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Study Questions
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What is Religion?
  1. What are some of the questions religion seeks to answer?

Key Characteristics of Religion
  1. What is the problem with the traditional dictionary definition of religion?
  2. List the eight elements manifested in varying degrees in religions.

The Sacred
  1. Define what is meant by the sacred in religion.
  2. Offer some examples of how the sacred is variously understood.
  3. How can atheism or agnosticism be considered a religion?

Religious Symbolism
  1. Offer some examples of religious symbols and discuss their meaning.
  2. How are symbols important in dreams?

Speculations on the Sources of Religion
  1. List some of the human needs served by religion.
  2. Discuss a theory on origins of religion by one of the thinkers in the reading (Tylor, Frazer, Freud, James, Otto, or Jung) that makes most sense to you at the present time.
  3. Why are scholars today hesitant to speak of an evolution of religion from one form to another?

Patterns among Religions
  1. Discuss the goal of studying religions in the comparative and historical sense.

First Pattern: Focus of Beliefs and Practices
  1. Describe features of the sacramental orientation in conceiving and locating the sacred.
  2. Describe the features of the prophetic orientation.
  3. Describe the features of the mystical orientation.
  4. Discuss ways that the three orientations might be found in the same religious tradition.

Second Pattern: Views of the World and Life
  1. What are the eight great questions religions must answer?
  2. Review ways that the nature of sacred reality may be conceived.
  3. Describe different conceptions of the nature of the universe.
  4. Describe the spectrum of attitudes toward nature found in religions.
  5. Define linear and cyclical time and the concerns that accompany each.
  6. Offer views of human purpose seen in different religions.
  7. What place do words and scriptures occupy in religion?
  8. How are concepts of inclusiveness and exclusiveness expressed in religion?

Third Pattern: Religious Views of Male and Female
  1. What role did the female deity play in many cultures and religions?
  2. Give some examples of places where goddess worship is alive today.
  3. Offer examples of patriarchal religion overcoming matriarchal elements.
  4. What factors point to a change in the status of women in religion?

Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Religion
  1. Discuss the approaches of at least three disciplines to religion (psychology, mythology, philosophy, theology, the arts, anthropology, archeology, linguistics, and literary theory).

Key Critical Issues
  1. Describe the shifting approaches and concerns in the evolution of religious studies scholarship.
  2. What moral questions have emerged in the study of religions?
  3. What challenges or opportunities for exploration does the great diversity within major world religions present?

Why Study the Major Religions of the World?
  1. The author offers ten examples of the pleasures and rewards of the study of religions. Which ones appeal to you now and why?

The Journey
  1. What might be some of the consequences of undertaking an intellectual pilgrimage to many of the world's important living religions?







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