Online Resource: Harvard Offers a Free Series of Classes on World Religions

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Different approaches to religion throughout the world — and confusion over what these religions teach — have created political and social tensions for millennia. The United States today is more conflicted about religion than ever. Anti-Semitism has (again) proven itself more relevant than most Americans want to believe it is. Bitter political battles are being fought over the current White House’s campaign to refuse many people of the Muslim faith entry to the United States. Recent events have demonstrated the dangerous results of the deep anger, confusion, and miscommunication that often occur between people of differing religious beliefs.

We’ve already discussed free classes on religion from Harvard and Yale on this blog, but here’s something new. Harvard University is attempting to shine light on what different world religions actually teach by offering World Religions Through Their Scriptures, a series of free online classes created by a team of professors in Harvard’s religion department that are available to anyone who wants to take them. The courses focus on teaching about these religions’ core beliefs through a focus on their sacred texts.

The courses originally cost $50, but now they are archived, meaning that students can no longer interact with the professors or take the course for any kind of credit or to earn a certificate, but the materials are freely available to people who simply want to educate themselves. The course materials include short video lectures, reading assignments , discussion opportunities (in which students may still participate, though the professors no longer moderate the discussions), and interactive online materials (maps, etc.).

Before forming strong opinions about other religions, learn from well-respected scholars who spend their lives studying them about what these faiths’ sacred texts actually say and how worship leaders and worshipers interpret these texts.

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