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Religion In America



We might find ourselves thinking or asking, what’s the point of knowing this stuff? Why should religious content matter? Why should a “basic American” know the 10 Commandments of Judaism and Christianity, the 4 Noble Truths of Buddhism, the 5 Pillars of Faith of Islam, the 5 K’s of Sikhism, the 7 Deadly Sins of Catholicism, or the 5 key relationships of Confucianism? So what? Prothero’s response is simple and it is profound: “Content is the necessary means to understanding.” It is necessary for our self-growth and development; moreover, knowledge and understanding are indispensable in the fight against ignorance, intolerance, and discrimination.


Stephen Prothero Religious Literacy

Worksheet #1 Introductio n and Chapter 1 “A Nation of Religious Illiterates”


Page references are furnished for the blue-cover 2007 textbook edition, followed by the later version e-text pagination.


Ballar Singh Sadhi was killed by a vigilante at an Arizona gas station because he thought the man wearing a turban was a Muslim and a terrorist. (p3 textbook; p6 e-text)

  • What religion was the victim?
  • Look up Ballar Singh Sadhi’s religious tradition in the dictionary section of Prothero (pp185-292 textbook; pp163-252 e-text) and explain two things about it.


  • In the textbook version on page 5 (p9 e-text) Prothero notes, “religion has always been a major factor in US politics, and international affairs.”


Prothero quotes Diane Eck, who laments, “Christians in the US are…abysmally ignorant about the religious traditions of the rest of the world.” List what Eck calls “the Big Five” major religious traditions of the world (pp8 textbook; p11 e-text). *Note: Daoism and Confucianism of China, and Jainism and Sikhism of India were not included by the author, though I definitely include these in my religions of the world courses.


  • Name a number of issues, reforms, and debates in our culture that “are not comprehensible in a religious vacuum”—meaning that apart from a religious framework we cannot adequately analyze issues. (p6 textbook; p9 e-text)


  • French sociologist Daniele Hervieu-Leger lamented about the European loss of [religious] faith. Note the metaphor for religion she uses, and argue that Europeans have broken it. Explain her metaphor. (p8 textbook; p11 e-text)


  • In 1955 American sociologist Will Herberg wrote a ground-breaking study on Religion in America (p9 textbook; p12 e-text)
  • What was the title of the book?
  • What was its major premise/concern? [hint: Herberg is dismayed about allegiance to “religion that makes religion its own object,” and laments over the loss of specificity and content. Herberg’s premise possibly inspired Prothero to tackle this issue some fifty years later.]


  • According to Prothero, how is religious illiteracy a “civic problem,” and why is having an “educated citizenry” important? (pp10-13 textbook; pp13-15 e-text)
  • How does Prothero define religious literacy? (pp15, 17 textbook; pp17, 19 e-text)


  • Once we understand the problem, what proactive steps can we take to improve and put into practice religious literacy?

O r, do you think that beyond acquiring knowledge, there’s little or no practical or take-away value to cultivating religious literacy? Explain.


I think Prothero makes a compelling observation when he writes, “the war on terrorism is to a great extent…a war of ________.” What is it? Simply fill in the blank. (p17 textbook; p19 e-text)


Chapter 1 “A Nation of Religious Illiterates”


Thanks to the Establishment clause, the US government is secular by law; thanks to the free exercise clause, American society is religious by choice. How does Prothero respond to arguments that America is secular, or that America is ‘Christian’? (pp28-29 textbook; pp27-28 e-text)


  • Prothero summarized the possible dilemma or our simultaneous American identity as staunchly secular and/or resolutely religious. What dramatic historical event involving the first presidential inauguration—though seemingly mere “protocol”—does Prothero use to illustrate his response to the above dilemma of secularism or religion? (p29 textbook; p27 e-text)


  • To where did political philosopher John Rawls insist that religion restrict itself? (pp29 textbook; pp27 e-text)


  • Should religion be in the private realm only? Why? If not, how should “religion” be handled in the public square? *Note: remember in Week 1 we saw civil or public religion played out in an overlap of church and state.


