Philosophy of Religion

Philosophy of Religion

Spring 2019

Take Home Test — 200 points (Due:  April 19, Dropbox, by 4:00pm)

Section I — 100 points

Write no more than one (1) paragraph for each question.

1.     Choose one of the four major paths of Hindu “discipline” (i.e. Raja Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga or Bhakti Yoga) and explain its approach to religious self-transformation in terms of the foundational principles of Hinduism—Brahman, Atman, Karma and Moksha.

2.      Describe the relationship between the caste system (varna), the four “stages of life” (asrama), and the Hindu concept of dharma—known collectively as Varnasrama Dharma. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Varnasrama Dharma system with regard to the preservation of social order and the pursuit of spiritual liberation? Do you think that this system will continue to define Hindu orthodoxy in the 21st century? Why or why not?

3.     What basic beliefs do Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism have in common? How do they differ? Do you think that the similarities are more important than the differences, or vice-versa?

4.     Describe the basic beliefs and practices of Zen and Pure Land—two of the most popular forms of Mahayana Buddhism in East Asia. What do these traditions have in common? How do they differ? Do you think that the similarities are more important than the differences, or vice-versa?

5.     Choose one (1) to answer:

a.     Are the teachings of Confucianism merely “ethical” or do they represent a genuinely “religious” path of spiritual cultivation? Some of the concepts that you may wish to discuss (though you are not required to discuss them all) include: jen (humaneness), li (ritual/rites/propriety), Heaven, filial piety, ancestor worship, and the Confucian emphasis on the connection between social, political and cosmic harmony.

b.     Are the philosophical principles associated with the “Teachings of Daoist sages” consistent with the ideals of longevity and immortality that developed in “Organized Daoism?” Why or why not?

c.      Compare and contrast the Confucian and Daoist traditions. How are they similar…and on what points do they diverge? Explain how these two traditions complement each other, using specific examples to illustrate your argument.

d.     Explain the importance of purification—both personal and collective—in the Shinto tradition. Your answer should include references to terms such as tsumi, misogi and oharai, as well as discussions of phenomena such as nature, mountains, and shrines.

Section II — 100 points

Write no more than one (1) paragraph for each question.

6.     Describe the two creation stories in Genesis, chapter 1 to 2:4 and 2:4 through chapter 3. How do their major themes differ and what does this imply about how we should interpret biblical texts?

7.     What conflicts led to the split between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches? What are the main elements of belief and/or practice that distinguish these two traditions? On what points do they essentially agree?

8.     What are the basic characteristics that distinguish Protestant Christianity from Roman Catholicism? Do their differences outweigh their similarities, or do the essential principles that they share unite these traditions as legitimate expressions of Christianity?

9.      Define the meaning of “schism” in religion.  Give examples from the Western religions.  Clarify the similarities and differences.

10.   Review the “Six Guidelines for Comparing Religions Responsibly.”  What does Kripal tell us not to believe?

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