The first half of the course will focus on the religions of the Far
East. These religions have much in common, but also major differences.
While Eastern faiths can often be blended, they are sometimes
incompatible. Further, choosing among these faiths means important
changes in lifestyle as well. Please
demonstrate your understanding of these themes by writing an essay of
1000-1500 words that addresses one (1) of the following prompts:
1. Stephen Prothero and Huston Smith take very different
approaches to world religions, Smith emphasizing what the great
religions have in common and Prothero emphasizing the differences among
faiths. Choose any two of the great Eastern religious traditions
that we looked at in class (Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and
Taoism) and compare and contrast what Prothero and Smith have to say
about these faiths. Which author makes the more convincing
argument? Support your view with citations from the religious
texts studied in class.
2. Most Roman philosophers avoided choosing a single
master, but embraced instead what's called eclecticism, picking and
choosing what they liked best from a variety of philosophies.
Eastern religions tend to lend themselves well to eclecticism.
Suppose you were trying to find for yourself a faith that drew on all
four Eastern religious philosophies discussed in class. What
Eastern teachings would you include in your personal religious
philosophy? What would you avoid?
3. Following a religion involves more than just believing
certain things. With the Eastern Religions in particular, religion
permeates every area of life. Choose an area of life particularly
important to you (e.g., law, ethics, family life, cultural/artistic
life, economic life) and compare and contrast what the four Eastern
faiths we studied in class have to say about this issue.
4. Much of the finest religious teaching is done in story
form. Choose some favorite stories from some of the religions we
have studied so far. What do you find particularly appealing in
these stories? What lessons do the stories teach that might not
be so easily taught in a different format?
[I have set aside Monday,
July 22 for discussion of student papers and presentation of
student projects. It would be best if you turned in the final
draft of your first paper on that date.]