  • Which city in the US does Prothero call the “most religiously heterogeneous ? (p 32 textbook; p 30 e-text) By the way, how would you define heterogeneous?


  • Prothero mentions another US albeit smaller city that exemplifies religious pluralism. Name it.
  • Give a few religious options offered “on the menu” in this same US city.

(p33 textbook; p31 e-text)


  • Prothero describes how in 1854 David Thoreau complained about the religious illiteracy of his neighbors in Concord, MA. A contemporary of Thoreau’s was Ralph Waldo Emerson—a Christian turned Unitarian turned Transcendentalist (for more about Emerson pp34 textbook; p32 e-text; and pp134-135 textbook; pp119-120 e-text)
  • To understand part of Emerson’s journey, look up trinity and Unitarianism and explain the difference between the two.
  • Next, on this same topic, what is meant by the Muslim concept of tawhid ? What theological interpretation or understanding of a transcendent God do these three terms address? Briefly explain.

(see tawhid pp286-287 textbook; p.247-248 e-text; see trinity and Unitarianism p288 textbook; p248 e-text)


  • In The Greatest Story Never Read, what shocking thing did Os Guinness say about evangelicals? (p45 textbook; p42 e-text) His alarmingremark leads to the following reflective question.



Why might some religious people be “anti-intellectual,” or be threatened by education? If applicable, explain any interplay of psychological and/or religious defense mechanism. Identify any consequences resulting from this attitude. (Respond with a paragraph; support your view.)


Stephen Prothero Religious Literacy

Worksheet for Chapter 2 “Religion Matters”


I dea summation:

Religionists may argue for a “Christian America” based on the supposed faith of the founding Fathers, and transform the Constitution—though deliberately / intentionally bereft of any mention of God—into a sacred document. The Christian America theory posits a providential divine plan for the nation. A secular version of the Christian America theory is the founding era and its thinkers, shapers, movers-and-shakers of the young nation were Enlightenment rationalists who were at best neutral regarding religion as a private matter of conscience. Both theories have blind spots. According to what Prothero calls the “secular myth , ” secularists see American civilization on a trajectory or upward progression from _________ to ___________ and from _____________ to ______________ (p56 textbook; p52 e-text)


  • Also on p56 textbook; p52 e-text Prothero thinks school textbook authors of US history trend toward two less than complimentary approaches regarding the treatment of religion. What are these?


  • On p58 textbook; p54 e-text Prothero writes, “Those who drafted the Constitution and Bill of Rights were influenced far more by Deism than by anti-clericalism.”


  • Explain what is meant by Deism (See Prothero p216 textbook; p188 e-text; Lippy pp42, 250; other resources may be consulted).


SUMMATION: Theism is the position or contention that God remained actively interested in and operative in the world which he had made [that is, God is both transcendent and immanent—immanent meaning God can intervene in history and remains involved in human affairs. Deists do not hold to this.] Christians tend to be theists, but what tends to complicate the picture is a number of key figures in the founding era were steeped in and knowledgeable of orthodox Christianity, but in actuality were more in sympathy with the rational response of Deism.


Deism is the position that a transcendent God designed the world, “got it started,” if you will, and endowed the world at creation with self-sustaining and self-acting powers [e.g., natural laws]. But unlike the transcendent Being [First Cause] of the theists, God is not deemed to be immanent. This means God is no longer active in the world God created. Thus in the Deist view the designer First Cause God commissioned the operation of the world to be a human enterprise that along with natural laws and powers act as second causes. Jefferson, for example in the Declaration of Independence referred to Nature’s God .


Question: Offer a few implications of these two similar but yet significantly different views of God as creator/initiator in terms of God’s relationship with the created universe.


