What Is a Religion? Shannon’s First Lesson at the University

One of my favorite bloggers is my 18-year-old daughter, Shannon, and her Randomista site.  (I’m not the least bit prejudiced about it, either!)  She’s a bit of an academic and posts thoughtful essays about the random things in life that interest her (wonder where she gets thatfrom), whether it’s raising funds for earthquake survivors or the heartbreak of feral children or the perceptions of Mary Magdalene.

In Goodbye, Summer Hiatus! she finds herself trapped indoors by Tropical Storm Fay and fascinated with one of her World Religion textbooks for her university classes that begin next week.   If you wonder why I adore my intellectual conversations with my daughter,who’s had Buddhas in her room for many years, here’s why:

Though the total cost of my school books is more than a months rent and utilities combined, I did find a gem of wonderful information in the required reading.  Nudged between the daunting Statistics book and overstuffed Physiological Psychology book is the tiny Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction.  

Classes don’t start until Monday, but I’m already immersed in the book’s small, yet magnificent pages.  Not only does it explain the beauty of the religion, but it also analyzes whether it is a religion at all.  Author Damien Keown attempts to answer the question: What is a religion?  That, perhaps more than anything, peaked my interest.  The answer is brilliant.  Ninian Smart explains religion by breaking it down into 7 groups (1. Practical/Ritual  2. Experiential/Emotional etc.)  He says that all parts of the religion make up a whole.  Some religions have more belief in a higher power than others, but that absence doesn’t make a belief atheistic.  Pretty cool, ay? 

So while I’m still wiping my tears over my dwindling bank account, I have some rather fascinating subjects to keep me occupied.  Regardless if my world religions class is good or bad, this is one text book I won’t be selling back at the end of the term.


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