If you are reading this text in connection with a course you are expected to submit the assignments below to the instructor by the dates listed in the course calendar and by the means described in the course outline.  Revisions are not only permitted but encouraged and assistance is also provided.  Consult the course outline for more information.
Use any textbooks, reference works and original sources.  Use proper citations, references and quotation procedures.  Choose 2 religions from three of the four groups below and compare and contrast them concerning the following six topics or issues:
    1. The notion of a deity
    2. The nature of human beings
    3. Divine providence or destiny
    4. The problem of evil
    5. Human suffering
    6. Afterlife


I.       Early Forms:   Egypt, Africa, The Americas,  Greece, Rome

II.    India: Hinduism,  Buddhism,  Jainism,  Sikhism

III.  Asia:  Confucianism,  Taoism, Buddhism, Shintoism

IV. West ( Middle East):  Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity,  Islam

NOTE: You should be describing a total of SIX different religions.  You should show some familiarity with the characteristics of at least six different religions.  Be extensive in your descriptions.


Answer these questions based upon class lecture, handouts, encyclopedia sources and any other texts you choose to use.
    1. What is the present state of scientific knowledge of religious phenomena?
    2. What has become of the "war between religion and science"?
    3. How is religion approached by contemporary social scientists?
    4. What are the strengths and weaknesses in the scientific method for the study of religion?
    5. Choose at least one example of a scientific theory concerning religion to illustrate the strength and weaknesses of the scientific approach to the study of religion, e.g. Frazer, Freud, Durkheim, Marx, Eliade, Evans-Pritchard.  What do we learn from this theory?  What are the problems with the theory?
    6. What do we learn from the theory you have selected? 

3-9 Use the textbook on PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION and any other sources you may choose.  In your essays indicate that you are at least familiar with the materials in the texts. Avoid plagiarism! Provide citations for all sources. Cite pages of texts, the url's of web pages, notes from class, etc..


    1. What is the ontological proof for the existence of god?  Cite two variations of this argument.  What is right with it?  What is wrong with it: what are its weaknesses?  What criticisms are made of it?  What does it prove?
    2. What is the cosmological proof for the existence of god?  What is right with it?  What is wrong with it?  How has it been criticized?  What does it prove?
    3. What is the teleological proof for the existence of god?  What is right with it?  What is wrong with it?  How has it been criticized?  What does it prove?  

ASSIGNMENT 4: Religious Experiences

What is a religious experience? Is it a proof for anything?  If so, what?  What is a mystical experience?  Is it a proof for anything?  If so, what?  What are the principle critiques of arguments for the existence of a deity based upon such experiences?  

ASSIGNMENT 5: Miracles

What sort of proof or verification exists for religious claims such as miracles or for revelation?  Support your position.  Give full elaboration.  What would a miracle need to be in order to prove that there is a god?  What problems are there in attempting to verify a claim of a miracle? PE1, PE2, PE3,PE4


 What is the "Problem of Evil"?  Exactly what is the problem?  How is the existence of evil to be explained at the same time that one would hold for the existence of a deity that is benevolent and omnipotent?  Can the problem (the incompatibility or inconsistency) be resolved with a traditional theistic view?  If so, how? Cite at least one philosopher who attempts to do so.  If not, why not? Cite at least one philosopher who is critical of the possibility of reconciling evil with the traditional idea of a one supreme and perfect deity.                     

ASSIGNMENT 7: Spirits, Souls and the Resurrection

A. What possible proof is there for the existence of the soul or the immortality of the soul? What problems are there with these proofs? Can these problems be overcome? If so, how?

B. What proof or explanation is there for the possibility of the continuation of consciousness and personal identity after the death of the physical body?

C.  What are the problems with the idea of the resurrection of the body? Can these problems be overcome? If so, how? 

ASSIGNMENT 8: Reason , Faith, Language and Worldviews

A. What possible relationships are there between Reason and religious Faith?    
B. What possibility is there for a rationalistic approach to religious faith?                 
C.  What are the challenges to faith from reason?                                                                             
D.  What is the pragmatic justification for religious belief?                                         
E.  Must religious faith be reasonable?  Can religious belief be reasonable?                           
F.  What are "foundational beliefs" or "basic beliefs" or "bliks" and how do they relate to the discussion of the compatibility of faith with reason?         

ASSIGNMENT 9: Religion, Morality and Ethics

A.  What are the values which religious institutions present for society?       
B. Is there any other possible basis for morality other than religion?  Are there any other alternatives possible?   
C.  Are there any alternatives available at present?     
D.  How do the alternatives (secular sources) for morality relate to the religious sources?    
E. Which source (religious or secular)  is superior or better in any way and why?       

ASSIGNMENT 10: A Definition: the Essence of Religion

A. What are some of the difficulties in arriving at a definition of religion?     
B.  What are the criteria or considerations in developing a definition? 
C. What is religion?  Develop your position in a distinctly and explicitly philosophical fashion.  Be both critical and comprehensive in developing and defending your position.  Be sure to cite evidence, develop arguments fully, and express yourself as clearly as possible.  In answering refute at least two theories that are contrary to the theory you have chosen as your own.  

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Copyright Philip A. Pecorino 2001. All Rights reserved.

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