What is religion?


Questions – Choose One

1. What is religion? How can you tell a religion is a religion? What sorts of academic disciplines, intellectual tools, and methods help us study this unique aspect of human culture? Please be specific and avoid sweeping generalizations or editorializing. For example, the answer cannot be, “I think religion is whatever you want it to be.”

2. We will see how important a role ontology has played in the development of Roman Catholic Christianity. Can you help me understand what ontology means and use two examples to support your description? Why is this philosophical dimension important in helping any religion survive and continue?

3. Karen Armstrong’s book, A History of God, offers interesting and well-researched data on the role of religion in Western cultures. We read the first chapter from this book, “In the Beginning.” How does Armstrong help us understand the role religions play in cultures? For example, what is the “point” or “goal” of religion, as she describes it? Please be specific in your response and cite the page numbers that support your thesis.

4. We looked at four core themes that are contained within the Jewish religious tradition. These themes are expressed in Jewish literature and later adopted into Christian literature or narratives. Please describe these four themes and explain how they are true and yet are not factual. Please focus on the readings and presentations we have used in this class to support your thoughts and response.

5. World religions and philosophies have wrestled with the human experience of evil for as long as we have record of human religious narratives and writings. Using the Hebrew concept of yada and the three stories we analyzed from The Book of Genesis, how can you explain how the Jewish-Christian religious tradition understands evil? Please be precise. For example, evil is not the result of mythical figures breaking a rule. It is more complex a concept than that. Can you identify the ways in which evil can be explained from the narratives we examined and the methodologies we are following in this class?


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