  • In the spirit of democracy and the emerging spiritual marketplace brought on by the First Amendment, Protestantism in America became more egalitarian .
  • What does egalitarian mean?
  • What part did emotions play in diverse expressions of Christianity? (p59 textbook; pp54-55 e-text) [hint: especially in relation to the Second Great Awakening and populist preachers at the camping / tent revival meetings]
  • What did firebrand Elias Smith say Americans should be wholly free to examine for themselves? (p59 textbook; p55 e-text)
  • Religion seemed to have played an integral part in a number of social reforms . In particular the religious activist William Lloyd Garrison pushed for two reforms that would usher in “the Kingdom of God.” What were these religiously-inspired reform initiatives? (pp58-59 textbook; p55 e-text)


  • On the eve of the Civil War, what did Frederick Douglass write in disgust about the “two irreconcilable factions” of Christianity as this division related in particular to Christendom’s complicity in the sin of slavery? (pp59-60 textbook; pp55-56 e-text)


God and money . The English authorized King James Bible presents us with the word “mammon . ” Mammon is not merely a synonym for money/hard cash, but also includes investment, real estate, and personal property or possessions. Most notably these “acquired things” become the objects of focus and desire. Jesus had warned, “You can’t serve God and mammon.” The question remains as to the object of one’s trust: God, or the currency on which the motto “In God We Trust” is imprinted or embossed. See p60 textbook; p56 e-text.


  • Who was Andrew Carnegie, and what “gospel” did he promulgate? Explain.
  • How were Carnegie’s ideas advanced by Russell Conwell in his widely circulated sermon, “Acres of Diamonds”?
  • The phrase is often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, but its origins may be much earlier, serving as a moral to several Aesop’s Fables. In any event, how would you explain the verse not found in the Bible“God helps those who help themselves”?


God and land.

  • Explain the doctrine of manifest destiny (p60 textbook; p56 e-text)
  • Identify several dangers (potential and actual) using this kind of religious language “It’s God will that we….” Or “God showed me that…”


  • During World War II, how did the US treat Japanese Americans (primarily Buddhists)? (p61 textbook; bottom of p56 and continuing to p57 e-text)
  • Not long after World War II, America found itself in a Cold War that would last four decades (1947-1991) (3-minute clip Why did the Cold War Begin? If you have 45 minutes view:
  • Who were the “reds” of the Cold War era?
  • If Americans were largely thought to be religious, then what aspect of the “red” political ideology posed a threat to America/Americans? (Think in terms of two oppositional views. p61 textbook; p57 e-text)


  • During the LBJ administration the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 was passed that abolished an earlier quota system based on national origin and established a new immigration policy based on reuniting immigrant families and attracting skilled labor to the United States. Over the next four decades, the policies put into effect in 1965 would greatly change the demographic makeup of the American population, as immigrants entering the United States under the new legislation came increasingly from countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, as opposed to Europe. (FYI: Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and subsequent quota-settings restricting immigration in 1924 )


  • What were some reactions, ramifications, and outcomes of this landmark legislation? See the bottom of pp61-62 textbook; pp57-58 e-text; An excellent FYI resource )
  • Explain what is meant by nativism. (For this term and movement, refer to Lippy pp113-17, 253; etc. as Prothero does not go into sufficient detail.)



Stephen Prothero Religious Literacy

Worksheet for Chapter 3 “Eden  (What W e Once Knew)


What did Thomas Jefferson initially propose as an image to be used in the design for the new nation’s seal? (p73 textbook; p67 e-text)


The Most Literate Place on Earth Children not only needed to read to be good Protestants, but they also needed to fulfill another role. What was that? (p75 textbook; p68 e-text)


According to Prothero there were two concurrent impulses—one religious and the other secular. The country might trust in God, but by vesting sovereignty in the people rather than a monarchy meant that for its survival, an informed citizenry was needed. According to the statement made by James Madison, what is the source of the power with which we can “arm” ourselves? (p75 textbook; pp68-69 e-text)


  • In the 17th-18th centuries, where was the most literate place on earth? [hint: especially in what area or colony?] and what piece of hyperbole [exaggeration] did John Adams write in 1769? (pp75-76 textbook; p68 e-text)


  • To what specific realm / discipline was early American religious literacy limited? (p80 textbook; p73 e-text)


