World events and national calamity have insinuated themselves into our consciousness as students of religion. It is important that our Religious and Theological Studies be relevant to our experience as citizens of the U.S. and of the world. (a) Therefore, we have decided to require all majors and minors to be prepared to address the question # 1 in the in-class exam. (b) The second question on the In-Class Comprehensive will be selected from one of the questions in section B. These questions do not necessarily arise out of any one core course; that is, you should not assume that each question is primarily concerned with particular core courses. (c) The question in C is the assignment for the take-home essay on the Concentration to be taken by Majors only
A. Required essay:
1. Events of the Autumn of 2001 remind us again of the problem of evil (not only experienced in America but also in Afghanistan and elsewhere) -- traditionally defined in the West as the problem of Theodicy, the justification of God in the face of the human experience of evil. At the same time, every religious tradition provides us with explanations, responses and rituals that help us move beyond understanding to healing. In light of your study in Religion and using the events of the Autumn of 2001 as your starting point, explore what different religious traditions, ancient and modern, (a) offer to our search for meaning and (b) suggest in terms of healing in the face of such events.
B. Prepare to answer the following three questions, one of which will be selected for the second in-class essay.
1. Write an essay that analyzes how religious faith can be used to elicit or justify either actions widely perceived as loving and just or actions widely perceived as characterized by hatred and prejudice. In developing your answer, explicitly use insights from all four core courses as you analyze the reasons that these two seemingly contradictory phenomena occur. For example, consider what enables some religious people to scrutinize their assumptions critically in order to see whether their actions are truly loving and just for all people rather than being fanatical responses. Conclude your answer by exploring and evaluating the safeguards developed by various religious traditions to help their followers act in loving rather than in hateful ways.
2. Erich Heller has written, ÒBe careful how you interpret the world; it is like that. We live in the social realities we and our communities have created. Some would contend that religion has a significant role in creating and sustaining the reality/world in which we live. Indeed, sociologist Peter Berger claims that Religion legitimates so effectively because it relates the precarious reality construction of empirical societies with ultimate reality.In short, it helps give permanence to the ways in which we imagine Òthe way things are.
Write an essay in which you develop the themes stated above, drawing upon studies in the core courses.
3. Scholars of religion distinguish between context-free and context-sensitive values and moral norms. The former places priority on universal axioms, whereas the latter insists that all value judgements need to be informed by their contexts.
This question has two parts. For both parts, use material from all four core courses.
1. To what extent do each of the three religious traditions that you have studied in the four core courses--Biblical Judaism, Hinduism, and twentieth century Protestant ethical and theological thought--represent context-free and/or context-sensitive ethical systems?
2. How useful is the context-free / context-sensitive distinction for explaining ethical values in a comparative context?
3. The Following assignment is for majors only. We will inform you of the due date of this Take Home Exam in approximately one week. It should be sometime around the end of October or early November.
Identify what you consider to be the most significant thread which ties together the courses you took in your concentration, as well as the core course (or courses) most closely linked to your concentration. This thread might be a theme, question, problem, dynamic tension, contradiction, or structural relationship. What are the main parameters of this thread? Why do you choose this thread as most significant, and not some other thread?
This question is intentionally framed in an open-ended manner, as we are interested in how you articulate the connections within your concentration. This does not mean, however, that this essay is to be rambling, unfocused, or overly autobiographical. It should have a clearly articulated thesis, and support that thesis by employing material from all the relevant courses you took. You will need to take into account both information which supports your thesis and information that would appear to argue against your thesis. Your essay should follow all of the standard conventions of citation. The essay should be about ten pages typed and double-spaced; but we are more concerned with the quality of your essay than its length. You will be graded on the clarity and strength of your argument, and on your ability to apply material from throughout your studies. While your essay must include material from all of the courses you took in your concentration, it can also include material from any other courses, research, or outside reading as well.
LENGTH: About ten pages, typed and double-spaced.