Briefly explain what view of religion Buber is responding to

Discussion #2: M2 A Social Construct

Available before Friday, September 1, 2017 11:30 PM EDT.

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Reread the book review of Peter Berger’s The Sacred Canopy. He calls religion a “social construct.” [Note – Some use the phrase “social construction.”]  What is a social construct?  Is it something true, or merely something useful? If religion really is a social construction, what implications might this have for how people practice religion?  Would it make any difference at all?

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Discussion #3: M2 Was Buber Correct?

Available before Friday, September 1, 2017 11:30 PM EDT.

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The Jewish theologian Martin Buber built a philosophy of encounter.  The goal of human beings is to have a full encounter with one another, and eventually with God. Buber differentiated between such moments of encounter with God and the ritual practices of religion. He felt that religion actually distracted from being in God’s presence.  Many people today believe that Buber was right – that religion detracts from God.  They say that religious people are more interested in keeping the rules than in encountering God.

Briefly explain what view of religion Buber is responding to. Do you think Buber’s criticism is valid? Why or why not?

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Discussion #4: M3 Are Rituals Important?

Available before Friday, September 8, 2017 11:30 PM EDT.

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Many religions are very ritual oriented.  Such faiths as Orthodox Judaism, Roman Catholicism, Episcopalianism, and Islam are built around a life of ritual or sacraments.  Other religions such as the Quakers and many Protestant denominations minimize ritual.  What reasons do some religious traditions give for thinking ritual is important?  Do you agree with these reasons?  Why or why not?

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Discussion #5: M4 What is the purpose of prayer?

Available before Friday, September 15, 2017 11:30 PM EDT.

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Almost all religions have some kind of prayer or worship experience. What do you believe is the purpose of prayer? Is it to try to change God’s mind?  Or is it to try to change us? Is it to build community? Or is there no purpose at all? While the answer is not obvious, do not be afraid to consider the pros and cons of a particular answer.

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Discussion #6: M4 Afflict the Comfortable

Available before Friday, September 15, 2017 11:30 PM EDT.

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There is a saying that “the purpose of religion is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” What do you believe this means? Do you think contemporary religions succeed at this task? Give an example.

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Discussion #7: M5 Government and Religion

Available before Friday, September 22, 2017 11:30 PM EDT.

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In some countries, like the United Arab Emirates, religion plays a strong role in laws governing how people live their daily lives. For example, during the celebration of Ramadan, it is illegal to eat, drink or smoke in public during daylight hours (even in your car!). In the United States, the Establishment Clause of the Constitution is supposed to prevent religion from playing this sort of political role (although it doesn’t always). What reasons might there be for favoring the Establishment Clause? What reasons might there be for opposing it?

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Discussion #8: M6 Atheist or Humanist Chaplains

Available before Friday, September 29, 2017 11:30 PM EDT.

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Veteran Military Flag

More and more Americans, when asked to state their religious affiliation, answer “no religion.” Many of these Americans serve in the military. Chaplains are recruited in the military of various faiths to serve the spiritual needs of military personnel. Today there is a call for Atheist or Humanist chaplains to serve the needs of people who do not believe in God and who are unaffiliated with any religion. What sort of obligations do the Armed Forces have to provide religious services for military personnel? Should this include atheists and humanists? Given that the military is a federal organization, what reasons might they have for addressing the spiritual and emotional needs of some soldiers but not others?

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