  • Under the “Household” section we read that the province of education extends to homes and religious congregations, newspapers and almanacs, publishers and booksellers, libraries and theatres, theological tracts and political pamphlets, and so on. But according to Prothero, what were the six venues in early America by/through which religious information was disseminated? (p81 textbook; p74 e-text)


  • As part of household religious instruction,


  • What core text was used to teach children how to read?
  • Why and how were children already familiar with its stories before they had begun reading this text? (p81 textbook; p74 e-text)


  • What was the four-part scheme or arrangement of the Puritan sermon, and what did this organizational format emphasize for the listeners? (p83 textbook; pp75-76 e-text)


  • Briefly describe a 1631 law in Virginia that set out a minister’s required sacred duty, and what was entailed in this religious education initiative? (p84 textbook; p76 e-text)


  • John Eliot labored to convert and catechize Native Americans and African-American slaves, and was called “perhaps the quintessential minister-educator of the 17th-century colonies.” The family of Thomas Mayhew likewise did similar work among first nation peoples, in particular the Wampanoags, but the Mayhew’s took a different cultural /acculturation approach. What did the Mayhews do in terms of strategy that significantly diverged from Eliot’s methods? (p85 textbook; pp77-78 e-text)


  • By what means if not through basic literacy did most African-American slave converts to Christian receive or “get” their Protestantism? (p86 textbook; p78 e-text) Second, how would you define or describe the African-American musical genre known as “the spiritual”?


  • According to Jennifer Monaghan, in essence what did early literacy education amount to? Second, what did philosopher Warren Nord consider to have been the overriding purpose(s) of American Colonial education initiative or thrust? (p87 textbook; p79 e-text)


  • Briefly describe the New England Primer What was its purpose or primary function? -(pp88-91 textbook; pp80-84 e-text)



  • Who do Conservative Christians laud as “the Father of American Christian Education ? What was his conviction regarding the fate of the nation? (p94 textbook; p86 e-text)


  • What classic children’s prayer is contained in one of the texts or teaching tools listed in response to #14? Provide the text. (pp91-92 textbook; p83 e-text)


  • What was the “folksy version” of the Ten Commandments located in another of the answers to #14? Provide the text. (p97 textbook; p88 e-text)


  • According to G. Marsden, what were the 5 or 6 main Christian theological doctrines taught in these books? (p96 textbook; p88 e-text)


  • What two passions consumed William Holmes McGuffey? Second, name a few criticisms of the McGuffy readers. (p96 textbook; pp87-88 e-text )


  • What was “a primary avenue for socializing the rising generations into evangelical culture, and teaching ‘middle class morality’”? [hint: along with the common school, it became part of a movement in 1820’s/30’s America.] (p101 text; p92 e-text)


  • What is a missionary?


  • What does it mean to “propagate ,  and what message was being “propagated”?
  • A word often associated with missionary is proselytize. Explain what this means.
  • What was a typical missionary’s “lament” about the spiritual condition of the frontier pioneer, and the consequences of their choices of “books” or their overall reading habits? (p103 textbook; p93 e-text)


  • Name 2-3 Ivy League colleges / universities with religious roots, noted for their emphases on “discipline and piety.”
  • Which great Puritan preacher of the Great Awakening would later serve as an Ivy League college’s President? Name the preacher/president and the institution where he served. (pp104-105 textbook; p95 e-text)


  • Prothero notes that by the nineteenth century the “acids” of _______ began to erode education of its religious content. (For the answers, see p107 textbook; p97 e-text)


  • Fill in the above blank/identify this one contributing or root cause.
  • In the attempt to “get along with other Protestants,” the emphasis of discourse and behavior shifted or transitioned from _______________ to _________________. [that is, identify both what gave ground and to what new emphasis would they defer]
  • This new form of religion could thus be characterized by this summation: God wants children to work hard, save their money, tell the truth and avoid alcohol. Or, “Little children, you must seek rather to be good than wise.” In short, this new form of religion was less sectarian and less doctrinal and more ______________ and more ____________. [that is, identify these two emerging approaches to religion.


