RELI448 All Week Discussion Questions
RELI 448 week 1 discussion dq 1 & dq 2
|Religious Experience (graded)|
Have you ever had an experience that you could properly describe as religious? I have in mind not only dramatic experiences like visions and conversions, but also more commonplace, socially-embedded experiences such as receiving communion, becoming bar mitzvah, serving as a godparent for a young relative, or even simply attending religious services. Think about that experience and ask yourself: Did it put you in touch with the infinite? How would you describe the experience? Was it transcendent? Monotheistic? Elaborate.
|The Origins of Religion (graded)|
Imagine that you are in a comparative religions class and your professor argues that all religious experience is false. It is nothing more than a projection of childhood fears (sicFreud). How would you answer your professor? Use one of the authors studied this week to counter this claim. Use specific details to support your answer.
RELI 448 week 2 discussion dq 1 & dq 2
|The Faces of God (graded)|
Hinduism offers as one explanation for its many gods that humans need concrete representations of the formless absolute. Also, finite minds can perceive the infinite only in a limited way, according to taste and temperament, cultural background, and other factors. Religions such as Christianity or Judaism view God in carefully defined ways that restrict the names and personality that reflect the divine. Yet even here, the way that God is pictured varies. Reflect on the images you have had of the divine, and interview friends about images they have had. How have these pictures in your mind changed since you were a child? Is it possible they will continue to change as you age or as you study religion more deeply? How do you account for this process, and how would you attempt to measure the correctness of one image over another?
|Jainism and Ahimsa (graded)|
Jainism has five ethical principles, the first of which is ahimsa, or, nonviolence towards all living creatures. Some Jains sweep the ground in front of them to avoid killing small insects. Jains are also strict vegetarians, and some reject the use of any animal products such as leather and jewelry. Do you think this kind of ethic is reasonable for all people or only a minority? Argue the case for or against such strict principles.
RELI 448 week 3 discussion dq 1 & dq 2
|The Four Noble Truths (graded)|
The most important of the Four Noble Truths is the fourth, the Noble Eightfold Path. Did anything in particular strike you about these “paths” (e.g., the idea of “right thoughts,” that we should always try to act with pure motives)? Do you see any similarities between the Noble Eightfold Path and Christianity? Did Jesus say anything similar to Buddha in this regard? Elaborate.
|Two Parables: The Prodigal Son (graded)|
Read the Buddhist and Christian versions of the prodigal son story:
What do you see as the main difference between these two stories? You can start by simply taking one element of the parable and discussing how this element differs in the two parables. For example, how is the role of the father different in the Buddhist and Christian versions of the story? Elaborate.
RELI 448 week 4 discussion dq 1 & dq 2
|Confucius Says… (graded)|
Confucius was once asked if there was one rule that could serve as the guide to one’s whole life. He replied: “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” How does this rule compare with Jesus’ teaching on the Golden Rule? Look at these Biblical verses to see if you can tell the difference: Matthew 7:12; Matthew 5:21-26, 43-48 (see the Webliography for an online Bible). Is there one rule that you live by?
|East Meets West (graded)|
The ideas of the Tao Te Ching (Daodejing)have been widely translated into English. Some might recall the delightful children’s version of The Tao of Pooand The Te of Piglet. Consider this saying: “The best man is like water. Water is good; it benefits all things and does not compete with them. It dwells in places that all disdain…The best man in his dwelling loves the earth…” What does this mean to you? Do you agree with this philosophy? Can you see any connection between Taoism and the environmental movement? Elaborate.
RELI 448 week 5 discussion dq 1 & dq 2
|Judaism and the Prophetical Tradition (graded)|
The prophet Amosspoke out against the injustices of the Northern Kings of Israel. He set the tone for centuries of prophetical figures in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. A central theme of the prophetical tradition is social justice. Read Amos 2:6-16; 5:14-15 in this regard (see the Webliography for an online Bible). Do you think churches have done enough with regard to social inequality, poverty, injustice, and so on? What one issue do you think churches should address today?
|Biblical Themes: The Problem of Evil (graded)|
Epicurus is generally credited with first expounding the problem of evil, and it is sometimes called “the Epicurean paradox”: “Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?” The problem of evil poses this question: how can a God who is all-powerful, all-wise, and all-good permit so much pain, suffering, and evil in the world? How would you answer this question?
RELI 448 week 6 discussion dq 1 & dq 2
|Jesus and the Kingdom of God (graded)|
Describe some of the values Jesus had in mind when he used the phrase “Kingdom of God.” One scholar has called Jesus’s message “ethical apocalypticism.” What do you think this means in light of our discussion of apocalypticism in the text? (You might want to relate this to the Beatitudesin Matthew 5:1-12.)
|The Proofs for the Existence of God (graded)|
Read through the Proofs for the Existence of Godcarefully (in the Webliography tab above). Do any of them convince you? If the answer is no (and it usually is), then what purpose do you think those proofs serve? Would it make a difference to you if the proofs were somehow made better? How would Jesus have responded to attempts to prove the existence of God?
RELI 448 week 7 discussion dq 1 & dq 2
|The Five Pillars of Islam (graded)|
In that it recognizes one God who rules the entire world, Islam may be called a universal religion. However, although Islam grew out of a particular seventh-century Arabian context, Muslims claims that its central document, the Qur’an, must be read in Arabic in order to be fully appreciated. How can Islam or any similar religion resolve the tension between the universal and the particular? How can it (or any other faith) be a religion for people of all races and nationalities without giving up its distinctive cultural heritage?
|Indigenous Religions (graded)|
Indigenous religions, such as those of Native American traditions, claim a special relationship with nature. Give an example of this relationship. Some have said that urban people in the modern world romanticize the attitude towards nature held by indigenous peoples. Are there any examples of unnecessary damage made to the environment by native groups of the past?