A Buddhist Parable on the Nature of Truth:

In a small village there once lived six blind brothers. One day they heard that there was an elephant in the village and they all rushed off to meet it. They had all heard about these magnificent creatures, but they did not know what they looked like. When they found the elephant they all gathered around it.

One brother felt the trunk and said, "The elephant is curvy, like a snake."

Another brother felt the tusk and said, "The elephant is sharp, like a sword."

Another brother felt the ear and said, "The elephant is round, like a fan."

Another brother felt the side and said, "The elephant is flat, like a wall."

Another brother felt the leg and said, "The elephant is tall, like a pillar."

And the last brother felt the tail and said. "The elephant is thin, like a branch."

All the way home they argued about what the elephant was. When they arrived home their father heard them arguing and explained, "You are all right. the elephant is all of those things and more. Each of you learned about a different part of the elephant according to each of your perspectives."


For your first assignment in Religious Studies Class you are going to write an essay based on your own personal spiritual beliefs and opinions.  You may believe strongly in one religion.  You may believe that all religions are valid.  You may believe that all religions are invalid.  Whatever your personal beliefs are, that is okay with me. 

I will be grading you based on the following criteria:
1. You think deeply about the subject. 
2. You write a strong persuasive essay.

In your essay you will address one or more of the following questions:

Is only one religion true?

Are all religious beliefs valid? Why?

How do you know whether a religious belief is true?

Can you belong to a religion and not believe in every part of it?

Can more than one religion be true at the same time?

Are some religions better then others? Why?

Would the world be better off with only one religion?

Is it good to have so many different religions?

Why do religions exist?

How do you know whether your own spiritual beliefs are true?

What is truth?

What is the difference between subjective and objective truth?

What is faith?

Your essay should be between 250-500 words long, typed in 12 point Times New Roman font, with perfect spelling, grammar, and punctuation. 

Your essay is due: __________


Research a part of a religious tradition - Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism.


Who was the prophet or founder of this religion?  When and where did they live?  What is their story?  What is their personality?

Who are the followers of this religion?  Where do they live?  How do they distinguish themselves? What must one do in order to be a member of this religion?

What is the book about? What language is the book written in?  Write a quote from the book.

Describe a holy site in this tradition. What is holy about it? What do pilgrims do at this site?

Describe a holiday from this religion. When does it occur? What does it represent? How do people celebrate it?

Do members of this religion believe in God or Gods?  What are they like? How do members of this religion relate to or experience the Divine? 

What happens after death?  Is there a Heaven or Hell?  Is there rebirth?  Will the world end?  How?

What religious laws or commandments do members of this religion follow?  Who makes the laws?  Are men and women equal?  



A Theory of Religion:

On a cold February day in 1870, a middle-aged German Scholar gave a public lecture at London’s prestigious Royal Institution.  His name was Fredrick Max Muller.  He was scholar of religious writings of ancient India.  He had come to Britain, because British schools were known to be the best place to study ancient India.

Why would British schools study Indian religions (more then schools in other countries)?

Do you have to be Indian to fully understand Indian religions? 
Why or why not?

Muller argued that most religious people only study their own religion.  So a Buddhist only studies the Buddha, the Sutras (Buddhist Holy Book), the Buddhist holidays, etc.  And a Christian only studies Jesus, the Bible, Christian holidays, etc.

Instead Muller argues that religions should be compared based on the parts that they all have in common.  So Jesus and Buddha should be compared to Muhammad, Abraham, Zarathustra and all the religious founders.  And the Bible and the Sutras, should be compared to the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao Te Ching, and all other holy books. 

Muller argued that each religious founder was better understood in comparision to all the others( instead of just in terms of his own tradition.)  And every holy book was better understood when compared with the others and not just read alone.  The same is true is of Holy Sites, Holy Days, Eschatology, Theology and every other part of religion.

Muller insisted that studying Religions comparatively was important.  In his lecture he famously stated, “He who knows only one religion, does not know Religion.”

What do you think Muller means by this quote?   Why does he insist on studying more than one religion? Do you agree?  Why or why not?

Comparative Religion

Last class each of you made a small report on one religion.  Now we will start to follow Muller’s advice and compare religions. 

Each of you will compare one part:

(founders, followers, holy books, holy sites, holy days,
 theology and ethics).

First read your part in every other classmates religion report and take notes. 

Next do some extra online research to complete your comparison

Finally write two paragraphs comparing the religions. 


I read the “eschatology” of everyones report.  I noticed that Christianity and Islam had the same result (Heaven and Hell) and Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism had almost the same result (Reincarnation).  So I did a little more research and learned that Christianity and Islam are related Middle Eastern Religions and Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism are related Indian religion.  I then spent a little time thinking about why eschatology is important and then wrote the following:


Eschatology (the afterlife) is an important part of all religions.  Christianity and Islam  both believe in an Heaven and an Hell.   Indian Religions like Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism believe in Reincarnation (after you die you are reborn into another life).   However in Buddhism you can become enlightened and break out of the cycle of life and death.

I think Eschatology is important to religions because nobody really knows what happens after death.  Religious teaching use the afterlife (unknown) to motivate you to act well in this life (known) in order to get into Heaven or get enlightened.