IDEA SUMMATION: In his section on “Textbook Ignorance,” Prothero noted that religion is minimized, trivialized, muzzled, or even excised altogether from school textbooks, and he lists several reasons why that is so. For starters, textbook publishers and authors are more than likely simply trying to avert controversy, though this treatment could be the result of a secular bias; second is the misconception that teaching about all religions in the public school classroom is unconstitutional in light of varying interpretations handed down in Supreme Court decisions. Third is the misconstrued notion that ignoring religion demonstrates neutrality. It does not, claimed Prothero; ignoring religion betrays bias and prejudice. Fourth is curricular priority to prepare students for a battery of standardized testing required by states, etc. Compared to the other 3 R’s (reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic) religion is treated as nonessential.

Taking into consideration the above possible reasons for the downplaying of religion, Prothero then writes that homeschooling may be driven in part by “a widespread presumption that public schools have gone over to the secular side, and as such operate from an anti-religious bias.” T HINK PIECE: Define homeschooling. Consider weaknesses, strengths, challenges, potential harm as well as potential benefits of this alternative form of educating children.

  • Construct an argument for [pro] for or against [con] homeschooling;
  • To consider both sides, you then need to construct a counter-argument.

Chapter 4 “The Fall” (How We Forgot)

Lippy covers denominationalism extensively, so in this chapter we will skip ahead.

  • Prothero notes that “after the Civil War…many Americans grew tired of theological controversies…and were desperate for union in church as well as state….”
  • How does Prothero describe what the American people tended to gravitate toward in churches, schools, and colleges? Use his exact wording. (p115 textbook; p103 e-text)
  • Related to above, if growth (numbers) was the objective, then what would be the price tag for this lowering of standards?



On p117 textbook, p104 e-text, our author makes this assessment, “To evangelicalism, therefore, we owe both the vitality of religion in contemporary America and our impoverished understanding of it.”


In the same paragraph he points to a transition or shift: “…American Protestants were moving away from Christianity’s doctrinal dimensionand shifted to an emphasis on experience and ethics instead.” (“…a religion of ethics rather than one of theology” (p126 textbook; p112 e-text); “…religious populism” (p134 textbook; p119 e-text); “from the head to the heart…a spiritual anti-intellectualism (p135 textbook; p120 e-text); “…American ministers became storytellers [that] produced conversions. It filled churches” (p137 textbook; p122 e-text) and resulted in a “Bible-less Jesus,” untethered from a biblical and theological foundation producing a peculiar “Jesus-onlyism” (p139; p124 e-text)


From these examples in chapter 4, a picture emerges of a diluted Christianity whose content has watered down into vagary and an emotional experience of “me and Jesus.”

Last, Prothero provides a disconcerting quote from Phillips Brooks, the Rector of Trinity Church, “Beware of the tendency to preach about Christianity, and try to preach Christ.” Cautions Prothero, “The trouble with this approach, of course, is that it makes church teachings about Jesus optional [emphasis mine], and wherever church teachings are optional there is the temptation to forget them altogether.” (p140 textbook; p124 e-text)


Question: Considering the above summary observations made by our author, students are to interact with the rise of the evangelical movement in American history.


  • What is evangelicalism, and how did this movement profoundly influence the shape and direction of Protestantism in America (even to the present time)?
  • Why is it important to know what you believe and articulate it clearly, and engage in study of religious texts? Or is it important? Explain.


See “evangelicalism” in Prothero’s dictionary (p220-21 textbook; pp192-193 e-text); see Lippy cf. pp38-40, 42, 65-66, antebellum pp75-89)

Chapter 5 “Redemption” (What to Do)

What was the 1948 Supreme Court ruling in McCollum v Board of Education ?(p159 textbook; p140 e-text)


  • What was the 1963 Supreme Court ruling in Abington v Schempp? (p160 textbook; p141 e-text)


  • Prothero makes a clear distinction between studying religion [as an academic enterprise] and doing religion. Most likely our author was influenced by Justice Goldberg’s distinction of “teaching about religion” (objectively) and the teaching of religion (confessionally). However, according to Martin Marty teachers avoid religion and instead teach ____________ religion. Fill in the blank. How might this “avoidance” of teaching religion “promote a ‘culture of disbelief’”? (p161 textbook; p142 e-text)


