American friends who went studying abroad in the Great Britain of the 70s all have a story about discovering the Open University. They usually did so late at night, more than a little inebriated, and well into a bout of semi-exotic channel-flipping. Suddenly they'd stumble upon a plaid-jacketed lecturer introducing psychology, say, or biology, or some branch of literature, and find themselves surprised and transfixed. Back then, the OU had to lean on television and radio as content distribution systems, but now that they can make use of the internet, they've put out all sorts of educational materials of great interest to Open Culture readers. We've previously featured their 60-Second Adventures in Thought and 60-Second Adventures in Economics. Now you can watch and learn about another subject from the latest in their series of animated, joke-filled intellectual primers, 60-Second Adventures in Religion.
"Karl Marx was a German philosopher-economist, and the least funny of the Marxes," says the narrator of the first adventure, "Religion as Social Control." "He famously called religion 'the opium of the people,' in that religion was not only used by those in power to oppress the workers, but it also made them feel better about being oppressed when they couldn't afford real opium." The other three adventures approach religion as ritual, religion as mother, and religion as virus. Each video (watch them below) references a different theorist and takes their views as seriously as such a humorous project can, though they all avoid ascribing absolute authority to anyone in particular. The fourth installment, for instance, opens by quoting Richard Dawkins, whom the narrator introduces as "an atheist, evolutionary biologist, and probably not someone you should ask to be a godfather." But hearing about his thoughts on the virus of religion will certainly get you curious about what else OU has to offer on the subject.
(You can also download 60-Second Adventures in Religion on iTunes.)
Religion as Ritual
Religion as Mother
Religion as Virus