Final Exam (Open Book)

The final examination asks you to consider more systematically the question "what exactly is religious life, as a general human phenomenon found across religious traditions?" You will compose your own general statement ahead of time (part 1) and then, during the exam period in a standard examination booklet with free access to your books, choose examples from three of the traditions studied this term--one from each unit of the course--in order to illustrate it (part 2).

Part 1: Preparatory Statement (250-300 words maximum, 10 points)

Your preparatory statement, carefully revised to weed out unnecessary words and to make sure each term is clear, should address the question
"What does it mean to live one's life religiously?" using generic (i.e., non-Christian) language applicable to all traditions surveyed in this course, and explicitly addressing the following three issues .

(a) What distinguishes the supernatural realities that a religious person thinks about from the unseen powers and universal forces of nature considered as part of quasi-religious activities, such as science, political movements, sports, media culture, etc., as reviewed during the last week of the course? (Use the terms "spirit" and/or "god"--either singular or plural--only if you define one or both explicitly in terms that apply to all religious traditions.)

(b) What exactly is the process, specifying distinct stages, by which a religious person develops trust in their own religious tradition--not only in its depiction of the unseen, but also in its customs, practices and the community or communities which preserve it? (Use the terms "faith," "belief," "truth," and/or "proof" only if you define them explicitly in terms of concrete actions and thoughts.)

(c) What standards would you propose for distinguishing between healthy & dysfunctional approaches to religious practice, especially in relation to the reflection inspired by such practices and the social contexts in which they take place?

If you wish you may incorporate personal narrative, including details of your own upbringing, into your responses; make sure however that your intuitions about the nature of religious life are supported by what you have actually observed in primary sources, since you will have to show the connection in part 2. Note that you may not rely on either my description of dimensions of religious life or those found in NHLR/WOR for your responses, since they does not directly address these questions. [read more...]

EXTRA CREDIT (1-3 points): draw a one page diagram or doodle that illustrates visually the main points of your statement and their relationship to one another, as a means of clarifying your prose. [read more...]

Part 2: Open Book, In-Class Responses (3 x 30 points each = 90 points total)

For each unit, I will provide a question related to each of the two tradition studied (three in unit 3) that asks you to illustrate one or more of the statements made in part 1 using one or more examples from relevant assigned sources (film & readings from either WOR, CP, or NHLR); you will need to choose one tradition from each unit and answer the question corresponding to it. For example, based on the film and readings features in the sample papers I might ask you to:

-->"Explain in what way Forrest Gump's shrimp fishing adventures with Lieutenant Dan pertains to your description (in part 1) of the process by which a person develops trust in an unseen power greater than themselves; and also use that preparatory statement to assess whether either character's understanding of the unseen qualifies him as religious."

-->"Use your own statment(s) regarding the nature of unseen realities to assess to what extent the talk about God at the 1893 World Parliament of Religions are truly those of religious people; and comment, again based on your preparatory statements (part 1), on the extent to which the religious perspectives articulated at the Parliament constitute healthy vs. dysfunctional approaches to religious life."

[download study guide providing further description of Part 2 questions]

IMPORTANT: you will need to cite page numbers for readings and specific scenes from films, though you will not need to quote directly or provide lengthy description.

Dimensions of Religious Life

Reading Assessment Tests & Final Exam (TOP)

Frequently Asked Questions

Comparative Papers & Sample