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 philosophical 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.]