  • Clinton had said in a 1995 speech that “the First Amendment does not convert our schools into religion-free zones.” In April 1995 “Religion in the Public Schools: A Joint Statement of Current Law” was signed that endorsed teaching about religion in public schools. What was the essence of President Bill Clinton’s 1999 memo sent to every public school principal in the US? (pp162-63; p143 e-text)


  • In a 2005 Chicago Tribune editorial an analogy was made related to Bible knowledge acquisition. What was the exact wording? (p163 textbook; p144 e-text)


  • What is a balanced and cautious approach regarding how religion is to be taught in public schools? (i.e., what two extremes are given that should be avoided?) (bottom pp163-64 textbook; p144 e-text)


  • What does Prothero recommend that teachers of both the Bible and world religions courses must “take pains” not to do? (pp170 textbook; p150 e-text)


  • How did Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson in McCollum describe the challenging task facing teachers trying to inculcate religious knowledge rather than belief; religious literacy rather than faith? (p170 textbook; p150 e-text)


  • Who does Prothero “blame” for “popularizing the collapse of religion into values”? (To answer these questions see p178 textbook; p157 e-text)


  • What was the position of this person in the Reagan administration (cabinet)?
  • What was the title of the book written by this cabinet minister that reduced or collapsed religion into a set of virtues and values?
  • Prothero points to this popularized book from the 1980’s as another example of the trend that turns religions “into a water boy for morality.” How do you understand or interpret this figurative language?
  • As Prothero sees it, what was another approach or way to collapse or reduce religions adopted by Karen Armstrong, author of The Great Transformation? [hint: Prothero calls Karen Armstrong’s approach “to wish away differences…” the ________ ___________.


  • Fill in the above blank.
  • Then elaborate on why Prothero finds this approach not entirely accurate, or even misrepresentative of world religions. (p178 textbook; p157 e-text)



We come back full circle to Prothero’s modest proposal to raise religious literacy on a civic rather than religious platform to enlighten American citizenship about the vitality and relevancy of religion as a force in our nation and world. Here’s a paradox: Nineteenth-century agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll contended that “the reason everybody in the United States believes in the Bible is that no one actually reads it.” So is “ignorance the mother of devotion”? Is ignorance bliss in which the religious devotee can be immersed?

In the Christian New Testament Book of James 2:26 is a rather blunt claim, “Faith without works is dead.” The point is clear that religion is vital and living. It is meant to be lived, walked, expressed, and acted upon in deed and truth. “Faith” as used here is not merely a set of abstractions; nor is it a word game.

Likewise Prothero warns that faith without religious knowledge offers no bedrock upon which to stand, but only “exceedingly sandy soil.” He continues, “Faith without knowledge may or may not be dead, but our current mix of fervent religious belief and widespread religious ignorance is surely a dangerous combination.


How do you understand this potent mix of devotion and ignorance? Analyze briefly and provide examples to support your position. (p182 textbook; p160 e-text)



S Prothero’s Dictionary of Religious Literacy


QT #1

Founders, movers and shakers: According to Prothero’s entries in his glossary/dictionary, briefly compare Jesus (pp239-40 textbook; pp207-208 e-text), Muhammad (pp257-258 textbook; p223-224 e-text), and Confucius (pp211-212 textbook; p185 e-text).

For instance consider such items as: any or the absence of divine claims; teachings, emphases, goals, and ideals; leadership styles; influences.

QT #2 Authority:

What is a fatwa in Islam? (223-224 textbook; pp194-195 e-text)

What is an encyclical in Catholicism? (p219 textbook; p191 e-text)

What is biblical inerrancy (p235 textbook; p204 e-text) to which evangelical and earlier fundamentalist Protestants hold?

