Sam Schindler's Online Classes

I'm Sam, co-owner of Riverbend Comics and an educator. I teach about religion and history among other topics. On this page you'll find information about the classes that I'm offering right now via Zoom for participants from around the USA.

CURRENT CLASSES

CHRISTIANITY OR CHRISTIANITIES? AN OVERVIEW OF GNOSTICISM

A Driving Question: What does it mean that there may be many Christianities? 

Brief Overview of the Course:
Early followers of Jesus were Jews (as was Jesus himself) and many divergent and even contradictory interpretations of his message gradually evolved into what we now know as Christianity. Several strains of early Christian philosophy were abandoned or deliberately suppressed. One of them was Gnosticism, which we know a great deal about thanks to the 1945 discovery of a trove of documents, now known as the “Gnostic Gospels” unearthed in a place called Nag Hammadi, in Egypt.  In fact, in large part what we know about Gnosticism comes directly from its most virulent detractors. 

Examples of Gnostic texts:
The Secret Gospel of Mark
The Gospel of Philip
The Gospel of Thomas
The Apocryphon of John
The Gospel of Mary
Acts of Peter
On the Origin of the World
The Exegesis on the Soul

The objective of this course will be to return to the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE by revisiting selections from the “Gnostic Gospels,” fragmentary texts whose meaning was often seen as threatening to mainstream early Christianity. We’ll attempt to shed light on Gnostic theology and make sense of its worldview, then turn to their (ultimately losing) battle with “normative” Christianity.

This class will run for three consecutive weeks on Tuesday evenings: , 6/16, 6/23 and 6/30. There will be a flat fee of $30 per participant for all 3 sessions If you know of anyone you think might also be interested, please feel free to pass this information along. Please send payment by 8 PM Sunday June 14, via PayPal or Venmo if you would like to participate. 

SESSION 1: What the he## is Gnosticism anyway?

SESSION 2: Gnostic theology and text: The compassionate dualist 

SESSION 3: Christian efforts to eradicate Gnosticism; You know you’re onto something when powerful people try to kill you and your ideas.

Cost: $30. 

Venmo: sam-schindler
Paypal: http://paypal.me/sammax3

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The following three classes are part of the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design's Center for Creative Exploration, and are open for registration now:

Foundations of Islam
Comparative Religion: Hinduism and Buddhism
History of Religious Responses to Disaster

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COMPLETED CLASSES

ORIGINS OF THE DIVINE
This class will investigate the topic of The Divine from several angles, playing close attention to the ever-changing nature of the relationship that human beings have developed. Our approach will start in the Paleolithic Era, examining pre-civilized notions of the divine, then move through the evolution of conceptions of a divine realm through the modern era, including a critical look at contemporary, secular appropriations of God for purposes beyond the traditional religious arena. One major question the class will ask is:

“How does the evolution of human beings’ relationship to the divine address the shift from a nature-based existence to civilized life (that is, life in cities)?”

This class will be largely directed by participants and is discussion-based, with participants encouraged to bring their own perspectives and points of view to bear in each class. The class will thrive upon a diversity of ideas and some potential (but respectfully attended) conflict.

The goal for this course is to present ideas and challenges to the class and guide conversation and deep, critical thinking. Students will be asked to consider their own systems of belief in light of the discoveries, observations and challenges we have made and faced in class.

Overview
Week I: From Cave Paintings to Flood Narratives: Paleolithic, Neolithic and “Civilized” Theology
Week II: The Emergence of the Iron Grip of Monotheism
Week III: Medieval Aristotelianism Merged with Monotheism: Maimonides, Avicenna, and Aquinas
Week IV: Atheism and its Discontents

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H3:2 - AGAINST CIVILIZATION

A stand-alone course that will explore a host of different perspectives on the failures, dangers and potential dystopian near-term future of civilization. Be a part of the conversation! (The fact is, if you’re alive right now, you already are.)

Each week, we'll predicate a discussion on a few essays from John Zerzan’s Against Civilization, published in 1999. In-class time will consist of participants' reactions to these essays, whatever they might be, including the use of outside resources that you find relevant and accessible. 

This class will run for four consecutive weeks, 5/7, 5/14, 5/21 and 5/28 and is aimed at anyone looking to explore a historical perspective on what we are currently experiencing. We had a wide range of participants in the first session which made for extremely fruitful and substantive cross-generational discussion. 

Overview
Week I: The Great Forgetting: From Pre-Civilization to Civilization
Week II: The Whisper of Mother Culture Part I: Mining the Unquestioned Influences of Civilization
Week III: The Whisper of Mother Culture Part II: Mining the Unquestioned Influences of Civilization
Week IV: The Beginning of the End: Resistance? Acceptance? Neither?
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Email me directly for further details.