University of Washington

Comparative Religion

Thomson Hall Room 433
(206) 543-4835

Interview with Professor Martin Jaffee - Part I

Prof. Martin S. Jaffee, Professor of Comparative Religion, is interviewed on the teaching of Comparative Religion.

Video highlights:

     "The discipline of Comparative Religion opens up people to possibilities of human realities that they've never experienced except through books and education. The more you enter into the worlds that other people have created, the more you appreciate the world you live in and the more you appreciate the artificiality of the world you live in. Your reality is just as precarious as others. Understanding this can lead to humility and respect for others. Evil happens and the question is, "Why is it happening to me?" Religious people feel that God gives them the strength to get through it. People often create their own suffering... American problems are really pretty tame."



Prof. Martin Jaffe discusses his education, the role of evil, and the existence of God.

Video Highlights:

     Education - "I started Syracuse University as an art major in 1966, and basically flunked out and joined the revolution. In 1970 I became a religion major after having discovered through reading that I was interested in the question, "What makes people religious?". I got my B.A. in Religious Studies at Syracuse and then an M.A. at Florida State where I was pushed in the direction of Jewish Studies by Richard Rubenstein. I was also interested in Buddhism. I began to see the beauty of Judaism as an academic student. I've always been an outsider because my background is different. I got my Ph.D. at Brown University in the History of Judaism. I taught everything at the University of Virginia for seven years. I've been at the University of Washington for thirteen years."

     God's Existence - "Western Christianity has the bias that God is omnipotent. It's a philosophical God...We live in a world where we suffer, and God doesn't prevent suffering he helps you to deal with it..."



Video Highlights:

     Rituals - The variety and function of ritual (communion, worship, sacrifice, lifecycle/transformation of status) and how the ritual life of a religion changes over time. "Religion is an intense and sustained cultivation of a style of life that heightens awareness of morally-binding connections...religion is an activity grounded in rituals."


View Part II.

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