspects of religious life, belief, and practices - insights that may well have applications in your own life, whether or not you adhere to a religious faith.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.
©2007 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2007 The Great Courses
Having read other books on religious studies before, I find that this course does an excellent job of introducing all of the most influential ways of looking at religion. It conveys as well a clear sense of how the field has changed over time, and does so from a very balanced perspective.
Compared to the other courses and audiobooks available on the subject, this is exceptional in how serious and up-to-date its treatment of the material is. It could be better, though. Some people I think have complained that it is "too theoretical." The problem is not too much theory, but rather a bit more emphasis on where each theory came from and not enough on how it has been used more recently. Thus, much time is spent on the biography of each thinker and the particular cases he (always "he") considered. For example, we hear a lot about how Emile Durkheim thought religion helped create social unity among Australian aborigines, but almost nothing about how many scholars have subsequently drawn on his ideas to examine religion and communal ties in other societies, including our own.
The speaker is very engaging--I always listened to this while commuting or doing chores, and never found myself losing track of the lecture.
The lecturer's thinking seems very clear. The lectures are, I thought, well organized. The structure and progression is determined on the one hand by people (e.g., a lecture on one particular thinker) and on the other by approach (e.g., all the lectures about approaching religion from the standpoint of psychology are grouped together).
The title should make it clear that this is about the (academic) study of religion and NOT about the content or this or that religion, so anyone who wants to learn about this or that religion should look elsewhere. There is a lot about anthropology, sociology, and psychology. I only point this out because there's always a chance that someone will mistakenly think that this course includes much about the content of the various religions, though as I said the title should make it clear that that this is about Religious Studies, not theology.
I guess this is an introduction to religious studies, though it felt more like an introduction to social studies using religion as an example. Much of the course is examining sociology, psychology and anthropology and then touching on how those have been used in religious contexts.
The professor does touch on a lot of thinkers you don't hear about in other (less in-depth) intro to religious studies courses. The professor is very good about not dismissing outdated ideas, but giving them their full due. So if that is what you are interested in, you might like this course. If I was studying for a degree in religious studies I think there is good information here.
I think I would choose another professor, though.
At one point the professor uses the old analogy "if all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail" which is interesting because toward the end of many of the sections i felt like i was being beaten over the head with some point he was trying to make. Which is to say he wastes a lot of time repeating/over explaining things when he could be covering other issues.
If you are interested in how religions manifest different religious perspectives and how those relate to academic theories of religion, this is not the course for you.
If you are interested in how a bunch of philosophers and academics have tried to define religion without learning anything about actual religious expression, this might be of interest.
I'm giving three stars because I think others might like this course. Personally it was an annoying waste of time.
I enjoyed this multifaceted and interesting introduction to the study of religious philosophy. These lectures held my attention and inspired me to further study of religion from several different disciplines.
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