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Current Affairs Analysis in Religion

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This essay involves a current affairs analysis in religion: looking at a contemporary issue of religion and/in society. You are asked to choose a current topic of interest to you (some suggestions below), and examine how this topic is understood, approached, debated, and/or resolved within one of the religions covered in class: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Daoism, Confucianism, or Shinto. Though it is not explicitly required, you are advised to draw from a religion other than your own, or other than one connected to your own cultural background (if this is applicable); this is to a) broaden your horizons, and b) avoid the temptation to write from personal experience or faith in place of good research. Within your chosen religion, you will provide at least two different takes on the issue from different perspectives, before giving your own opinion.

The essay will have four general components - these components should be integrated into one complete essay, even though you may deal with them separately.

a. Briefly describe the issue, in general, and as related to your chosen religion. Give an overview and context for the issue, including the parameters of the debate. Where necessary, part of this context will be a brief consideration of the history of the issue/debate, leading to the current state.

b. Find at least one source that has taken a specific position or is making a particular argument(s) about the issue from within or relating specifically to your chosen religion, and explain his/her position or argument(s) in a clear and detailed manner. Alternatively, it may be easier for you to identify a particular position on or argument about the issue, then find one or two authors that argue for this position. Note that for this component and the next, choosing authors that simply describe the issue is insufficient.

c. Find at least one other source relating to or from within the same religion that takes a significantly different stance on the issue, and again, explain his/her position or argument(s) in a clear and detailed manner. Again, it may be easier to identify a different/opposed position on or argument about the issue, then find one or two authors advocating it.

d. Finally, provide your own analysis and opinion of how the issue will evolve or be resolved (if at all) within your chosen religion. NB: this does not simply mean saying "this is good" or "this is sinful." You must provide a scholarly rather than devotional analysis/opinion.

Ensure that your description of the issue is complete and neutral (i.e., non-judgmental); ensure that your presentation of the authors' different positions is fair and balanced; and ensure that your own opinion and analysis is scholarly. Your sources may be 'insiders' or 'outsiders' to your chosen religion, but must in all cases be making an argument or taking a position specific to that religion.

EXAMPLE: Choosing to explore Native/indigenous spirituality and environmentalism. One perspective is that there is much wisdom to be taken from Native/indigenous spirituality because of the close association with nature. A different perspective is that this romantic ideal is a 'noble savage' myth and is potentially harmful.

RLG280 students are expected to produce more substantial and sophisticated written work (depth of insight, quality of writing, length).


Part of your challenge for this assignment is to find and select appropriate sources from the vast resources dealing with these religious traditions. Check the course website for a link to the library resources. RLG100 students must use at least 3 significant sources; RLG280 students must use at least 4 significant sources. Initial research can be aided by consulting The Encyclopedia of Religion (which contains relevant bibliographies at the end of articles), but do not use any content from the encyclopedia as a final source for your paper. Encyclopedias, Internet sources, or the textbook we use in the class will NOT be accepted as sources. N.B.: UTL Catalogue E-resources are admissible as sources, but other websites and Internet sources



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