DSST - Intro to World Religions

Discussion in 'CLEP, DANTES, and Other Exams for Credit' started by Shawn Ambrose, Jun 5, 2009.

  1. Shawn Ambrose

    Shawn Ambrose New Member

    My daughter passed this DSST exam today. Her study plan took 3 weeks:

    1. Read The Idiot's Guide to World Religion for an overview

    2. Went to Wikipedia for more information on the religions and the major historical people/events in each religion.

    3. Completed two Prometric Practice Exams to build confidence.

    After the exam, she noted that this was one of the more difficult exams she has completed - so don't take this one lightly! (She has completed 4 CLEP exams and 2 DSST exams to date.)

  2. Orville_third

    Orville_third New Member

    It was relatively easy for me- got a 472 score. Unfortunately I'm not as up on Eastern* religions as I am on Western Religions. Then again, I do read a lot, so I would encourage studying for this.

    * I'm curious. WHY is any religion described as Western? All the major religions originated in the Near East (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Zoroastrianism) or the Far East (Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, Sikhism) Animism is worldwide. What is a purely Western religion?
  3. emmzee

    emmzee New Member

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints would be one, Jehovah's Witnesses would be another, both of these originated in the USA ... and of course, Scientology (sighs sadly) ... Also innumerable smaller ones.
  4. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    Western Eurasia.

    Christianity and Islam are both derived from Judaism to some extent, and all three religions arose among the Semitic population at the eastern end of the Mediterranean (or a little south in Arabia). Zoroastrianism is kind of an outlier to that fertile-crescent complex, a highly moralistic prophetic reaction against the version of Vedic-style religion apparently prevalent among the early Indo-Europeans on the Iranian plateau.

    During late antiquity and early medieval times Christianity and to a lesser extent Judaism became established in Europe, "the West", while Islam ("the saracens") were the always-threatening outside rival to the world of European Christendom.

    Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and (later) Sikhism arose in south Asia, not in the far east. There was quite a bit of interaction between India and the Mediterranean in ancient times. Some scholars see Indian influence in Hellenistic Greek philosophy and Clement of Alexandria reports seeing what apparently were Buddhist monks from India in that city. The Indo-Greeks of Bactria and Gandhara (today's Afghanistan and northern Pakistan) were active patrons of Buddhism. (Tradition says that king Menander became a Buddhist.) The Romans operated trading posts in India and travel books (that no longer exist) were written about the place.

    "Western" contact with the "eastern" religions gradually ceased as the rise of Christianity in the west reduced interest in other peoples' religions and cultures, the dark-ages economic collapse halted trade, and Islam became a barrier between the "eastern" and "western" culture worlds.

    Buddhism subseqently spread north and east (but not west) throughout most of Asia, producing subtle cultural simularities throughout the "east" similar to the Middle-Eastern presuppostions that became common to the Jewish/Christian/Islamic "west".

    Europe was hardly even aware of the "eastern" religions of India, China, Japan and southeast Asia in medieval times. Nobody knew what adherents believed or could distinguish between the religions. A few medievals did travel east, but they weren't particularly interested in learning about "heathen" religious beliefs.

    The voyages of discovery didn't really change that incurious attitude at first, although the Jesuits were certainly impressed by the culture and sophistication of China and Japan and some of them became quite interested in Confucianism and Zen. Interest in south Asia lagged behind. There are stories about how local kings and monastic leaders in places like Burma invited early Portugese visitors to their religious establishments and tried to explain their religious ideas, and of the uncanny horror that the Christians felt approaching those unclean "idol"-filled places. (In some cases, the exact same picturesque old wats that draw Western tourists today.)

    It wasn't really until the 18'th century that Buddhism was clearly distinguished from Hinduism in south Asia, and Buddhists weren't just perceived as another variety of Hindus who worshipped some god called "Boodh", similar to Vishnu or Shiva. People had learned more about the forms of Buddhism in China and Japan, and belatedly noticed that this "Boodh" figure was common to both east and south Asia. Gradually Europeans started noticing things and making distinctions.

    It was only around the time of the American revolution that Europeans such as William "Oriental" Jones and the Asiatic Society of Bengal that he helped found at the lead (he was one of the models for the fictional Indiana Jones) began to learn Sanskrit and the Prakrits and began reading the primary texts. Jones btw was the individual who first realized that Sanskrit was related to the Greek, Latin, Germanic and Celtic languages etc, and first proposed the idea of an Indo-European language family.

    That created a sudden explosion of interest among European academics who had felt no desire to study Asian "superstitions" during the Age of Reason. Chairs of Sanskrit and departments of Indology had been created in many European universities by the 1820's or so. It took decades after that, well into the late 1800's, to collect, translate and start to slowly understand the vast Indian religious corpus.
  5. JulietteKlonk

    JulietteKlonk New Member

    thanks. very helpful post. I read a few of your other posts and they all helped me.

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