Read/review the following resources for this activity:
- Textbook: Review chapters as needed
- Link (library article): Talking about religion — at last: Old taboo is fading, but broaching the subject still requires restraint (Links to an external site.)
- Minimum of 1 scholarly source (in addition to the textbook/lesson)
For this assignment you are required to sit down for a conversation with someone whose religious identity differs from your own (this means that if you identify as Christian, for example, you should find a conversation partner who does not identify as such). The purpose of this exercise is for you to engage with someone else in a conversation about religion. That means that you will not only ask questions, but you will hopefully answer questions about your own beliefs, as well. Please note atheist and agnostic are not acceptable choices for your assignment as neither is recognized as a religion.
Before meeting with your partner, review the above article for this activity, “Talking About Religion – How to Do It Right” (link in Required Resources), for some guidance on how to engage in conversations about religion. You may also wish to share this information with your partner, if needed.
In this assignment, you will listen to the ideas of someone whom you identify as religiously “other.” You will share your own ideas (though to a lesser extent) and report on what you learned about this other religion, including your partner’s beliefs and how those beliefs compare to your own religious upbringing and/or current practice.
The report should describe the major topics of discussion (below) and a detailed summary of what you learned. Your final essay should include all of the following:
- Introduction: Provide some cultural and historical context for the religious tradition of your conversation partner. Include why you chose this religion and person. (It is important that you do some research before you have your conversation so that you ask informed questions that come from genuine interest.) This should not be a long section of the essay.
- Describe your conversation partner’s beliefs. Include the following 8 elements of religion from Week 1:
- Belief system. Several beliefs fit together into a complete and systematic interpretation of the universe and the place of humans in it; it explains a religion’s worldview. Highlight the most important.
- Community. How are the belief system and its ideals practiced as a group of believers who come together? How do they come together?
- Central myths. Stories that express the religious beliefs and history of a religion and give it meaning through retelling and/or re-enacting (e.g., major events in the life of Krishna, the enlightenment of Buddha, death and resurrection of Jesus, Mohammed’s escape from Mecca, Israelite’s escape through the Red Sea, and so on).
- Ritual. Ceremonies and/or Rites that enrich beliefs.
- Ethics. Rules about human behavior which are often believed to be given by a supernatural realm (God) or socially generated guidelines.
- Characteristic emotional experiences. Some emotions associated with religion are dread, guilt, awe, mystery, devotion, conversion, “rebirth,” liberation, ecstasy bliss, inner peace.
- Material expressions. Physical elements like statues, paintings, musical compositions, instruments, objects like incense, flowers, clothing, architecture or sacred places.
- Sacredness/Holiness. A distinction is made between what is ordinary and what is sacred through use of a different language or ceremony or clothing or acts of reverence. Certain objects, actions, people and places may share or express sacredness/holiness (e.g., receiving communion, Mecca, an altar, a shrine, the Dali Lama, menorah).
- Identify any conflicts between the stated beliefs of their tradition and their personal beliefs.
- After hearing your partner’s description, explain whose theory of the origin of religions (Week 1) you think offers the best explanation for his/her religion?
- What challenges can your partner identify that their religious tradition faces in the modern world? Do they feel that their tradition is responding positively? Explain.
- Examine if the tradition is focused on belief (orthodoxy) or behavior (orthopraxis).
- Compare your partner’s beliefs and practices to your own religious upbringing and/or current practice. This is to be done in the report not as a debate with your partner.
- Conclusion: Conclude with your personal reaction to this experience and any additional questions that came up after your conversation.
This is a formal academic paper, so pay careful attention to the basics of writing a good English composition, to essay structure, and complete APA.
In addition to outside sources, make sure to reference your textbook and/or lesson.
Writing Requirements (APA format)
- Length: 1000-1200 words (not including title page or references page)
- 1-inch margins
- Double spaced
- 12-point Times New Roman font
- Title page
- References page (Cite textbook/lesson and a minimum of 1 outside scholarly source.)
- Page or paragraph for in-text citations