Mark Berkson Speaks About Compassion and Animal Welfare in the World’s Religions

Mark Berkson, Ph.D., is Professor and Chair in the Department of Religion at Hamline University. He teaches courses in Asian religions (including the Confucian, Daoist, Buddhist and Hindu traditions), Islam, and comparative religion. Mark received his Ph.D. from Stanford University in Religious Studies, his M.A. from Stanford University in East Asian Studies, and his B.A. from Princeton University. Mark’s scholarly work has addressed topics such as religion and non-human animals; Confucian, Buddhist and Daoist thought; death and dying; and interfaith dialogue. His work has been published in numerous books and journals. His dvd/book project, “Cultivating Literacy for Religion,” part of the Great Courses series, was released in 2012. His next project, “Death, Immortality and the Afterlife in the World’s Religions” will be released in 2015.

In this session, Compassion and Animal Welfare in the World’s Religions, we will explore the attitudes toward and treatment of non-human animals in a number of the world’s major religious traditions, including Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. While we will discuss the often ambivalent and conflicting perspectives on animals within each tradition, we will focus on the resources that can be found within these traditions to help human beings cultivate greater compassion for animals. We will see that the world’s religions, despite their many differences, all have ways of moving us from seeing animals merely as resources to be exploited to seeing them as relatives worthy of our moral concern, empathy and respect.

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