Comparative religions

I will need (essays) 2 Pages each over each question that is given to you in essay format. All of them have to be on the same document, but make sure there is a clear separation from one, to the next.

1. Why do you think people believe in God ? (This may pertain to people today or in the past). You might start by making a list of reasons for belief. The parameters of a definition for God in this first question can include the notion of a higher power, ultimate reality, universal source (force), supreme entity, or spirit(s). Why do people belong to organized religions? How about the whole issue of disbelief? What are the reasons for people not believing in “the divine” or some type of ultimate reality? Could some of the reasons (and reasoning) for belief be similar to those who opt for disbelief (atheists) or for skepticism (agnostics)? Under what circumstances would the reasons for faith or disbelief be different

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2. Look at the origin of the academic study of religion by Christian scholars. Trace some of the early history and reasons for the scholarly pursuit. Why did this come about in a Christian context in Western Europe? Look at some of the developments in the field of Philosophy in the 1700’s & 1800’s that led up to the ways we began to look at our own religion as well as the religions of others. (See Chapter 1 & 2 of your text Embarking Upon the Study of Religion.)

3. Why do you think the early academic study of religion in the 1800’s was multidisciplinary? Write about how his came to be and give some of your own opinion on studying religion in this manner. (Chapters 2 & 5 of Embarking Upon the Study of Religion.)

4. Compare and contrast various aspects of Native American and African belief systems. How are their mythologies similar? What are some of the problems inherent in the study of indigenous religion?

5. Outline some of the aspects of Meso-American polytheistic belief. How might you explain the propensity for human sacrifice among the native religions of Mexico? (you might need to do some outside research here)

6. Describe one particular religious practice or element among African, Native American or Meso-American cultures. Examples might be drawn from the following list: vision quest, peyote, ancestor cults, village gods, ancestor or power figures, use of masks, Meso-American temples, burial practices, rites of passage, witches, twins in African lore, role of African kings, shamans, Meso-American gods, medicine, creation myths.

7. Generally outline several of the following basic notions in the Hindu world-view such as: karma, dharma, samsara, caste, moksha, atman, ahimsa, Brahman and maya. Provide an explanation of your own understanding of these concepts (some or all) and how they ideologically fit into the lives of Hindus.

8. Discuss some of the aspects of Hindu worship and devotion such as puja and the yogas. How was Hindu practice reformed during the 19th and 20th centuries? What are some of the practical differences between “folk Hinduism” (a literal belief in the many gods and goddesses) and those who espouse a more “monistic” or “henotheistic” approach to the “Brahman” or ultimate reality. Your book also addresses the notion of “personal” and “impersonal” understandings of the sacred. How does this apply?

9. A few of you may have some interest in the gods and goddesses of Hinduism. You could write an essay on the role of particular divinities represented in Hindu tradition and some of their ascribed attributes.

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