Religion 2

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Assignment #4 Theology and Religious( Reopen Deadline closes12/2)

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Pick a religion, preferably not your own.  Then write two paragraphs.  For the first paragraph, suppose you are studying that religion as a religious studies major.  What would you ask about it? For the second paragraph, suppose you are a theologian defending that religion. What would you say about it? The goal of this assignment is to show that you know the difference between a religious studies major and a theologian.

Limit your answer to one or two sentences for each question.  Here is an example.  Suppose you are looking at Islam.  In the first paragraph, religious studies student might ask what the meaning of the Ramadan fast is to Moslems.  In the second paragraph, a Moslem theologian might argue why keep the Ramadan fast.

Assignment #5 The Purpose of Religion (12/2)

Clifford Geertz taught that religion is an overriding system of symbols that serves two purposes.  It gives us a worldview – what is the world all about? And it gives us an ethos – what ought we to do?

Think about religion as practiced in America today.  Does it give a worldview? And does it give an ethos?  For example, think about Christianity, practiced by the majority of Americans. Do they receive a worldview they can accept from Christianity? Do they get guidance on how to act?

Assignment # 6 Finding the Sacred( Deadline closes 12/2)

It has been said that the United States has lost its sense of the sacred.  Nothing is set aside, made special, or considered sacred.  People use to dress up to go to Church, go to the theatre, or fly on an airplane.  Today informal dress, or even shorts, is the norm.  Weddings, rather than following time honored rituals, consist of a creative ceremony written by the bride and groom.  Even a high school or college graduation is often marked by catcalls.

Answer the question whether you believe anything is sacred or holy in our contemporary society.  Is that a good or bad thing?

Assignment # 7 The Brothers Karamazov( Deadline closes 12/2)

In his great novel The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky famously said, “Without God, everything is permissible.”  The line comes up in the context of whether it is permissible for one of the brothers to kill their father, an evil man.  Do you agree with Dostoyevsky or not, and why or why not.


Assignment #8 Religion and the Life Cycle( Reopened Deadline closes 12/2)

Describe a religious life cycle event that you attended – baby naming, bar or bat mitzvah, Christening, wedding, or a funeral.  Describe the religious symbols or the religious meaning of the event.


Discussion 4 (Optional)

Ask two people you know for their definition of religion.  Then post your definition as well as the definitions of the two people you interviewed.  What is the strength or weakness of each of these three definitions?  (For example, are they too broad or too narrow?)

Discussion 5(Optional)

Reread the book review of Peter Berger’s The Sacred Canopy. He calls religion a “social construct.” [Note – Some use the phrase “social construction.”]  What is a social construct?  Is it something true, or merely something useful? If religion really is a social construction, what implications might this have for how people practice religion?  Would it make any difference at all?

Discussion 6(Optional)

The Jewish theologian Martin Buber built a philosophy of encounter.  The goal of human beings is to have a full encounter with one another, and eventually with God. Buber differentiated between such moments of encounter with God and the ritual practices of religion. He felt that religion actually distracted from being in God’s presence.  Many people today believe that Buber was right – that religion detracts from God.  They say that religious people are more interested in keeping the rules than in encountering God.

Discussion 7(Optional)

Many religions are very ritual oriented.  Such faiths as Orthodox Judaism, Roman Catholicism, Episcopalianism, and Islam are built around a life of ritual or sacraments.  Other religions such as the Quakers and many Protestant denominations minimize ritual.  What reasons do some religious traditions give for thinking ritual is important?  Do you agree with these reasons?  Why or why not?

Discussion 8 (Optional)

In some countries, like the United Arab Emirates, religion plays a strong role in laws governing how people live their daily lives. For example, during the celebration of Ramadan, it is illegal to eat, drink or smoke in public during daylight hours (even in your car!). In the United States, the Establishment Clause of the Constitution is supposed to prevent religion from playing this sort of political role (although it doesn’t always). What reasons might there be for favoring the Establishment Clause? What reasons might there be for opposing it?

Discussion 9 (Optional)

More and more Americans, when asked to state their religious affiliation, answer “no religion.” Many of these Americans serve in the military. Chaplains are recruited in the military of various faiths to serve the spiritual needs of military personnel. Today there is a call for Atheist or Humanist chaplains to serve the needs of people who do not believe in God and who are unaffiliated with any religion. What sort of obligations do the Armed Forces have to provide religious services for military personnel? Should this include atheists and humanists? Given that the military is a federal organization, what reasons might they have for addressing the spiritual and emotional needs of some soldiers but not others?

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