HarvardX Course

Religious Literacy Project Director Diane L. Moore is the lead scholar on a new massive open online course (MOOC) through HarvardX entitled World Religions Through Their Scriptures.  Go here to register  The course will run from March-August, 2016 and is comprised of six, month long modules led by the following faculty members: 

  • Religious Literacy: Traditions and Scriptures: Diane L. Moore, Senior Lecturer on Religious Studies and Education, Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of World Religion, and Director of the Religious Literacy Project;
  • Hinduism: Neelima Shukla-Bhatt,  Associate Professor of South Asian Studies, Wellesley College;
  • Buddhism: Charles Hallisey, Yehan Numata Senior Lecturer on Buddhist Literatures, (HDS and FAS);
  • Judaism: Shaye Cohen, Nathan Littauer Professor of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy (FAS);
  • Christianity: Karen King, Hollis Professor of Divinity (HDS and FAS);
  • Islam: Ali Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures (FAS and HDS)

This is a collaborative project among six colleagues at HDS, FAS, and Wellesley College to create a series of modules introducing participants to the academic study of religion through some of the central texts of five of the world’s religious traditions with an emphasis on origins and interpreters.

Many contemporary conflicts across the globe are related to religion and yet few people are equipped to understand what those religious dimensions entail. For a variety of complex reasons, many people believe that the best way to understand religion is to understand religious texts. For example, following the 9/11 attacks, sales of English translations of the Qur’an skyrocketed. We understand why this approach is problematic and yet we know that the impulse to understand religious traditions through texts persists. We hope this course will challenge some common assumptions about religions and texts as well as build capacities to strengthen better understanding of religion applicable to world affairs in contemporary contexts.

The unifying theme of all six modules is a cultural studies approach to teaching and learning about religion through the lens of sacred texts. Participants in the course will 1) learn methods for how to understand religion in general and religious texts in particular; 2) learn the political and cultural contexts that produced religious texts and the processes that led to some being designated as “sacred”; 3) learn about diverse interpretations within and between traditions regarding what the designation “sacred” means; and 4) learn about contemporary and historical examples of diverse interpretations of the texts themselves.