“Religious literacy—the knowledge of basic teachings, symbols, practices, founders, institutions, and values, of the world’s religious traditions—can…knock down boundaries between us,” The Great Courses contends in its overview of this DVD set, a brand new addition to our Library’s A/V collection. Learners agree: as one alumnus puts it, “This course provokes thought, opens minds, and broadens perspectives.” In fact, the program gets a 4.7-out-of-5 rating, and 63 5-star reviews, which is the most permitted.
It’s taught by Mark Berkson, chair of the religion department at Minnesota’s first university, Hamline—whom one learner calls “deeply knowledgeable, highly organized, and eloquent”—who strives to examine each religion with openness and empathy; more than a dozen are explored. “A deep, open encounter with another tradition can expose the false fixities of one’s own way of living and thinking,” he himself affirms. “It can call into question one’s most deeply held assumptions, and engender intellectual and spiritual exploration and growth.”
As the course guide reasons, “[Y]ou cannot understand the world without understanding religion. Religion is one of the strongest motivators of human behaviour. […] By cultivating our religious literacy, we better understand our neighbours, our world, and the events of our time.”
Cultural Literacy for Religion: Everything the Well-Educated Person Should Know
With Mark Berkson
The Great Courses, 2012