A Comparative Religions class has at its goal to understand that religion is interesting and that knowledge is good. Jewish religious values throughout history have been impacted by the culture and the religions that have surrounded a particular Jewish community. As a result, Judaism, by the twenty-first century, is an amalgamation of Jewish thought and practices with the thoughts and practices of others. The Judaism practiced three thousand years ago, during the biblical period, is far different than the Judaism we practice today in Tucson, Arizona. Certainly, part of this evolution is through internal dialogue with Jewish rabbis and scholars. On the other hand, we have adapted some of our prayers, rituals, and ideas from people of other cultures and religions.
The focus will be on Reform Judaism and Comparative Judaism. We will begin the semester describing the origins of Reform Judaism and how Reform Judaism informs us and provides meaningful answers to: What is the meaning of life, how do we make the best of it, what happens afterward, and if there is anyone or anything “out there”, what or who is that?
We will also learn about the similarities and the differences between the various sects of Judaism, focusing on answering:
- What are the similarities between your religious practice and ours?
- What are the differences?
- What is your relationship with people of other faiths?
- Do you read your sacred texts as literally coming from God, or are they inspired?
- What are the internal truths?
- What is the purpose of life?
- Do you have Creation stories?
- Afterlife beliefs?
- Personal communing with God or is there an intermediary?
- Specific views on: sex, marriage, procreation, war, suicide, euthanasia, abortion
- What are your daily lifestyle practices and why do you practice them?
- Describe your prayer rituals and their meaning?
This semester will be devoted to exposure for our students to the teachings, spiritual methods, symbolism and other facets from a small selection of religious traditions. The primary aim is to meet the need for accurate information about these religions by providing information and an exchange of views on aspects of religious life, doctrinal, historical, possibly mystical, and most importantly, personal experiences and traditions from representatives of these religions.