Describe the authority of the Pope, making sure that you address the matter of papal infallibility and specify how this dogma is applied. (p264 textbook; p204-205 e-text)

QT #3

Succession and sectarianism in Islam: Describe the major difference(s) between Sunni Islam (Imam, p234 textbook; p204 e-text) pp284-285 textbook; p246 e-text) and Shiite Islam.(Imam, p234 textbook; p204 e-text) pp281-282 textbook; p243 e-text

QT #4

What are the reasons Prothero lists when he states, “the effects of the Second Great Awakening are hard to overestimate.” Identify those effects. (pp277-278 textbook; pp240 e-text)

QT #5

What was the significance of the Scopes (“Monkey”) Trials? (pp 276-277 textbook; p239 e-text; See also Creationism pp213-214 textbook; pp186-187 e-text)

QT # 6 Religions, teachings, and concepts

Briefly discuss the wherewithal arrival of Buddhism on American shores. How might we understand the growing “popularity” of Buddhism among Westerners, in particular, Americans? Do Buddhists see / worship the Buddha as god? Explain. (pp205-207 textbook; pp179-181 e-text). FYI: and

QT # 7

What is Zionism? When was the modern state of Israel created? What is significant about the timing of the “resurrection” of the Jewish homeland? (pp292 textbook; p252 e-text)

QT # 8

What is ahimsa? (pp194-195 textbook; pp170-171 e-text)

QT # 9

What is the “Golden Rule”? (pp227-228 textbook; pp198-199 e-text)

Unlike the positive (prescribing) framing of the Golden Rule, both Rabbi Hillel (early first-century CE) and even earlier Confucius presented a negative (proscribing) framing coined “the Silver Rule.” Rather than the Golden Rule, why might it be easier for us to follow the Silver Rule—“That which is hateful (or despicable) to you do not do to your neighbor” ?

QT #1 0

What is considered the “mysteries of mysteries” for Orthodox Christians? How are we to understand this ritual practiced also by Catholics and Protestants, but in different ways and with differing understandings? (See also the entry on p234 textbook; p204 e-text)

Explain the Orthodox Christian view of marriage and celibacy among clergy. (pp260-261 textbook; pp225-226 e-text)

QT # 1 1

Briefly explain the Taoist principle of yin/yang. (pp290-91 textbook; p251 e-text)

Or refer to a brief instructor-created set of slides: (Why might the taijitu symbol be a popular tattoo? Ha ha)


QT # 1 2

What is the Bhagavad Gita, and who are the main “characters” if you will of this 18-chapter extended poem referred to affectionately as “the Gita”? (pp200-201 textbook; p176 e-text)


What were the Crusades, and how does this historical reality affect Christian-Islam relations to this day? (pp214-215 textbook; p187 e-text)


What is Islamism? (p237 textbook; p206 e-text)

Wahhabism (p290 textbook; pp250-251 e-text) is “the dominant school of Islamic thought in Saudi Arabia” and definitely influenced the forming of Al-Qaeda (Arabic for “the base.”) Prothero wrote our textbook before the emergence of IS, but we readily see how IS is an offshoot or outgrowth of al-Qaeda in terms of its Sunni aspirations for a “transnational Islamic empire that adheres to a strict interpretation of Islamic law.”

Name the Egyptian scholar dubbed “the father of Islamist fundamentalism,” and list his “themes” or fundamentals. (pp203-204 textbook; pp177-178 e-text) FYI a rarely told story of an enduring historical presence of the Muslim tradition in the United States:

T he Final Curtai n Issues

QT #1 4

“My karma ran over your dogma.” (This clever bumper sticker might make us laugh, but there is a bit more to these concepts than a play on words.)

  • What is k arma ? (p244-245 textbook; p212 e-text)
  • What is reincarnation and what is resurrection? How do these two life-after-death belief systems differ? (see p272-273, 274 textbook; p236-237 e-text)

QT #15

What’s with all of this end-of-the-world “last days” stuff? Briefly describe the apocalypse . (pp197 textbook; pp172-173 e-text)

What do you think is the cause(s) or what drives this morbid fixation with “end times”?

Identify potential dangers this mentality poses.

If you really want to know more:

“Competing theories of eschatology, end times, and millennialism”




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