From time to time, we have offered a variety of adult education courses at our Unitarian church.
In the Winter and Spring of 2001, Doug did a book discussion group with Bedford’s student minister Mallory LaSonde. The books covered are Why Christianity Must Change or Die by John Shelby Spong, Meeting Jesus Again For the First Time by Marcus Borg, The Powers That Be by Walter Wink, and Creation Spirituality by Matthew Fox
In 1998 the book The Art of Happiness was published. It was written by the American psychiatrist Howard Cutler after many conversations with the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism. I was struck by the similarity of this title to The Conquest of Happiness, which was written by humanist philosopher Bertrand Russell in 1930. Reading these two books back-to-back gives us a unique opportunity to see two great minds approach the same basic human issue from two very different perspectives. Not only can we hope to learn something about how to live a happier life, we also get to see Buddhist and humanist thinking applied to a subject that we care about and have opinions on.
When most people talk about "religious questions" they mean questions like "Does God exist?" or "Is there an afterlife?" I wanted to talk about a different kind of question--the questions that come up every day and lie in the background of everything we do. With that in mind, I made up 12 questions about basic life assumptions, such as "Do people ever really change?" and "Are the good things in life rare or plentiful?"
John Gibbons and I test-drove this course in March-April, 1998 at the Unitarian-Universalist church in Bedford, Mass. where John is minister. We met one evening a week for six weeks, and discussed two questions a night with anyone who wanted to drop in. We got a good turn-out (10-20 people a session) and the discussions were excellent.
I recommend this course as a low-overhead way to put together an interesting discussion series. The course requires no special preparation on the part of either the leaders or the participants. Any group of people willing to introspect, speak honestly, and listen intently should do well with this series.
We organized this group in the fall of 1997 to read and discuss spiritual and religious books that have made the best-seller list recently. This site contains fairly detailed notes that we made on the books, together with our comments.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
This is an outline of Thomas Kuhn's classic that I made in 1995.
Doug led a reading group through William James' classic The Varieties of Religious Experience in the fall of 1995.
Using the techniques of magick to help with everyday life. The course centers on finding the symbols that are meaningful to you, and learning to use them to design personal rituals.
We've taught this class four times now: at First Parish in
Lexington in the spring of 1993, 1994, and 1995, and at First Parish
in Bedford in the fall of 1995. It changes a little each time, though
we are starting to feel like we're getting it right.